The Burg is what sitcoms should be and will be in the very near future. Viewable only online (so far), it’s Friends meets Sex & the City meets the cute college grads in thrift store threads who currently scuffle around as interns in Manhattan offices.
By day they make coffee and run photocopies. By night and on weekends, these smart young ’uns write and shoot original shows like The Burg. Soon their big breaks will come.
In 22 episodes averaging about 20 minutes in length, The Burg has been chronicling the lives of a small group of young adults living in Williamsburg, currently “the scene” of choice in Brooklyn. They’re all impossibly hip, this crew, and express great disapproval of everyone who isn’t.
When Wall Streeter Ryan (Jeff Skowron) becomes the new roommate of semi-slackers Jed and Xander (Bob McClure, Matt Yeager), they set about teaching him the required elements of cool. “We drink Coors,” they tell Ryan when he tries to order a Modelo. “It’s working class and it tastes like water. Don’t worry. We’ll help you.”
Always-broke aspiring actress Courtney (Kelli Giddish) develops a twinge of a crush on Ryan and takes him under her wing for more training. McDonald’s, she tells him, is acceptable for only two things: going there ironically and getting the Happy Meal toy.
Pixie-ish Spring (Lindsey Broad) is the other girl in the mix, serving as a sort of muse to Jed and Xander and as voice of reason for the flighty Courtney. The other good recurring character is Early (Chris O’Connor), Jed and Xander’s ex-roommate, now living on a mattress on the sidewalk and earning coffee change playing sitar on the subway. He serves as a one-man Greek chorus. The others seek out his wisdom when they’re faced with dilemmas and he likes to puzzle them with pronouncements about the power of “caramel” (aka karma).
Directed by Kathleen Grace and written by Yeager and Thom Woodley, The Burg is remarkable for its snappy editing (love the montages of characters in full-slack mode), its quick, clever dialogue, and the endearing undercurrent of insecurity among the characters. Sure, they’re hipsters living in hipster heaven, but underneath their sneers they’re young adults worried about being broke, underemployed and alone when they hit 30. Clinging to each other for safety in their urban jungle, they choose to zero in on problems easily solved—like, where the next really hot bar will be that only they will know about. “That place is so February,” says one as they argue about where to go for a drink.
From The Burg, you can learn lots of new rules of cool. Like, in decorating, there’s a fine line between “retro” and “carny.” And that the 1990s can be summed up in three words: Waco, Somalia, Dahmer.
They’re way “meta,” of course, always correcting each other when someone utters something too old-school uncool. “In love?” says Xander. “What are you? A Shakespeare play? People from now say `Wanna hit that.’”
The Burg notes trends and berates them, showing how hard the 20-somethings work to stay ahead of the trend-curve. Get caught in the wrong outfit from the wrong decade and you’re toast, as Courtney discovers when she dons mom-jeans and a fishnet top circa 1991, only to discover that she’s a century off on fashion recycling.
Neologisms are rampant here, too. At a fashion shoot in a senior center, an octogenarian is “elderlicious.”
Dialogue in every installment is terse and funny.
“That mullet over there, real or ironic?”
“Can’t tell. Matters?”
No matter how hard they try, however, the Burg-ers keep falling back (and rather happily) into Squaresville. Showing up at a new bar they think is called “Temple,” they find themselves at an actual synagogue where Courtney has been hired as a dancer to get the party started among 13-year-olds at a bar mitzvah. The group stays, joins in the dancing and has a great time.
In the latest episode, "Christmas Magic
," Courtney has decamped for pilot season in L.A. (not realizing the Writers Guild strike had suspended the biz), so when the others go caroling, they carry a laptop linked to Courtney's webcam so she can take part.
The Burg would fit in on MTV—if MTV weren’t mired in the “rehearsed reality” swill of The Hills. The writing is too good to make it an easy pick-up for broadcast. It’s actually good right where it is on the interwebs. The perfect place to watch an episode now and then would be on a laptop via the free Wifi at McDonald’s.
Ironically accompanied by a Happy Meal.