IKEA Heights

Sometimes a new show is wonderful just for its weirdness. Just hearing the background of IKEA Heights  (created by Channel 101) got me saying, “must watch!” A group of young, enterprising filmmakers and actors shot a mini soap opera for the web in IKEA. Genius! You’ve got all your sets right there: bedrooms, kitchens, a restaurant. The best part however, is that they did it during regular business hours without IKEA knowing what was going on. They’re already my heroes. This may or may not have been inspired by a scene in 500 Days of Summer, but it’s pretty original.

The show begins where any melodrama should; in bed. A couple wakes up, they have some words. The words aren’t that important. There’s some tension in the relationship, blah, blah. The important thing about the scene is to get your head around the setting. The guy is in his clothes. The lighting is awful. There’s one of those signs on the bedside table telling you how much the Frngl costs.

The opening credits are fun, too. If you’ve ever shopped at IKEA you know the sights, from the Japanese ceiling lamps to the posters of meatballs. The filmmakers take advantage of all the possible “sets,” with moving on to a kitchen scene, where no water flows from the tap, to an office where the desk is clearly priced at $300, and then the pillow department, which stands in for a factory.

The main character is James, and he’s got some pretty big problems. His glamorous wife is cheating, he’s not doing so well at work, and he’s got a missing brother. Or something. Like I said, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on. The actors enjoy every second of this, milking the silliness for all it’s worth. The show wouldn’t work any other way. There actually is a plot, too, complete with a cliffhanger ending enticing us to keep watching. This is the kind of thing that wouldn’t exist without the web and the whole DIY ethos it brings.

Web Pilots

Web shows have become a genre unto themselves. And, like other shows, they need pilots that draw in the audience and set the stage for the series. They have some unique challenges, though. I’ve just started mulling this over, and am wondering if anyone else has any observations. (If so, hit me up!)

Web shows generally have short episodes, ranging from one to ten minutes or so. Perhaps because of our conditioning with YouTube and viral videos, we have limited patience with content designed to be viewed online (despite the fact that we’re now watching network and cable TV online as well). So it has to grab us and grab us fast. Also, it seems we haven’t grown a taste for dramas online. Generally, this stuff has to be funny.

Not only do web show have to accomplish more in a shorter time, there are expectations of edginess. Maybe it’s the medium that dictates it; the internet is younger than TV so it must be edgier. Or, perhaps it’s the audience. People who go digging online for new stuff to watch probably aren’t satisfied with the same old-same old.

Conversely, expectations are lower when it comes to production values. Because we love to see the Chad Vaders of the world make good, we are very forgiving of poor lighting or wonky edits. We still want good acting, though. (Or do we? Do you feel differently?) It’s not all unknowns trying to get noticed; big name actors are treading the pixels.

Stay tuned as I’ll be reviewing pilots of Ikea Heights, FCU: Fact Checkers Unit, and Web Therapy.