Friday, October 2, 2015

Con Man 1x01 ("Stalled"), 1x02 ("Cash Poor") & 1x03 ("Behind the Lens") Reviews [Contributor: Lynnie Purcell]

"Stalled," "Cash Poor," & "Behind the Lens"
Original Airdate: September 30, 2015

Con Man was written by Alan Tudyk for the fans about the fans. It is one of those cool experiments of putting the future of the show into fan’s hands –– and they more than stepped up to make Con Man a reality. Shows like this one are changing the future of broadcasting for the better, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that everything about the show is magical.

Entertainment Weekly released the first three episodes for an hour last night and I immediately jumped at the chance to check out a show helmed by one of my favorite actors. The fact that the credits read like an independent movie thrown together in a basement, where one guy starred, directed, wrote, scored, produced, and played all the background actors is amusing, but not nearly as funny as the opening scene.

The lack of privacy many actors face in the world of fandom has had no better symbolism than a man trying to poop and having fans actually demand that he sign something of theirs mid-dump. All privacy is gone –– Wray (Alan Tudyk) has become nothing more than a prop for the fans’ enjoyment. It’s funny, ridiculous, and Alan plays it with the dry humor, everyman quality, and a gentle sense of giving up that I love about him.

The rest of the episode was merely okay for me. Sean Astin is always treat, though, like Alan, he’s playing a heightened version of himself. They are both rude, self-absorbed, and inconsiderate. These qualities are not portrayed as particularly bad or good in the show. They simply is the way the characters are, much like the fans asking inappropriate things at inappropriate times. Actors can be ridiculous, and Alan is not afraid of making fun of himself as much as he makes fun of the fans. I like that he refrains from passing judgement, but the storyline of trying to convince a passenger to give up his seat falls flat in the first episode. The fan gives back as much as he gets, and the amount of stuff he wants Wray to sign is deeply accurate of cons, but if there was humor in the exchange, it went over my head.

The second episode has Alan arriving at the con, where he is immediately greeted by Bobbie (Mindy Sterling), who is equal parts awesome and insane. Her delivery saves the character from caricature status, and Tudyk has given her some of the best moments in the first three episodes. She’s a washed-up actress in charge of arranging cons for Wray. She dreams of starring on the big screen once more, though no one seems to care. Her type is definitely common to L.A. and cons, but she doesn’t feel pitiful, even though she is the butt of the joke nearly constantly.

The focus of the second episode is the fans. Real fans getting Wray’s signature showcase the wonderful weirdness of people who love science-fiction. The funniest moment of the episode was Darth Vader struggling to pick up a picture via his gloved hands. Tudyk allowed the moment to linger, and it was hilarious. Felicia Day playing sweet perfectly was another highlight of the episode. What makes this sweetness all the more funny and enjoyable is when she unleashes her crazy at the appropriate time, and thoughtfully treading the line between adorable and insanity.

Episode three has Wray doing a meet-and-greet, where it feels like Alan is saying some of things he’s always thought about saying to fans. While it is played for laughs, as he’s is exceedingly high during the scene, I didn’t find it as funny as I suppose it was meant to be.

As it stands, I am on the fence about the series. Some of the moments feel strained, while others are genuinely funny. I like that Wray isn’t necessarily a good guy, but rather a typical man who has been told he’s awesome for so long that hates it: a man who is having trouble finding good work after a short-lived stint on a cult classic. The show is part tribute to the fan, part mocking the people who make conventions so weird and wonderful. It’s a love story that for now, falls just short of the mark, though I’m eager to see if Tudyk picks up the ball later on. I am definitely interested to see where he takes the rest of Con Man and am leaving final judgment up in the air until I have the entire thing in front of me.

Stray Notes:
  • Wil Wheaton’s beard guest stars as an Air Marshal.
  • After traveling for so long, I feel that tiny bathroom straight to my soul.
  • “I am broken.” – I feel like this may be relevant to, like, character growth and stuff.
  • Sean Astin says the p-word as a casual insult. Awesome. (Not awesome.)
  • They keep saying "retarded" in the technical sense of the word, but trying to make it funny via saying Wray is being retarded by the fans. They linger on it, playing it for laughs. It’s just… no.
  • A boobage purse is always useful. Keep one on hand at all times.
  • Felicia Day is a gift. Felicia Day is also poopy sick for most of her episodes. I love this to no end.
  • Rico! I mean Casper Van Dien. He steals his scenes and he says nothing.
  • Best quote: “It smells like wolf’s urine and brie.”


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