Entertainment on the Internet, particularly on YouTube, is incredibly perplexing. Countless talented singers put their music on these forums, hoping to get discovered — but the instant fame they seek goes to the Rebecca Blacks of the web.
Web series face a much different set of challenges: CollegeHumor videos are almost universally popular (see: “Jake and Amir,” “Very Mary Kate”) while attempted YouTube series have been almost a guaranteed failure. New series “stalkTALK” hopes to avoid the fate of most YouTube attempts by drawing very clear influences from successful comedic shows and pandering to an ever-present Internet audience.
The show’s premise is ridiculous — even the creator Rachel Helson admits it. It surrounds a “therapy group” for celebrity stalkers and follows a format almost identical to that of “Arrested Development.” There is a constant narrator and frequent cut-aways, both of which are characteristic of the critically acclaimed show. The first season follows the stalkers’ misadventures in therapy and their therapist, Natalie, who emerges as the protagonist driving the show forward.
The stalkers’ characters are intricately linked with the people whom they stalk. Ashley (Wendelin Von Schroder), the slutty dimwitted attention-seeker, stalks Lindsay Lohan. The faux-Jewish, unibrow-sporting Florence (Rachel Helson) preys upon Larry David. Bowtie-rocking 70s child Hermes (Matthew Quinn Forbes) stalks Pee-wee Herman, and Tom Balsac — “the sac” (Peter Lewis DRA ’87) — plays a failed, washed-up actor whose target is David Hasselhoff.
It’s hard to categorize the series. One can’t help but have high expectations from a show that shares the name and premise of a popular SNL sketch featuring a young Adam Sandler. Helson claims heavy influence from “30 Rock,” “Soap” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (in addition to “Arrested Development”). These shows are not only critically acclaimed, but also hilarious in completely different ways, and “stalkTALK” experiences some of its lowest points when trying to replicate the humor these shows are famous for. The ridiculous dialogue works in “30 Rock” because it has a fairly average premise, and the ridiculous premise of “Arrested Development” works because the dialogue isn’t over the top. “StalkTALK” has both an absurd premise and outlandish jokes that becomes too much for the audience to digest.
At the same time, the medium itself combats these assumptions. As a general rule, Internet TV kind of sucks (even though “stalkTalk” doesn’t — totally).
But while it experiences pitfalls, “stalkTALK” has elements that could make it successful. Fairly high production quality along with decent acting could make for a popular web show. Some of the cut-aways, particularly those featuring Lewis as Balsac, are hilarious and a great offset to the constant pop culture references and borderline jokes.
“StalkTALK” could benefit from some more consistency, especially with its characters. Even though the show purports to focus on the stalkers themselves, it follows Natalie, the therapist/babysitter, the closest of all. Additionally, some of the characters are written clearly as stalkers — they have their prey and consistently reference them as one would expect true stalkers to do — while others seem interested in other things, as if they don’t need the therapy for stalking (although they definitely all need therapy for something).
Ultimately, the show seems a little like Ark Music Factory: it takes all the elements that were successful in other shows and puts them together, expecting magic. Unfortunately, it falls flat in some areas, dooming a potentially great web series. While the first season seemed a little misdirected, the show certainly has promise.
The second season, which is currently being filmed, can learn a lot from the first. If it reels in the dialogue, tones down some of the plot and keeps the same enthusiasm, the show could be successful. You can watch season one of “stalkTALK” online at http://www.stalktalk.tv/ or on its YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/stalkTALKtv.