Clark and Michael



This is the age of inside access. There's "American Idol," which take us inside the making of pop stars. Fox has followed that up with "On the Lot," a Steven Spielberg-endorsed contest for filmmakers. There's also the upcoming HBO comedy series "Flight of the Conchords," which takes us inside a struggling band's journey. Instead of telling stories, we're telling stories about the making of those stories.

Old hat? Feels new. Especially now that the creation myth of Hollywood success has been metastasized into YouTube. Entertainment is watching entertainment be made.

So now there's "Clark and Michael" -- -- a new Web-only mockumentary series from CBS that takes us inside the Hollywood script-pitching process (a new episode appears every Wednesday). The conceit is recursive: You're ostensibly watching footage from a camera crew that our eponymous heroes, Clark Duke and Michael Cera (playing their stage personas), hired to film their journey toward Hollywood stardom.

Even though you've seen this type of comedy improv before (insert any Christopher Guest film here), Duke and Cera are hilarious. Both characters are deliciously awkward, and you can see them watching themselves at a remove.

Of course, Clark and Michael are morons. And like NBC's "The Office," the characters are constantly aware of the camera, which itself becomes a moralizing character -- it zooms in on Clark slathering rubbing alcohol on himself, it lingers on Michael as he stands awkwardly alone at a party, it zooms out as the duo are rejected by another studio exec. The camera is the new Greek chorus.

Cera, who was in the cast of the late Fox cult favorite "Arrested Development," recruits fellow "Arrested" vets Tony Hale and David Cross for cameo appearances. The series also includes appearances by Andy Richter ("Late Night With Conan O'Brien"), Jonah Hill ("Accepted"), Patton Oswalt ("King of Queens"), John Francis Daley ("Waiting") and Joe Lo Truglio ("Reno 911!: Miami").

One of the show's funniest moments comes in the first episode, when Michael describes a plan to drop a script off at a studio without any contact information.

"And then we'll just drop it off and walk away. And they'll be like, who wrote it? Leave the element of mystery."

Clark: "OK, but how will they contact us?"

At about 12 minutes per episode, "Clark and Michael" is longer than your standard Web-only fare but definitely worth the time commitment. If there's a downside to the show, it might be that it's too niche. As a television exec friend of mine said while we were watching, it's hard to see this show appealing to anyone who doesn't live in Los Angeles or New York, or have a deep interest in the media creation process. But maybe, these days, everyone does have that interest. It's not hard to imagine young YouTubers recording their every waking moment, believing in the success of their story before their story includes any actual success.