Translating improv and theater sketches into a web show is a lot tougher than it looks. What plays in a theater will not necessarily work in sitcom. It may have something to do with how drunk the audiences are on the improv circuit and the constant reciprocated energy. The Portland-based Action/Adventure Theater is making their transition work. Their new series, Fothing, starts off as a bumpy ride but eventually becomes some entertaining Web TV. The group is responsible for the live improv show “Fall of the House,” which is currently a weekly hit.
The premise of the series, written and directed by Miranda King set around, well, a fictionalized version of the Action/Adventure theater. Tragedy hits when their financing, a friend with a trust fund, falls through. Each episode follows the twentysomething cast trying to make some quick cash to keep the lights on in their new rehearsal space. Some bits are quite funny and range from selling pot (they use Weeds for research), male stripping, and selling lunch boxes made in Israeli sweat shops. All the while they have to fend off threats from the “other” local theater company, a gang of bearded bicycle riding, kerchief wearing, artsy, pretentious toughs. Ya know, they are toughs in “a promising local theater group” kind of way.
The initial episode is entitled (Memo to Fothing: You’re better than this,) “Pilot.” While showing some potential, the episode is an under-directed, overwritten jumble. The characters are given no real introduction or backstory. There are several jokes that simply just don’t make sense. I found myself rewinding it a few times to double check if I had missed something. I hadn’t. In addition, several scenes and cutaways run too long without any real point. Do we really need 30 seconds of the cast leaving the building?
Fortunately, the subsequent episodes are tighter and funnier. So I forgave them. The ensemble cast of Noah Dunham, Jon San Nicolas, David Saffert, Greta Pauley, Devon Grammo, Aubrey Jensen, Kevin Crooks and Tamara Carroll are genuinely a likable bunch. There are still some clunky comic setups but for the most part, it works. In each episode, there is there is at least one genius absurdist moment worth waiting for. For example, the self absorbed, Kevin (Cooks), while researching and explaining his new pot dealing operation, is completely oblivious to his roommate (and male dominatrix), Devo (Grammo), servicing his boyfriend.
A solid first effort, Fothing is an amusing show and a solid first effort. But skip the pilot and go straight into episode two: “Drugs, Yo” (below):
Fothing is also sponsored by PDX Pipeline which airs interviews with the cast and crew every Tuesday, and streams new episodes from their site on Thursdays.