14th and YouTube
Hollywood studios rarely do D.C. right—and cable TV doesn’t usually, either. But on YouTube and Vimeo, an alternative has emerged: a handful of homegrown“television” series that take a completely different approach than the multitudinous political dramas.
Real Housewives of Benning Road
In this Real Housewives satire created by D.C. comedian Mike Brooks, the wives shop at Rainbow and eat at Denny’s, and grandma shoplifts condoms and shoots dice in the alley. (“See you bammas later!” she says, walking off with the winnings.) The sound and camera work are strictly unprofessional, but the wives make up for it with their killer comic performances—especially from the tattooed Lil Trina (shown). “I don’t keep up with the Joneses,” she says in the opening credits. “I am the Joneses.”
Drag City: D.C.
Shaky shots. Choppy soundtracking. Horrendous editing.There’s not a production error that Drag City: D.C. does not contain. But the scrappy, hardworking female impersonators on the roughly two-year-old DIY series—directed and produced by local drag performer Shi-Queeta Lee—deserve the camera time. And they’ll take it, even if that camera seems like it’s trapped inside the funnel of a tornado.
Orange Juice in Bishop’s Garden
Otessa Ghadar’s Web-only drama series depicts teen life in a seemingly very white and middle-class corner of 1990s D.C. Now approaching its seventh season, the show keeps its storylines superficial (as in: “She’s making outwith who?!”) and its episodes short, usually under 10 minutes—which, while they’re nicely shot, is about as long as I could stand to watch these whiny characters.
Sherman House Webisodes
In 2010, filmmaker Ted Jones decided to make a reality show about life in his D.C. group house, and he came up with something much more likeable than any episode of MTV’s failed Real World D.C. The 10-episode series Sherman House Webisodes centers on Jones, his wife Linsay, and their two roommates: fun-loving Leila and the frequently shirtless, free spirit Gabriel, both found through Craigslist. Jones deserves props for keeping production values satisfyingly high—no tornado cam here—but I wish he hung up more dirty laundry. I want to know more about Gabriel’s lifestyle.