Amateur comedy online has a certain underdog charm. It's youthful, energetic, bootstrapped -- as if the creators were boasting, "Look how much we can do with so little." That same charm doesn't apply to Disney-ABC Television Group's new online-only "Squeegees," a feckless series that only confesses, "Look how little we can do with so much."
The first original series from ABC's digital production unit, Stage 9, "Squeegees" is a biweekly, shortform sitcom about four twentysomethings marginally employed as window washers. Said window washers are played by the members of Handsome Donkey, a comedy quartet that achieved notoriety last year for their short videos about movie montages, music videos and novelty candy. Sadly, the new series benefits neither from their talent nor Stage 9's (ostensibly larger) budget.
On paper, "Squeegees" sounds funny in that sitcom-like hijinks kind of way. In the first two episodes, the washers get drunk while dangling aboveground, inadvertently flash a preschool class, interrupt a meeting by crashing through a window and drop broken glass into a snow cone cart.
But whereas online videos tend to denigrate sitcom madcapisms, "Squeegees" takes them too seriously. The pratfalls -- Dude loses clothes in midair! Dude eats snow cone glass! -- are employed as earnest comedy.
"Squeegees" tries to seem envelope-pushing in its first scene, a blouse-ripping tryst inside an office interrupted by the washers snapping cell phone photos. But it feels forced, as if ABC is desperate to prove that it can be crass like so much else on the Internet.
The series' shortcomings extend to its production quality. The set is so fake as to be funny, but the actors fail to acknowledge the absurdity, causing the audience to wonder (again) how seriously the show takes itself. The result is something stuck awkwardly between professional TV programming and the low-budget "sweding" seen in "Be Kind Rewind," appealing to nobody.
Amateur videos have three things going for them: passion, talent and format. With "Squeegees," ABC has managed only to appropriate the latter. If this show is indicative of the rest of Stage 9's content, ABC is going to have a very long year.
Read more about "Squeegees" at http://www.reelpopblog.com/2008/03/the-problems-wi.html