Making fun of reality TV is low-hanging fruit, and indie web series The Videomakers, written and directed by Walter J. Gottlieb, doesn’t make much effort to change that. Shot in Silver Spring, Maryland, the show focuses on a team of morally-dubious producers who strive to create […]

Making fun of reality TV is low-hanging fruit, and indie web series The Videomakers, written and directed by Walter J. Gottlieb, doesn’t make much effort to change that.

Shot in Silver Spring, Maryland, the show focuses on a team of morally-dubious producers who strive to create and package programming that even Fox Reality Channel (which aired shows like Battle of the Bods) would find questionable.

To be fair, the joke is that the shows being created by aptly-named Lowball Productions are knowingly awful, but that doesn’t work without a deeper message behind the satire. For one thing, the number of women in bikinis is clearly meant to mock the way in which reality TV exploits women in bikinis, but there’s a fine line between mocking exploitation and actually being exploitative — a line that Videomakers regularly crosses simply by basking in as much female nudity as possible, without stopping to challenge some of these tropes.

The series, currently on its sixth episode, has the potential to be much better than it is — the production values are relatively solid, the actors gel together nicely despite their characters at times feeling undeveloped, and there is the occasional decent gag, such as one of the company’s in-development projects: Pets of the Third Reich. I also like the way in which the narrative is stretched out over episodes without each installment feeling incomplete; the ongoing plot threads are structured well and encourage continued viewing.

But the one exception to the show’s decent production value is when it comes to certain stunts — like the action scenes from the Top Shots series, an unconvincing tasing of one of the contestants, or a couple getting conjugal inside a coffin (while clearly both fully clothed).

If the divide between the fiction of Lowball Productions’ productions and the behind-the-scenes reality was at all clear in the show’s execution, these moments might have the potential to serve as a new source of comedy. But within the context of the show as it stands, they just make Videomakers seem amateurish. Which, for a web series about professional TV production, is less embarrassing than wearing a bikini to participate in a reality TV show — but only by a small margin.

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  1. I just watched the entire series so far. While I usually enjoy your reviews and find some of your commentary insightful, I can’t help but think that you are focusing on the first episode way too much and left out more about the rest of the series. There was more than just Pets of the Third Reich. Even if you don’t like it, I thought it was a riot!

    Where’s the nudity you wrote about? I don’t know, but it seems like you have an axe to grind about women in bikinis! All that attention you paid to Top Shots compromises what you wrote elsewhere. But thanks for the review about the show; I’m going to continue to watch!

    1. You could be right about me being hung up on the bikinis (and sure, nudity was not perhaps the right word to use in reference to said bikinis). But Top Shots was the first impression I had of “Videomakers,” what with it being the first two minutes of the first episode and everything. And first impressions have a way of lasting, especially when they serve as a sign that the satire of “Videomakers” would remain relatively superficial. Either way, though, thanks for commenting — I’m glad you can make room for both “Videomakers” and at least some of my reviews in your heart.

  2. Did you even watch the rest of the series? There’s a lot more to it (including a Prison Makeover Show and a concept called “Chefs Behind Bars”), all of which is dead on parody of the sensationalist crap the cable networks peddle. The “Videomakers” repeatedly challenges the programming choices of mainstream tv by parodying the behind the scenes BS and pandering to the lowest common denominator. It’s true, the show doesn’t spell everything out. The skewering of the industry is implicit in the exaggerations – young women literally being declared “dead” by a smooth-talking Tyra knock-off during an elimination show, etc., and having to climb into a coffin! That’s a condemnation of the genre in and of itself. And in a funny way to boot. If you didn’t like episode 1, fine. But you can’t judge an entire series from one or two episodes. We can pick apart any episode of our favorite tv series. Not a fair basis for judging the whole.I find it clever, funny, and – gasp – professional, especially compared to most other web series.

    1. Liz Shannon Miller Jeff C Friday, February 12, 2010

      You’re completely entitled to your opinion, but in answer to your question: I watched through episode 5. I just chose to focus on the first episode as an example because while the other reality satires were, yes, less bikini-filled, I found them equally shallow.

  3. It’s true that we each have our own tastes, and no one show is going to appeal to everyone. Yet I am so shocked that this series would get such a low rating – by anyone. I’m embarrassed to confess that I occasionally watch these horrible shows and part of what makes this series so fantastic to me is that fact that I have. If the reviewer finds this show shallow my guess is that she doesn’t watch much of this type of programming – which of course I don’t blame her – it shows a lot of self control and taste on her part!

    But for us lesser mortals who can’t resist tuning in yet know it’s horribly vapid, this series is a total joy. A celebration of bad, which is so bad it’s incredibly good.

  4. Just to be sure I was clear, I meant most reality TV is horribly vapid, VideoMakers the series isn’t – I love the series VideoMakers. Those of us who can’t resist watching bad reality shows can more appreciate how good VideoMakers is.

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