Alert readers will already know that there’s not too much that I like more than discovering a really well written and well-produced show. And I’ve got another one for you: Wallflowers, the charming comedy from Kieran Turner (Jobriath A.D.) that’s just launched its second season on Stage17.tv.
According to the site, Stage17 is a new “digital platform offering captivating original, executive-produced and curated entertainment for the world’s largest stage — the Internet.”
You’re going to see more of these types of platforms coming online as smart entrepreneurs, producers and, eventually, the mainline ‘creativity oligarchy,’ begin to understand where their audiences are getting entertainment.
As I started watching Wallflowers, I began to think about the title of the show. And, of course, I did what any self-respecting researcher would do: I turned to that specialist bastion of lexicography, urbandictionary.com. (Don’t judge.) UD defined wallflower this way, in part: “…some of the most interesting people if one actually talks to them.”
And that’s a pretty good jumping off point for this series; the central conceit of which is following a fairly tight-knit yet wildly diverse group of people who, for whatever reason, can’t get dates. They are all members of the support group, “Navigating the Relationship Waters in the New Millennium,” sort of an AA for the hopelessly single.
It’s a thesis that could get really old really quickly, but creator Turner is a smart writer, who uses the group meetings sparingly and effectively to advance the narrative. Janice, the group leader, sets the tone and Christianne Tisdale plays her with deadpan hilarity. Janice is doggedly earnest, even when her group members think she may have gone ‘round the bend.
Patch Darragh (Mercy, Boardwalk Empire) is the third actor to take on the central role of Bryce in the short history of the show and I believe he really nails the character in a way that neither of his predecessors (both quite good, by the way) did. Darragh has a marvelous world-weary, overly cynical, screw-you-guys, every cloud has a black lining kind of — what? — ennui, maybe — that just drips beautifully from every line he delivers.
This season, Bryce has a new love interest — after a riotously bad blind date from hell in Season 1 — in the form of piano player Alex, played by EastSiders’ John Halbach.
Halbach plays endearing all-American wide-open genuineness so well that, set against Darragh’s mordant darkness, you know sparks are soon coming.
Their main interaction in the first episode is a short, but important scene where you learn just about everything you need to know about them. It’s adorable. The mating rituals of the smoker.
Bryce fights against his acid edge here while Alex displays the same genuineness that Halbach had playing opposite another caustic love interest (the fantastic Constance Wu) in EastSiders. Smart writing. And the scene follows the old axiom “let picture tell story;” something forgotten by so many. It’s the moment when I definitely decided to come back for the next episode.
I have a clip of this scene that I put in and took out I don’t know how many times. Ultimately, though, I think you need to watch the entire episode to watch it all gel.
Rounding out the principal cast are Sarah Saltzberg, Gibson Frazier, Jolly Abraham, Susan Louise O’Connor (an out-and-out screaming hoot), Max Crumm and Marcia DeBonis. All are actors with serious theatre chops. I’m sure I’m biased, but I find that’s where most substantial ensemble players come from.
Anyhow, watch it. Turner is a clever one and a deft weaver of all of humanity’s various foibles and failures — and those tiny glimmers of hope that make us get out of bed each day — into a well-turned story. Also, Wallflowers looks lovely; so props to cinematographer Zachary Halberd.
I have a short list — a very short list — of favorite series that I go back to again and again because they never seem to get old. That list has now grown by one.
It turns out that Turner is the man behind a little holiday flick called 24 Nights. I had no idea. You should check it out, as well. It, too, is delightful. Plus, as an added bonus, it features the lovely David Burtka, so young he’s barely out of short pants!