Checking in with the tenants of 'Apt 8 News'
There’s a scene in one episode of Apt 8 News, Slacktory’s original webseries, in which Jackie and Alex welcome you to their newscast, then get right to the top story: There’s a mouse in the apartment.
And there you have the foundation of Apt 8 News, the brainchild of director and writer Kristofer Wellman. Two roommates, Alex (Chelsea Kurtz) and Jackie (Lizzie Bassett), present their domestic issues like breaking news, using the confines of their small apartment as the stage for physical comedy and emotional chaos, like a modern-day Laverne and Shirley. Wellman explains this mixture of tragedy and comedy has real-life origins.
“The idea came from the fact that a lot of my friends found their roommates on Craigslist, resulting in some pretty terrible match ups,” he says. “Whenever I would go to their house, there would be some update on the latest ongoing conflict. ‘Go see what he did to the sink. It's been like that for days.’ The problems were always small and petty, but they were being described as if they were devastating war crimes. Of course, the other roommate would be equally as pissed because his Greek yogurt was stolen or something, and there would be this constant game of ‘whose crisis is worse.’”
Crisis as comedy is the driving force of Apt 8 News. In one episode, Kurtz’s emotional breakdown over an ex, and the resulting distressed splatter of food and wine that ends up on their apartment wall, is repurposed as a weather report by Bassett. Casting the two stars wasn’t random: Wellman says the idea of two women reporting the chaos was funnier than two men.
“I wanted two women because I think two guys would be more willing to let things slide and not call each other out on it. Women can be just as filthy as men, if not worse, but I think men have the potential to ignore black mold in the shower for much longer to prove their manliness.”
In another episode, Bassett is lured to the apartment by her roommate’s texts about her grandma’s birthday cake, which she’s not supposed to touch. This is played out like an episode of To Catch a Predator, and the scene ends with the two women covered in cake, struggling on the floor. In fact, food drama is a consistent plot line of Apt 8 News.
“The food stuff was my idea,” Wellman contends, “but I have to commend Lizzie Bassett for being game to eat, and be covered in, just about anything in the name of comedy.” (Bassett recently left the show, but there will be a replacement roommate soon.)
Nick Douglas, Slacktory’s editor, came across Apt 8 News via Channel 101, the Los Angeles and New York-based screening series decided by viewer votes.
“Kris made a show that isn't just ‘funny for the Internet,’" he says. “I could easily imagine watching 22 minutes of Apt 8 News every week on TV.”
Slacktory’s content largely skews towards the montage and supercut; they’re pop-culture obsessives making videos for other pop-culture obsessives. But Douglas, a onetime Daily Dot contributor, says Apt 8 News is the kind of original programming they’re looking to engage more often. The love-hate relationship storyline of the sadly canceled Don’t Trust the B— in Apt 23 can be found in Apt 8, and so can its scene-driven absurdity. Douglas sees hints of another show.
"Apt 8 News reminds me of Community, whose creator Dan Harmon also started Channel 101,” he explains. “Its news-show format turns the mundane into the sensational, and wraps a genre around relatable everyday events to give them a satisfying narrative arc. It heightens the characters into heroes and villains, and it provides some clear concept episodes, like the most recent episode, a ‘special report’ from Alex locking herself in the bathroom.
“This fits perfectly into Slacktory's media-savvy point of view. Our supercuts and remixes already get millions of views by providing smart yet goofy commentary on pop culture. Now I want Slacktory to be just as well-known for our original comedy. I'm hunting for more shows like Apt 8 News, as well as one-off sketches and character portraits, that are just as compelling as our remixes.”
Next year, Slacktory’s releasing the second season of the original comedy series Tough Love, about two best friends (Blaire Wendel and Steven Bell) navigating New York City together. The first season was shot mainly in their apartment, but season 2 was able to expand the cast and locale. Douglas sees Slacktory more as a jumping off point.
“I want Slacktory to be the place where future Internet celebrities did their gritty early work, honed their talent, and took one step closer to building their own loyal audiences.”
Disclosure: The Daily Dot has a syndication partnership with Slacktory.
Screengrab via Apt 8 News/YouTube