As Bravo continues its march across tech land, it looks north to our own lovely Seattle and Cheezburger, the creators of the Daily What, FAIL blog, Memebase and more. Yes, the lolcat creators have landed on the network known for housewives, love gurus and house flippers.
They may be able to bring the funny in future episodes, but this debut just falls flat. Here’s a recap of the action.
“LOLWork” is sandwiched in the half-hour 11 p.m. spot on Wednesdays, after “Top Chef Seattle” and before “Watch What Happens Live,” making that 10-11:30 p.m. slot so Seattle-y! (Full disclosure: I once applied for a job with Cheezburger. But, like that elusive OK Cupid wink shot into the dark, never to return and forgotten about, I am now happily engaged elsewhere, lest you think this has negatively affected my review. Or you can. I really don’t give a crap).
As with all new reality shows, this first one’s purpose is to introduce us to its cast of characters. When CEO Ben Huh pulls them all into the conference room to announce their next project—working together on a web series video pitch—we get the real dirt on who’s who in the “LOLWork” world.
Please follow along as I introduce and paraphrase (these quotes are pretty right on, but God forbid I was going to sit through more Truvia commercials on Hulu to get them exactly right):
There’s content moderator “I am fluent in cat lady” Ali. Cat Man Will Buzzkill, content supervisor or “the censor”—this is the guy you’ve seen on promos leading his cat around on a leash. Forest, content editor and resident uptight white guy with something to prove. Newbie assistant Monda looking to impress; nice girl/art director Sarah; and production manager Tori. And content editor Paul. Oh, where to begin with Paul. I’m just going to refer to him as Hair from here on out. Just hope you don’t ever get stuck next to this dude at the bar. Oh, and there’s Ben’s wife, Emily, but she really doesn’t do anything in this episode. Ever.
In other words, this is the kind of crew I moved across the country to get away from in Brooklyn.
Ben pairs them up, which really pisses them off. Apparently, they do not like working on I Can Haz missions in pairs. Mitt Romney, er, Forest, gets paired with Tori. Tori is not looking forward to working with Forest because he basically steam-rolls over everyone with his asinine ideas. Oh, can you taste the foreshadowing? Buzzkill Will is paired with Monda, and already we know who’s going to rule the roost here. And last, we have Sarah and Hair.
Yadda, yadda, yadda. They brainstorm in the office. They run around downtown Seattle doing man-on-the-street stuff. They film two idiot girls acting like cats in front of a green screen. (One thing that really irked me about this assignment was that all three guys in the pairs dominated the challenges. The women on the Cheezburger crew give the impression that they may have funny ideas, yet they were subjected to the stupid whims of their male co-workers. I’m hoping they step it up a notch going forward.)
Back to the contest: The projects are complete, and the creatives are pulled back into the conference room for the judging, which introduces us to recently departed chief revenue officer Todd Sawicki.
Hair and Sarah basically do voiceovers on animal videos, one an elephant they make Republican, which doesn’t go down too well because it’s considered too divisive for Cheezburger’s audience. Buzzkill Will and Monda’s Cat Man on the Street concept, titled “Cat Talk with Will,” (“That’s a terrible title,” Ben says while cuing it up, which is the funniest moment in the whole damn show), surprisingly has its moments of charm. Then there’s Forest and Tori’s project—two cute girls dancing in front of a screen saying variations of “Cats! Kitties!” while making annoying clawing gestures. “That seems very offensive,” Sarah says under her breath as the video rolls, but she’s the only person in the room who calls that out.
The winner? The “so bad it was good” video? Yep, Cat Sluts. “Ironically, that’s the kind of stuff that works on the Internet,” Ben says. And…the end.
Of the many problems I have with adding “LOLWork” to my Reality Roster of Dysfunction, which is already chock full of “Extreme Cheapskates” and “Honey Boo Boo,” is this: I did not laugh or have one WTF? moment throughout the show.
And to be successful in reality TV you need one, if not all three, of the following things:
- A drama-filled backdrop! You get a bunch of batshit-crazy folks together, run the film and let them have at it. Work reality shows only work if there’s some high-energy, high-drama stuff at stake, aka our nice friends over at “Top Chef.” Sitting around an office, cooing at computer screens of cats? Drama it is not.
- There always needs to be a BIG character to fuel a show. And while there are a couple lame efforts, no one here is a NeNe Leakes or a Patti Stanger or Jeff Lewis or the insane Ramona Singer. Shows that don’t have strong lead characters who exhibit high levels of neurosis are often no-gos.
- You need the WTF factor. The audience needs to sit there and be shocked and amazed that this shit is actually going down. Like grown-ups giving toddlers go juice. And hillbillies handfishin’ in swamps. And stupid people having 19 stupid babies.
The other thing that I finally put my finger on about why I find Cheezburger’s brand of humor mildly amusing and not much else was summed up in the clip about talking about the elephant voiceover being “too political.” It’s quite innocuous and Jay Leno-like, no teeth to it of any kind, mass-produced for mass consumption by a mass audience—i.e. Shit I Would Show My Mother.
I just don’t see “LOLWork” having the chops to translate into TV-speak for a bitchy Bravo audience.
Fuck me, give me “Real Housewives” any day.
Molly Brown has spent over a decade writing about arts, entertainment and pop culture. An admitted lover of crap TV, she blogs at evilmolly.com.