David Faustino could barely curb his enthusiasm.
After a string of personal and professional woes left the diminutive former star of Fox's "Married . . . With Children" without a career and next to broke, it seemed too good to be true: A movie studio wanted a big-screen version of the hit raunchy television series that ended in 1997.
The reunion called for Faustino's successful former cast mates to reprise their original roles, but at the table read with Ed O'Neill, Katey Sagal and Christina Applegate, he discovers he's now "the pizza guy," and some other actor will assume his old role as the mischievous Bud Bundy.
The movie idea is a joke, of course -- one that Faustino came up with himself and that marked the first time since the curtain came down on "Married . . . With Children" that the cast had come together for a show.
It's the kind of humor audiences can expect from "Star-ving," a new weekly Web-only comedy series premiering Friday on Crackle.com, an online video network backed by Sony Pictures Entertainment. Faustino plays an exaggerated version of himself in the series, which he wrote and developed with several friends as an "anti-Entourage."
"This is a very twisted take on what I've been through all these years," Faustino said earlier this week as he chomped down on an egg sandwich at a Silver Lake-area diner.
Post-"Married" life for Faustino has been a roller coaster, although not nearly as rocky as his "Star-ving" counterpart's. He grew up on the Fox comedy, starting on the series when he was 12 years old. When the show ended, work did not come easily.
"It was a combination of typecasting and my own demons," he said. "There are roles I could have gotten, but there were just lots of opportunities that I just blew on my own." He got by on guest shots and appearances on shows such as "Celebrity Fit Club."
Through it all, he remained friends with most of his former costars, whose careers took off. O'Neill starred in several movies and television series, including "Dragnet," Sagal starred in several TV shows ("8 Simple Rules . . . " and is currently featured in FX's "Sons of Anarchy"). Applegate, a veteran of TV and Broadway ("Sweet Charity"), currently stars in ABC's "Samantha Who?"
When Faustino was developing "Star-ving," he enlisted O'Neill's help, aware that an appearance by his TV father would help boost the chances for the show to be picked up.
Said O'Neill, "At first I was skeptical about being involved in this. I just didn't know whether it would be funny or not. But when I saw where they were going, I thought it was really funny, and I jumped on board. I was glad to help -- David is a really nice guy."
Executives for Crackle are positioning "Star-ving" as their signature series, hoping that the comedy does for their venture what "Married . . . With Children" did for Fox. That comedy helped establish Fox as a legitimate network when the show premiered in 1987, and protests by parents groups over its raunchy content pulled in large audiences through most of its 10-year run.
"We really see this as the next generation of TV networks," said Eric Berger, senior vice president of digital networks for Sony Pictures Television. The show, like other Crackle series, is targeting the 18-to-34 male demographic.
Even though the series will not get the visibility it would receive on a broadcast or cable network, Faustino says "Star-ving" gives him an artistic freedom unavailable even on a cable network. "I feel like I'm on the ground floor of something, and if I can make a living doing this, that would make it all the better," he said.
Getting together with his former costars was an added thrill. In the episode, he even jokes with Applegate about her recent double mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
And despite the crass language and toilet humor popping up throughout "Star-ving" -- one sight gag involving Faustino's underwear not only pushes the envelope, it shreds it -- Faustino says the show is grounded with sweetness.
"What makes people laugh is that it's all done with a sense of innocence," he says. "And on the humiliation level, no one gets it worse than me."