Dueling VHS is a mish-mosh of old and new. The conceit looks like the work of a reel to reel edit of several VHS tapes, replete with tracking lines and picture warps between cuts. The things cut-to, however, are contempto TV Satire, lampooning such fare as Dog the Bounty Hunter and the Discovery Channel among other choice rips. And if you can get past this formalistic conundrum, what you have is a pretty solid sketch show.
I use the word sketch lightly here, because it feels more like you are flipping through channels on cable, back and forth to basically three different shows, with a smattering of randomness in between. What it all adds up to is a commentary on our ADD television surf culture.
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The three shows we switch back and forth from are Wolf The Constable (nee, Dog the Bounty Hunter), Explorers Circle, and 1,000 Piece Puzzle, my personal favorite. 1,000 Piece is a riff on PBS how-to shows like Joy of Painting, featuring one of Dueling’s producers, Trevor Crafts as himself, putting a puzzle together and discussing it as he does. His performance is maddeningly soothing and hilarious as a result. On their site in the archived video section you can watch as he passively belittles a caller to his show. It’s so right on it hurts.
Wolf, is funny with or without the knowledge of its A&E inspiration. I could watch Wolf, played by Santo D’Asaro, all day long. His mullet is a thing of beauty, as are his shades and his Native American accoutrements, but his lines and delivery are what really stand out. When corralling a hookie-playing kid he dropped a line that I promise to use on my future son if I ever catch him skipping school: “You’re going back to Math class. One plus two equals Wolf, you punkass bitch!” And there are so many more like it.
Explorers Circle is the weakest of the bunch if only for the writing. It also shifts from an explorer in a mummy’s tomb with a prurient punchline (I’ll let you see for yourself), into a relatively funny send-up of MTV cribs, dubbed Crypts, with a dead Osirus showing us his dusty digs. I wouldn’t kick this run of sketches out of bed, but there are funnier moments to be found elsewhere in the piece.
This type of show with so many moving parts requires a good group of collaborators and producers Larry Langton, Trevor Crafts, Santo D’Asaro and Jeremy Hoar, who all variously star throughout the show, have a nice thing going. They also write, with the help of Lou Cervantes and they do a good job on every level. Production is solid, no bumps in the road and frankly, though I imagine they didn’t go hog wild on the budget, it doesn’t look cheap. I should also mention Larry Langton’s editing because a show like this lives and dies by it, especially at 22 minutes on YouTube?!
Langton also happens to be the DP and brainfather of Dueling VHS which he brought up with Crafts when he joined Crafts’s prod co, FullMind Creative. After a year or so in the hopper, the boys banded together utilizing FullMind’s production facilities to make 1,000 Piece. The rest was history. And as Crafts says, which I wholeheartedly agree with, what elevates the show is its attention to post production. According to Crafts, FullMind is “an effect heavy house and this additional attention to finishing really sets DVHS apart, whether it is an extensive motion graphic title, or just keying and color correction.”
Oh, right and as I briefly mentioned before, this is a 22-minute show which won NATPE’s NextTV Long Form Competition sponsored by YouTube. And even at this length, it’s very watchable, not a dull moment in the entire thing. Fortunately for you and your short attention span, you can view shorter clips of the show in the aforementioned archive section of their site. There are also other shorts the boys have put together that didn’t make the 22 minute show. The best place to visit is duelingvhs.com, but you can find them on Twitter, Facebook, Vimeo and YouTube.