The large, oafish, bumbling figure makes his way across this stage. He never thought that when he was best known as a TV star, years ago, that he would ever get to be in such a position. But this is where he is standing. Despite the odds, he believed in himself and he got where he is through no one else's will, but his own.The audience watch in expectation. He opens his mouth.
That's right, today you could watch Lou Ferrigno give a stellar musical performance alongside the rest of the cast of Con Man, as opposed to whatever else is on. Ten of the episodes of the second series have streamed on Comic-ConHQ and it is absolutely as funny, as silly, as ridiculous as the first.
Con Man is a web series that tells the story of Wray Nearly, played by the show's writer, director and producer Alan Tudyk, who used to be in Firefly and now goes around comic cons meeting his fans. While Wray Nearly used to be in Spectrum and now goes around comic cons meeting his fans, hating himself. The show brings in other folk familiar to that world, playing versions of themselves and other characters. Including Nathan Fillion playing Jack Moore, Nearly's co-star on the show, who has gone on to be really successful. You can see how the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.
In this second season, Con Man does take a swerve away however from the first, at least to begin with, as the focus of the comic convention is all but dropped. We see Wray Nearly continue to strive for glory as a has-been actor with delusions of grandeur, as he steadfastly avoids the one thing that would welcome him with open arms, the Spectrum movie. It has a gravity, one that he is doing everything he can to reists. He will fail.
In some ways, it's a shame, as in the first series the idea that every weekend there is another Comic Con somewhere that he is a guest at, simultaneously funding his lifestyle and narcissim but robbing him of any other future, felt like a constant irritant to him. And frankly nothing else from auditions to agents to quite has the same bite. And around two-thirds in the show probably realised that too, and gives us the Long Con where he meets Lou Ferrigno. And together they stage an impromptu musical version of Of Mice And Men, written by Lou. Who wants Wray to play Lenny.
And then we get to see the production. Strangely, I think my two favourite TV shows of late have been this and the BBC's TV adaptation of Peter Pan Gone Wrong, and both have seen stage acts struggling with their own limitations and somehow pulling everything together for glory.
And before you know it, you are back into full blown convention mode with the Shock-A-Con and Wray Nearly's attempt to get a lead role in the new TV show Doctor Cop Lawyer – with only one of the increasingly obscure Hemsworth brothers stands in his way. And using the very conventions he attends to either doom his plans – or save them. The convention world we get to see benefits from a bigger budget, production, maybe even San Diego Comic-Con backing and looks a lot better as a result.
But weirly, for all of Con Man's use of Americana, it is a strangely British show, with an ostensibly unlikeable character in the lead, doomed to fail. I am constantly reminded of the John Cleese line from Clockwise, that it wasn't the despair that he could handle the despair, it was the hope that killed him. Tudyk's willingness to make himself look and sound as ridiculous and horrible as possible still serves him well, and by steering away from the con life for much of this season, he can't even use the fans and the expectations of shows as an excuse anymore. He really is as awful as he seems. And in Con Man Season 2, we get to roll around in the self-loathing bile with him. Hmm, it's lime-flavoured. Nice.
And kudos to Nathan Fillion for *that* scene. Your pain in meme eternal was worth it for the seconds of joy we all received.
The show is available in the US on Comi-ConHQ and internationally on iTunes.