A web series is a relatively new phenomenon, created in the late 1990s and coming into prominence in the early 2000s. The first original web series is reported to be The Spot, created by Scott Zakarin in 1995. It was set in a California Beach House and featured attractive people with emotional drama who had all sorts of problems that we needed to know about. A sort of Melrose Place on the Web, as Wikipedia describes it, and that’s pretty apt. Since The Spot premiered there have been literally thousands of web series, and it’s not hard to figure out why. A web series is usually (but not always) a single camera shoot in a single location with a handful of actors. The cost is comparatively low for a television show. Also, you don’t need a studio to produce a web series. You just upload it on to the web. Of course, there being no major distributor to finance your web series usually means there’s little or no money in it but it’s generally good exposure for the cast and creatives, not to mention a chance to exercise their craft. And let’s face it – actors are used to doing things for little or no money. A single episode in a web series (webisode) is usually short, between five and nine minutes in length and often you can stream an entire series in one evening. Which is what I did with Indoor Boys.
Indoor Boys was created in 2017, by Alex Wyse and Wesley Taylor. It also stars Alex Wyse and Wesley Taylor, is written by Alex Wyse and Wesley Taylor, and directed by Alex Wyse and Wesley Taylor. This is not necessarily a bad thing and cinema is full of examples of great shows which were written, directed and featured a single person or persons. (Citizen Kane, Waiting for Guffman, Do The Right Thing, Life is Beautiful, The Great Dictator, Lost in America, Reds and Annie Hall were all written, directed and starred the same person). Wyse and Taylor play Nathan and Luke, an on again, off again, on again, off again couple who first live in Los Angeles and then relocate to New York City and have a complicated (to say the least) relationship, surrounded by a rotating carousel of friends, family and in some cases, very brief lovers. Nate and Luke don’t tend to worry about the big problems of the world; you won’t find global warming or foreign policy or overpopulation the subject of their discussions. Instead, they focus on their own lives, as people tend to do.
Production values in web episodes tend to vary from the very primitive to the elite, and Indoor Boys is on the high end of that spectrum. Nate and Luke live in apartments provided for them by Nate’s parents, whom Luke says are ‘rich’ but Nate qualifies as merely ‘upper middle class’. Judging from the sumptuousness of their abodes Luke is a lot closer to the mark. The rich red wood of the Los Angeles apartment makes those of us living in New York a tad jealous. In fact if you happened upon the show by accident, seeing it running on someone’s computer you might easily think it was coming from one of the networks. The lighting, sets, costumes, etc. are all top notch but what ultimately makes a show like this work is A) the writing and B) the chemistry between the actors. In both cases Indoor Boys scores high marks.
While it may appear easy to write an eight minute episode, as opposed to say a ninety minute screenplay or even a twenty-five minute Seinfeld show, for viewers our attention span tends to wander after only two minutes if what we’re seeing doesn’t hold our interest. The night I watched Indoor Boys I saw all eight episodes of Season One and even tapped into a little bit of Season Two. (There are three seasons in all). The writing is witty and sharp and constantly keeps you on edge. At one point Nate says, ‘I always thought I would die alone’ to which Luke responds ‘You won’t. Whoever kills you will be there too.’ I’m not a hundred percent sure if it is a comedy which deals with emotional human issues or a show about emotional human issues which is just very funny. In either case, the search for love is explored in a humorous vein without giving us simple, cliched answers. Nathan and Luke act in unpredictable ways and make decisions in their personal lives which sometimes leave you scratching your head (especially Nathan), but that’s true for people we know in real life.
The casting of Indoor Boys is perhaps its strongest suit and if Alex Wyse and Wesley Taylor did not create these roles for themselves you’d be hard pressed to see anyone else doing them better. Nathan (Alex Wyse) is a sweet, sensitive, caring soul trying to find his way in the world and perhaps overthinking that process a bit too much for those who are around him. He’s a lovable neurotic who doesn’t have a job, acts impulsively, is emotional, is insecure, and scrutinizes every aspect of his life so much that by the time he’s made a decision the moment has usually passed. Luke (Wesley Taylor) is the polar opposite. Luke is the definitive ‘player’. Sharp edged and dangerously handsome, he’s the kind of guy who goes to a party not worrying whether or not he’ll hook up. It’s more a question of who and how many. Over confident to the point of arrogance, calculated, sometimes dismissive, often insensitive to the needs of those around him (including and especially Nate) but always charismatic as hell so you forgive him. It’s a pairing which should never work but somehow does. Sort of like a gay Odd Couple, only both of them are neat. Together they navigate the tempestuous waters which make up their lives and their relationships, not always succeeding.
While the bulk of the series centers around Nate and Luke, the creators have done well to populate the world around them with vivid, rich supporting characters. Michael Tacconi plays Aaron, a successful movie actor who falls for Nate and cautions him about Luke’s volatile nature. Broadway veterans Carolee Carmello (Parade; Mama Mia!) and Veanne Cox (Company; Caroline, or Change) play Nate and Luke’s respective mothers, each unusually quirky and endearing in their own way. Luke’s siblings Logan and Lacy (Isaac Powell and Krysta Rodriguez) are compelling and fascinating, displaying both a keen insight into Luke’s psyche while at the same time showing an abnormal attachment to each other which is really just a bit too close for comfort. In Season 3 there is a hilarious search for a new roommate with each candidate progressively worse than the last. The only one they both like is Anna (played by drag queen legend Paige Turner) who, naturally, doesn’t want them. They finally choose Blaine (winningly played by Sean Grandillo) who winds up having an affair with Luke’s mother.
There are things to quibble about in Indoor Boys if one really wants to. For a show which does such a good job of displaying realistic characters and situations there can be a tendency to go a bit too far over the top at times. And the decision for Nate and Luke to have an ‘open relationship’ in Season 3 was acted upon so quickly it was one of the few times the show felt forced. But these are minor points in the scheme of things. The truth is it’s damn hard to make good art out there, and Indoor Boys succeeds where other shows with much larger budgets don’t. The difference between a studio driven Hollywood blockbuster and a web series you can just catch on the internet may seem like the difference between a chateaubriand and a Big Mac. But sometimes you’re just in the mood for a Big Mac.
All photos by Evan Zimmerman
You can watch all three seasons of Indoor Boys on Vimeo