One of the stars of a cancelled science-fiction television show yearns for a career apart from going to conventions, dealing with the thousands of fans who worship the show, even ten years later, and doing lousy voice-work or starring in low-budget/low-quality science-fiction movies.
Developed by Alan Tudyk, one of the stars of a cancelled science-fiction television show (you may have heard of it: Firefly?), Con Man is a crowd-funded series of thirteen episodes that debuted on Vimeo, and was recently released on DVD/Bluray.
Starring Tudyk as Wray Nerely, pilot of the spaceship “Spectrum” in the fictional series of the same name. Tudyk bills the show as an amalgam of all of the experiences and people that he encountered after his time on the real cancelled science-fiction television show, the aforementioned Firefly.
It is clear, however, that Con Man is no more an autobiographical work for Tudyk than Birdman was for Michael Keaton, although surface similarities do exist.
As for the show itself, its journey from concept to 13 episodes is well-chronicled elsewhere on the internet and on the bonus features of the disc, if you so desire. Suffice it to say that Con Man will return for Season Two.
As for Season One, Tudyk manages to round up an impressive amount of science-fiction actors to appear either as themselves or as characters in the great Spectrum-verse he has created. Not least of which are a few of his old ship-mates, including Gina Torres, Jewel Staite, Summer Glau, Sean Maher, and Nathan Fillion. It’s too bad he couldn’t get he others, although he did miss an opportunity to include Adam Baldwin, at least conversationally and pun-tastic-ly, while he was tied up by Henry Rollins.
(I don’t think that sentence has ever been written before…)
Too many to mention, but let me just say that Sean Astin is great as a psycho version of himself, drinking to excess, hamming it up with fans, and yelling “For the Shire!”
But the high point of the series for me was Mindy Sterling, perhaps best known as Frau Farbissina from the Austin Powers movies, who is a scene-stealing machine as Bobbie, Wray’s convention booker and sexaholic ex-actress. Do not take your eyes off her. Ever.
If nothing else, Con Man is worth watching just to see how many people Tudyk managed to get in this show. You can’t swing a dead cat or a baby-doll without realizing that “They’re in this?!”
But it is worth watching for more than that. The story not just of Wray Nerely, but of every frustrated actor in Hollywood history that thought they were meant for something bigger and better than whatever pigeon-hole they found themselves in. (And apparently, Alan Tudyk is an Evil Dead fan…? It’s a shame that “Bruise Camp Bell” died… or did he? Season Two resurrection, perhaps… *wink)
The show isn’t perfect, however, sometimes dragging a bit for having only 10-minute episodes, but those times are easily forgivable, especially since the other 98% of the show keeps you in stitches.
But it’s not all laughs, as Wray struggles with his lot in life, especially compared to his best friend and former co-star (and “Captain” of the Spectrum) Jack Moore, played by–who else?–Nathan Fillion, who has gone on to international movie stardom while the rest of the crew has plodded along through Hollywood… or worse.
There are a few enlightening/poignant moments for Wray along the way, as well, although he manages to miss them completely: his convention assistant’s (played by Felicia Day) impression of him as a decoy; a piece of advice from Milo Ventimiglia during a voice-acting session; and the Miley Cyrus/Lindsey Lohan-esque former child star of Spectrum reading off a shampoo bottle while peeing.
Seriously. That all happens.
Season One ends with the by-then-inevitable conclusion, one which Wray has been dreading since the show’s cancellation.
“See you in Hell,” and for Season Two.
Oh, and whatever you do, don’t eat the Bourbon Balls.
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