Anyone who finds themselves routinely screaming obscenities at the aggravating decisions of their favorite small-screen characters will find YTV’s newest offering provides ample room to vent frustration.
“Ivy U,” Yale’s first interactive soap opera, offers a partial remedy to this television-induced exasperation by offering viewers a democratic role in deciding the show’s plotline. Viewers log onto the show’s website, www.chooseyourscandal.com, to vote on future plots and make their mark on the silver screen.
Although director Lina Chen ’08 has had no previous experience with film production, the amateur cast and crew are working to perfect their procedure. “Ivy U,” which began its production last spring, debuted on February 20th.
The first episode — 12 tantalizing minutes long — established the core dramas that will unfold throughout the season. The show has already managed to cover all the bases of soap opera scandals. On the love-triangle front, sultry Stephanie, played by Ashley Fox ’08, lusts after RJ (Lucas O’Conner ’08), her best friend Snow’s long-term boyfriend. Although the Stephanie-driven drama has only appeared in fantasy form, she promises, with her come-hither looks, to deliver the delights of the token back-stabbing friend, a la Valerie Malone of “90210.”
A bona fide soap opera, the show fulfills its damsel-in-distress quota when Snow, Laura Merriman ’08, becomes entangled in the elitist world of The Gentlemen, Ivy U’s most power-hungry society. At Ivy U, Yale’s soap opera-evil twin, secret society members dress in ritualistic garb not only for tap night but also for top-secret abduction. The man behind the madness, Christian (Mike Schwab ’06), oozes sophistication as he directs his fellow Gentlemen in the quest to recover the stolen necklace. Infusing Yale happenings with daytime melodrama, Ivy U successfully satirizes the often high-strung Eli culture.
True to the Yale persona, the duo of Ryan, Danny Friedman ’08, and Brittany, Alice Shyy ’08, inject the show with witty aphorisms. Verging on opinionated and arrogant, Ryan and Alice’s repartee is reminiscent of an eavesdropped Koffee Too? conversation.
Another duo worthy of mention, resident heartthrob Diesel and prey Cherry, are sure to drag viewers down the road most traveled, following in the footsteps of small screen legends such as Zack Morris and Kelly Kapowski. Sparks flew the minute Diesel (Alex Harding ’08), laid his baby blues on the adorably oblivious Cherry, Carly Zien ’08. Whether or not Diesel succeeds in “picking her fruit” is up to the viewers to decide.
Perhaps the viewers should also decide the show’s soundtrack, enhancing the show’s interactive mission — and saving fans’ ears along the way. With random ’80s hits that seem irrelevant to the plot, the show overrelies on trite go-to tunes to evoke the sought after cheesiness adored by soap fans. Today’s romantic crooners are poised to replace their outdated counterparts and reinvigorate the tired playlists that blare throughout “Ivy U.” Nothing accompanies melodrama quite like the hits of Five For Fighting.
What the show lacks in musical strength, it makes up for in wardrobe. True to the soap-opera genre, the characters are consistently dressed to the nines. Props to “Ivy U” stylists for blessing New Haven with effortless glamour — dolled-up girls are a rare, but pleasant, sight on Cross Campus. From the suggestively attired — and named — Cherry to the Armani-clad Christian, each character’s costume perfectly captures his or her persona.
Also in honor of its “All My Children” heritage, “Ivy U” succeeds in alluring viewers with its overdramatized cinematography — think dark alleyways and choice close-ups.
Hopefully, the brevity of the first episode was especial to the pilot, and later episodes will provide ample time to elaborate on the complexity of Ivy U life. Although director Lina Chen describes the show as a “teenage drama mixed with a thriller mixed with a comedy,” future episodes could afford to ditch the attempted humor and focus exclusively on drama. “Boyfriend/girlfriend handbook” type jokes are just not unfunny enough to be funny.
Regardless, the well-executed pilot made an impressive debut on YTV and has already amassed an eager fanbase. The show has garnered 440 votes as of this writing, and the Web site received 847 hits on the day the pilot premiered, Chen said.
With choices that allow viewers to play a directive role in the social and sexual lives of the Ivy U students, the show has “American Idol” potential. If not ready for Ryan Seacrest fame, Danny Friedman says “Ivy U” will at least replace the childhood void of interactive entertainment left by those enthralling R.L. Stine “choose your own horror” stories.