Overcrowded was a sitcom that never got picked up by any network. The pilot episode is as far as it got and is the only project I’ve ever seen by All Things Random Productions, but after watching this, I’d like to see more.
The pilot can be seen on YouTube, so judge for yourself:
If that opening sequence didn’t make you laugh, than this probably isn’t the show for you. As for me, hey, sometimes you got to kill a guy and go off on a merry trip to saw up his body and bury it where the cops won’t find the corpse. Needless to say, this pulled me in immediately – after that opening sequence, there was no way I wasn’t going to sit through this until the end.
Full disclosure, I’m acquainted with the show’s creators and stars, Greg Vorob and Dan Conrad, as well as Marc Seidenstein – and I think I’ve at least met Paul White.
There’s a lot of stuff going on here that I liked, particularly script and performance wise. The guys are great, and they populated the show with a bunch of other great actors. I loved the Batman reference, but I’m not sure the guys at the office should be the ones acting wacky – that should be reserved for our heroes.
Putting your best foot forward
Dan, Greg and Paul are all great – oh, and Whats-His-Name, the husband – all gave great performances. But Marc kinda stole the show for me – he’s so expressive, so lovable. That’s great and all, but the episode wasn’t really centered around him, and I think they should have picked Marc or Greg’s storyline and focused on that a little harder – probably Greg’s and have Marc’s storyline be a separate episode as there’s so much there to work with. Still (and I’m comfortable in my masculinity, so I have no problem saying this), Dan is a handsome dude*, and this is a TV show – give the handsome guy more screen time.
*Dr. Girlfriend is going to rip on me for saying that a guy is handsome. She’s not the sort of person to drop a ‘Fag-a-tron,’ but I do sense a “I knew it!” coming my way.
I loved the end – the climactic scene with the husband watching all the different things happening in the apartment was awesome. He was great in that scene, and I especially enjoyed Dan going all Hunter S. Thompson.
Dial back Paul
I love the idea of a criminal with a heart of gold, but I’d dial Paul back a bit. I’d rather him lie, cheat and steal in a Bender from Futurama sort of way as it’s kinda hard to have a heart of gold when your body count for one episode takes up all of the fingers on one of my hands. He should be like Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2: “No killing.” Killing in the opening credits was one thing; we didn’t know who that was, so we didn’t have anything invested, and it looked like an accident. An audience will forgive a montage killing.
It just doesn’t look like a sitcom
To be fair, they did do some things with the camera I liked.
As the show opens, our brain is immediately receiving information – the music, what’s happening on screen, it’s all clear – this is an 80s styled sitcom. The problem is, it doesn’t look like one, or any other sitcom I can think of. The camera is always handheld, but in a bad way – like the camera operator didn’t want me to know it was handheld. Either swing the camera around and do fast zooms like Cops (or The Office, for that matter), or put it on a tripod. I’m guessing the camera was on a shoulder mount rather than steadicam, but the angles are all wrong – everything looks dramatic – comedy should be very flat. I don’t see why they couldn’t put the camera on a tripod for at least the wide shots – I have almost no film equipment, but I have TWO tripods, so not having a tripod can’t be the reason. And shot reverse shot just doesn’t work for comedy – it’s too dramatic. Comedy should be shot on a flat angle.
The kitchen scene was really bothering me from a visual perspective. I can’t see what’s going on!
During this entire scene, I kept thinking, “Why didn’t they film this at a table in the living room? Mark can serve the food out of a frying pan onto plates…
And then they ended the show that way. This only reinforced the idea in my head that they should have started the episode this way as well – it would have been a nice set of bookends, a gimmick I think would have worked particularly well for the sort of show that includes a spot for everyone to talk about what they learned.
And where are my medium close ups at? Can I get a medium two shot? I can’t be the only person who watched Full House…
In this scene, Uncle Jesse and Aunt Becky are trying to get their fuck on, but Michelle keeps interrupting.
I can’t believe we’re watching Full House, but it works for this discussion. See? Nice, flat angles. Michelle is a little kid and they still got a nice flat angle. She’s in a medium close up and Jesse and Becky are in a medium two shot, and every once and a while, they cut to the wide shot for movement or perspective. Nice and simple, but perfect for comedy. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel – the old tricks are the best tricks.
No prominent female characters
You don’t have to give women a voice on a show, but it helps to connect with the audience on multiple levels, and without a prominent female character, you risk alienating that portion of the audience.
No voice of reason
And since there is no prominent female character, the show lacks a of voice of reason, which is easy to miss on a sitcom when you don’t have a female lead. On most sitcoms, this is usually the wife’s role, as nearly every 80s sitcom featured a beautiful, reasonable woman married to some idiot that was lucky to have her. (Home Improvement, The Simpsons, The Cosby Show, King of Queens, Everybody Loves Raymond… not just the 80s… pretty much any show starring a male character who is married to a woman.) Like Jim on The Office or Leela on Futurama, you need someone to show up every once and a while to tell the characters they’re nuts or help them out of a jam. It’s kind of hard to swallow that Marc could negotiate with the Japanese Mafia; after all, he was just rolling around on the floor a few moments before. A neighbor would fill this role nicely, like Wilson on Home Improvement. The guys do have neighbors, but the husband is disposed of at the end of the episode and the wife is too dumb to fill the role.
Despite my complaining, I think Overcrowded is a hell of a show with loads of potential. Like Star Trek’s “The Cage,” it’s sometimes necessary to take your first pilot, look at it, mess with it, and try again. I think Overcrowded is a few revisions away from genius, and I hope they decide to make them someday.