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Casters Review

on Wed, 03/07/2012 - 00:00

In the early 1990s, grunge was the latest rage. With the likes of Nirvana, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden all originating from Seattle, the Washington seaport transformed itself into the music capital of the era and its coffee shop-fueled, flannel shirt-wearing lifestyle became synonymous with the time period. In 1992, the Cameron Crowe film Singles was released, chronicling a small group of twentysomethings that personified the unique cultural environment of Seattle. Singles spawned similar motion pictures that attempted to capture the aura of the self-proclaimed Generation X, including Reality Bites, by showcasing the trials and tribulation of wannabe musicians, documentarians and Gap employees as they maneuvered their way through their lives.

Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994, Generation X is now in their forties and actors like Bridget Fonda, Winona Ryder and Ethan Hawke may not have the same box office pull that they once had, but the search for personal meaning, artistic gratification and the right balance of love and friendship is still the same journey for current day twentysomethings as it was for their counterparts in the 1990s. While the character of Lelaina Pierce aspired to be a documentarian with a personal story to tell in Reality Bites, the trio of cohorts on the web series Casters utilize the medium of podcasting to make their mark in the world. “I just want to be heard,” one of them states in the pilot episodes, capturing the dreams and ambition of a new generation in much the same way that Cameron Crowe did with Singles.

Cal, Ronnie and Owen are three friends living in New York and producing a podcast together that highlights the local musical and acting talents of the city. Casters thus offers a behind the scenes look at podcasting—with its inherent problems of finding guests, building an audience and the task of explaining their project to those not familiar with the medium—while the group also attempts to balance personal issues with their chosen craft. Cal (Jason Griffith), for instance, is the group’s articulate team leader who has a penchant for redheads and an addiction to Internet pornography. Ronnie (Miriam Pultro) works the late shifts at a New York bar in order to better manage her podcasting commitments but the hours puts a strain on her relationship with musician boyfriend Tommy. Owen (Joshua Tussin), meanwhile, is the technician behind their endeavor and has a passion for cereal.

“I had this bowl of cereal once,” he explains to Ronnie. “It was Cap’n Crunch, the peanut butter kind. I didn’t eat it right away. I let it sit about four, five minutes. Let the cereal get soft so it didn’t cut the roof of your mouth. That was the best damn bowl of cereal I’d ever had. I’m trying to recapture that—the best damn bowl of cereal.”

The three main characters have a natural chemistry between them and during the small snippets that depict the actual production of their podcast, Cal and Ronnie particular shine as they banter and play off each other with pinpoint precision. Owen, meanwhile, brings a quirkiness to the proceedings, coupled with dry wit and humor. “I love it when Cal gets all Tarzan with his communications skills,” he remarks to that week’s podcast guest in one episode. When the question is asked if that means Owen is Cheetah, he responds, “Why would you name a chimpanzee Cheetah? There’s no logic behind that.”

While Owen’s personal life tends to remain in the background, the difficulties, fears and social trappings of Cal and Ronnie are more fully on display during Casters. Ronnie’s boyfriend, for instance, has difficulty understanding her podcasting endeavor despite his struggling musician background, especially when it puts a strain on their relationship. “With a band, you build up a fanbase, you get the record contract,” Tommy tells her. “Then you get the album and you go on tour. Then you get the cash. Where’s the money in podcasting?”

Cal likewise has difficulty explaining his vocation to girlfriend Donna. “That’s the tricky part,” he replies when also asked about the financial aspects of podcasting. “We haven’t quite figured that out yet.” Despite his commitment to the profession, however, Cal regularly offers resistance to the ideas generated by Ronnie and Owen in regards to promoting their podcast, and is noticeably uncomfortable at a meet-up for New York podcasters at a local bar. In many ways, Cal is skirting his way through life with a series of temp jobs, borrowed money from his attorney sister and an addiction to online porn that ends his relationship with Donna and even threatens his friendship with Ronnie.

Not that Ronnie has a better grasp in regards to where her own life is headed. “My sister has the big house, kids, the rich husband,” she laments to Tommy. “I have the overpriced one-bedroom, the underpaying job and the boyfriend who’s a musician.” Tommy, however, has a different interpretation of her situation. “That’s not a failure,” he counters. “That’s real life.”

In the end, the same holds true for Casters. Creator Erin Gould has crafted a web series that captures the uncertainty of being in one’s twenties for a new generation in much the same way that Cameron Crowe did in the early 1990s with Singles. Just as Crowe utilized the Seattle and grunge music of the times as the lenses for his film, Gould uses New York City and the world of podcasting as the focus for his web series. The decade, the setting and the medium may be different, but the message is still the same nonetheless.

In the pilot episode of Casters, Ronnie jokingly refers to herself as perfect. “But you probably felt perfect once,” Owen philosophically replies. “Felt good and now you’re trying to recapture that. That’s you best damn bowl of cereal.” In many ways, it is a fitting epitaph. Whether it’s Janet Livermore in Singles, Lelaina Pierce in Reality Bites or Ronnie in Casters, it could be said that every twentysomething of any generation is merely looking for their own best damn bowl of cereal.

Anthony Letizia (March 7, 2012)

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