Marty and Doug’s New Religion [tv review]
Marty and Doug’s New Religion is the second show I’ve seen from All Things Random Productions and Phalanx Film/Video Productions. Like Overcrowded, this show has laughs, heart and the potential to grow beyond the foundation that is seen here. With the right retooling, they might have something they could sell to a network or expand into a feature film.In the interest of full disclosure, I’m acquainted with the show’s creators and stars, Greg Vorob and Dan Conrad, and even served as an extra in one of their projects, Wintimidation, which I’d forgotten when I wrote about Overcrowded.
Marty (Vorob) and Doug’s (Conrad) New Religion stars the titular characters in their quest to create their own religion with the hopes of making money and meeting women, which attracts followers as well as pisses people off, including Jesus Christ himself, portrayed by Ian Campbell Dunn.
While I enjoyed Overcrowded, Mary and Doug is something of a mixed bag. It’s kinda like that game “Three Strikes” on The Price is Right – the contestant could have just as easily pulled out a winning number, but sometimes, they pull out a strike and they don’t win the Corvette.
“And that is why I no longer eat shredded lettuce.” There are some great one liners in here and Vorob and Conrad deliver them all impeccably. I also enjoyed the explanation of the Holy Trinity, which occurs in the same scene. On the other hand, there’s stuff like, “If we had a religion, we would have it made!” and “I seriously don’t know how these bills are gonna get paid.” The exposition isn’t especially strong (i.e., “convey the protagonists have a problem,” “convey the protagonists have an idea to solve the problem”), but the jokes are top notch.
There’s not enough conflict in the show. Mary and Doug decide to split their religion and the followers divide between them, creating a rift in their friendship, but the reason for the rift just isn’t strong enough, particularly when they have a tailor made antagonist in Veronica, who could have been manipulative and fun to hate, but her character never really goes anywhere and even tries to bridge the rift the moment it appears despite the fact that she’d just revealed she was there to cause one only seconds before. It’s plausible that jackasses like Marty and Doug would start infighting this quickly because they’re not smart guys (and it’s not unbelievable that they’d have followers because the only people dumber than them are their followers), but without a good antagonist, it’s hard to root for them to make up. When they do, you don’t really care. This is the biggest difference between Marty and Doug and Overcrowded – it’s much harder to care about the characters in Marty and Doug because you only really get to know Marty and Doug, but you don’t care what happens to them as you don’t know why they’re friends and won’t care why they aren’t friends anymore. I guess Jesus and the Priests were antagonists, but the lack of direct confrontation between the priests and the guys hurt their credibility, and Jesus’ Sacred Heart was never really in on the gambit to bring down Awesome-ism. I mean Bad-Ass-tianity.
Speaking of characters, I would have preferred there were less followers as characters and just more people hanging around as extras so they could have developed any one of them (Nerd Girl, Fatty, Tourist, British Guy, Foreign Guy…) instead of just giving us a glimpse at all of them.
“All Things Random” isn’t just the name of the production company; there are plenty of random jokes throughout the show. The visual gags are numerous and a few are food based:
–Billy Dee Will-yums Cereal
–Peter Gabriel’s In Your Eyes Pepper Spray
–Panty Town: Fall Preview
–Kathy Bates’ Red Tomato Juice
–Ernst Borgnine Carrot Juice
–Blanche from The Golden Girls (Rue McClanahan) t-shirt
There’s also the British Guy.
As soon as I saw the British Guy, I couldn’t help but think of this character who briefly appeared in The Simpsons episode, “Lisa’s Rival.” Besides the above quote, he appears in only one more shot, lasting only a second – it’s just long enough to spit out his tea in horror. Both British Guys are totally random, but Marty and Doug’s British Guy doesn’t know when to get lost. He’d be far more effective if he was used less.
Before I start complaining, I should point out that there are several shots in this flick that I like, including this one right here. All of the angles are great and I like that they went with a tripod this time out, but at times, things are a little disjointed.
I just don’t understand why they set up some of the shots in the way they did. For example, this first shot inside the apartment is framed in such a strange way (which doesn’t look like any other shot of the apartment in the rest of the show except the bookcase shot – I guess those are the only shots they filmed during the day) – it’s allowing for adequate head room for when Marty stands up to deliver lines (during which I can’t see his face), but that doesn’t happen until the very end of the scene, so for the rest of the time, there’s all this negative space above their heads and I can’t see Marty’s feet, which bugs the crap out of me for some reason. Maybe there wasn’t time, but they could have used some coverage on Doug to cut to, which also could have been used to quicken up the pace a bit. There is a little bit of coverage on Marty, but this scene makes me feel like I’m watching a play and I don’t have a good seat in the theater. Since I’m not watching a play, the pace is just too slow.
Marty and Doug create a fantastic presentation that showboats all of the wonderful things their religion provides that others don’t, but it’s just this medium shot here, and then it cuts to the people listening and then back to this shot again. There’s maddeningly long pauses every time they have to flip from one poster to another, which are tough to read, and it’s a shame as there’s some funny stuff on them. Like the first scene in the apartment, the pace is just too slow here.
What’s with the slow motion introduction shot of Veronica? I can’t even see her, so I don’t know who I’m being introduced to, and the slow motion is awkward as hell.
I’m going to assume that the actress that played Veronica wasn’t there the day they shot Marty’s coverage, and that’s a damn shame, because I would have loved to have seen the look on her face when Vorob delivers one of my favorite lines in the show. Still, I think they would have been better to just shoot Marty in a closeup here and forget the extras, who aren’t listening or reacting in any way to what’s happening in this scene.
What’s with the lighting in the priest’s… office? Where the hell are they? It looks like that door leads into a locker room or something. I guess they couldn’t get an office set, which is the sort of trouble you run into when you don’t have much of a budget. But there does seem to be money for fake smoke, as the priest’s office has more fake smoke than a planet they visit on Star Trek: The Next Generation. However, when they cut to the coverage, there’s no smoke. I have no idea what that guy is listening to, although later, I think they’re using that equipment to communicate with Veronica, but in this shot, the guy on the right has the headset on backwards.
Besides the shot composition issues, I felt that some shots were too dark, but that’s how it is when you work on a budget – you can turn on every light in the room and other cost effective light solutions and it still won’t be enough. Once you get in the editing room, you’ll find shadows and color correction issues galore, but unless you’ve got the money or the know how and time to fix it in post, you’re stuck with what you shot. Sure, there are lighting problems, but they aren’t nearly as distracting as the audio problems.
The audio jumps all over the place; sometimes it seems like I’m hearing the characters from a camera mic, other times from a boom mic, and still other times, the background sound changes from one shot to the next, which is really distracting. Sometimes the audio levels change during the same shot. Overcrowded had much better sound.