In this technology driven age, talented people can be discovered at anytime doing anything. YouTube and Twitter have become hubs for showcasing talent and selling products, and while that can be great motivation for aspiring creatives, it should also be an incentive for executives to commission employees to scour the internet at all times for the next big thing. Throughout the years, we have been fortunate enough to be introduced to some of our favorite celebrities through various forms of creative content. Web shows in particular have played a large part in delivering some of the most inventive, era defining shows and creative minds to ever be put on television. Hit series like Broad City (Comedy Central), Insecure (HBO) and High Maintenance (HBO) are just a few examples of some of the critically acclaimed shows that determined “average joes” were able to make at maximum quality after being discovered on YouTube. Today, I will be sharing my thoughts on a web series that I believe has the potential to make a great series on a cable network or streaming site, specifically HBO or Showtime. I will also be suggesting tweaks that will allow the show to translate better to a mainstream audience.
The Queens Project
Comedy | Romance | 3 Seasons | 3-7m
Created By: Ken Arpino
Starring: Ken Arpino, BJ Gruber, Trey Gerrald, Andre Jordan, Chris Dwan, Ian Paget, Tim Murray
Recently, after some unexpected YouTube dwelling, I came across a web show that surprised me with its fresh approach to a story that should seem cliché. The Queens Project follows gay roommates, Ash (Ken Arpino) and Gabe (BJ Gruber), as they quip their way through life in Astoria, New York. Ash is lazy and only cares about food, drag queens and Game of Thrones, while Gabe only cares about working out and getting laid. The two best friends almost have nothing in common, besides the fact that they are both gay males who want to be Broadway stars, however they are practically soulmates on a strictly platonic level. Everything seems fine with their relationship, but things get complicated after Ash realizes they share much more in common than he originally thought. He develops an attraction to Gabe, upon his discovery that Gabe is a “secret nerd” and privately enjoys all of the “embarrassing” things that Ash enjoys publicly. Over the course of three very short seasons, Arpino does a respectable job of demonstrating the complexities of navigating homosexual friendships, all the while remaining light and entertaining.
Although the series starts off understandably rocky, it eventually finds its footing as Arpino and Co. gain more confidence. I enjoyed watching each episode improve in visual quality and length, and I immediately became invested in the lives of these characters. They were just a really enjoyable bunch. Although a web show like this would usually be cringe at best, and The Queens Project certainly isn’t lack of cringe inducing moments, Ken Arpino presents a creation and creative team who show great potential. As I watched this visual resumé, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Issa Rae’s early work, Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, and how that project launched her thriving television career. Rae’s work on that low budget YouTube web series allowed her to eventually create the hit HBO series Insecure, which most of my readers know is one of my favorite shows on television. Insecure seemingly works as a sister show to the Awkward Black Girl web series, featuring much of the original cast in noticeably smaller roles. Even though the HBO show tells a completely different story than the web series, much of the tone and overall feel of that original work is still present, but has just been adapted for a mainstream audience. My head is full of suggestions on how executives could follow Rae’s blueprint and adapt The Queens Project into a slick, half-hour comedy-drama for a cable network. Allow me to share what I feel to be my two most important suggestions.
While I enjoy the relatively unknown cast members of The Queens Project web show, I feel like it suffers from the same issues as other modern New York based sitcoms (How I Met Your Mother, Girls), and that is a lack of diversity. The story is set in one of the most diverse places on the planet, but in all three seasons we only meet one black guy (who is practically the lightest shade of African American they could find). Although Andre Jordan is a competent actor, I don’t think he can handle the pressures that representation demands. It is imperative to the success of this hypothetical adaptation that viewers feel that their groups are being represented. Although I wouldn’t dare touch Arpino and Gruber’s positions in the series (they are the backbone to what makes the whole thing work), I would take a critical look at the rest of the supporting cast. I believe the first order of business would be finding new, diverse cast members to take over in supporting roles while we shuffle the current supporting cast to smaller recurring roles.
My second suggestion would be for the writers and show runners to look into other creative works that contain a similar subject matter. Since lessons can be learned from past experiences, the people working on this hypothetical adaptation may want to compare and contrast their creation with other LGBTQ+ hits and flops that have occurred over the past decade. I believe there is a lot to be learned from shows like Looking and Queer as Folk, because even though they weren’t around for very long, they did a lot for LGBTQ+ representation. In fact, maybe if they had just been tweaked slightly, they could’ve reached a wider audience and withstood the test of time. Interestingly enough, I had never heard of Looking until earlier this year! I watched it in its entirety and I thought it was a decent series, so I was so fascinated with why it failed. Apparently a lot of other people were too since I found many articles on the subject. This information can be very beneficial to future endeavors.
In conclusion, The Queens Project is a fast-paced comedic web series that feels like a fresh representation of what could be. The copious potential that is put on display by Arpino and Co. just fills me with hope that these talented individuals will soon be discovered by some big studio. I can’t wait to see what the future brings for this series and its team. You can watch The Queens Project on YouTube right now.