If anything can sum up the power of the web, it’s the fact that two filmmakers from a beach town in Maine can create a web series casting local actors and using local businesses as locations and then make it available to the rest of the world.
Willard Beach, The Real Story 2.8, a weekly comedy web series co-created and co-produced by Portland, Maine’s Betsy Carson and Kate Kaminski, does just that. It covers the lives of a 16-person ensemble cast that includes Brent Askari, Keith Anctil, Braden Biddings, Harris Cooley, Denise Poirier, Franklin McMahon and Michael Best. All of these colorful characters live in Willard Beach, Maine and each episode puts two, three, or four of them together for a three minute scene. As the series continues, we get an idea of how each of these characters are connected to each other and fit into the fabric of the town as a whole.
Carson and Kaminski describe their show as “Soap opera meets satire meets improv experiment… think Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm in 3 minutes.” The similarities to Curb and Seinfeld lay in the mundane “small things” subject matter. For example, two friends have a dinner conversation about jobs, a new guy sits in on a poker an Apples to Apples game, somebody’s sandwich is eaten from the fridge, a woman’s wedding ring becomes stuck on the wrong finger. The other Curb similarity is the improvised production style. Each episode consists of a handful of actors in one location having one improvised conversation with the best lines are all edited together into the final product.
Where Willard Beach differs from the Seinfeld and Curb track is that both Larry David classics told brilliant stories that generated the majority of their humor. Sure, Curb might have funny improvised dialogue but each scene was a specifically plotted out beat in the tale of Larry’s struggle that week. Larry is trying to accomplish something, avoid something, something something. Same with Seinfeid. Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer might famously talk about “nothing”, but those tiny subjects always set four big stories in motion that progressed and paid of in a hilarious collision at the end. Willard Beach plays as a weekly series of stand-alone conversations that have little to do with each other and don’t seem to be building toward anything. Episodes play more like ruminations on a specific topic. Yes, we learn a little more about each character every time we see them, but that wasn’t enough to keep my interest, especially when the humor isn’t working (which is about 50% of the time).
One feat Carson and Kaminski should be commended on is creating a real town feeling in their series. After watching several episodes and meeting all the residents, Willard Beach feels like a place that actually exists somewhere (Ed. Note: it does). If only there was more going on there to make me want to keep watching.