The rise of original online programming has revolutionized the way we consume television. But are any of these new shows actually worth watching? Up Next highlights noteworthy original content from Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Studios and examines how the flexible online format functions within each show. All you need is a laptop and your friend’s Netflix or Amazon Prime password.
Considering the popularity of online spoofs, it makes perfect sense that web television would offer serialized, long-form parody shows to target viewers who already flock to Internet spoofs. Yahoo’s “Burning Love” and Hulu’s “The Hotwives of Orlando” exemplify the possibilities of this genre and suggest its future proliferation.
“Burning Love” originally premiered on Yahoo in 2012, though it was later syndicated through the E! network. Creator Erica Oyama and director Ken Marino based the series on “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor Pad,” with fictional contestants played by famous celebrities competing for love in the first two seasons and competing for a $900 cash prize in the final season. Although Oyama and Marino do not have plans for another season, “Burning Love” still represents the beacon of success for this genre with a 2013 Primetime Emmy nomination for the outstanding special class – short-format live-action entertainment programs.
The characters on “Burning Love” mimic the patterns of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” universe. Throughout its three seasons the show labels contestants to mirror these tropes, including the obsessive fangirl, the bad boy, the single dad and the hopeless romantic, as well as sillier tropes such as “the contractor from Provo, Utah, and all-around good guy.”
The show features numerous big names such as Kristen Bell, Jennifer Aniston, Paul Rudd and Adam Brody to play the contestants, which is likely due to producer Ben Stiller’s Hollywood connections. Seeing familiar faces in silly situations may be a big draw for viewers. “Saturday Night Live” employs a similar method when it invites special guests to star in its sketches.
“The Hotwives of Orlando” also draws on big names to attract viewers. The show’s first season, which premiered this summer, pokes fun at the fabulous lives of fictional Orlando, Fla. housewives, some of which include Tawny St. John (Casey Wilson of “Happy Endings”), Phe Phe Reed (Tymberlee Hill), Crystal Simmons (Angela Kinsey of “The Office”) and Amanda Simmons (Kristen Schaal of “30 Rock”).
“Hotwives” joins numerous other parodies of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives” franchise, including those of “SNL” and “30 Rock.” Of the three, “30 Rock”‘s “Queen of Jordan” sketch reigns supreme for its sharp one-liners and clever taglines. But “Hotwives” puts forth a spirited effort.
“Hotwives” parodies specific wives in the franchise’s numerous spin-offs. For example, Shauna Maducci mirrors Teresa Giudice of “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” through her hotheaded behavior and aggressive fighting, while Veronica Von Vandervon mimics Lisa Vanderpump of “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” through her countless sexual innuendos and cougar tendencies. But too often the writers rely on the same jokes when they ought to be more specific with their satire in order to set themselves apart from other Internet spoofs.
Both “Hotwives” and “Burning Love” do take full advantage of web television’s more lax production process. According to June Diane Raphael – who plays Julie Gristlewhite on “Burning Love”, the writers and actors were free to improvise without the intrusion of hovering network executives. This freedom allows the actors to push the boundaries of absurd plot lines without the fear of alienating mainstream audiences.
The shows also adapt their packaging to the web format. “Burning Love” originally released 10-minute episodes before it lengthened to around 20-minute episodes for the syndicated version on E!. The shorter length suits the Internet attention span by providing short, fun parodies without too much investment on behalf of the viewer.
“Hotwives” released episodes all at once, which makes the show an enjoyable binge-watch. Viewers already tend to binge-watch “The Real Housewives” since Bravo organizes marathons of each season about a year after it runs. By releasing episodes in this manner, the show seems even more true to its inspiration.
Cable and network television have offered genre spoofs in the past such as “Reno 911!,” but web television’s capacity for niche genres allows “Burning Love” and “Hotwives” to focus on specific franchises. As web television becomes an increasingly popular medium, we may expect more focused parodies such as these shows to push the boundaries of pop culture satire.