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Odd Jobs Review

on Mon, 11/29/2010 - 00:00

Although the economic crisis that began in 2008 wreaked havoc on an untold number of households, the aftereffects soon wove their way into numerous comedic outlets nonetheless. The NBC sitcom The Office, for instance, contains numerous narratives centered on layoffs, consolidation, plummeting stock prices and corporate takeovers. The FX comedy It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, meanwhile, spoofed the mortgage crisis and government bailouts in the episodes “The Gang Exploits the Mortgage Crisis” and “The Great Recession.” It’s not just television that developed such storylines about those dark and dire days, however, as a number of web series have also used the economy as a catalyst for original and insightful comedic endeavors.

At the top of that list is Odd Jobs, an award winning web series about investment banker Nate Brooks (Jeremy Redleaf) who inevitably loses his $90,000 a year corporate job and is forced to find an alternative means to make ends meet. To complicate matters even further, Nate decides to keep his employment status a secret from girlfriend Cassie Stetner (Alexandra Daddario), not an easy task considering that the high maintenance Cassie is accustomed to dining in only the finest restaurants and thinks nothing of spending $15,000 on a wedding dress. Thus enters Nate’s slacker roommate Joe Bannon (Devin Ratray), who suggests that the best way to make a living in tough economic times is through a series of “odd jobs” that can be found on Craigslist in cities across the country. Before you know it, Nate is making $300 as a background dancer in a rap video, pawning candy bars as a fundraiser for a fictitious kids’ baseball team and serving as a wine expert at a blind taste-testing session.

Odd Jobs was named “Best New Web Series” at the 2010 Streamy Awards and also received recognition from the NAPTE LA TV Festival and the New York Television Festival. Upon viewing the web series, it is easy to understand why such accolades were laid at the feet of Odd Jobs as just about everything regarding the production works to perfection. First, there are the actors, who bring a natural and likeable quality to their performances. Next, there’s the writing, which is filled with wit and originality. And lastly, there’s the various “situations” of the situation comedy, which translates into many memorable comedic moments.

Take the opening scene of the first episode, in which Nate loses his job, is a prime example. Instead of being just another example of corporate downsizing to cut costs, the catalyst for Nate’s inevitable unemployment status is a Broadway musical adaptation of the late 1970s/early 1980s television sitcom Diff’rent Strokes that closed on opening night. “Could have been an urban Annie,” the CEO of the company explains during a conference room meeting. “But unfortunately, gentlemen, it flopped. That’s on us, we’re lead investors.” He then resorts to “eenie meenie miney mo” in order to decide who amongst the staff will lose their jobs because of the debacle.

As Nate Brooks, Jeremy Redleaf—who also wrote and created Odd Jobs—brings a wide-eyed neurotic innocence to the character and various predicaments he finds himself in during his search for gainful employment. That innocence suits Nate well as he initially struggles with the various “odd jobs” he takes on, only to then find success by the end of the assignments. “I can’t dance, it’s taken me 25 years to learn the electric slide,” he explains during a rap video audition before becoming the featured performer in “Do the Chump” precisely because of his lack of rhythm. While he is nervous and uncertain making a candy bar sales pitch on a New York subway, the crowd buys the product in droves nonetheless. And although Nate knows nothing about wine, his nonsensical interpretations during a blind taste test comes across as “refreshing” and “hometown retro.”

The slobbish Joe Bannon is likewise played to perfection by Devin Ratray, best known as big brother Buzz McCallister in the Home Alone films. While the character could easily come across as a slimy huckster, Ratray brings a likeable quality to Joe that makes him more loveable than repulsive despite being a borderline con-artist. Joe Bannon is also blessed with some of the best dialogue in Odd Jobs, which is saying a lot considering the witty and well-written nature of the scripts. This even extends beyond the closing credits of the fourth episode, in which Joe sits in front of a computer monitor wearing a graduation cap and gown while celebrating the completion of an online college program with his fellow students.

“I believe the leaders of tomorrow are Skype-ing here today,” he announces to the webcamera. “Someone in one of these very chat windows may one day design the logo of a company that goes on to cure cancer. It takes an e-village to raise an e-grad, and this guy couldn’t have done it without each and e-every one of you. We took the hyperlink less clicked upon and that has made all the difference. Anything is possible when you put your mouse to it. When we look back on the past 22 weeks, we’re going to say these were the best web hours of our lives.”

Odd Jobs is a very funny and original web series that explores the various options available to anyone looking to earn some quick cash in a very unique fashion. The main website for Odd Jobs not only contains the episodes of the show but a slew of information and advice on how to become an odd jobber in the real world as well. Called Odd Job Nation, visitors are able to join the discussion and post actual jobs that are found on Craigslists across the country.

Jeremy Redleaf has thus not only crafted an entertaining web series but created an entire contingent of odd job followers in the process—an equally impressive feat in its own right.

Anthony Letizia (November 29, 2010)

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