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Summary:

The former Family Matters star’s take on Hollywood’s less glamorous side has solid production value and a great central performance from White. However, while there’s a wry tone that sometimes works in a laughing-on-the-inside way, many of the jokes and plotlines fall flat.

fakeit-jaleel

For being so full of photogenic people, the Hollywood community is a remarkably unphotogenic one. The locations might be gorgeous, but what people go through in order to stay in the game is ugly — at least, that’s the angle the Jaleel White-created Fake It ‘Til You Make It takes on the town.

The format of the comedy series, of which seven episodes have currently premiered on Hulu, consists mostly of standalone moments from the life of its characters. But the overall narrative seems to revolve around the struggles of Jack (Steve Rifkin), an aspiring writer/actor who looks to former child star and Hollywood entrepreneur Reggie Culkin (White) for help with his future career. Reggie, however, knows exactly how much power he has over Jack — and isn’t afraid to take advantage of it.

The best part of the show is White himself as Reggie — while the dialogue doesn’t always pop, it’s impressive to see how he throws himself into the role. Playing a parody of former child stars might seem like low-hanging fruit when you’re a former child star yourself (though Reggie’s early career seems more modeled on Gary Coleman than White’s own past), but White brings a certain self-effacing spark to his portrayal, especially when it comes to his status within the industry.

The rest of the cast is decent, and the production values are solid, too, with some serious visual flair to the flashback style. The result makes me wish Fake It was funnier. There’s a wry tone to some of the comedy that sometimes works in a laughing-on-the-inside way, but efforts to examine the real value of the wingman or come up with a new spin on one-night stands fall completely flat.

In addition, certain plot twists just aren’t well-executed, such as the ending of Episode 5, which relies on a sight gag involving Kathy (Betsy Rue)’s car that simply doesn’t read on screen. And the ADD approach to plot means that just when you get engaged with one story — like Reggie wooing away a former model from her suburban life — it’s abandoned by the next episode.

In addition, the show’s female characters as a rule don’t come off particularly well, seeing as how they’re mostly fame- and money-obsessed party girls, easily disposed of after being used once. The one exception to that is Rue as Jack’s actress friend Kathy, who definitely isn’t written to be likable but manages to find the humanity in her semi-desperate existence, even when physically assaulting her former agent or scamming a hotel for free stuff.

When I visited the set last March, I was impressed by the level of commitment brought to capturing what Hollywood life can be like, including White’s Ed Hardy gear and fauxhawk.

And there’s something inherently fascinating about someone like White, who literally grew up on TV, putting out his perspective on the industry. On that level, there’s a lot of value to Fake It — but stripped of that angle, there’s not much left.

Related GigaOM Pro content (subscription required): By The Numbers: Budget Analysis of a Web Series

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