By Jordy Yager - 10/05/09 10:18 PM EDT
But for the local creative team producing a new sitcom called “Young Adult,” the young men of D.C. are TV’s “lost generation.” They are of an age and gender demographic that never got its fair shake with a show for and about it.
“Since the advent of video games and film, that’s where they go more often for their entertainment; they rarely go to TV,” she said of men in the 17- to 35-year-old age range. “So we’re trying to change that.”
The show focuses on the developing friendships of five young men in D.C. as they navigate their new adult responsibilities as a staffer on Capitol Hill, a nonprofit worker, a public school teacher, a media analyst and a law student. The co-executive producer, J.W. Crump, wrote the original script, and he and Krishna met while working on a previous television pilot.
“I hope we might even be able to educate people a little bit, because a lot of people think of D.C. like this is just where politicians go,” the 24-year-old Crump said. “They don’t think about what people my age do, and the nightlife, and the music scene. There are some [TV] shows, like ‘Entourage,’ that deal with male friendships, but that show’s very fantasy in a lot of ways with their high lifestyle. This is trying to be more realistic.”
Crump said he wanted to make the roles as accurate as possible. For example, the 23-year-old congressional staffer character, Murphy, played by Matt Melnicoff, experiences what many such employees go through at some point in their careers: unemployment due to an election.
“At the start of the show, Murphy is working a variety of odd jobs and part-time jobs to make ends meet, which my current housemate has dealt with, because of the recession or because of the nature of the position,” said Crump, who by day is an associate at ImpactWatch LLC, a media monitoring company. “When [President Barack] Obama came in, the parties changed. Staffers who worked for one party couldn’t find jobs.
“The idea is for him to deal with that over the course of the season — trying very hard to get a job and having problems doing it,” he said. “He considers moving away from the city, exploring other jobs that might appeal to him more, whether they would compromise his principles, all of those sorts of things.”
The show also incorporates lighter moments. One scene in a future episode may resonate with the inner-office politics of staffers on Capitol Hill. A character accidentally sends an inappropriate e-mail to his entire staff.
“And then he just literally hides in his office because no one said anything about it and he’s fearful because no one said anything about it. That idea came from a person we talked to who said when you’re in an organization that’s championing causes like poverty and AIDS, it’s even less appropriate when you send something [inappropriate] like that to a bunch of do-gooders.”
Krishna and Crump, who has a background in theater and improvisational acting as well as film production, considered using the “Young Adult” script for D.C.’s 48 Hour Film Project last spring. But they liked it so much that they decided to pool their acting and production resources to turn it into a television show.
“Me and Ishu probably know at least 100 actors between the two of us,” Crump said. “I would say honestly we thought about every single person we know and where they could fit in. We came up with a short list of our favorites, and then narrowed it down to our first choice, and fortunately our first choices for every single role accepted.”
The script, which Crump wrote as a junior at Wake Forest University, needed revisions in order to make it as timely and realistic as possible, he said. So Crump and Krishna opened it up to the rest of the actors, who, using their improvisational and theater training, tailor-fitted the dialogue to their characters.
But Krishna and Crump wanted outside advice as well, so they submitted the revised version to a group of professors and screenwriting peers for criticism, particularly to see if they had made the show too D.C.-centric.
“When you’re doing a show or a movie, you have to have some general themes,” Krishna said. “If it’s too specific to a city, no one outside of that city is going to enjoy it. So we made sure that any 23-year-old, straight out of school, trying to fit in again, could relate to it.
“But then we have jokes about the Red Line crash,” she said referring to the June accident on the Metrorail that killed nine people. “[It’s] a little darker comedy, which the crash on the Red Line probably wasn’t worldwide news, but people from D.C. will definitely relate to it and get it, whereas people in California might not.”
The show, which the 15-member cast and crew refer to as “YA,” is a grassroots effort. Nearly all of the camera and lighting equipment belongs to the crew, as does the housing used for interior shots.
And the pilot episode of the show, which is in the final stages of production with only three days of filming left, has been shot on speculation. The team set up deferred compensation agreements with the cast and crew so that if a television network does buy it, they will get their predetermined percentage or rate.
While Krishna and Crump are hoping that a network like ABC, NBC or CBS will be interested in the show, they’re not limiting the scope of their pitch.
“Even Hulu.com and YouTube are starting original programming in 2010. So we create a pilot package, but then we have elements that we can add in when pitching it to online outlets,” said Crump, who also portrays one of the show’s characters.
Filming the show has taken a tremendous effort, Crump said. But it has given him the chance to identify with the show’s characters as they try to get their footing on their own career paths.
“I just don’t sleep much these days,” he said, admitting that he’s even given up going out with friends for trivia night. “With something like this, I expected it to be such a heavy amount of work. I just didn’t expect the consistency.”