The Tangled Web We Watch: A Bizarre Episode of Father-Son Bonding in the 21st Century
PHOTO BY BEN GLASSGriffin Newman, Renie Rivas, James Urbaniak
Unlike many fledgling web series that use broad comedic strokes to up the laughs per second, faux-vlogging gem My Bastard Son combines the naturalistic acting of shows like The Office with absurd circumstances and very specific characters. The grainy, five-minute video shows James Urbaniak (American Splendor) trying to connect with his cellphone-clutching, estranged bastard son, Dugan (Griffin Newman).
The two are later joined by Stephanie (Renie Rivas), a mumble-mouthed teen whom Dugan met on the Internet four days earlier. The piece is then juxtaposed against a delightfully goofy opening-title sequence that parodies 1970s single-father sitcom The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.
Urbaniak’s character’s pretentious attempts to bond with his son beat out a pitch-perfect comic rhythm with Newman’s snide comebacks and Rivas’s quirky inquisitiveness. One would think each moment was carefully calculated. In fact, Urbaniak and Newman wrote out only the beats to the scene, then improvised several single-take interpretations.
“I think the mockumentary is actually overdone,” explains Urbaniak by phone. “[Mocking] the vlogging format was out of necessity because we only had a day to make it.”
His attitude is reflected in the fact that the characters half-despise online formats. “So is this, like, a vlog or a YouTube podcast or some bullshit?” Newman mumble-asks Urbaniak.
“No, no,” assures Urbaniak. “I’m not planning to post this.”
Stephanie is also intrigued by the camera. “So is this a web series?” she asks. “You do, like, web series?”
“Well,” Urbaniak muses, “it could be a series...”
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