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Roommate Comedy and Online Video: A Brief Overview

[show=roommating size=large]Oh, the woes of being an urban twentysomething! You have to work at a thankless job! And juggle a complicated love life! And deal with your family’s disappointment in your chosen lifestyle! But worst of all — you have to live with a roommate.

The drama of living with a roommate is one that’s been mined repeatedly for web content, to the point where you can’t help but compare the series that have arisen. Hence, I thought I’d look at a few that have come up recently, and scale them according to both hilarity and realism (drawing upon both my expertise in being a critic of online video and my expertise in being an urban twentysomething who lives with a roommate).

Sharply written and brilliantly acted, this indie series starring and created by Joel Church-Cooper and Erin Gibson isn’t new on the scene, but it’s frankly one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. The addictive antics of a purely platonic dude and lady are both hilarious and disturbingly authentic — essentially, it’s like they’re saying what real roommates are thinking. This pays off in adventures with guns, politics, and porn. It earns an A-plus.

Hilarity: 10 (Seriously, it’s comedy gold.)
Realism: 7 (It’s like real life, but slightly more absurd and definitely more witty.)

Strike.TV’s recent foray into the genre was created by Anthony Q. Farrell (a story editor on The Office) and features three friends living in a house. In the first four episodes of Dwelling, Mira (Parisa Fakhri) directs the rehearsal of a one-man show, Rich (Eric Hailey) puts together a puzzle with his sister, and Tee (Farrell) does his laundry. In concept, it should actually be as boring as described, but the plot escalates impressively over the four episodes — so impressively, in fact, that all the action pretty much occurs in Episode 4, which is a pretty clear hint that Dwelling‘s original incarnation was that of a script for a half-hour sitcom pilot that was broken down into 5-minute chunks for web distribution.

But while each episode fails to end on a real dramatic note, there are a number of fairly charming moments anchoring the series, and the diverse cast balances the right amount of absurd and likable that, should the series be extended, would easily anchor future episodes.

Hilarity: 7 (Plenty of laugh-worthy one-liners.)
Realism: 3 (A female roommate asking a male roommate to wash her underwear? Unlikely.)

Big Honkin’s Roommates
So there are plenty of series called Roommates, but here filmmaking collective The Big Honkin imagines what would happen if the search engine Google was to find your Craigslist ad in search of a new rent-sharer. This one combines the travails of sharing a living space with a stranger with the travails of being subservient to Google’s tremendous stores of information. You might think that the experience of co-habitating with a search engine would be worth it, but in retrospect you might be better off just getting an iPhone.

Hilarity: 8 (Solid technology satire.)
Realism: 2 (Search engines aren’t people.)

Third Wheeling
The newest series created by Joey Manderino and David Young of Joey and David fame, Third Wheeling revolves around two BFFs moving their girlfriends into their wacky comedy homestead. The complication of having your new roommates be your girlfriends is an interesting complication for this genre, but while the first episode has a lot of true-to-life touches, including the landlady who will Not Stop Talking To You, the second pushes the series into more relationship-focused territory.

Hilarity: 6 (Could use bigger jokes, but the interactions are pretty funny.)
Realism: 6 (The series is actually based on some true-to-life events for the comedy duo.)

And like I said, these are far from being the only shows to explore the topic in one way or another — My Roommate the Cylon, Bumps in the Night, quarterlife and the quarterlife parody 2/8 life, the MySpace series Roommates… All of these shows are well-made and entertaining, though it’s a subject matter that’s hard to keep fresh and at this point is easily oversaturated.

The reasons for this are understandable — apartments are cheap and easy locations to secure, and most of the people making these shows are themselves urban twentysomethings with roommates, drawing on personal experience. But maybe it’s time for the urban twentysomethings to stop sharing space with one another, and think about finding places all their own.

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