Revision3 has always been a nonfiction player in the web sphere, thanks to blockbuster series like Diggnation. But while its first sitcom, Web Zeroes, didn’t really stand out from other wacky-roommate series, the network seems to have found a comfortable mix between scripted and unscripted formats with INST MSGS, a web anthology compiling some of the Internet’s strangest weird messages and communications.
Craigslist has a heavy influence in the first seven episodes released, which is fair given that the classified ad site has always been such a generous provider of strangeness. But what makes the show so intriguing isn’t the quality of its odd finds, which aren’t anything you wouldn’t expect to find trolling Craigslist’s Best Of section, but its execution.
INST MSGS‘ strength is its surprising creativity — while some of the emails and postings being portrayed on-screen might lend themselves to easy parody, creator Justin Simien, cinematographer Mathieu Young, and producer Ann Le find fresh and interesting ways to depict such things as some secret tweets or anal-retentive instructions for Thanksgiving dinner.
A lament over potential missed connections, for example, is delivered by the most Shakespearean actor you could possibly imagine, with dramatic sound and lighting to match, while common terms from women’s personals ads are translated by a hand puppet.
This isn’t the only show to mine random web messages for material — most recently, Melissa Center’s indie acting showcase Missed Connections Live began exclusively focusing on that particular Craigslist section. But Revision3’s production polish helps put INST MSGS on another level, and more importantly, the main site provides links and archived versions of the postings that inspired each episode. Each episode is composed of two different segments, which are broken out and available individually, and while sponsor Netflix’s presence in the first episode is a bit much, subsequent shows are relatively ad-free. New episodes come out every Friday.
By keeping itself open to all potential web ephemera, INST MSGS isn’t easily pigeonholed, and while the actors involved are talented, there’s no central personality anchoring the show. However, the voice of the show is so strong that this is hardly a complaint, especially since the show has avoided cheap jokes at people’s expense. In fact, some segments, such as a man’s open love letter to the women he’s known, are downright touching. The end result is a fitting tribute to the strangeness of the Internet, where tears and laughter follow each other with T-1 speed.