An unapologetically silly, and defiantly uncool short, writer/actor Andrew Michaan alongside Zed Cutsinger present an indie sitcom pilot that charmingly mocks the tropes of high school TV with absurdist humor and a dash of the metaphysical.
Alex is a cheery, but socially and emotionally stunted high-schooler, with an abnormally intimate relationship with his parents (breast milk and dad dick-pic jokes pop up in the first minute). When Alex’s family die in a car crash on the way to attending his speech for class president, Alex is left adrift in the world—until his family’s specters return to guide him along the path of “becoming a man” (i.e. getting laid).
It’s a target-rich genre to attack, and the film strikes an interesting tone between genuinely adopting the heart-warming aspects of family sitcoms, and vulgarity. Above it all there is a winking, meta-irony reminiscent of classic spoofs like Wet Hot American Summer, and Strangers With Candy.
Michaan’s film resumé is short, but the comedian has been a fixture on the comedy festival scene, and hosts a twice-monthly live show at the LA UCB titled Good Looks. Similarly, Cutsinger is a fixture of the LA live sketch circuit, writing on the Maude team Bombardier at UCB. These connections allowed Michaan and Cutsinger to assemble a solid team for the film—director Daniel Gray Longino is a veteran of TV, with episodes of Portlandia, Kroll Show and Lady Dynamite under his belt, and familiar face John Ennis (recently seen on the site in Strange Company) slays as Alex’s dad.
Ghost Family is 23 minutes, and that can be a deal breaker in the hyper-competitive attention sphere of online, but we found ourselves not minding the runtime in this case. Because the film is so self-consciously aping the comfort food rhythm of sitcoms, it succeeds in resetting our frame—if we flipped to this late at night on Hulu, we wouldn’t be agonizing over the pace in the way that we sometimes do over some 20min+ European prestige shorts.
To be an unqualified success though, it has to entertain, and being the genre nerds that we are, for us, Ghost Family delivers. Comedy is of course the most subjective of forms, but the film accomplishes one of our favorite things by achieving a high joke density. From a relatively fast rate of dialogue, to accompanying visual gags, if one joke falls flat, you’re assured that another is only seconds away.
Many shorts we feature are explicit about their aspirations to be adapted into films, especially in this age of billion dollar content budgets from tech companies. For some reason, despite the new prominence of TV sidebars at major film festivals, and the example of web-to-cable shows like High Maintenance, Broad City, and Insecure, we don’t feature a ton of spec TV. I’m not sure if the Ghost Family premise has the legs to sustain a full series order, but it’s a great and enjoyable example of an indie pilot, and, if nothing else a strong showcase for Michaan’s talents.