These are boom times for web-based programming.
The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, a YouTube show produced around Portland and Vancouver, was purchased by the Weinstein brothers for a multi-platform franchise launch. The Vimeo pot-dealer comedy High Maintenance is moving to HBO. And the latest episode of The Benefits Of Gusbandry (Season 1, Episode 4 "Gateway Gays") , which premiered February 5 at Portland's Q Center, contains at least as much weed and chills as those two, and rather more laughs.
The show's YouTube channel keeps accumulating subscribers, downloadable versions will debut on iTunes soon, and the NW Film Center is planning a binge-screening this April.
Gusbandry's fourth installment, "Gateway Gays," looks back on the initial iterations of Jackie (MADtv's Brooke Totman) and River's (Wild's Kurt Conroyd) quasi-relationship. The two are soul mates, but perhaps too similar—they both crave the touch of a man.
Through flashbacks, we spy on their first hesitant embrace of alternative lifestyles. Abandoned by her prom date, Jackie turns to her alpha gay bff for solace. And a devious cheerleader (Sunshine Girl's Paige McKenzie) urges the still-closeted River to pursue her own boyfriend. The ensuing embarrassments are recognizably outrageous, cleverly constructed, and more than a little wrong. But, like all of Gusbandry thus far, an over-arching affection for the leads shines through.
Gusbandry is very much a local affair. Directed by music video doyenne Alicia J. Rose and co-written by Rose and Courtenay Hameister (Live Wire Radio, The State), it's shot on location around Portland. But Rose and Hameister avoid aping Portlandia flavors, save for a few well-placed gags regarding condo development and long lines for artisanal ice-cream.
Totman dials back the sketch comedy fervor for a fully fleshed portrayal of a woman who, when woken up at her own 40th birthday party by pals snorting lines off her chest, can barely muster resigned exasperation. Conroyd, an adorably antic cross between Colin Meloy and Alan Cumming, gobbles up every moment of screen time.
The dialogue often tends toward quotable musings at the expense of organic repartee, but that's a forgivable sin with zingers so sublime and episodes so brief. Rose would eventually prefer the 22 minute standard in order to introduce the show's supra-distinct personae and ground their flights of fancy.
If the concept isn't exactly original, the approach feels bracingly new thanks to its foulmouthed delight in casual raunch and the stars' lived-in charms. Whereas Will & Grace always seemed too gorgeous and sexless to convincingly complain about romantic foibles, there's a poignancy about our star-crossed heroes' hapless deliria.
The characters are world away from perfect. But they are perfectly matched—their blinkered self-obsessions, their self-medicating habits, their unabashed love of cock. And loving cock means never having to say you're sorry.
Watch "Gateway Gays":