Atom.com’s new series The Berry/Agee Experiment is an experiment indeed. Can an inside joke between two friends be enjoyable for other people? Can a funny song be expanded into a video mockumentary? Can this be kept up for several episodes? The answer is both yes and no.
Luckily, the two friends who share the inside joke are Matt Berry and Steve Agee, both very funny dudes with serious comedy street cred. Berry is a veteran of British TV comedies The Mighty Boosh and The IT Crowd, while Agee is best known for his role on The Sarah Silverman Program. They became friends when Berry came to LA to guest star in a Silverman episode and after he left town, they kept in touch by composing and recording songs that hilariously insulted each other and e-mailing them back and forth across the pond. And The Berry/Agee Experiment was created to turn their audio assaults on one another into a video web series.
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The songs themselves are hysterical, as Berry and Agee verbally and musically spar in a tongue in cheek feud that quickly goes blue and somehow manages to get more and more inappropriately side-splitting as it continues. One song has Agee taking on the role of a robot sent back in time to warn the world that Berry has a strain of AIDS so potent it will one day threaten to wipe out mankind. Another has Berry complaining that he can no longer have sex now that Agee’s repulsive image is burned into his brain. These contemptuous compositions run the musical gamut, covering several genres. There’s the jangly country blues number “Dead Matt Walkin,” the psychadelic soundscape “Matt F**ks Hookers,” and “Super Steve” a parody set to the tune of Supertramp’s “The Logical Song.”
As funny as the songs are, however, the web series episodes don’t quite come together. Each plays as both a mockumentary of the feud and a behind the scenes look into Berry and Agee’s songwriting processes. Berry and Agee both turn in good performances, each blaming the other for the feud and acting as if they’re reluctantly being forced into write their songs in retaliation for the other throwing the first punch. But there’s only so much of this you can do without it becoming a little repetitive, and I often found myself becoming impatient to get to the music. The songs are so laugh-out-loud funny that they overshadow everything else, but they only make up about 20% of the actual episodes so there is a lot to be overshadowed.
The good news is that all the songs are also available in their entirely, giving you the opportunity to enjoy to the original audio-style feud in its own right. The video episodes almost function like DVD extras, providing additional insight into the songs and the feud itself. Even the very title of The Berry-Agee Experiment seems unsure of what the results might be, but one thing that is certain, is that this kind of risk-taking spirit is what makes the web an exciting and creative place.