This Week’s Web Series You Need to Watch: Noah and Dru’s Novel

Abbot and Costello. Farley and Spade. David and Green. Galifiiniakis and Downey, Jr., I guess. Sort of.

Despite its ubiquity, the two-man, rationalist v. oddball, unlikely friendship setup has withstood the test of time. Will we ever grow tired of yins meddling with yangs, flighty free spirits irritating levelheaded planners, the messy guy with the beard letting down the clean-cut neat freak? Maybe. But not while we’re watching Noah and Dru’s Novel. This much, I promise you.

The 8 episode web series, written by new UCB Theatre NY Artistic Director Nate Dern and starring the perfectly matched Noah Forman and Dru Johnston, capitalizes on a familiar game but evokes a reaction that’s much more “I want to write a book with these guys!” than “Christ, this shtick again?”

The concept is simple: two dudes collaborating on their first novel. Noah approaches the project armed with logic and method, while Dru brings to the table the attention span of a newborn newt, a laughable absence of motivation, and nonsensical tales of time travel. Together, they must conceive, write, and sell a book that will make worthwhile hours of toilsome (and very entertaining) couch-sitting. The series’ first episode premiered in April, 2010. The finale was posted in February, 2011.

Now, the part where I tell you why you should care and, trust me, you should.

Noah and Dru’s Novel has three key strengths.

1. Conversational dialogue

2. Familiar (in a good way) character archetypes

3. Continuity of concept, and plentiful callbacks

Episode 1: “Ground Rules”

Noah and Dru’s Novel: Noah & Dru’s Novel - Ep.
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Quality acting can’t replace strong writing. Good scripts define a story’s mission and characters’ motivations. True. They create the world in which everyone’s favorite protagonists can operate. Yes. But no matter how solid the prose, a series is DOA without likable, believable storytellers. Noah and Dru’s Novel works so well because of its actors’ facility with a choppy, overlapping conversational style that rings true and never lags. Forman and Johnston demonstrate an uncanny chemistry that makes the entire series play like a flawless improv.

Episode  6: “Rough Rough Draft”

Noah and Dru’s Novel - Ep.
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The whole “opposites attract, unlikely pals bound together by a shared goal” thing is apparent from the get-go, and since the audience knows the formula, the show becomes all about execution. “Okay, two friends write a book, yeah yeah yeah. Make me laugh or I’m turning this off.” What’s interesting is how successfully the leads embrace the traditional characters  and, whether intentionally or subconsciously, create on-screen personas eerily reminiscent of Michael Cera and Jack Black, at their respective bests (ie not in Year One).  More surprising, they do it in a way that avoids hackiness and reads more as homage than imitation.

Episode 8: “Of Conclusions and Book Signings”

Noah and Dru’s Novel - Ep.
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A lot of web series’ episodes stand alone. Loosely linked by an overarching premise, different installments become funny little snippets with no essential chronological relationship. After all, It’s easier to garner an audience when a neophyte can watch any episode of a show and be hooked without knowing the backstory (just ask Mitch Hurwitz). Unfortunately, shows with episodes that become too disconnected lose the opportunity for arcs and callbacks, every loyal fan’s favorite thank you. Noah and Dru manages a solid story arch and a slew of callbacks without losing the standalone stickiness necessary to capture drop-in viewers — a rare and impressive feat.

This Week’s Web Series You Need to Watch: Noah and […]