[show=fodpresents size=large]Not the first site to get a TV deal, and probably not the last, Funny or Die is the latest online studio attempting to finding the secret of transferring short-form comedy to OldTeeVee. OldTeeVees with HBO (s TWX) subscriptions, anyway — Funny or Die Presents, announced in October 2009, premiered last Friday on the pay cabler.
Funny or Die faces the same dilemma College Humor did when adapting sketch comedy to a half-hour series, and while I wasn’t a huge fan of their sitcom-interruptus format (a half-hour scripted show with comedy sketch interstitials), it did have some narrative flow. FOD, meanwhile, simply treats its half-hour of airtime like a night of prime time TV, laying out the night’s schedule of sketches and serials at the beginning of each episode. All of the shorts featured are new content not findable on the web.
The approach is a much purer one, and also acknowledges that audiences at midnight on a Friday probably don’t have the best attention spans. But it means that Funny or Die Presents lives or dies based on the individual sketches compiled together. And while the first episode starts off with some big laughs, there’s some unfortunate tail-off, and the philosophy behind its programming doesn’t make much sense.
The opening schedule lays out four segments, but the balance between them is incredibly skewed, as over half of the first episode is branded as Derek Waters LOL, essentially a show within a show specifically credited to one of the site’s best sketch comedians. This section includes two advertising parodies, a new installment of Drunk History, and a sketch documenting one epic night at Margaritaville — arguably some of the funniest stuff in the pilot, as well as the most celeb-heavy (including Will Ferrell, Zooey Deschanel, Don Cheadle and Busy Phillips). But while it’s nice to celebrate the talent behind these sketches, from a branding perspective for FOD it doesn’t make much sense. Why single out one guy’s work instead of championing the FOD house style (evolved over nearly four years) to which LOL clearly belongs? Read More about Funny or Die Presents on HBO: Offline and Off-Kilter