For decades, kids have picked up home movie cameras, bossed around their younger siblings and dreamed of being famous directors. And for most of those decades, their work went unwatched, confined to cassette tapes forgotten on dusty basement shelves. But with the advent of YouTube and other video-sharing platforms, an amateur filmmaker can hit it big from the comfort of her own home. That’s what the creators and stars of “Young Like Us,” a new web series featuring two Yale alums, are hoping to achieve. The creator-writer-director, Chloe Sarbib ’12, has fashioned an enjoyable mini-sitcom with plenty of comedic promise.
When three college friends move out of their shared apartment, the newly-ex-roommates decide to start a fake band to stay friends. Charlie (Julie Shain), the trio’s Quirky One, comes up with the fake-band-but-actually-it’s-a-real-band idea. Charlie provides the show with most of its energy, and Shain strikes a nice balance between silliness and likability. Her friends, career-obsessed Ava (Sarah Rosen) and boyfriend-obsessed Mia (Cleo Handler ’12), agree that humoring her is probably the best option. The series also includes a handful of secondary characters, of which Larry (Brad Dourif), the girls’ aggressively weird former super, is the most memorable.
As a new series, “Young Like Us” got off to a solid, if imperfect, start. The pilot is a bit clunky, weighed down by labored characterization and scene setting (perhaps due to the short-form time crunch). But once the episodes get going they find their comedic groove, a style incorporating zippy comebacks and humorous cutaways (a la “30 Rock”). “Young Like Us” also includes some really clever and funny songwriting that sets it apart from other web projects. The editing and pacing occasionally feel a bit slow, but the episodes remain punchy and entertaining. In the best scenes, all three leads play off of one another — their repartee is witty and infectious.
Over the past few years, the web series has become a popular launching pad for mainstream careers in the arts. “Broad City,” Comedy Central’s smash hit about two beautifully crass Manhattanites, began as a low-budget YouTube series. Issa Rae, creator and star of “The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl,” a critically acclaimed online project, landed a production deal with HBO and is currently working on several pilots. Instead of sending out spec scripts, content creators can make spec shows — bite-sized YouTube morsels that show off acting, writing and/or directing skills.
Despite the contemporary glut of shows about girlfriends living in New York City, “Young Like Us” distinguishes itself with quirky characters and musical flair. The episodes, at ten minutes or less, are short enough to binge-watch and the accompanying songs are zany and memorable. If you’re looking for a quick and satisfying study break, “Young Like Us” might just be the ticket.