Every once in a while, a girl deserves an Arrested Development renaissance, and I am deep into mine right now. Which means that I have been reminded of how solid the show’s cast was, especially overlooked players like Tony Hale, whose work as youngest sibling Buster Bluth was staggeringly funny. (“Unlimited juice? This party’s gonna be OFF THE HOOK!”) But while since the end of Arrested, he’s had yet to score a high-profile role in film or TV, recently Hale’s become a bit of a patron saint to the web series cause, rocking two different shows with his deadpan genius.
I mean, he’s not the only high-profile actor in the L.A.-based dating series MERRIme, which premiered this month, with new episodes running on TheFrisky.com starting July 21st. Tom Arnold (no stranger to the web series format himself) and Tia and Tamara Mowry also appear. But Hale’s guest appearance as the first date of Merri (Kaily Smith), a trust fund baby desperate to find a boyfriend to escape the gruesome fate of getting a job, is so funny that it spills over into a second episode.
Not that he’s the best thing about it. The show is well-written, with fantastic production values and a charming cast. And as a side note: One of my pet causes is encouraging creators to showcase their series on their web sites, and the team at MERRIme have done a great job of this. Their site is packed with info about the show, its cast and crew, and its characters (a highlight being the dating profiles provided for everyone Merri dates over the course of the first 15 episodes), and the layout is clean and appealing, the content easy to find. Except for the part where you can’t link to individual episodes and there’s no video content of any sort on the front page, it’s possibly the best I’ve ever seen.
Hale moves from supporting character to web series lead in Ctrl, a 10-episode web series, produced by NBC, that premiered this Monday. A comedy-fantasy hybrid, Hale stars as Stuart, a hapless office employee whose keyboard gets doused in product-placed Nestea, which causes functions like Ctrl-Z to actually undo life’s little mistakes. (Kids, don’t try this at home, it’ll just make a mess.)
Empowered for possibly the first time in his life, Stuart immediately starts using his powers to win the heart of his office crush and fight back against his evil boss. If this sounds like the sort of quirky short film that tends to play at a lot of film festivals, there’s a reason — the series is based on the film-fest-winning short film written and directed by Robert Kirbyson, who’s also behind the adaptation. But despite feeling awfully familiar, the series is sweet, entertaining and well-made, not to mention a fantastic showcase for Hale’s talents.
We talk a lot about how web video gives a voice to the ordinary man, but it’s nice to see that the slightly-more-than-ordinary man, the overlooked character actor who deserves more recognition than he ever got, might find a place here as well.