A good friend of mine, an actress auditioning like crazy here in Los Angeles, has already come across anywhere from 6-10 different casting calls this year for web series with exactly the same premise, that being: “Talented hotties struggle to get ahead in the entertainment industry.” Given how often actors and filmmakers are advised to “write what they know,” it’s a common concept. But how many different shows can you watch about a group of attractive people whining about their lack of success before it starts feeling tired and stale? (Answer: Three. Two and a half, if there’s a stereotypically fabulous gay male friend involved.)
So if you’re going to pursue this path, you gotta have a hook, and fortunately, 50 To Death shakes up the formula by setting the stakes a little higher. Norm (Norm Golden) and his friends Joan and Jon are living the working actor’s life in New York City, and finding the demographic box they’ve been shoved into a little confining. They’re all over 50, and thus not only are they a little limited in the roles they can take, but the clock is ticking louder than ever on their dreams ever coming true.
Golden and director Jason Sokoloff (JSOK) pitch 50 to Death‘s tone closer to Woody Allen than Curb Your Enthusiasm, working awkward situations for the full comedic potential but making sure that the characters remain human and relatable. In the first episode (no direct link available, a major downside to the hosting site’s Flash-heavy design), when Norm meets a fan who recognizes him from a bank commercial he did — which, in a moment of fact and fiction colliding, is an actual Citibank commercial in which Golden starred — she flirtatiously paws him in a manner that goes well beyond hinting at unresolved daddy issues. The moment works not because it’s funny to see a young woman hitting on an older guy, but because you can see Norm desperately trying to balance being flattered with not being sleazy — and halfway succeeding.
Despite the low budget, the production is mature and polished (though the music does tend to get a little overly hammy at certain points). And in a medium where it sometimes feels like 40 is the new retirement age, the series adds an underrepresented voice to the space. The three stars of the show occupy various states of awareness as to how in touch they are with today, and it’s interesting to consider the modern world from their perspective — especially since the humor comes from the little self-effacing moments of confusion, not misunderstandings on a grand scale.
When I am enjoying my AARP-eligible days, I only hope I’m as excited about the new storytelling mediums as Golden and his gang are. Though when my grandkids ask if I want to watch the latest nanosode to drop into the viewpod, I’ll still sound like a grumpy old lady when I ask, “Is it about attractive hotties struggling to become famous?” Because let’s face it: It probably will be.