Recurring Cast: Elena Weinberg, Mallory Larson, Ivy Koehler, Derek Babb, Eric Calbat, Ash Nunley
The second season of a web series can be a disappointing one. It can be that season where we realise that we weren’t really in love with the series itself, just the idea of the series. We love the idea that this independent film company can gather up a group of talented female writers and actresses, give them a platform to express their profession and get it to a wider audience. This is what #ATown was all about and it was the main reason we loved it. A second season faces the problem that the initial respect we had for Turtle Dove Films breaking into the medium has faded. We are now judging #ATown on its material alone and this is usually where the cracks in the premise begin to appear. What if it wasn’t as good as we remember? What if we were swept up on the passion of the team, rather than their talent?
This is why this second season is important. It confirms what we wanted to know. #ATown is filled with a talented cast and crew that deliver pitch perfect viewing episode in, episode out. If Season One was slightly guilty of cautiously dipping a toe in the water, Season Two is the swan dive, head-first into the comedy genre. Everything about the second season is bigger and better. The best improvement I could spot was a tighter structure. Before the girls had a good idea and let it go rampant on the script. It was amusing, but in need of a polished edit and final draft. Season Two sees everyone involved in the writing process hammer a joke home constantly. The best comedy for me have always been the snowball jokes. The first punch-line is good, but the actors keep on hitting with punch-line after punch-line, so the initial joke builds up to the point where your sides are aching from the laughter. #ATown does this a lot. The best example is Episode 4, where Layla invites a celebrity to dinner. Every character is used to their maximum potential, so the joke is never given a chance to die. While Elena Weinberg fuels the main joke, we have Mallory’s sarcasm, Ivy’s oddball English accent and Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s James C. Leary’s reaction to every line thrown into the pot. It makes for a beautiful concoction of laughs. This is but one example of when #ATown demonstrate an intricate understanding of how to get the most out of their viewers. Web series are a tricky format to get right. There is such a short space of time to develop characters, tell a story and throw in enough jokes to keep the humour flowing smoothly. #ATown have perfected the structure and pace needed to keep this going and this is what makes the second season of #ATown so much better than the first. And the greatest thing is that #ATown only suggests progression in the future.
The cast are all on fine form. Elena takes centre-stage in this season, as the failed comedian spiralling out of control. After her gig crashed and burned at the end of last season, Layla as found herself adrift and in need of approval. After being blacklisted from every comedy bar in Austin, she dives into what can only be described as extreme madness. An exceptionally funny scene sees her take her stand-up material to the funeral of a guinea pig. This only gets worse when Melanie announces she is leaving Austin. While Mallory Larson spends a lot of this series out of the loop, present only in webcam format, she still impresses, including some great video diary work, where she interacts with a group of porcelain figures. Everyone else is given more to do too. The story isn’t afraid to cut away from the main cast to explore Sex God and Travis adapting to life without women. Ash Nunley is also given a bigger part, although her character is still kept relatively unknown, the mystery surrounding her personality adding to a large part of the humour surrounding Avery. However, star of the season for me, without a shadow of a doubt, was Ivy Koehler. She is never anything less than hilarious. In Season One, Whitney was a bit of a loose character. She was almost the narrative foil to the other two girls, her life crisis acting as a means to get Layla and Melanie’s arcs to the places they needed to go. Here, she is upgraded to the main cast and she feels more prominent a figure in the series because of it. Her character is very good at what I like to call the side joke. When Layla and Melanie are providing a barrage of funny lines at each other, like during Episode Five’s ritual scene, it is always handy to keep Whitney on the side, chipping in with daft lines that just come out of nowhere and surprise you into laughing. It is an unexpected source of comedy and Ivy’s timing is always superb. Right from the moment, she decides to explore her ‘lesbian side’ to varying degrees of success (by varying, I mean: pretty poor to outright disastrous), you will have yourself a new favourite character.
But maybe my love for #ATown does still come from a respect for what Duncan Coe and the crew are doing here. I am still fascinated at the effort and persistence they have undertaken to get #ATown to where it is. It is a successful web series, it showcases the talents of everyone involved (and as this review proves, they are very talented), and it is inspiring. The main flaw with web series is that, to some extent, even the creators feel like a small, low-budget company. It is a web series, so the little problems that you partially expect with independent productions are allowed. We all expect it, so why bother tidying that side of things up? #ATown disagrees completely. They treat every episode, every scene, every moment with nothing less than the utmost professionalism. It is the smaller details that impress. Getting a handful more extras for their party scenes that most independent productions would, allowing Austin businesses and logos an appearance in their film, so it doesn’t feel like a bunch of comedians making a series in their flats. String these episodes together into a DVD and you wouldn’t know you were watching a web-series. It is that professionalism that shows the independent companies out there that there is no reason to carry on treating yourself as a small-time crew. #ATown aims for the stars and as a result, it comes across as the big fish in its pond.
Final Verdict: So much potential? Screw potential! #ATown is schooling the rest of us on how it should be done.