Truly good TV shows are hard to come by. Truly good web series are even harder to come by. Simply put the series online are usually lacking in production value or truly good talent to be taken seriously. Or when they are well-produced, the concept is mildly interesting but not enough to be something you truly go out of your way to watch. Recently, however, original content produced by online groups and communities has taken an upswing and a large reason for that is due to The Guild. A series created, produced, and starring Felicia Day (most notably of Joss Whedon universe fame), The Guild centers on a group of MMORPG players who have their own local guild. A bit of a niche concept, but the internet is all about dialing in on ideas and concepts that are often focused towards one group anyway.
Cyd Sherman, a.k.a. Codex (Felicia Day) has hit bottom. Dumped by her boyfriend, her employer and her therapist, she drowns her sorrows the way any modern girl would: the world of online gaming. But after a fellow player mistakes their in-game rapport for real-world romance and shows up on her doorstep, Codex brings all of the members of her online guild face-to-face…with very awkward results. With over 20 million worldwide views, The Guild is a “Rare jewel in the Web TV world” (Los Angeles Times). This 2-DVD set includes all 22 episodes from Seasons 1 and 2, along with loads of exclusive bonus material not seen on the internet.
While I hadn’t followed the series prior to receiving this DVD, I had heard of it. In fact, it slowly began to crop up more and more around video game websites in the past year so while I already knew of Felicia Day from her Whedon escapades I really wasn’t too aware of what The Guild was outside of a few blips on it on the gaming blogs. Once I settled in to watch the series, however, I found myself watching both seasons in one sitting—it’s just a ridiculously easy show to become enraptured with.
Admittedly the show does slant to the female gender more so than the male (and yes, this is a show based around people who play a World of Warcraft like game for…well, for a living for some of them). So while there’s a healthy dosage of muscular male swooning and fawning, there’s still a trio of men who attempt to infuse testosterone in the series…although considering none of them exactly scream alpha male, that’s kind of a difficult thing to do. Regardless, it doesn’t matter—the series is truly entertaining no matter your gender, although you’re really going to have to have some knowledge about the world of MMORPG’s and general internet lingo to really get into the series.
There is also a definite “nerd” factor to the series to adjust to as well, but it’s all so easy to do for one simple reason: this show is really, really well done. Every one of the actors involved seem have to a terrific sense of humor and can ad-lib lines with the best of them (the bloopers on this 2-disc set definitely shows that as well). On top of that the writing (what isn’t ad-libbed) is always sharp and witty, especially the opening segments with Day in front her webcam giving diary entries of sorts (the one with the chocolate pudding was particularly amusing). While some of it comes off as overly cheesy on occasion, it’s rare as this series has the same wit and writing style of something like Big Bang Theory…just without the forced laugh track.
The actors here really deserve a mention. As usual, Felicia Day is magnificent but as far as comedic talent goes this is the greatest untapped well I’ve seen since The Office started (the US version). They’re all unknowns but it doesn’t matter because they’re immediately hilarious out the gate. Sandeep Parikh is especially entertaining as Zaboo and Jeff Lewis as Vork may as well be the next Brian Posehn (that’s a good thing, by the way) with the deadpan delivery he’s able to give. Robin Thorsen as Clara is hilarious in her own child abusing ways (which is always alluded to but never really seen) and Vincent Caso as Bladezz and Amy Okuda as Tinkerballa bring a necessary biting sarcasm and perverted youth angle to the show. While Caso and Okuda can grate on your nerves at times (moreso Okuda), they’re just as entertaining as the rest of the cast.
There is one drawback to the series—the seasons are incredibly short with episodes running between two to eight minutes in length (with the eight minute ones only being more recent, towards the end of season two). At the same time they can power through story arcs much faster this way and introduce new characters (such as season three’s Wil Wheaton). And, again, made-for-web-TV-series is still an infantile genre so it’s hard to even fault The Guild for these shortcomings as…well, they aren’t really shortcomings. They’re just elements of the format.
Despite not being a MMORPG player (I’m too cheap), the series still clicked with me. The dialogue is just so fresh and witty and the production values for the episodes never harbor on the cheap side. I’m not sure how much this show costs to produce, but it certainly looks leagues beyond what some multi-million comedy films I’ve seen have pulled off.
Really the only hard thing to swallow about this film is that they were a local guild who had never met before—what’s the point of being local if you don’t meet up occasionally? Still, that minor quibble aside, these first two seasons are terrific. Whether you watch them for free online or pick up this moderately priced DVD (that is freakin’ packed with extras, as I’ll cover in a bit) set, this web series comes Highly Recommended. Sure it’s nerdy…but it’s a culture that will soon devour the Earth, so you may as well laugh at (and with) them while you can. Before they become your new overlords.
While The Guild has been available on DVD exclusively through Amazon in the past, this marks the first time the first two seasons will be available in other outlets. The set arrives in a standard two-disc Amaray case with an insert that has a whole mess of MMORPG/internet abbreviations and terminology for the confused and a long letter by Felicia Day on the other side. The discs themselves aren’t too impressive in their execution (the menus and whatnot look homemade) but it ultimately doesn’t really matter.
The video for both seasons looks admirable and better than what you get off streaming from their website (especially the second season, all of which is in anamorphic widescreen). Again, the video and production qualities of this show just scream professional and there isn’t a mark I’d put against the transfers. Audio is similarly clean and clear with no distortion or hiss. Quality work on the A/V transfers all around.
So the episodes you can get online for free, but what about extras? Well…there are plenty extras. Most notably there are dual commentary tracks on each season, three sets of bloopers for each season, casting auditions, some easter eggs and…well, here’s the full list:
Cast and Crew Commentary
Cast Interviews (18:52)
Vincent Caseo Auditioning for Bladezz (7:15)
Gag Reel #1 (3:24)
Gag Reel #2 (6:12)
Gag Reel #3 (5:25)
Christmas Carol Video (1:50)
Cast and Crew Commentary
Gag Reel #1 (3:52)
Gag Reel #2 (4:18)
Gag Reel #3 (3:49)
Episode 1 Table Read (6:35)
Twas the Night Before Christmas (2:41)
Audition ROle (6:01)
Kenny Takes one for the Team (0:21, Easter Egg)
Herman Holden Stand-Up @ Blizz-Con (5:57, Easter Egg)
There’s plenty to check out here for those who are fans of the series and the commentaries alone are worth the price of the set (a mere $15). Plus you get to show your support for a show that is made available free anyway, so…bonus!
Overall a solid set and one that comes Highly Recommended. There’s a couple hours worth of material here, all of it guaranteed to make you laugh (as long as you aren’t over 40 or completely oblivious to the computer age).
The Guild: Seasons One and Two arrive on DVD on September 29th.