Friday, July 13, 2012

Web Series Review: Fresh Hell

Status: Two Seasons Completed Totaling 10 Episodes
Credits: Brent Spiner (Himself), Kat Steel (Dakota), Christopher Ellis (Director), Harry Hannigan (Writer)

Rating: 3 ½ out of 5 Stars

Synopsis: This series follows Brent Spiner playing a fictional version of himself trying to get his career back on track after being typecast as Data in Star Trek: The Next Generation and also after “the incident” which tarnished his image and dropped him out of favor with the entertainment industry. Spiner frequently dreams about being on the Jolinda Show, a celebrity talk show, which would represent him breaking out of his rut and being accepted once again as an actor. He lives next door to aspiring porn actress Dakota (Kat Steel), who is quite na├»ve but has the best of intentions and wants to help Spiner to revive his career which involves such misguided turns as consulting a psychic and also trying to teach serious acting to aspiring porn stars.

Review/Commentary: Like Felicia Day’s The Guild, this web series is not science fiction or fantasy per se, but it will have immense appeal to genre fans because of the presence of Spiner and the many references to his past career as Data. It is a project that Spiner and several collaborators have put together in the hopes that it might get picked up by one of the networks as a television series, and currently they are working on it between other projects. And it’s definitely a lot of fun and a good chance for Spiner to demonstrate his acting chops and show that he has much more than just one character to offer. Watching this really makes me wonder just why he hasn’t had much in the way of featured acting jobs since his fifteen year stint as Data (he has kept busy with guest star appearances, though, and just recently took up the mantle of the Joker from Mark Hamill for the Young Justice animated series).

As for the Fresh Hell series itself, it can be fun and it does deliver a fair amount of chuckles, though very little in the way of laugh-out-loud moments. Considering the rich history of Spiner’s genre career, you would think they might mine that for a few more laughs (though maybe that’s exactly what he’s distancing himself from here). And the scripts do seem to lack the sharp wit we might expect from a series poking fun at the entertainment industry in general. It has mostly professional production values, though, even if it does seem a bit cheesy at times and some of the ancillary actors leave something to be desired. But for a fun little web series cobbled together by a group of professionals in their spare time, it succeeds more often than not. And they even throw in a few surprise guest star appearances throughout the series including Spiner’s former TNG co-star LeVar Burton stopping by (playing himself) as well as The Guild’s Jeff Lewis showing up in a hilarious scene where he plays a wannabe porn star.

Viewers should note that while this is ostensibly based on Spiner’s career, it has plenty of fictional elements thrown in, most notable the nebulous “incident”. This gimmick (we have yet to learn the specifics of it) was created for the web series to give a reason for the severe down turn of Spiner’s luck and is not based on any actual incident.

Links/More Information: You can watch Seasons 1 and 2 of Fresh Hell at the show’s YouTube channel at this link. Episode 5 of Season 2 seems to suggest that another episode is on the way, but I believe it is actually just teasing Season 3. It could be several months to a year, though, before we see that because the cast and crew have to work filming this series between their paying projects. You can also read an interview with Spiner where he talks about the Fresh Hell series at this link.

Watch Fresh Hell on YouTube At This Link

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