Thursday, May 31, 2012 | 3:36 p.m.
Action movies, video games and Esquire magazine—these are a few of my favorite things. Yet, as a woman, I’m supposed to buy into entertainment designed especially for my gender that has nothing to do with alien predators ripping out human spines. So disappointing.
When I read about WIGS, a new premium YouTube channel “for women,” I was prepared to heartily scoff. (Hasn’t Lifetime been beating this poor dead horse since the early ’80s?) My eyes did a full 360-degree roll when I learned that the acronym stands for “Where It Gets Spicy,” but I couldn't help being intrigued by the format. The original content, ranging from series and short films to documentaries, is titled only with first names—Jan, Serena, Trudi. Standalone features and show segments run about 5-10 minutes, the idea being that you can watch a nugget or two while waiting in line or taking a break at work. The tease on the channel’s landing page says, “WIGS will take you on an unpredictable, often outrageous journey into the lives, loves, and lies of our characters.” A digital soap opera is still a soap opera, but the pedigrees of the people involved convinced me to give WIGS a whirl.
Interestingly, the masterminds are both men: filmmakers Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes, Risky Business) and Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment). But the leads bringing their stories to life are legit actresses: Jennifer Garner, Julia Stiles, Virginia Madsen, America Ferrera and Jennifer Beals, to name a few.
Garner, whom I have loved since her breakout role in J.J. Abrams’ spy series Alias, starred in the first episode I watched. She plays Serena, and we are introduced to her in the confessional at a Catholic church. The priest is played by the venerable Alfred Molina, and through their exchange (which takes just shy of 12 minutes), a twisted, intense relationship takes shape. Serena is a serial confessor, an alternately amusing, disturbing, vulnerable and calculating character who is in desperate, impossible love with the holy man on the other side of the screen. The dialogue has its moments of posturing, but Garner and Molina are so good, so believable, that any criticism dissolves into sheer enjoyment. I was genuinely disappointed when I realized Serena is a short film, meaning I will never know what happens next. But that’s the idea.
Jan, on the other hand, is a series now into the 10th of 15 episodes (new ones air Monday, Wednesday and Friday). Caitlin Gerard plays Jan, an endearingly awkward young woman trying to make it in Hollywood. From the several episodes I saw, she appears to be the assistant of a big-time celebrity photographer (Madsen) with her own artistic aspirations and dark secrets. The first segment was just okay, but the more I watched—especially with the magnetizing performance of supporting actor Stephen Moyer of True Blood fame—the more I kept clicking on the next installment. My favorite line so far happens after Jan thinks she’s going to be fired and has a meltdown in front of Moyer’s character, an A-list actor named Gery.
“That was quite the shame spiral there,” he says, looking down at her after she has thrown herself on the sofa in a fit of comical despair. “I’m precocious in that way,” she says.
In watching both features, I was entertained, but I was also put in a state of intentional discomfort. There were moments where the characters were too honest or too exposed, and it makes for exactly what WIGS promises: an “unpredictable, often outrageous journey ...” The visuals and the talent are movie-quality, but you don't have to pay a cent or be stuck in a certain window of time to enjoy. Man or woman, whatever your tastes, this brave new 21st century experiment is worth watching. It deserves at least as many hits as that horrifying giant pimple video.