Piling Internet video onto a TV critic’s already overstuffed plate is a daunting prospect. Yet with networks aching for hits — and Sony throwing its weight behind a daily comedy morsel called C-Spot — a grudging if uncharacteristic diligence won out.
Despite the buzz surrounding online shorts, it’s telling how little drawn from that well percolates into fully formed TV programs. And for now, anyway, without making that leap, much of what’s on the Web still qualifies as a hobby — mini head-trips for office slackers and those too cheap to buy quality weed.
Not surprisingly, the “C” in C-Spot’s bite-sized confections mostly stands for crapola. There’s a lame soap spoof, talking fingers and a look at comedy writers inside enough to occupy the small intestine. Yet one little four-minute gem stood apart — the giddily playful “Gorgeous Tiny Chicken Machine Show,” a spoof of Japanese kids shows with a “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” sensibility as zany as its name, augmented by an infectious (as in “Get it out of my head!”) theme song.
Amusing as “Gorgeous Tiny” is, for someone steeped in television’s economics, watching it also fostered uncertainty about the endgame. Because if the Web doesn’t become a lab to cultivate programming, is a fleeting weekly chuckle enough to constitute a business, commercially or creatively?
Kim Evey, “Gorgeous Tiny’s” producer and star, isn’t entirely sure herself where all this leads. An actress who’s been featured in various series, she’s simultaneously carved out a name for herself online. In addition to playing “Gorgeous Tiny’s” English-mangling host, Kiko, she helped produce the award-winning “The Guild” and the self-explanatory Web series “2 Hot Girls in the Shower,” whose title exhibits a knack for marketing, if nothing else.
Notably, Evey originated “Gorgeous Tiny” as an improv sketch onstage, where such ideas were developed before the Internet came along, allowing creators to throw video into the ether and see whether anybody responds. That’s a significant improvement when it comes to testing how something might work on TV, since silly sound-effects and close-ups when Kiko spins the “wheel of fun” or plays with her friend Unicow (part cow, part unicorn, naturally) contribute to making the show a guilty hoot.
There is, as Evey notes, a “Let’s put on a show!” aspect to these shows, much like those old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movies. She and her husband-partner Greg Benson built the cut-rate but inventive set behind their house, and it can get pretty hot back there. During taping, one character wearing a plush panda costume (don’t ask) fainted, and when Evey says, “My panda got heatstroke,” it sounds vaguely like a self-help book.
“It could definitely hop to TV, or it could stay on the Internet,” Evey says. “At some point it would be nice to make more money. Right now, it’s like a great supplement.”
Despite her vision for bringing the concept to TV — in part by expanding Kiko’s interviews with confused guests, which have included porn star Ron Jeremy (or “Jeremy Iron,” as she calls him) — it’s not entirely clear these quirky shorts would work nearly as well blown up and out in that fashion.
So thus far, the benefits to Evey exist within a small, insular sphere. Some performers use the Internet as a calling card to drum up acting jobs, but “Gorgeous Tiny” hasn’t as yet prompted the phone to ring much on that front.
All a talent like Evey can do, then, is continue plugging away, savoring a measure of validation as the online hits keep coming. Sony, meanwhile, says it’s premature to discuss future plans for C-Spot, approaching the exercise as a Petri dish that, with any luck, will create a nurturing environment to incubate new comedies.
Lest anyone wonder, by the way, the “Gorgeous Tiny” title is a meaningless non sequitur, but upon closer inspection, there might be oddball logic in all those adjectives: The show looks awfully good compared with much of what’s online; the audience is relatively tiny; and attempting to bridge the gap from the Web to the TV machine is still kind of scary, and about as rare as a panda with heatstroke.