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PvP: The Series, Episode I

I ought to go back and retitle this thing, since I wouldn’t want to get any of another Episode I on what Scott Kurtz, Kris Straub, and Blind Ferrett have produced; this goes by the subtitle High School Daze, and is described thusly:

Francis worries about high school; Brent and Cole relive their glory days.

This episode starts off with the same 90 seconds or so (Office! Cubicle! Office! Cubicle! Fire!) that formed the series preview … certain things that were a bit awkward in the teaser trailer (like background noises at too high a level, which made the offices of PvP Magazine sound like a much busier place that it’s ever been shown) have been resolved. Brent’s voice (which to me was the strongest part of the trailer) sounds a bit more confident in the first installment, and the animation features a broader range of framings and motions than the preview. HSD proper starts immediately after the title logo and obligatory panda mauling.

There’s boobs, and barfing, and a bleeped naughty word, and you’ve got characters acting as you’d expect, but… It doesn’t entirely feel like PvP. This is probably because Skull doesn’t appear in the episode at all, which seems an odd choice given his key role in the strip. Sure, it’s just the first episode, and there’s nothing that says he has to appear in every one — but to not have Skull feels weird, like we’re watching a pilot for a new TV show that hasn’t found its groove yet.

The story itself plays like a PvP strip stretched out in time, and I don’t mean that in a bad way. Think about it this way: a three-panel comic strip is like a three-act story; there’s the setup in the first panel/act, the reaction in second, and resolution (usually with comuppance) in the third. In this respect, the shifting from three panels to three acts gives time to put more in than could possibly be accomodated in a regular strip offering, and allows for a smoother story than a comic strip arc could. When comic strip stories continue from day-to-day, you usually have to sacrifice at least part of panel #1 reminding people what they read yesterday; without that 24-hour-delay-and-reminder everything moves more smoothly, and the characters don’t have to act like they have low-level anterograde amnesia.

And yet, I’ve always thought that both Kurtz and Straub have done their best work when they set out to tackle longer story arcs; as their comics grew from daily gags to week-long themes to full-blown plotlines, they became much more interesting. I have a feeling that as they become more confident in their writing for this new medium, we’ll see stories structured less like a strip (in the sense of a single-day’s comic), and more like a strip (in the sense of an ongoing thing with character development and a sense of backstory). Given that Kurtz & Straub have spoken of the series as having “seasons”, I suspect that we may see an overall theme, like the year in PvP when Jade & Brent broke up, and many shorter story arcs were part of a buildup to their eventual reunion. I’d love to see a story that plays out in multiple installments (without the obvious crutches of cliffhangers) and becomes a coherent whole; that’s tough to do when you’ve only got 5 minute chunks to work with, but it can be done.

So bottom line — let’s say that the pilot’s been picked up, and we’ve got a 13-episode committment. And while Kurtz & Co. were kind enough to comp me a subscription, based on this first episode, it would have been a worthwhile risk to plunk down the cash myself. There’s potential, and Kurtz & Straub have the chops to build on it, and we just have to see if they can translate those chops to the world of sound & motion.

I haven’t watched it yet, but I will be doing so, and solely due to a single thing – they made the very wise decision to allow people to pay for one episode at a time. Regardless of how the series turns out, I give them major props for listening to the demand for that.

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[…] Gary Tyrrell reviews the first “webisode” of Scott Kurtz’ new PvP animated cartoon, as does Eric Burns. […]

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