The Upright Citizens Brigade has produced digital series with IFC, Above Average and Nerdist, but its hilarious, heartfelt and gorgeously ghoulish Gary Saves the Graveyard is by far its most ambitious and compelling.
Gary (Jim Santangeli) missed one minor detail when he got his new job as graveyard caretaker. Due to a backlogged “portal” to the afterlife, he’s now responsible for keeping 235 living corpses, including his childhood best friend, in the yard as they wait in line for eternal peace. Stakes are high. For every corpse who’s not present on the day of reckoning, a living soul will be taken.
The series was created and directed by Todd Bieber, UCB Comedy’s director of content and production. Drawing on the talent at UCB’s flagship New York City theater, Bieber put together a TV-style writers room to write the episodes. He then brought in UCB actors for an improv-encouraged table read before the writers penned their final drafts.
UCB Comedy hopes to use the series to garner the attention of even larger collaborators. “I’m looking at you, Comedy Central, HBO and AMC,” Bieber enthuses.
And they deserve to. The acting, dialogue and direction are more inventive, witty and emotionally resonant than most shows you see on TV. The seven- to 10-minute episodes fly by.
“Death is a big part of my life,” Bieber says when asked how he came up with the concept. “I’ve been to more funerals than most people I know. I’ve been a pallbearer over a dozen times. To cope with that, I have tried to figure out what’s funny about death. Turns out, there’s a lot.”
You can watch all five episodes of Gary Saves the Graveyard at YouTube.com/UCBComedy. Check out Stephanie’s full interview with Todd Bieber about creating the series on her blog, TangledWebWeWatch.com.