Here’s a classic romantic comedy trope. A supremely nice guy wants to get with a supremely icy girl. Your role as an audience member is to hope the guy achieves his goal. If you enjoy these love stories, Wage Slaves might just be for you. Otherwise, the web series is a tough sell.
Wage Slaves is a workplace comedy set in a Portland coffee shop, featuring crazy coworkers, crazy customers, and Mitch, the one sane guy stuck in the middle. Mitch is played by Morgan Lee, a good actor who displays a low-key charm and solid sense of comedic timing. Unfortunately, his character suffers from a lack of flaws that makes him barely recognizably as human. He’s an embodiment of the “nice-guys-finish-last” stereotype. You can almost hear the author’s voice telling you, “Look, he’s unlucky in love, but it’s so totally not his fault! Sympathize!”
Conversely, Mitch’s love interest (Stacy, played gamely by Lara Korbin) is given line after line of shrill insensitivity. She bluntly proclaims her hookup with the smitten Mitch to be “a huge mistake,” telling him about her other amorous encounters to make him jealous, and generally embodying another stereotype – the damaged ice queen.
Fictional relationships like these feel like a one-dimensional fantasy. The character we are encouraged to root for can do no wrong, and all of the flaws and negative traits are piled on the one being pursued, effectively making her an enemy to be conquered….with love!
The acting is by far the series’ strongest suit. The production values suffer from a basic lack of professionalism. Handheld cameras are utilized for no apparent reason – it’s not stylish or intimate, it’s just slightly distracting. Locations and sets aren’t dressed up enough to be convincing, and there’s a tremendous amount of air between scenes, between individual cuts, and even between lines of dialogue. This tightens up a bit as the series progresses, but the average episode length is still over 15 minutes. That’s an eternity in internet-time that only the most exceptional web-series could hope to justify.
A lot of effort has clearly been put into Wage Slaves (in true indie style, creator Chris A. Bolton writes, directors, produces, and edits the show), especially considering the sheer amount of scenes and locations featured throughout its six-episode first season. But the series is ultimately not funny enough to work as the workplace sitcom it wants to be, nor is it emotionally honest enough to work as a mumblecore drama, which it sometimes resembles.
At heart, Wage Slaves seems to be a story about people with small lives and crushed hopes, which can definitely be hilarious if one is willing to go for the throat and eviscerate the characters. Aside from one good running gag about a suicide pact, Wage Slaves tries to apply light sitcom humor to 20/30-something ennui, and the result doesn’t want to make you laugh or cry.