"Royal Sabotage" is a latest best thing times three.
First, it’s an online web series that can truly compete with the networks. Second, it’s one of those “my uncle has a barn, let’s put on a show!” success stories. And third? "Royal Sabotage" is rude and impolite and so very wrong that it captures the spirit of Patsy and Edina in a way so, Absolutely Fabulous.
Genuine irreverence: It’s back!
The setup is pretty simple. Lead character, Royal, is an unemployed and over indulged 20-something gay-ling who’s partying his butt off in LA with an entourage of other 20 something gay-lings. He’s ditzy, ridiculous but basically harmless. Single-minded works too; hard to derail, once he’s onto something. Toss in a Whiskey Ginger appropriately named "Royal Sabotage" and Royal is a force to be reckoned with.
By the way, be sure catch the “drink book” tab on the website. It’s hilarious.
In the first episode, Royal’s mom, who also happens to be his boss, drops by his house unexpectedly to fire Royal. He’s devastated, and for every exaggerated “slacker” reason imaginable. But at the top of the list is the very real possibility that he may lose his personal assistant, a young lady busily engaged in shaking up morning martinis.
There … caught up.
Kinglsey Benham, creator, executive producer and the actor who so lovingly portrays Royal took a few minutes to discuss the series. Chatting from Los Angeles, Kingsley explained how the Royal character came about.
“JJ (the other creator and executive producer) and I came up with the idea almost two years ago, while on a hike. Royal was born on a crazy night that I’ve only done once and haven’t done since,” Kingsley laughed.
“But, back to the day of the hike: I arrived in full club attire. It was a long night, I don’t know, and I ended up on some parking structure…”
(Cue appropriate, polite pause)
“This was so completely not me that JJ couldn’t let it go, and he kept asking me questions, and, well I don’t know. All I could do was tell him, ‘You (JJ) should feel lucky that I’m even here. I did the walk of shame to Runyon Canyon. That is true dedication!’”
Kingsley continued, “So then we were laughing about me being put in a situation that is so not like me, and we loved the idea of a person who does that kind of thing quite often, gets away with it and has a good time doing it.”
“The greatest mistake, and it turned out to be the most beneficial for all of us,” JJ Wienkers concurred.
JJ, also phoning in an interview from LA said,
“We’re so happy to be working in this time, right now, in the entertainment world and the world in general. We’re all a bunch of aspiring Creatives, and after Kingsley’s walk of shame, we thought, ‘Why don’t we just give this a shot?’
We have the idea and we know all the most wonderful people that we could bring together, people that believe in our idea, and make it a reality.”
JJ continued, “This is a new movement, and we are in a sense pioneering. Even though youtube has been around for the last eight years, what really is new is the narrative form, online, and this has come about in a very short time.”
“We have so much freedom, we don’t have advertising and we all still have our Day Jobs, but without the money comes complete freedom,” JJ said.
“We wanted to do this right. We didn’t want to just sit in front of a webcam and just banter back and forth. We wanted to do something different, and we really do feel that there is a lot of potential. We’re proving that the internet can showcase narrative stories in an aesthetically pleasing way.”
"Royal Sabotage" episodes are 3-4 minutes long: little nuggets of absurdity, but production value is surprisingly high. Short but sweet, and perfectly timed for little mini-breaks between those difficult emails or impossible spreadsheets.
It will be interesting to see how the online series format develops. How will it be monetized? And are online series simply the first step toward a more traditional outlet, like Lena Dunham managed when her web cam musings were picked up by HBO?
Somehow, I don’t think so. More likely, we’ll be seeing more and more online series that are a means to their own end, and Royal Sabotage is beating the bushes and clearing a path for others to follow.
Leave it to the gays...
Kurt Niece is a freelance journalist from Tucson, Ariz., and author of "The Breath of Rapture." He writes about television for Echo Magazine in Phoenix and SDGLN. He is also an artist who sells his work on his website.