Con Man shines with its take on convention life (web series review)


There’s a fine line between parody and mockery. And walking that line, can be a difficult task. And yet, against the odds, Alan Tudyk’s passion project Con Man, somehow manages to lovingly spoof the life of a sci-fi celebrity without devolving into yet another, “Aren’t geeks weird?” web series.

After this year’s record-shattering IndieGoGo campaign raised over $3 million (full disclosure, I was most definitely one of the backers), expectations were running high for this high-profile project by two distinguished alumni of Firefly, one of the most beloved sci-fi shows of all time. The web series follows the story of Wray Nerely (Tudyk), a struggling actor who once starred on Spectrum, a cult sci-fi series that was canceled too soon (that sounds familiar). Now, he makes the rounds at various sci-fi conventions to make ends meet. On the other end of the <ahem> spectrum is his former co-star, Jack Moore (Nathan Fillion), who has gone on from their old show to become one of the biggest stars in the world.

The show is loosely based on reality (although Tudyk isn’t nearly as sad sack as Nerely in real life), yet does an excellent job of putting a fresh take on sci-fi fandom. In the first episode, Nerely encounters a fan that is obviously excited to see his TV hero in the flesh, yet is still aware enough to know when he is trying to be taken advantage of. These sorts of trope reversals are a refreshing change of pace to the usual crazy fan stories that dominate pop culture.

The show also includes a number of fantastic cameos from character actors and celebrities within geek culture. In just the first two episodes, we see Sean Astin playing (what I hope is) a caricature of himself. Felicia Day plays an effective, yet intense assistant. And Wil Wheaton makes a brief appearance as an air marshal.

The episodes are short, checking in at roughly 10 minutes each, which leave something to be desired in terms of character development. It almost felt as if each episode was only able to tell part of a story, or create one compelling scene. But that is more a function of the medium, and less of the actual script itself.

Although it seemed nearly impossible for Con Man to live up to the hype that followed its high profile crowdfunding campaign, somehow it manages to do exactly that. And although it’s not exactly Season 2 of Firefly (can we get a campaign for that going), watching some of my favorite actors play off each other like old times is probably the next best thing.

Rating: 4/5 Atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B(1)

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