“Friends, Freaks & Fakes” is a surprising show. On the surface, this webseries would seem to be a serialized version of “Degrassi” with a slightly better soundtrack or “Glee” without the musical numbers. But instead of preachy life lessons or botched versions of pop songs already forgotten, viewers are served a raw bite of realism, honesty and a charm that may prove to be a winning combination.
“Friends, Freaks & Fakes” returns for season two on Monday, Oct. 8. Until then, season one is available to watch on YouTube at www.youtube.com/actorthebenman.
At the start of season one of FFF, viewers are thrown into the lives of four friends as they navigate the angst, anger, addiction, adoration and apathy of college life. Ten episodes later, the team was one woman down, one STI revelation up, rejected and reeling from a grim discovery.
Season two picks up a few months later with a new school year, a few new cast members and answers to the questions that have languished in limbo over the summer.
For a show with a lot of odds stacked against it, FFF seems to have found a way to shine. While not racking up Ray William Johnson numbers, the show does have a respectable following and, according to director and Eastern Michigan University student Ben Wright, the reception has been fairly positive.
“People really liked it. I was surprised,” he said. “People really gravitated towards it.”
The warm reception definitely didn’t hurt the chances of a second season. But Wright’s desire to finish the story was the real motivator for the second and, tentatively conclusive, third season which is set to be shot in late fall.
“There was more story to tell,” Wright said. “It was too much fun to just be done with it. But there was definitely more story to tell. More characters and a lot more things to explore. We really feel like we got our feet wet with the first season. So now we kind of want to go further with it.”
While many directors work to top themselves, most tend to focus on refining the aesthetics of the program rather than developing the characters or story. In this case, Wright chose the latter and is daring to do what many mainstream shows don’t.
“The first season established who the characters are. Now, in the second season, we’re going to put them upside down,” he said. “Like, ‘Oh, you can’t swim? Let’s get her in some water.’ You know what I mean? Just to really have fun with the people we’ve established, to really mess with them a bit.”
The story also saw many changes. But from Wright’s perspective, it’s still grounded by a sense of personal responsibility to get the story right. Honesty is one of Wright’s biggest inspirations and the main goal of the show.
“We try to have a dialogue that people can relate to so it doesn’t come from an outside source that’s like, ‘This is how college students live,’” he said. “We’re college people, talking about how college people live … Our main goal is to be as honest as possible about how life is.”
For Wright, getting to that honesty means taking inspiration for stories from his life on campus.
“All the story lines are things that have come [from] either my experience on campus or other people’s experience on campus,” he said. “So it’s all coming straight from EMU.”
In the end, Wright hopes that people take the show’s overarching message of acceptance to heart.
“These people are not even typical friends,” he said. “We’ve got this nerdy guy, this uptight church girl, this really jock-y, materialistic guy and they’re all best of friends now. It’s like, ‘Well, how did this happen?’ It’s because they allowed it to; they let their walls down. They listened to each other. They gave each other chances and they changed a little bit too in the process. It’s about acceptance and looking at people beyond the first impression.”