When the branded anthology series Suite 7, sponsored by the Better Sleep Council and distributed online by Lifetime, was first announced, I compared its high-caliber cast and behind-the-scenes talent to another anthology project from the 1990s, the collection of short films known as Four Rooms. The thing I didn’t bring up at the time was that the film Four Rooms wasn’t very good — fortunately, that’s not the case here.
Starring proven players like Illeana Douglas, Tony Janning and Brian Austin Green, directed by folks like The Bannen Way‘s Mark Gantt, Sandeep Parikh and Shannen Doherty, Suite 7 features an impressive array of talent involved with this project, and it pays off with a series of seven unique and intriguing episodes.
While the stories are on the surface all about a relationship between
a man and woman two people, they do demonstrate some considerable range — from a couple coming to terms with divorce to newlyweds fighting over a found fortune to a starlet abducted by an aspiring screenwriter. And each allows the talent represented to flex their skills: For example, the episode Soulmates, written and starring Douglas, has her signature self-effacing charm, but it’s nice to see her stretch beyond her Easy to Assemble persona and create a new character.
For Richer or Poorer, written by Parikh and Janning and directed by Parikh, is by far one of the stand-out entries, thanks to the high energy direction and hilarious performances by Janning and Tara Perry. It’s also slightly shorter than the others, which do suffer from feeling a bit overlong. There’s a theatrical feel to the bulk of the series, which is one way of saying that the plotting feels a little slight at times, with many episodes representing nice illustrations of scene work as opposed to engaging storytelling.
This focus on character over plot does enable some great moments of acting, though — Doherty is extremely compelling as a newly single woman in the upcoming installment Company, directed by Mark Gantt, and in another episode made available for review, Brian Austin Green is actually really funny, playing a role that straddles his awkward teenage roots on 90210 and his tougher persona on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles.
According to executive producer Wilson Cleveland, the first four episodes of Suite 7 has received 200,000 views since December 17th, and it’s now available on Hulu and YouTube, with more distribution to come. And the intrusion of the Better Sleep Council branding is minimal — the only element being that most of the episodes involve characters wanting to get a good night’s sleep. Subliminal messaging in high quality content: Possibly one of the better strategies out there for a branded series.
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