March 10, 2011

Justify My Netflix: The Guild

(Like many Netflix customers, I too can get quite lax with the timely watching and returning of my movies, which of course defeats the entire purpose of having a flat-rate rental plan in the first place. To combat that, I am now writing standardized mini-reviews of each and every movie I end up watching through Netflix, both instantly and on DVD. Don't forget, all previous 'Justify My Netflix' reviews can be found on CCLaP's main movie page.)

The Guild

Today's movie: The Guild, 2007-11 (Amazon | IMDB | Netflix | Wikipedia)

Why I added it to my queue: Because this is one of the most important online nerd touchstones of the last several years, a web series created, written by and starring Joss Whedon regular and former "World of Warcraft" addict Felicia Day (in fact, it was this show that inspired Whedon's own Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog), a pitch-perfect comedy about a group of online gamers and the various virtual and real adventures they find themselves getting into.

The reality: Wunderbar! And that all boils down to the fact that Day absolutely knows what she's talking about when it comes to online gaming, all the way down to the smallest detail, delivering a much more authentic and believable project than a room full of non-gamer frat-boy LA writers ever could; but since Day is a full-time part of that industry herself, she also ultimately understands what makes a series like this work, making sure to come up with all kinds of inventive ways to keep much of the action grounded in the real physical world, even as a whole lot of the humor is derived only from the things this melting pot of losers are always gabbing to each other on their hands-free mics while sitting prone in front of their computers. Season one, for example, begins with one of Day's fellow guild members actually arriving at her door unannounced, a sort of freakish-looking, behaviorially-challenged young Indian man who believes Day to be in love with him because of an offhanded emoticon she sent him at the end of a random battle one day, a situation which provides a whole lot of the humor then found in the resulting dozen five-minute episodes, including the arrival of his overbearing mother about halfway through; and then the episodes comprising season two occur over just a single day, a day when the game's servers just happen to be down for four hours at that, leading through convoluted steps to such ludicrous developments as an out-of-control party full of tattoo people in Day's apartment, making the humor much more expansive than the usual talking-head kind of most web series centered around online games. (And this is to say nothing of season 3, which I'm just about to watch, in which one of their members defects to a rival guild headed by an evil Wil Wheaton, and the action-packed showdown they all have at a local sci-fi convention, a situation that makes me giggle just thinking about it.) Now add surprisingly high production values, and the fact that Day is easier on the eyes than perhaps any other nerd sex symbol since Suzanne Vega herself back in the '80s, and you have yourself one winner of a micro-series, a show whose obvious quality I wish all web series would at least aspire to. It comes highly recommended.

Strangest piece of trivia: The production team originally ran out of money after episode three of the first season, until a Kickstarter-type audience campaign raised the money to finish. Since season two, the show has been funded by a generous fee that Microsoft pays to debut new episodes on their websites and systems first, before they eventually end up on YouTube for free viewing, then after that on DVD and at Netflix Instant, which is how I'm watching them. Since the show debuted, an incredible 45 million people have caught at least one episode.

Worth your time? Yeeeees

Filed by Jason Pettus at 4:17 PM, March 10, 2011. Filed under: Movies | Reviews |