A lot of the amateur web series coming out right now are about actors trying to get a break in Hollywood — and are created by actors who are trying to get a break in Hollywood. But because most actors aren’t equipped with the same skill set as, say, a filmmaker, that shows in the finished product.
But Acting School Academy is a cut above these productions, for a couple of reasons. One, it’s competently shot and edited, with — a must for any production that wants to be taken seriously — decent sound design. Two, it has the very slightest gleam of star power, thanks to every Saved by the Bell fan’s favorite principal, Dennis Haskins (aka Mr. Belding, whose hairline has remained oddly stagnant in the 16 years the show’s been off the air).
And three, it’s actually pretty funny, because instead of aiming for any sort of realism, the series exaggerates each character to a hilarious extreme. The result is Unscripted (that HBO series with Frank Langella not many people watched), as reimagined by Christopher Guest. And while the lack of Eugene Levy and Parker Posey definitely hurts, the young cast has plenty of standouts: Michael Mullen as the super-closeted Damien, Dylan Hobbs as ripped male model Jason Stackhouse, and Joy Darash as flower child Flower Meadows all really get a chance to “sparkle,” as Mr. Belding says at every possible turn.
Over the course of the five episodes out so far, relationships are ruined, crimes are committed, sexuality is questioned — and not a lot of real acting lessons are learned.
But the show has a life beyond the regular five-minute episodes. Not only do key characters have Twitter and Facebook accounts (with hundreds of friends and followers), but there are short breakout videos with the individual characters, such as Damien at the West Hollywood Gay Pride Festival and Jason showing what it takes to have a male model’s body. There are also fake commercials and shows-within-the-show — it’s a wealth of additional material that greatly adds to the world of the series.
Michael Mayorga and Kris Sharma, who have supporting roles, co-wrote Academy, and it’s their writing and character development which creates some laugh-out-loud moments. The actors-trying-to-succeed premise is still a tired one, but Acting School Academy‘s fresh point of view on the acting world, unique characters, solid production values and commitment to the new media side of things is what helps it stand out in a crowded field.