For three LA comedians looking to expanding their reach, HBO GO is offering a platform through its new batch of original programs, designated HBO Digitals. Available only to HBO subscribers, HBO GO launched early last year and gained fans early on by allowing entire seasons of shows like Game of Thrones to be streamed instantly. Critics have voiced disapproval in its strict availability to cable subscribers, but for the most part HBO GO has been a success in helping HBO catch up to their new competitors in Netflix and Hulu Plus.
In addition to showing HBO's regular series, HBO GO this month started offering up four new digital series of its own, one created by LA-based musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates and another by comedian Brody Stevens, a Tarzana native. The other two series include The Boring Life of Jacqueline, about a New York actress's struggles with dating, and Single Long, based on the careers and relationships of a group of Chicago 20-somethings. With the exception of Stevens' Enjoy It!, the only reality series, all of the programming is scripted, produced in five-minute episodes.
Local comedy buffs are well acquainted with Garfunkel & Oates (comedians Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome) through semi-regular shows at Largo and Upright Citizens Brigade and a constant stream of self-produced videos, the most popular counting over 2 million views on YouTube. HBO recently passed on their 30-minute pilot, but when offered the chance to create a shorter series for HBO GO, the duo jumped at the opportunity.
“It's basically about two single girls trying to date in their 30's, but acting like they're dating in their 20's. They're just sort of immature about the whole thing,” G&O member Riki Lindhome explained. Lindhome says she and Micucci incorporated many of their own personal experiences from single life in L.A in to the series. Speaking over the phone from Philadelphia, where the duo was preparing for two live shows, she seemed excited about the prospect of breaking out of the comedy nerd demographic. “It's not based on any of our songs, so it's different from the videos we've done in the past,” she added.
Stevens' series takes on a decidedly different feel from the rest of the new programming on HBO GO. Produced by Stevens' longtime friend Zach Galfianakis, Enjoy It! was originally meant to be a 30-minute reality series tracking Stevens' rise from obscure warm-up comic to celebrated headliner. But when the comedian suffered a manic episode last year and was admitted to the psych ward at UCLA, he instantly felt the need to change the format of the show.
“It's kind of an inspirational story,” Stevens tells LA Weekly. “Once I got in there and got out, HBO wasn't pressuring me at all, but that's when they came to me and asked me if I wanted to do something more reality-based.”
Stevens and Galifianakis had originally planned for a semi-scripted Curb Your Enthusiasm-style show, playing up the eccentricities of the ex-college baseball player and showing him “going to the next level.”
“Zach always thought it was funny how much I talked about my mom, my sister and baseball and we had the opportunity to showcase that,” Stevens explained. But after his episode became public through confrontations with police and tongue-lashings on Twitter, Stevens decided to use the series to spotlight his recovery instead.
During his episode, Stevens fell out with the producers of Handler's Chelsea Lately, where he served as a warm-up comic for several years.
“This is a great reality story, me getting out and reconciling with Chelsea Handler and getting back on TV. I didn't realize that people would be so connected with it or they could relate to it. I just wanted to keep it real and honest,” he confessed.
After returning to Chelsea as a guest earlier this year, Stevens followed the appearance with a well-received set on Conan in May. He says making Enjoy It! was therapeutic and has high hopes for a second season. Director Dean Fleischer-Camp (Marcell The Shell With Shoes On, Delocated) has also received acclaim for his work on the show.
Lindhome and Stevens are both hopeful that their shows will lead to more acting roles and dates on the road. In the past, Stevens had brief roles in both Hangover movies and Lindhome is excited about her upcoming role in Joss Whedon's Much Ado About Nothing, set to premiere in Toronto next month. But in the meantime, they're simply excited to be a part of the HBO's first wave of digital programming, which seems to be drawing even more fans to HBO GO. During an interview on the Duncan Trussell Family Hour, comedian Duncan Trussell told Stevens, “I had to go out a buy a TV just to watch your show!”