Palisades Pool Party is a conundrum in the best sense of the word, at once pathos, hysterical, terrible and oddly wonderful, it’s not quite Glee, nor Gossip Girl, but somewhere awkwardly sandwiched between. A show about the twenty four hours surrounding a teen pool party, there is something compelling about it, like a well-orchestrated trainwreck.
We are either in the deftest of hands with creators Tai Fauci and Jack Monroe, or they are getting very very lucky with a bad show. The unevenness of tone leads me to believe it’s a collision of the two. Just take Mischa, played by Danny Zaccagnino, as he gazes morose into the bathroom mirror, shirtless, fingering his hair while some very depressing ‘I might want to kill myself’ music plays in the background in episode one (song is, Overreacting by Brad Sucks – real name – and isn’t a bad tune in and of itself). The moment is slightly over-the-top, slightly erotic and slightly cloying, but I kind of really want to know what he’s about to do, which I’m guessing is either cry or masturbate. And then (spoiler alert) when he pulls out the needle…I’m still wondering if crying and masturbating are on the table perhaps after he shoots up. It’s funny and sad and confusing and totally on the nose, but somehow, someway, entertaining.
Since there isn’t much to go on so far in the teaser and first two episodes for Zaccagnino, I’ll reserve judgment on his acting. That said, the rest of the acting I must admit seemed either adequate or really bad when the show first began. But then as it went on, my initial least favorite, Whitmer Thomas, playing emo-boy next door neighbor, Josh, became my favorite one by the second episode. His angst ridden, mildly effeminate performance had me laughing at the end of episode two, but also caring about whether or not he was going to get the girl of his dreams, popular pool party thrower, next door neighbor Cassidy played by Ashley Schneider.
You see, Josh and Cassidy had sex the night before and now he’s hurt because she didn’t put her super-hot college ex-boyfriend on her ‘Blacklist’ of people that can’t come to her party. Yes, Josh is really that emo. His tantrum in episode one is capped off in ep 2 when Cassidy’s BFF Bianca, played by Katie Seeley (I Kissed a Vampire) forces a kiss on him in front of Cassidy. Oh, the drama. It gets even juicier when Cassidy and Bianca have a hot catfight in Cassidy’s bedroom, ending it amicably as though this is par for the course with this relationship. Which actually makes their friendship complex – in a good way.
As for the lead of the show, Schneider is goodlooking, tough enough and likeable enough to keep you coming back and her supporting cast from Thomas to Seeley to Zaccagnino (among others) are varied and sharp enough as actors and characters that I think the show will have some legs. The writing is relatively simplistic, with some odd, though sometimes intriguing character turns. Though things like the ‘Blacklist’ and Josh’s reaction to it are a little cheesy. Again, this could be by design, or happy accident, as it lends to the funny of the show.
Production value is stellar, I must say. Laura Beth Love does some stellar DP’ing – the thing is beautifully shot. Monroe’s direction isn’t bad either, keeping the look consistent throughout as well as balancing the odd amalgamation of tones. The other thing that needs mentioning is the music, which is good throughout, though perhaps overused, and overcooked a bit.
In the grand tradition of teen/tween TV entertainment these days, there’s a real effort to showcase some teenybop indy music that at times feels either written for the show, or perhaps vice versa (the show written for the music). This works with the show and against it – or does it? Here, again, we run into a bit of a conundrum because the music is sometimes so spot on so as to almost be narrating what we are seeing that I found myself laughing out loud at the silliness of it.
Normally I’d chalk this up as bad decision-making, but it’s so ridiculous in some ways that I can’t help but think that it must be somewhat intentional. Just look at ep 2 (below) as Bianca strolls outside in a black dress, ready for mischief, and the music croons, “There she comes all dressed in black…” and I’m thinking this is way too on the nose, and then find myself thoroughly entertained by the thought of the on-the-noseness of it. Go figure.
The website, www.palisadespoolparty.com, again has good production value. And again, with the tag, ‘Sex. Jealousy. Revenge. Love. Awkward.’, running along the top of the page, you gotta believe they see the humor in this. Obviously, smartly targeting their social network-wild demo they have a presence on KoldCast TV (it’s main distribution partner), Facebook, MySpace and Twitter with a decidedly “teen” vibe that feels a little forced, but in an almost (almost) comical way – making way too much use of the term, ‘awkward’.
Which I guess is apropos of my conclusion, which is an awkward adulation of this enigmatic series that falls somewhere in the realm of the comedic teen melodrama. Oh and the other crazy thing is, especially for me, if you know my reviews, both eps are at least ten minutes long and I wasn’t once bored, so they must be doing something right. So, take a look at this oddly compelling, oddly toned oddity and please tell me why I like it, because I can’t figure it out.
(Ed. Note: While Palisades Pool Party is featured with a display ad on this site as part of the Tubefilter Spotlight program for indie web series, it in no way influenced our reviewer in his review.)