Machinima's Tommy Wi-Show An Exercise In Bad For The Sake of Bad

Machinimas Tommy Wi Show An Exercise In Bad For The Sake of Bad

Last month we talked about Machinima's foray into the genre known as Tommy Wiseau, with the cleverly titled The Tommy Wi-Show.  Wiseau, the modern-day celebrity manufactured by irony, his movie The Room navigating the midnight-screening territory of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, has a perfectly-tailored channel on YouTube to continue this tour of oddball lack of skill.  The Tommy Wi-Show garners a fair amount of viewers, thankfully not as much as Machinima's other original series going on right now, RCVR, which at this point can be declared a bona fide hit.

The Uninspired Structure of The Tommy Wi-Show

There have been three episodes of The Tommy Wi-Show thus far.  Each of them has Wiseau suddenly finding himself on a spaceship, where an alien on a TV screen tells him that he needs to play a video game and "score points," or something, for research, or whatever it is that aliens do.  The alien, voiced by Brock LaBorde, is that typical alien voice, like someone with harp strings for vocal chords broadcast through an oscillating fan, or for anyone who knows what "Mini-Me," Verne Troyer, sounds like.  In the first episode, we find out that the aliens, after tireless searching, have found Wiseau to be the best video game player on the planet.  Here's the first episode, in which Wiseau stumbles through Mortal Kombat:

This would be hilarious, to those who are familiar with Wiseau, if he actually was good at playing video games, or at least given the appearance that he's good at them.  Yet, in each episode, we find that Wiseau is not very good at games, to the point that we wonder if he's ever played one or knew what one was before agreeing to be on this show.  Every game he's played, he doesn't know the controls, gets frustrated, calls for the alien to come help him, makes some strange Wiseau-esque comments (probably the draw for some) and then he is sent merrily back to Earth after playing the game poorly for a couple of minutes.

And that's where this show fails, in that it has no stakes.  I can discuss the various forms of humor and how we derive humor from certain situations and that would fill another article.  But simply taking Wiseau's ironic cult stardom and putting him in a situation where he can continue to be an awful performer without any redemption is mean-spirited.  I mean I get the joke.  Wiseau is a bad actor, and every episode puts that on display.  That would be fine, if he could also be playing for something, and was good enough at video games to pull it off.

Taking the "plot" at face-value, we are supposed to believe that Wiseau is the best video game player alive, and that his playing the video games will somehow save himself, or Earth, or something.  Wiseau is not good at games at all, horrible in fact, and can't even get out of first round, or even learn the controls.  But after every video game session, Wiseau is sent back to Earth.  For what reason?  I thought this was a kidnapping.  I thought he had to do well to advance.  I thought the aliens would be so evil, like Dr. Clayton Forrester in Mystery Science Theater 3000, and keep Wiseau on the ship no matter how well he did.  Imagine how much funnier this show could be if Wiseau was a thumb jockey.  I'm thinking that classic Chappelle's Show skit where Prince is awesome at basketball.  We get humor from the unexpected.  The Tommy Wi-Show tries to get humor from the absolutely expected, which doesn't work.

The Tommy Wi-Show Is In Love With A Tired Joke

And that's the shame of it.  The Tommy Wi-Show could still be an awesome display of horrible acting skill, but having Wiseau actually blowing the doors off these games would add a spirited humorous element.  I imagine a boastful, cocky Wiseau easily handling the most challenging games and sputtering out his oddly-accented line-readings with victorious fervor.  Instead, the creators of The Tommy Wi-Show exposed their hand way to early: this is a lazy examination of Tommy Wiseau playing a video game and not knowing what to do, so we can laugh at him being awful.  I get the joke.  It's been done three episodes now.  They failed.

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Posted in Web Series
About the Author -
Chris Atkinson joined ReelSEO in 2011. He is a longtime film and television reviewer, and has almost two decades of experience in the theater industry. He also writes on his personal blog - http://nymoviereviews.com. View All Posts By -

What do you think? ▼
  • http://www.studio8.net Brock LaBorde

    Brock LaBorde here, creator and head writer of The Tommy Wi-Show. Thanks for the coverage (albeit negative coverage) of our show. I'd like to clear up a few unfair assessments you make about our show that are based on your assumptions about how and why we produce our show.

    First of all, The Tommy Wi-Show is not an original Machinima series, like RCVR. That show was co-produced by Machinima and other untold production companies, and unlike our show, it actually has sponsors and a budget. Currently, my company (Studio 8) is producing The Tommy Wi-Show out of pocket and making our production budget back with a CPM from Machinima. It's a common business model with most shows on Machinima's network. This situation will probably change for us in the near future, but I don't want to discuss any of that right now.

    So yes, it’s easier for a show like RCVR to be considered “a hit” because it’s got a huge production budget from multiple companies and Machinima’s terrific marketing team behind it (as it should because it’s a top notch show). We’re a much smaller group of dudes with one amazing show host/lead actor.

    Because we have such a small budget, we currently shoot 4 episodes of the Wi-Show in a day. It’s the only way we stand a chance to make back the money we spend to pay the cast and crew (which is a small crew, but they are all working professionals). So when we went into producing this show, we had no idea how Tommy would perform when he played the various games. Some games he’s able to pick up and figure out right away, like Mortal Kombat, which is kind of a button-masher game. Other games that have more complicated controls and plots, like Dead Space 2…not so much.

    So you’ve only seen three episodes in a series that we hope to produce for a very long time. Tommy did ok in one game and pretty much sucked in two. In Episode 4, he actually does pretty well and has a blast. All we can do is script out the beginning and end of each episode, turn on the cameras, and hope that Tommy’s gameplay is interesting enough to cut together into a coherent episode. Thus far, it’s all been magical. And in the future, I promise it will surprise you.

    And that’s my main problem with your article…you have no idea where this series is going next and you’re writing it off too quickly. We learned a lot from shooting the first four episodes, and Episodes 5-8 start expanding the universe and playing with the format of the show in major ways. And the following episodes, which I’m writing right now, take it up yet another level, both in gameplay terms and in the show’s overall “plot.”

    Just because we haven’t revealed why Tommy is playing these games for Alien doesn’t mean we don’t have any stakes – you just haven’t seen enough episodes (hint: Alien’s scanner was clearly broken when it declared TW the best gamer on Earth). We have many different aliens, moonbases, spaceships, special guests, and various low-rent sci-fi twists lined up for future episodes. It’s going to be a slow progression because this show could theoretically go on forever and we’ve got big, silly stories to tell.

    As for your complaints about things like Alien’s “typical” voice and Tommy being sent home every episode, again I say that this is just the way that one particular alien (and his mysterious Council) looks, sounds, and treats TW. This won’t always be the case. There will be meaner aliens, nicer aliens, dumber aliens, grosser planets, goofier creatures, weirder technologies, and deeper intergalactic mysteries for TW to get caught up in, all while playing new (and old) Earthling video games.

    Also, there’s nothing “mean-spirited” about our show. We at Studio 8 are genuine fans of Tommy Wiseau, this is our second project with him, and we love celebrating the fun weirdness that all of his productions bring into the world. And Tommy is having the time of his life doing this show. He’s told me many times that he feels excited by the material and that he’s being taken care of very nicely. We have no interest in exploiting him with cheap “The Room” quotes or making him look foolish for foolishness’ sake. There’s an earnestness and charm in Tommy’s performances and that’s what we’re hoping to highlight throughout the series. And we want to make a stupid sci-fi, video game talk show kinda thingy.

    In the future, feel free to do some research and contact the producers/creators of the show before you roast them on your site, Chris. I’m available anytime to answer your questions. Thanks for your time and viewership, everybody!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=23420512 Brock LaBorde

    Brock LaBorde here, creator and head writer of The Tommy Wi-Show. Thanks for the coverage (albeit negative coverage) of our show. I'd like to clear up a few unfair assessments you make about our show that are based on your assumptions about how and why we produce our show.

    First of all, The Tommy Wi-Show is not an original Machinima series, like RCVR. That show was co-produced by Machinima and other untold production companies, and unlike our show, it actually has sponsors and a budget. Currently, my company (Studio 8) is producing The Tommy Wi-Show out of pocket and making our production budget back with a CPM from Machinima. It's a common business model with most shows on Machinima's network. This situation will probably change for us in the near future, but I don't want to discuss any of that right now.

    So yes, it’s easier for a show like RCVR to be considered “a hit” because it’s got a huge production budget from multiple companies and Machinima’s terrific marketing team behind it (as it should because it’s a top notch show). We’re a much smaller group of dudes with one amazing show host/lead actor.

    Because we have such a small budget, we currently shoot 4 episodes of the Wi-Show in a day. It’s the only way we stand a chance to make back the money we spend to pay the cast and crew (which is a small crew, but they are all working professionals). So when we went into producing this show, we had no idea how Tommy would perform when he played the various games. Some games he’s able to pick up and figure out right away, like Mortal Kombat, which is kind of a button-masher game. Other games that have more complicated controls and plots, like Dead Space 2…not so much.

    So you’ve only seen three episodes in a series that we hope to produce for a very long time. Tommy did ok in one game and pretty much sucked in two. In Episode 4, he actually does pretty well and has a blast. All we can do is script out the beginning and end of each episode, turn on the cameras, and hope that Tommy’s gameplay is interesting enough to cut together into a coherent episode. Thus far, it’s all been magical. And in the future, I promise it will surprise you.

    And that’s my main problem with your article…you have no idea where this series is going next and you’re writing it off too quickly. We learned a lot from shooting the first four episodes, and Episodes 5-8 start expanding the universe and playing with the format of the show in major ways. And the following episodes, which I’m writing right now, take it up yet another level, both in gameplay terms and in the show’s overall “plot.”.

    Just because we haven’t revealed why Tommy is playing these games for Alien doesn’t mean we don’t have any stakes – you just haven’t seen enough episodes (hint: Alien’s scanner was clearly broken when it declared TW the best gamer on Earth). We have many different aliens, moonbases, spaceships, special guests, and various low-rent sci-fi twists lined up for future episodes. It’s going to be a slow progression because this show could theoretically go on forever and we’ve got big, silly stories to tell.

    As for your complaints about things like Alien’s “typical” voice and Tommy being sent home every episode, again I say that this is just the way that one particular alien (and his mysterious Council) looks, sounds, and treats TW. This won’t always be the case. There will be meaner aliens, nicer aliens, dumber aliens, grosser planets, goofier creatures, weirder technologies, and deeper intergalactic mysteries for TW to get caught up in, all while playing new (and old) Earthling video games.

    Also, there’s nothing “mean-spirited” about our show. We at Studio 8 are genuine fans of Tommy Wiseau, this is our second project with him, and we love celebrating the fun weirdness that all of his productions bring into the world. And Tommy is having the time of his life doing this show. He’s told me many times that he feels excited by the material and that he’s being taken care of very nicely. We have no interest in exploiting him with cheap “The Room” quotes or making him look foolish for foolishness’ sake. There’s an earnestness and charm in Tommy’s performances and that’s what we’re hoping to highlight throughout the series. And we want to make a stupid sci-fi, video game talk show kinda thingy.

    In the future, feel free to do some research and contact the producers/creators of the show before you roast them on your site, Chris. I’m available anytime to answer your questions. Thanks for your time and viewership, everybody!

    • Travis Donnell

      Agree that "mean-spirited" never crossed my mind while watching and I highly doubt Tommy would do it if he felt that everyone was laughing at him behind his back.

    • Travis Donnell

      Coincidentally, I am preparing an egg breakfast!

    • Meagan Jayne Cayasso

      I didn't know it was possible to <3 you any harder but reading this eloquently written retort made that happen.

  • http://nymoviereviews.com Chris Atkinson

    I appreciate you taking time to comment on my review of your show, even though I have a negative view of it.

    I only hope you know that when I write a piece like this, I am writing it with an objective viewpoint, and that for the past three weeks I have hoped to enjoy the show. I have entered each new viewing of The Tommy-Wi Show with a good spirit, expecting nothing but a silly fun time. Some of my friends like the show, and I will continue to watch it, despite what I feel 3 episodes in.

    Also know, I am not comparing you to RCVR in any way regarding resources or production value.

    The only thing I can say for your plans for future episodes is that nothing has been hinted at in the way of new "plot" developments, or new directions, or potential surprises. My "research" for the show has been the show itself, which has given no indication of the surprises you claim to have in store. 3 episodes in, I could use a hint. That's all.

    I hope nothing but the best for your show in the future, and maybe one day I can write, "The Tommy Wi-Show Has Really Turned It Around." I'd really like to write that article, so prove me wrong.

  • http://www.studio8.net Brock LaBorde

    I don't want to give too much away, but in Episode 2, Alien did let slip that he's going to murder TW one day. There are other tiny clues sprinkled throughout, but I want people to go back and find stuff as more big reveals are, um, revealed.

    In any case, thanks for helping spread the word about our series!