Critic’s Pick: TV Picks: ‘Tiny Tiny Talk Show,’ Whitney Rice
“Tiny Tiny Talk Show” (Ora TV, new episodes Tuesdays and Thursdays); Whitney Rice (YouTube). A digital presentation of the Web network co-owned by Larry King, this “late-night” online mini-show lives up, or down, to its name, concluding its business in a dozen minutes or less, before an audience of a dozen people or less, on a set close if not quite a closet. (There will only be 11 episodes, for now or forever, so it is tiny in that way, as well.) The budget, too, evidently is small, though the show owns its modesty with a handmade, thrift store let’s-do-this charm. In the accelerated, compressed, pocket-sized way we live now, it gets in a monologue, a couple of interviews, games, challenges and sketches into its cartoon-episode length without feeling at all meager. (That it has to move fast is a part of the joke, as in “30-second slumber party,” which includes a prank call, talking about boys and guest Gillian Jacobs challenged to “tell us a really scary story in one sentence.”) Indeed, in its very smallness it has been fashioned to reflect and promote its co-producer Keek, a short-short-form, video-based social media platform you may have never have heard of until reading this sentence -- a likelihood that increases exponentially with your age. Ora advertises the program as being expressly “for millennials,” which is to say its rota of guests will probably not include any wrinkled, gray elderlies to distress young minds -- except if Bill Murray wanted to come on, of course -- but will definitely feature ones so second-decade-of-the-21st-century that even Generation Y-sters will have to look them up on Wikipedia.
(I amusedly reproduce this description from Keek chief marketing officer Lin Dai: “Our goal is to cast a spotlight on new social media talent and deliver and schedule the content across digital, social and mobile platforms in a manner that fits the lifestyle of today’s digital audience.” So there you go.)
Do not let this distress you, pre-millennial viewer. Do not fear. I am old myself and have watched this thing with much enjoyment and not a little admiration. (Not all the jokes work, but that is quite in the tradition of late-night TV.) You might not recognize the Vine comics and Keek sensations, but you may well know Jacobs, from “Community,” and Tony Hale, from “Veep,” and recognize Jon Heder, who was Napoleon Dynamite. And the Net doesn’t know how old you are -- well, actually, it does know how old you are, but it can’t stop you from watching things not made with you in mind. Yet.
The smart and able host is Whitney Rice, an L.A.-based comedian, actress and YouTube personality -- “star” overdoes it a little -- who has been making videos on her own and with friends for a couple of years now. Her work can appear as compulsive as it is industrious. At times, in her earlier pieces, especially, she can seem to have a kind of co-dependent relationship with the camera -- you can’t actually have that, I know -- filming herself in bed with an apparent, possibly careful disregard for framing; presenting herself as really or convincingly drunk or exhausted or perhaps hypnotized by Werner Herzog; and turning up the deadpan and the vocal fry. A series called “it’s OK cats, i’m here” co-stars her cats But Rice also produces more organized, more obviously scripted, more finished videos in which she plays characters (Dan the performance artist, Candy the professional mermaid, Tabitha the New Age guru) impersonates Lana del Rey, Gwyneth Paltrow, Zoey Deschanel, Anne Hathaway or Jane Austen (“Good morrow and welcome -- for you millennials that are not familiar with who I am and are busy Snapchatting images of your half-eaten Lunchable to your pre-teen lover, my name is Jane Austen”).
Rice exploits her good looks in an ironic, implicitly feminist way that says, “I do have distance from this face and body” -- but which, this being show business, does exploit them anyway. In a short series in which she auditions to be a Webcam model, Rice poses seductively and says things like, “I was on varsity track in high school, but then I quit and joined band... ‘cause that’s what good girls do, “This is silk, it feels so soft; I got it on sale, I got it on sale because I’m thrifty,” and “I put bronzer in my cleavage to emphasize my cleavage.” She offers fake advice on beauty (“The next step to getting big luscious lips naturally is to have a friend slap you”) and dating (“If he has a picture of his mom on his bedside table, it is OK, to turn it around or to say ‘Hey, mom, what’s up?’ or to kiss the frame and say, ‘I’m your new daughter in law’ -- he’ll love it.”) Taken all in all, her work amounts to a not always disguised pitch for adult behavior and good life skills; but maybe that’s what all comedy is, fundamentally. Many are labeled NSFW, for language, which is often salty, even super-salty.
Robert Lloyd is on the watchacallit, the Twitter at @LATimesTVLloyd
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