In all honesty I don’t really know what I like about this show. It’s kind of like Michael Corleone’s line from The Godfather, “Just when I thought I was out…They pull me back in…” The Romantic Foibles of Esteban is a show about a guy and the disastrous dates he sets up on an on-line dating service called Kung Fu Dating. And it often goes to somewhat obvious and broad places, but somehow remains both fresh and charming…with a little cheese thrown in.
Created by Canyon Prince and J Michael Briggs, each episode begins with the talking mouth of Esteban’s new date, followed by the click of his mouse. Esteban, played by Briggs, is then thrust into an increasingly dodgy date, ranging from a sex addict and her (unexpected) friends to a female boxer who does not appreciate cell phones in the gym and lets Esteban know it. And though episode one seems an obvious place to go, the whacky girl with a ludicrous amount of sex toys (every man’s watch-what-you-wish-for dream/nightmare), Briggs’ Buster Keaton-esque congenial awkward reactions charm you through the six minute romp with a couple of chuckles that are mainly bit-player induced. I liked the ending, which, again, is obvious on some level, but just funny cause it’s, well, funny.
Episode two is the weakest of the bunch, though Esteban’s date, actress Ellen, is nicely played in all her psycho-brilliance by Gillian Shure. But it’s episode three where I found myself really enjoying the show which hits its absurd stride when Esteban is sent to the hospital by boxer date, Amanda, again well played by Amazon Beard. The doctor, played by Jon Donahue, takes a crazy and very funny turn at the end of the ep when there’s a fantastic callback to the first episode (that I won’t ruin) that had me thinking, wait, these guys are smarter than they seem.
And if episode three gave me a hunch of intelligent life-forms here, I became convinced of the collective braintrust when I watched their director and actor commentary of episodes one and two. Yes, they did commentaries for their first two episodes and to be honest, I was laughing harder at these than the shows themselves. The first commentary has a guest who claims to be Owen Wilson and sounds uncannily like him. I almost half-believed it was him, but frankly he gets way too personal for me to go there. I later learned that it was Jon Donahue, the doc from ep 3 and according to Price no less than Tom hanks, Chris Pine and Robin Williams are fans of the impersonation. It’s worth listening to. The second commentary has an obviously improv’ed pizza delivery guy as a guest commentator, which had Prince and Briggs (and me) laughing throughout. Again, a solid performance by Donahue – breakout waiting to happen?
Production quality ranges from good to fair – it seems they need someone who knows how to light. The writing isn’t bad, like I said it sometimes goes to obvious or broad or even cheesy places, but then always manages to rise above (I can’t decide if dildos are cheesy or broad). The directing, though not Kubrick or Speilberg by any means, must be good. I say that because I don’t look at the show and think, “Wow, what a director!” But Price is able to keep the pace right, get all of his actors to turn in a good performance that’s usually funny, or at least not horrible, and finally just somehow makes the show work in spite of itself. I know, weird review, but you’ll see what I mean when you watch it, I think.
Other things to find on the show’s site, www.idatedesteban.com, such as the featurette (making of video) are hit and miss. The featurette is a miss unfortunately, not to disparage anyone, but frankly it’s not the kind of show where you’re wondering, How did they do that? The promos aren’t beautifully produced, but again Prince manages to make them work somehow. The shining light amid the extras are the commentaries for sure.
Regardless of their range in quality, it’s kind of nice to see these extras in general. I definitely recommend watching the three six(ish) minute eps first, though so you have a context. Prince tells me that though they have scripts and outlines for a 22-episode season, they are in a holding pattern until they can get more cash. In the meantime, they are filling the gap with these extras and it seems to be working for now.
So, in essence, it’s worth watching. I have a feeling it will get better over time as it already has in just three short ones. The format is easy to follow and though it’s another entry into the possibly hackneyed crazy-date-webseries genre, it remains fresh through rough but charming casting, writing and directing.