One and Two
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Reviewed by Jason Zingale
he potential of the internet as a viable alternative to television wasn’t even considered by most people in the entertainment industry until after the success of Joss Whedon’s three-part web series, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.” But fans of the internet musical’s leading lady, Felicia Day, would probably argue that it actually happened a little sooner than that. One year sooner, in fact, when her own web series, “The Guild,” debuted as a free, independently produced web series made by gamers for gamers. Originally conceived for television, “The Guild” has since become an internet sensation (even nabbing sponsors like Sprint and Xbox LIVE), and it's all thanks to a little grassroots marketing and the simple fact that, well, it's actually a good show.
Day stars as Cyd Sherman (AKA Codex), a hardcore gamer with no job, no boyfriend and a therapist who has just “fired” her because of her addiction to an online role-playing game that is essentially “World of Warcraft” in every way but name. When her fellow guild mate, Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh), arrives unannounced on her doorstep to profess his love, Cyd begrudgingly lets him in, unaware of his obsession with her. Meanwhile, after juvenile guild member Bladezz (Vincent Caso) is banned from the game, Cyd proposes an in-person meeting with the rest of the guildies – penny-pinching leader Vork (Jeff Lewis), neglectful mother Clara (Robin Thorsen), and stuck-up brat Tinkerballa (Amy Okunda) – to figure out what to do.
Though the following summary makes up the bulk of the first season, the fact that all ten episodes combined run just over 40 minutes is a pretty amazing feat. There isn’t quite as much going on in Season Two, but the character development is much improved as Cyd falls for her new stuntman neighbor, Wade Wei (Fernando Chien); Zaboo moves in with Vork hoping to earn a mentor in the process; and Clara, Tink and Bladezz make some selfish decisions that could tear the guild apart. To disclose any more information would take the fun out of watching “The Guild,” especially when the seasons don’t run very long. What you can expect is more of the same great writing, a cast of colorful characters, and a higher production value to the episodes themselves.
“The Guild” may be an ensemble show, but that doesn’t mean everyone performs at the same level. In fact, while Thorsen, Okunda and Caso all play their parts well, they’re just not as memorable as the other characters. Felicia Day is lovably awkward as the show’s star and on-screen narrator, but while she may be the reason many started watching “The Guild” in the first place, it’s “Legend of Neil” creator Sandeep Parikh and veteran character actor Jeff Lewis who will have you coming back for more. Both are an absolute riot in their respective roles, and when they’re thrown into the same room together in Season Two, it’s a comic relationship that rivals some of the best on TV.
For as entertaining as “The Guild” is, however, there’s no way it would ever survive in the cutthroat world of network television. That’s where the internet comes in. Not only does producing a series for the web offer more creative freedom, but it allows niche shows like “The Guild” to survive without fear of cancellation. That’s not to say that non-gamers won’t enjoy the show too (the DVD comes with a glossary of frequently used gamer slang), but if you're already a card-carrying member of Online Gamers Anonymous, well, there's a better chance you'll understand what all the buzz is about.
Special Features: As a reward to all the fans that purchased the DVDs despite being able to watch the show for free online, the team behind “The Guild” has packed this two-disc set with a plethora of bonus features. Season One features cast and director commentaries on every episode, as well as cast interviews, audition footage for Vincent Caso, Robin Thorsen and Amy Okuda, a series of gag reels, and the musical Christmas special. Season Two also includes two different commentary tracks (one with the cast and one with the creator, director and producer), behind-the-scenes featurettes on the cast and crew, more gag reels and audition footage (this time for Fernando Chien and Michele Boyd), another Christmas special, and a look at the table read for Episode One. In other words, it’s an epic loot drop worthy of a DVD release.