A Second ‘League’ Opinion

Posted: July 15, 2009 in Threat Quality
Tags: ,

JLoSH2Adding on to Chris’s post on “The Junior League of Superheroes,” I’d have to say this:

Not bad. Not bad at all. With potential to be pretty enjoyable.

I agree with Chris on most fronts, but to add my two cents:

1) As always, watching the first episode (“mission,” as it’s hyperbolically classified) is recommended, primarily for the opening “Doom”-esque training gag. But actually getting a feel for the series’ sense of humor means getting through that weaker outing and watching the stronger second mission (always good when #2 is better than #1 – to throw a bombshell at y’all).

2) The jokes aren’t the most complicated in the world (low-rent “Star Wars” costume parties are pretty easy laugh-targets). But while “stormtrooper passed out on the couch” is a solid sight-gag (and may in fact be T-shirt worthy, as, c’mon, that’s a great image), it’s the smaller beats – particularly the previously-upbeat Meg, so proud of her eco-friendly Leia hair-buns, reduced to irritably double-fisting drinks as attention turns to a superior Leia costume – that really land. It’s a character-based joke, and as we get to know more about the leads, these are likely to be the strongest thing ‘JLoSH’ has going for it.

3) I actually like that the premise of the show – young wanna-be superheroes waiting for responses to their applications to an unseen crime-fighting league  – is so peripheral to the series itself as to be nearly invisible. You can figure out what the damn thing’s about if you poke around the website, but it doesn’t create the jokes. The premise is just kinda there.

I don’t know if this will help or harm the series as it goes on, but for now (and as a great example of the “post-superhero” subgenre I mentioned the other day – sub-sub-genre of superhero-comedy, I guess?), it works.

(This does beg the question – does comedy work better when it’s keyed into aJLoSH1 specific premise, or if it largely ignores the premise in favor of, y’know, just being funny? Discuss. No, I mean it. HOLLAND COMMANDS YOU, DISCUSS BELOW!)

3) And now it is criticism time (apparently I eschew the “compliment-sandwich” in favor of the “open-faced compliment sandwich with critique garnish” stlye of analysis): the pacing is just a couple beats slow. If we’re going to compare this series to anything, it bares some tonal similarities (in its single-camera production, enthusiastic nerdiness, and occasional hints at not-quite-reality-based gags) with “Spaced,” the wonderful BBC series that led us to Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz.

Pacing’s deathly important to selling a joke, and in this case, it’s crucial to nail a gag before the audience starts thinking of it. While I wouldn’t recommend quick cuts over a strong foundation of character-based humor (which is probably easier on the production end anyway, when you don’t have to worry about a gag being entirely the work of the editing room), I hope that as ‘JLoSH’ progresses, it gets more comfortable with this aspect.

So yeah. There you go. Go watch it, you’ll enjoy it. Follow it on Twitter.

Let us know what you think. And probably more important, let them know what you think. Putting work up on the internet can be like shouting into a vacuum, and it’s interesting to hear how people respond to the work you’re doing.

(Presuming you’re not the kind of knuckle-dragger that sometimes posts comments to comment threads. And we know from experience that, barring a few malcontented outliers, you are not. In fact, let’s grease your egos and call you all potential “taste-makers,” the kind that NBC hoped for to make “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip” a success. Actually, ignore that.)

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Comments
  1. braak says:

    Yeah, pacing is going to be the key, here. I think.

    As to whether or not a show’s premise is essential to the comedy, I don’t think it is. I think that, in the first place, there are a whole raft of jokes that don’t really have anything to do with the premise at all, but are colored by it (look, for example, at any Marx Brothers movie).

    Take the Star Wars costume party in Junior League, here–when the one (uh, Foster?) is dressed up like R2D2 wearing a clothes hamper and says, “Bleeep bloop bleep” and then runs into the wall–is that a Star Wars costume joke? Or just a regular old blind-crash take?

    There are any number of ways that you could do the joke, and that joke is always essentially the same–the person is dressed up, or disguised, in some way that obscures her vision, and then she crashes into something. Easy. But the joke is also slightly different when she’s dressed as R2D2 than it would be if she were dressed as, say, Cousin It.

    When you look at historically successful comedies on television, they’ve always got the most basic, bare-bones premise: some friends hang out in an apartment. Some guys hang out at a bar. Jerry Seinfeld knows weird people. Kelsey Grammar is a nerd.

    I think this is ideal because it gives you enough of a premise to color your jokes, but not so much of a premise that it starts to get in the way.

  2. Jeff Holland says:

    I wanted to mention “Seinfeld” as a show with only the vaguest of premises, but thought I was getting a little overlong as it was, so yes, good point.

    I also wanted to point out that the R2D2 trashcan-or-possibly-a-hamper costume a) was actually not a bad idea and I might do that one day, and b) led to one of my other favorite minor-jokes, the repeated “Hey…I like your buttons” comments. Not necessarily funny on their own, but the considered line readings, as though that was an Important Thing To Say, made me smile.

  3. V.I.P. Referee says:

    “Taste makers”…well, thank you for noticing. When you put it that way, we almost have an obligation to respond (this isn’t another one of those “laughing all the way to the bank” tricks, is it?)…

    What most caught me about TJLoSH, is how they dove into the one place that usually gets only obligatory attention in “superhero” stories and then, they stay there; personal, “off” or casual time between superhero peers—the tensions, the quirks, the insecurities the simmer in it. All the characters in TJLoSH are in the same position of being potentially rejected—when, outside of their social superworld, even the dopiest, most dysfunctional superhero will still always have some level of “coolness factor” over humans with no superpowers. Sort of like how Donald Trump’s kids will always have friends, nomatter how destructive or obnoxious they may someday be (and really, there’s quite a bit of potential, there).

    I love the idea of something intrinsically impressive and flash-worthy, like superpowers, relegated to being merely the packaging a story came in. Superpowers would be something never yawned at outside TJLoSH’s social group, but when everyone in a group has them (and those with the power to assign value to such powers aren’t really impressed-enough by what any of characters can do), how else do the characters interact and form hierarchies and relationships? The Leia-bun-scene is great because it hits that factor head-on; where could a superhero really feel petty, insecure and competitive? In an environment surrounded by other superheroes who could potentially do superhero things better than they could—like, “who cares if you can crash boulders together with your bare hands? My Leia buns came out better-looking than yours and what’s more, your superhero powers actually interfere with having access to those things that could improve, like hair glitter. My buns will always be better. ”

    “Seinfeld” owed most of its success to the glorification of socially dysfunctional quirkies and the inevitable, comedic pay-off of doing so, but a lingering competition still exisited between characters and kept things really interesting; yes, the characters were all social misfits but who, amongst them, would be the most sensational at doing it–social misfitting? That’s how culture works. We end up caring about things we shouldn’t or wouldn’t care about without specific peer groups assigning signficance to them. It can be fun to visit hidden worlds.

    So, they should keep that going, I think—rendering superpowers as pointless, except that every character has them and a feeling of “so-what-big-whoop-we-still-can’t-get-hired” connects everyone. Also, what will happen when some do get hired? What kind of conflicts will ensue? It’s a funny premise with great potential to rile an audience. You want to shake the characters and say “You have SUPERPOWERS! Go outside and do something! Throw a frisbee.”

  4. I had a long-winded response to all of this, but I think instead I’ll just say this: you guys are all spot on. This is exactly the sort of lively discussions we had hoped to inspire, and you’re all right on target with all of your questions, interests, and opinions. We at JLoSH are ecstatic about your viewership. Yes, I said it. Ecstatic!

    Our aim was always just to make an awesome webisode. An awesome webisode with the high production values and sound quality of a film, with fantastic actors and an amazing crew. In that aspect, JLoSH is a little different from some of its online colleagues, because in some ways it is closer to film. We are building a true arc for our characters over the course of our season.

    In conclusion, I’d like to invite all of you to keep watching. Keep commenting! Episode 3 will be released next week, and I cannot wait to hear what you make of it. (And I sort of want to make t-shirts with the passed-out storm trooper now. Good idea!)

    PS And, yes, trailers should be the opposite of secret. But sometimes, trailers have to take on (ah ha) secret identities, or else they’ll be taken off of new media content sites because of copyright issues. Eep.

  5. The Tongue says:

    Hey Guys,
    Thanks for the insightful feedback! And flattering comparisons. Bottom line- I do this to get women. You are not woman, but you are the next best thing. So, I can’t wait for you guys to see the 3rd episode! I’ll look forward to hearing your impressions and where you think the series is going. Let us know if you’d like to do some longer form conversation with the team after Comic-Con next week. We’ll spread the word.
    Best,
    ~~j~~

  6. Braak says:

    I think VIP is a woman.

    Also Teresa(?).

  7. You are correct. I am a woman. I’m a woman TOO, Justin!

    BTW, Ms. VIP Referee, we had about 8 hours of heated discussion about whether or not we should represent JLoSH at Comic Con with frisbees printed with our logos. We bickered about frisbees, we bantered about frisbees, we got nostalgic about other good times we had with previous frisbees, we tossed several frisbees around Justin’s living room…we really, REALLY love frisbees.

  8. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Teresa-

    I thought I’d never have a subtle conversational opening for frisbee-topic-appropriate, self-congratulation, so I won’t conceal this any longer: I was once an “Ultimate Frisbee” champion. I know–you’re probably thinking at this moment “that’s the glory of online interactions, you never know what kind of dizzying greatness you’re being connected to.” But there it is.

    Also, the frisbee idea is a solid one because it’s certain to get people’s attention.

    – Braak is correct. I am a woman. And I think women’s “Ultimate Frisbee” teams don’t get nearly enough exposure and financial support. JLoSH might have the power to change all that…

  9. braak says:

    The college I went to had two hardcore ultimate frisbee teams–a mixed-gender and a women’s only. I don’t remember the women’s only team, but the mixed-gender team was called the Red Scare. They had special red frisbees printed up with a hammer and sickle on them.

    Ultimate Frisbee and fencing were the only two organized sports at that school; the frisbee players were much more committed athletes. The fencers were much more committed alcoholic brawlers.

  10. V.I.P. Referee says:

    Um, well, I wasn’t officially associated with any recognized team but gained local fame amongst my friends. One friend’s father even told me I had lots of “star player potential”. Nice to know I’d had a mentor available if I wanted one.

    Truth be told, I would’ve preferred to hang with the rowdy fencers. And if they’d started fights by taunting opponents with archaic slurs, even better.

  11. Jeff Holland says:

    Scattered notes:

    – Upcoming sub-banner: “Threat Quality Press: The Next Best Thing To Women.”

    – I think it says something when “The Tongue” is a more articulate speaker than “Donnie Balls.” I’m not sure WHAT is says, but…something.

    – Teresa: I would buy that T-shirt. It would be a great compliment to the “Chewie is My Co-Pilot” tee I bought from http://www.dieselsweeties.com. (I do not own a decent TV or furniture, but I am T-shirt rich. That is for certain.)

    – On the subject of JLoSH as an example of post-superhero fiction, and to tie into VIP’s thoughts on the matter, the superheroes-not-doing-anything-super idea had a lot of legs in Garth Ennis’s “Hitman,” which featured a character with x-ray vision but by and large ignored those powers, since in his day-to-day life, it simply didn’t come in handy all that often (save for the lead’s happy meeting with Catwoman).

    – Which makes me wonder how the burgeoning “Yeah, you got superpowers, so what?” theme (BBC’s “No Heroes” and the wonderful/short-lived “Tick” live-action series also ran with this gag) can be viewed in cultural terms. What does it say about Western pop-culture that we can reasonably picture social networks where superpowers don’t necessarily make you any more special than the next guy/gal? I don’t know. I’m the one asking the questions here! I’m not on trial!

    – Fencing at Kutztown University was dominated by the Ren-Faire folks. Who were just shit at drinking. Pantaloon-wearing lightweights.

  12. V.I.P. Referee says:

    I’m sure you’ve properly started a fight with someone in that comment…

  13. The Tongue says:

    I believe the quote should read “Next best thing to Woman” for the added added caveman feel.

  14. Jeff Holland says:

    I wouldn’t concern yourself, VIP. They’re just pantaloon-wearing lightweights, what could they possibly – oh yeah. They have swords.

    I’ve made a huge mistake.

  15. Wait, wait, wait..can we go back to the part where JLoSH has an all-female ultimate frisbee team?! HECK YES. And you, VIP Referee, can be our Captain. You just have to move to LA.

    In other news, I have actually been to the Ren Faire many, many times, and I beg to differ that those of the faux-antiquated realm are shoddy drinkers. Oh yes, I beg to differ. (Pantaloon-wearing is an accurate description, however.)

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