Channel 101 has become kind of a big deal. The fact that you're thinking "I don't even know what Channel 101 is" aside, comedy nerds have come flocking to the non-profit festival, audiences, writers and performers alike.
The brain child of Oscar-nominated screenwriters/best friends Dan Harmon (also the creator of the cult sitcom Community) and Rob Schrab (also the creator of the cult comic Scud the Disposable Assassin), the cult event has been steadily gathering steam since it's launch in 2002.
From humble beginnings starting with Schrab's informal screenings of Jaws 4: The Revenge and his parody of it (in which an orange with a penned-on face plays the protagonist; Schrab's own penis, the shark)for his friends, the festival grew as the friends began producing film parodies purely for their own enjoyment. Realising the growing popularity, Harmon and Schrab created the Super Midnight Movie Show before releasing the potential for their own mini-television network.
The format of Channel 101 is simple. "Pilots" are produced, running to no longer than five minutes each. These prospective shows are then showcased once a month at a screening event in Los Angeles, with the audience voting for a top five that will stay in production. Those five then make episode two, which will compete with a host of new pilots attempting to usurp their position at next month's event.
Harmon, himself, knows the pains of this kind of cut-throat creativity. His baby, Community, whilst critically lauded and universally adored by the internet, was put on indefinite hiatus by NBC due to low viewership. Same goes for 101, no matter the quality, if the people don't vote, you get canned.
The shows screened run the gamut as far as genres go: there's straight-up sitcom (the snappily-titled Sex Teenagers), skewed science-fiction (the ingenious Switcher) and a whole host of parodies, from The X-Files-aping Strange Casesto the viral, soap-opera Ikea Heights to the breakout hit The 'Bu, the surprisingly-loving, The Lonely Island-starring send-up of lamentable docusoap The Hills.
The raft of comedy insiders involved means that some big(ish) stars also pop up, including the likes of Sarah Silverman, Drew Carey, Family Guy's Mike Henry and Jack Black. Black, a long-time friend of messrs Harmon and Schrab, has been something of a recurring figure within the festival, regularly showing up in shows such as Computerman, Time Belt and the beautifully-realised Laser Fart.
"Classics" of the festival, such as those mentioned above, laid the groundwork and the most recent shows keep the quality coming, ensuring the festival's longevity. Among them are the long-running, recently-cancelled Everything, a well-received showcase of oft hilarious, oft disturbing vignettes; the absolutely mental sex-chat show Intimate Indiscretions; the meticulously-crafted “children's show”Googy; top-notch sci-fi show The Sequence; the, frankly quite unsettling, Bronson-parody Gumbel and many more.
The tone of the shows, as you may have noticed, verges on the ridiculous but beyond the facade lies terrific writing and performing from some of the sharpest comedy minds in LA today, populating a mini-universe churning out wave-after-wave of brilliant programming that is light-years ahead of almost all network comedy.
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