OK, so the funniest, most zeitgeist-y new web series of the fall is out already, and it’s by…The Washington Post. For realz, yo.
Created and directed by Liz Kelly, the blogger behind WaPo’s Celebritology blog, Twits does its very best to transform the Twitter messages of famous people into a meaningful cultural experience. Of course, they’re working with the personal ruminations of noted philosophers Jessica Simpson, Courtney Love and P. Diddy, so it’s little surprise that the results are comedy, not insight.
Performed by a series of purposefully mismatched actors against a black background and underscored by music you’d normally hear at a day spa, each 2-minute episode consists of dramatic readings of up to three or four messages from each featured celebrity. Reality star Brooke Hogan wants ice cream. Tila Tequila wants to be covered in 24-carat gold. Lindsay Lohan wants love, or for @samantharonson to give her a ride. The Tweets are verbatim, but the medium is the message.
It’s not a totally fresh concept — the NYC stage show Celebrity Autobiography has been mining the words of the famous for the purposes of comedy for a year now. But what makes Twits work is the already haiku-ish nature of Twittering; say anything short and punchy in a dramatic fashion, and it acquires the veneer of the profound, even when it most definitely doesn’t deserve it.
The one misstep is actually spelling out the URLs; the slavish devotion to capturing every typographical oddity found in the Twitscape is appreciated, but even abbreviated URLs for Twitpics just take too long to be entertaining, and end up killing the joke just a little bit. It’s also not a joke with a very long shelf life — but there are at least a few more episodes in the concept before it starts feeling overplayed.
Famous people on Twitter aren’t going away, so the one danger of Twits is that it might encourage more of them to seek out ghost-tweeters, a concept which remains completely ridiculous. As THE_REAL_SHAQ, the greatest celebrity Twitterer ever, told the New York Times: “It’s 140 characters. It’s so few characters. If you need a ghostwriter for that, I feel sorry for you.” Instead, hopefully, Twits will just teach famous people the same lesson we normals had to learn on our own: Think before you Tweet.