J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Single by 30: His Best Friend is Back, on YouTube Red

It is too bad torch carrying is only an exhibition event at the Olympics, because Peter Ma would be a cinch to medal. Twelve years after high school graduation, he still pines for his platonic best friend Joanna. Just as he turns the big three-oh, she moves back home to Los Angeles. It turns out, she even remembers their My Best Friend’s Wedding pact from senior year. In five months, she too will turn thirty, the age when they agreed to get hitched as a last resort. She revives their compact, as a motivational device to get them both back out there on the dating scene. At least, that is what they tell each other in Single by 30 (trailer here), the new web-series from Wong Fu Productions, which premieres on YouTube Red this Wednesday.

Supposedly, knowing Peter and Joanna are each other’s back-up plan will give them the confidence to take chances, like a safety net for a trapeze artist. When they similarly motivated each other to ask out homecoming dates, it worked out much better for her than for him. Yet, he is still down to try. Of course, viewers can immediately tell they are perfect for each other (and maybe they can too).

Nevertheless, to Peter’s great surprise, he has far greater success with the internet dater Joanna selects for him, than she does with his (deliberately flawed) pick. At least that is the case in the second and third episodes (out of the initial three made available to the media). However, she might not be as available as she lets on. It is clear from the start, she carries her own torch for the ex now engaged to her former college friend.

If this sounds familiar, you might have seen the earlier spec pilot that generated plenty of views online. They started fresh with the series proper, so Ma’s new irresponsible best pal from college is now Mark, played by “YouTube star” Eric Ochoa. In fact, most of the young, attractive cast are ‘net famous through YouTube or Vine, which should make you feel old, even if you can look past thirty as a ridiculously ominous deadline.

Regardless, the cast is admittedly attractive and often pleasantly amusing. Harry Shrum, Jr is appealingly down-to-earth as Peter M. and musician Kina Grannis is undeniably charming as Joanna (evidently, she will have to get married if she ever wants to have a surname). So far, their Moonlighting will-they-or-won’t-they chemistry is quite effective. Ochoa and Hillary Anne Matthews (two “t’s”) generate a lot of Tinder-Generation laughs as Mark, the self-styled player and Chloe, Joanna’s game-playing roommate. Manon Mathews (one “t”) probably contributes the wryest humor as Lisa, Joanna’s married college bestie and Chloe’s older sister. Anna Akana adds plenty of attitude as Ma’s DJ sister Grace, but Alexandra Metz’s Sarah just seems too cool to be interested in a luckless loser like Ma (presumably that will not last).

SB30 might not be enough to justify a YouTube Red account, but it is an enjoyable way to spend time online. Although Grannis is a talent in her own right, SB30 clearly suggests she and her social media-promoted co-stars have some real potential in front of the camera. Generally speaking, creators Wesley Chan & Philip Wang stay within safe rom com territory, but their dialogue is surprisingly sharp and it is well served by the principle cast’s crisp timing. Recommended for those looking for some of-the-moment relationship comedy, Single by 30 releases this Wednesday (8/24) on YouTube Red.

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