Transmedia Tuesday: The Grim and Hilarious World of "Dirty Work"
There’s a cool new show waiting for you over at http://rides.tv/dirty-work/. Dirty Work follows three dysfunctionally quirky “bioremediation engineers” who clean up the blood and brains left behind after a violent crime (or other unsavory occurrence).
Pete, the team leader, suffers from cataplexy, causing him to pass out briefly when he becomes too excited. Roxie (played by the baroness of snark, 24's Mary-Lynn Rajskub) is so caustically snide that she can barely interact with her cohorts. Michelle the preoperative transgender peacekeeper of the group is just trying to keep her partners from killing each other before she can earn enough money for her much-desired surgery. These three play against an absurd backdrop of characters and situations that provide measured portions of laughs and cringe-worthy awkwardness. The series strikes a tone that is at times both light-hearted and grim, which makes the story fun (and funny) without stumbling too far into the realm of “goofy.”
Sounds pretty much like a web series, doesn’t it? On one level, that’s what it is. If you want to just watch the videos, that’s fine, but the transmedia elements take place off the screen. If you register on the Dirty Work site, you get the opportunity to put in your phone and email info. Then, as you are watching the episodes, you will be given prompts that you can click to experience extra story elements outside the main episode video. Sometimes these are just subsidiary videos that give a quick extra laugh (think of the stinger videos that roll with the credits on shows like Community or Parks and Rec). Other times it will be a phone call that rings to your phone, or a text message, or an email that you receive. These extra elements help to add context and dimension to the events happening on screen. They are meant to be experienced simultaneously; so, for example you might get a phone call that lets you hear a character’s inner monologue as you watch his actions on screen. These extra transmedia touches range from humorous and diversionary to arrestingly effective at bringing depth and texture to the story world and the characters that inhabit it.
Even though this post is ostensibly about Dirty Work, the real story here is the site where it is hosted, called rides.tv. Rides (created by Fourth Wall Studios) is the platform on which Dirty Work runs and it’s not just built for episodic comedy. The idea is that any number of transmedia stories of various lengths and genres could be implemented on the Rides system. In fact, three other stories are already available: Claire (about a woman who can read minds), Goldfish Theater (extremely short-format goldfish-based comedy), and Home: A Ghost Story (we’ll let you guess what that is). Right now new stories are rolling out pretty quickly, and that may not always be the case, so enjoy it while it lasts. There’s no shortage of video entertainment floating around on the Web, but Rides in general and Dirty Work in particular are going the extra mile to put up something original and fresh, and we appreciate that.
Do you think the transmedia extras are a cool storytelling device or just a gimmick?