Wednesday, November 19, 2008
Yacht Rock Episode 1: "What a Fool Believes"
Directed by JD Ryznar, 2005, 5 minutes
"Yacht Rock" is an online "tv series" detailing the days when the smooth sounds of Kenny Loggins, Michael McDonald, and Hall & Oates dominated the charts. In Episode 1, Michael McDonald has to write a hit song in one day, or else be kicked out of the Doobie Brothers. Kenny Loggins offers to help out, but Michael isn't sure because Kenny just ditched his former songwriting partner, Jim Messina. They visit Jim, who's now a drunk living in an alley, but inspiration strikes and Kenny and Michael end up writing "What a Fool Believes" together. The Doobies perform the song and all is well, until the belligerent Hall & Oates show up to challenge Kenny and Michael to a songwriting contest, setting up the scenario for the next episode.
"Yacht Rock" is a parody, and therefore is only really funny if you're familiar with the musicians they're poking fun at. (I am, because this is pretty much all my mom listens to.) But it still shares some characteristics with other online comedy films - for example, the low production values, such as John Oates' obviously fake afro and moustache, make it funnier. Personally I also enjoy the ridiculous nautical puns, and the effects that try to make it look like the series is actually from the 70s. (The rest of the series can be viewed here. Episode 2, which features a back-alley songwriting duel with tragic results, is my favorite.)
Although "Yacht Rock" is available on YouTube, it was originally created for the website Channel101.com. Channel101 calls itself "the unavoidable future of entertainment": it is a website where the viewers determine which shows continue and which shows die. Each month, a screening is held in LA for the submissions selected to compete. The audience then votes for the shows it most wants to continue. The top five winners are allowed to submit their next episode for next month's screening, to compete against whatever pilots are submitted for the next month. All of the shorts must be 5 minutes or less. (Here is a more thorough explanation.)
Channel101 is interesting because it again blurs the line between short film and television. Generally speaking, the films on Channel101 can work as stand-alones, but they're also designed to leave the audience wanting more (so that they'll vote for a new episode.) In 2007, the site even sort of made a move onto actual TV when VH1 created Acceptable.tv. Acceptable.tv had the same basic premise as Channel101, but instead of screenings the shorts were aired on television, and viewers could then go to the website to vote for the shows they wanted to see next month. The creators of Acceptable.tv were, fittingly, people who got their start at Channel101. They are not the only success stories - before landing his gig on SNL, Andy Samberg & his writing partners created The 'Bu for Channel101, which ended up being one of the longest-running series on the site, and "Yacht Rock" itself now has periodic screenings across the country.