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Rainn Wilson's YouTube Channel Created Its First TV-Length Comedy Series. And It's Brilliant

Ross Marquand, left, and Jim MeskimenEXPAND
Ross Marquand, left, and Jim Meskimen
Anthony C. Kuhnz

Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand have successful careers as celebrity impressionists. Their Walt and Jesse from Breaking Bad will blow your mind. But along with dexterous vocal cords, they share the frequent desire to drop their lucrative party tricks and perform as themselves. Or, rather, as fictional versions of themselves.

The duo's real-life struggle to be recognized as dramatic actors is the subject of writer-director Ben Shelton's scripted, TV-length, online comedy series The Impression Guys for Rainn Wilson's YouTube channel, SoulPancake. On the show, Meskimen and Marquand send themselves through a secret 12-step program to transition from impressions to acting.

Shelton smartly packs the series with innumerable impressions by both performers - hey, that stuff goes viral. We go behind the scenes of their gig on the fictional Breaking Bad: The Animated Series. Step 11 is: Do all your impressions one last time.

"At its core, it's really a show about two guys on a journey to figure things out, which is very much part of the human experience and what SoulPancake is all about," Wilson says via email. SoulPancake's mission is to combine entertainment with an examination of life's big questions.

See also: More Tangled Web We Watch columns on what to watch online

A remarkable element of the show is that because of its digital-size budget, many of the scenes - kitchen, bar, living room - were shot on stock sets at Google's YouTube Space in Playa Vista.

"Eyeballs will drive distribution, and right now, YouTube's numbers show that proven viewership is much more effective than traditional TV ratings," says SoulPancake CEO Shabnam Mogharabi. The Impression Guys could be part of the auspicious beginning of YouTube's TV takeover.


The Tangled Web We Watch is our column on what's worth watching online. You can find The Impression Guys at youtube.com/user/soulpancake, and read more about it on Stephanie Carrie's blog, tangledwebwewatch.com.


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