Friday, May 18, 2012

Web Series Review: Cell The Web Series

Status: One Season of 13 Episodes Completed
Credits: Mark Gardner (Creator/Writer/Director), Danny Cameron (Brian), Jourdan Gibson (Woman), Kevin McCarthy (Man)  
IAWTV Nominee: Best Drama Web Series, Best Writing (Drama), Best Female Performance (Drama), Best Male Performance (Drama), Best Cinematography, Best Original Music  
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars (Highest Rating)  

Synopsis: This Prisoner-esque series begins with a man named Brian waking up in a cell, but not knowing why he is there. He screams to be released before he discovers that another person is in the neighboring cell; a woman who claims she does not remember her name and she warns Brian to keep his temper under control. A man then shows up, we do not get his name, and proceeds to punish Brian for his misbehavior with an electric cattle-prod and other means. The man tells the woman that it is her job to teach Brian and keep him in line and from there follows a progression of humiliations to break the will and identity of both the inmates in an at times nightmarish setting.  

Review/Commentary: This production delivers a series in the vein of The Prisoner and Lost, though in much tighter quarters, giving us engaging drama, confounding mysteries, and an emerging mythology, and accomplishes all that on a single set with no more than three actors (until the final episode at least) and practically no special effects. And while this is definitely a small, intimate, claustrophobic story, it also has plenty of hints toward a grander tale much like what played out on Lost.

The synopsis above basically gives you the set up for the series, but you’ll want no more information than that going in because this tale does not follow the direction you would expect and delivers several shockers. And it also gives us some intense, riveting, drama. There were times that I found myself just staring wide-eyed at the screen with my jaws agape because I was so astounded by the events transpiring, unlike anything you would expect delivered from a typical Prime Time television series. The series runs thirteen episodes of around eight to twelve minutes each (some shorter and the finale goes twenty minutes) and I sat through it all in almost one sitting because I found myself so engrossed. It reminded me of the way I reacted to the early episodes of Lost, amazed by the subtlety and complexity that the writers weaved into the stories. I should note that the acting falls short in a few places and the series kind of drags in the middle, but count those only as nitpicks. For the most part the actors do an excellent job and the few stumbles barely detract from the overall excellence of the production. And Cell definitely manages to outshine much of the more “professional” work we see on television and delivers a much more challenging viewing experience.

Mark Gardner, who has some professional work on his resume, created, wrote, and directed the series, and I would definitely count him as an emerging talent. And this series has received several awards and many accolades since it first came out last year. It recently received quite a number of nominations (six total) from the IAWTV awards, but unfortunately no wins, which I consider a travesty. While the other web productions that took away multiple awards like RCVR (more about that one at this link) and Mercury Men have their merits, I consider Cell one of the best productions that I have encountered on the web and this is the one that should have walked away with multiple trophies. Still, the nominations alone speak to the show’s accomplishments and will hopefully bring more attention to Cell: The Web Series and help it move forward with production of its second season.  

Links/More Information: Another area where this series succeeds is its website. So many web series out there have barely adequate websites at best and quite a few have next to nothing in the way of a homepage, making it difficult to figure out where to view the episodes and which one to start with. Not so with Cell: The Web Series. This show’s site (link below) gives you everything you need. It provides a brief description of the show, gives information on the cast and crew, links to reviews, and more. And most importantly, you can watch all thirteen episodes from this site. More web productions should follow Cell’s example and set up a similar, easy to navigate, all-encompassing page like this. You can also watch the entire series on YouTube, if you prefer, at the link below.

Visit the Cell Homepage at this link.

Watch Cell on You Tube starting from episode 1 at this link.

Watch the Trailer:

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