Broadband Emmy Review: Satacracy 88

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded its first Emmy statues for “broadband programs” this year (check out Jackson’s previous coverage and vid picks). Beating out other independent producers in addition to Michael Eisner’s hyped Prom Queen, It’s All In Your Hands won the prize for the inaugural “Outstanding Broadband Program – Drama” category with its Satacracy 88 series.

Start with a Choose Your Own Adventure paperback, mix in a little too much Joss Whedon, periodically add some Battlestar Galactica cliff hangers, fold in a healthy dose of Kafkaesque paranoia, garnish with some Clockwork Orange mascara and you’ve got Satacracy 88.

More distracting than compelling, Satacracy 88 proves to be an impressive and beautifully edited piece of fan film. Carefully shot on a Panasonic HVX and edited using Final Cut Pro, the lighting and post-production give Satacracy 88 a gooey Gothic gloss, reminiscent of Timur Bekmambetov‘s Night Watch. Squeezing the most out of a shoestring budget, the film crew of PAs, bartenders, and personal assistants achieve amazing production value.

The plot exposition is sometimes clunky and acting can be a bit wooden, as Satacracy 88 struggles with its self imposed break-neck paced narrative. The participatory hook is that each episode ends at crossroads and the viewers must vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on a specific action (often whether the titular 88 should shiv another character or not). However, the show’s lack of any consistency leaves the audience with little to base a vote on. With at least one deus ex machina per episode I’m not sure that it really matters which way one winds up voting.

With little regard for direct causality and complete banishment of continuity editing (the characters can transcend time, space… I think), the series is fun to watch but impossible to predict. Satacracy has a distinct role-playing video game feel as we follow 88 on quest after quest, collecting an unconnected series of morbid and fantastic trinkets (a hand, an elixir, an amulet! I fell like I’m playing Warcraft). Somehow I’m not sure I believe one antagonist when she tells 88 that “this whole thing has been planned from the beginning.”