The Videomakers Struggles to Satirize Reality TV

Making fun of reality TV is low-hanging fruit, and indie web series The Videomakers, written and directed by Walter J. Gottlieb, doesn’t make much effort to change that.

Shot in Silver Spring, Maryland, the show focuses on a team of morally-dubious producers who strive to create and package programming that even Fox Reality Channel (which aired shows like Battle of the Bods) would find questionable.

To be fair, the joke is that the shows being created by aptly-named Lowball Productions are knowingly awful, but that doesn’t work without a deeper message behind the satire. For one thing, the number of women in bikinis is clearly meant to mock the way in which reality TV exploits women in bikinis, but there’s a fine line between mocking exploitation and actually being exploitative — a line that Videomakers regularly crosses simply by basking in as much female nudity as possible, without stopping to challenge some of these tropes.

The series, currently on its sixth episode, has the potential to be much better than it is — the production values are relatively solid, the actors gel together nicely despite their characters at times feeling undeveloped, and there is the occasional decent gag, such as one of the company’s in-development projects: Pets of the Third Reich. I also like the way in which the narrative is stretched out over episodes without each installment feeling incomplete; the ongoing plot threads are structured well and encourage continued viewing.

But the one exception to the show’s decent production value is when it comes to certain stunts — like the action scenes from the Top Shots series, an unconvincing tasing of one of the contestants, or a couple getting conjugal inside a coffin (while clearly both fully clothed).

If the divide between the fiction of Lowball Productions’ productions and the behind-the-scenes reality was at all clear in the show’s execution, these moments might have the potential to serve as a new source of comedy. But within the context of the show as it stands, they just make Videomakers seem amateurish. Which, for a web series about professional TV production, is less embarrassing than wearing a bikini to participate in a reality TV show — but only by a small margin.

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