If you find yourself spending more time in front of the TV set this autumn, remember to thank Sak Comedy Lab. Not only is the improv theater/school's alumnus Wayne Brady bringing home the bacon for ABC with his eponymous revue, but a more recent class of Sak-sters is about to hit the weekly airwaves.
"The Suburban Rhapsody" is the name of their program, a bought-and-paid-for half-hour of sketch comedy that's due to air beginning Sept. 6 on WUPN-TV Channel 65. The show is the brainchild of Greg Barris, a journalism major at the University of Central Florida who's also studied the art of tomfoolery at Sak.
"I wanted to see how hard it was for me to actually do a weekly show," Barris says. To stack the deck, he retained a team of trusted collaborators, most of whom he met while learning the Sak modus operandi. His writing crew includes Kevin Smith -- not the "Clerks" guy, but a Sak "Lab Rat," or student performer -- Alicia Johnson and Dave Brown. (The latter helped pen "Heart of Love," Haxan Films' long-awaited second feature.) Sak's technical director, John Valines, is performing voice-over roles.
All well and good, but what is "The Suburban Rhapsody?" According to Barris, it's a comedic framework for a running send-up of the yuppies and Muffys who dominate our city's culture.
"We're not like urban, inner-city people," he says of Orlandoans. "Our downtown isn't really a downtown." (And if he ever figures out what it is, he'll be more than qualified to run for mayor.)
Barris agrees that Martin Mull's "The History of White People in America" is a thematic antecedent to the approach he's going for, a parodic portrait of "people who don't really have a clue." But not every bit will have a picket-fence motif. Christopher Walken (or at least a facsimile thereof) will act as the series' narrator, and may end each episode with a moral lesson, in homage to the homilies tagged onto the "G.I. Joe" cartoons of the 1980s.
Short films will also be featured, drawing on Barris' three years of experience as an amateur moviemaker and as president of Dominion Studios, a video-production house that specializes in weddings. (How white can you get?) Original music is provided by the Larry Appleton Project, a combo that's said to be pioneering the genre of "sitcom-core" -- progressive house and break beats overlaid with samples from sitcoms and movies.
"Charlie Sheen was the motivation for, like, their last eight songs," Barris says.
A premiere party will be held concurrently with the show's first broadcast, at a venue yet to be determined. Wherever it's held, the celebrants will have to stay up pretty late: "The Suburban Rhapsody" is scheduled to air deep in the Thursday/Friday overnight period. Barris and company bought up a "very long period of weeks" in the 1:30 a.m. time slot, wherein competition is admittedly light. Word arrived last week, however, that they may be getting the 12:30 a.m. shift, putting them up against the likes of Conan O'Brien.
Keep the faith, Caucasians. Just don't ask Wayne Brady to give up his catbird seat.
Though a faxed invitation said that "hundreds of Orlando residents" were expected at last Friday's screening of the movie "Virgins" at Valencia Community College [The Green Room, Aug. 16], the actual attendance was far humbler. The school's East Campus Performing Arts Center was about half-full, with members of the film's crew and friends of its cast accounting for the lion's share of the occupied seats. The movie itself was a fairly smooth piece of technical work (even in the rough-cut stage), though plagued by the weak scripting that's the most common failing of VCC projects. Its watchability was enhanced immeasurably by the casting of local talent, including actors Will Bowles, Lena Bouton and Sheila McIntosh -- all three of whom have since moved to Los Angeles.
I hate to sound like a broken record on this issue, but 2001 will be remembered as the year Orlando lost nearly an entire generation of promising performers to the bigger markets, and largely because no one could come up with a good reason for them to stay here. We used to blame wars for this sort of herd-thinning, no?
Figg busts a cap
Last week I received a copy of the trailer that's been compiled to promote writer/director Jonathan Figg's perpetually forthcoming hip-hop satire, "The Bros." Slick, professional and tons of fun, the spot is the best advertising yet for a film that some folks have come to regard as hypothetical. Though a few profanities will keep the trailer from widespread use, its pitch-perfect editing, narration and overall look hint at a commercial bull's eye. Keep your eyes open for "FunnyEola" impresario Vicki Roussman, who is seen wielding a mean can of mace to fend off an attempted mugging. The only real drawback is the flown-in video footage of cameo celebs Shaquille O'Neal, Daunte Culpepper and Vanilla Ice. It's an uncharacteristically cheap bid for attention, and one the trailer doesn't need -- it's entertaining enough on its own.
According to co-star/co-producer John Tindall (who brought the tape to me), Figg is now planning on having the finished film ready for unveiling in late October or early November at an unnamed film festival, possibly in Britain -- which Tindall says would be highly appropriate, given that the tortoise-paced Figg has "a bit of that Kubrick blood in him." The final cut will run just over 90 minutes, down from the 120 or so that were originally budgeted. Look for the extra footage to show up on a DVD release -- assuming, of course, that the public welcomes these Bros. like family when they finally arrive in theaters.
Finished in the picture
While the Wahlberg brothers continue their siege of the nation's movie screens (Donnie was in "The Sixth Sense," and Mark is in, um, everything else), former crony Danny Wood is making cinematic inroads of his own. The ex-New Kid is starring in "Deveria," a Full Sail short that shoots this week at various area locations, including the reopened Blue Room and Winter Park's Big C Liquors. Your favorite A.J. McLean joke goes right here ... The Orlando Hauntings ghost tours that now depart from Guinevere's coffee shop the first and third Saturdays of each month will switch to an every-weekend schedule in October. The last two weeks of that month, tours will be conducted every single night. In September, host Michael Gavin will institute an offshoot tour that will teach area history of the corporeal variety. He's also working on a free discussion series that will allow participants to share their own experiences with the paranormal. Me, I just see white people.