Rocketboom Gets Subtle With Its First Scripted Series

[show=thesuffersons size=large]The Rocketboom empire today launched its first foray into the scripted scene, over four years after creating a name for itself as one of the early pioneers in nonfiction web video. The Suffersons, a low-key domestic comedy created by Blair Singer, will take the place of the daily news series for the next week (prior to Rocketboom‘s return on Jan. 4), with three episodes launching today.

For those who don’t like change, though, don’t worry — just like Rocketboom‘s hosts, the titular Suffersons spend their time sitting at a desk. However, this time the desk is in a Brooklyn apartment’s kitchen, and instead of an attractive young lass with a British accent, the principle desk-sitter is Josh (Michael Chernus), a laid-off accountant taking advantage of his new free time and writing his first novel — much to the amusement of Dana (Susan Pourfar), his curlers-bedecked wife. It’s a simple premise, simply executed, and the first three episodes are focused, for the most part, on establishing a tone in the relationship between Josh and Dana, which promises to be tested in future episodes.

Singer, a playwright who has also written some episodes of the shows Weeds and Monk and contributed to the third season of lonelygirl15, has a pretty diverse range as a writer, but it’s his theatrical background which really makes its presence known here. There are few punchlines and a relaxed pace to the proceedings; it’s a subtle humor relying on awkward pauses instead of sight gags. Which means that Suffersons isn’t for everyone, but the first three episodes, especially when watched together, have plenty of interesting moments — especially for any writer who’s been asked, mid-thought, “Whatcha writing?”

The only thing that disappoints about the show is the use of a too-often-abused stereotype — the shrewish, unsupportive wife. Between telling Josh he has nothing to say, poking fun at the length of his first chapter, and nagging him to talk to his mother, Dana is no different from any number of shrill sitcom spouses from the past 40 years, and while hopefully future episodes give her greater depth, as it currently stands she’s not very likable — which is a problem, given that she’s half the cast.

Rocketboom creator Andrew Baron (who is Singer’s brother-in-law), said via email that while there are no plans for more fictional series down the line, “If people would like another season of The Suffersons, we’ll do it!” There may not be enough to the Suffersons premise for that, but the Rocketboom team is still entering the scripted game relatively on par with others playing it; it’d be interesting to see what they’d try next.