TV critics are suckers for a surprise.
If something great comes from the usual sources – HBO, FX, PBS, AMC, the streaming services, anywhere on the British Isles – we’re sorta happy. But if something pretty good comes from the lesser spots, we’re delighted.
That may be why I was so pleased with “Florida Girls,” a flawed-but-funny show on Pop (which hasn’t yet confirmed that there will be a second season). And it’s why I’m so happy about “I Ship It,” a mini-musical comedy that reaches CW on Monday (Aug. 19), after years in the minors.
This was a 20-minute short in 2014 … then a series of 10 mini-episodes in 2016 on CW Seed … and now, six half-hours on CW.
CW Seed is a streaming service that mostly has reruns, some from CW and some not – including Pop’s best show, “Schitt’s Creek.” But it also has originals – short comedies, plus animated variations on “Batman,” “Constantine,” “Birds of Prey” and more. And occasionally, its shows graduate to the CW.
Some comedies — “Backpackers” in 2014, “Significant Mother” in 2015 – had brief summer runs on CW. Then the animated “Vixen” shorts were combined for a well-crafted, hour-long special in 2017.
Now “I Ship It” gets its chance. It has developed slowly … and improved along the way.
In both series, we meet a young woman (Helen Highfield) with a cubicle job. She likes fan fiction and the pleasant-enough guy (Riley Neldam, shown here with Highfield) she works with, but she wants more.
In the 2016 version (still on Seed), they start a band. In the new one, she writes fan fiction (sometimes at work at a shipping office) about her favorite show … then manages to get to the show’s offices.
All of this is hatched partly from the life of Yulin Kuang, the show’s writer, producer and sometimes director. She did write fan fiction about her favorite shows; she did have a so-so job (as an NBC page), while filling her creative needs at night (making videos).
Certainly, “I Ship It” has its limitations. The sparse budget is obvious … Neldam is only an adequate singer … the sneaking-onto-a-show plot is as old as an “I Love Lucy.” But the show stands out because of its sheer charm and its two special weapons:
— The songs, smartly written and, in Highfield’s case, well-sung. There are no thundering chorus lines, but one makes great visual use of a copy machine. Really.
— The scenes she imagines for her fiction, envisioning – and talking to – the actors. Ethan Peck plays the handsome hero, so convincingly that his late grandfather (Gregory Peck) would be impressed.
— “I Ship It,” 9:30 p.m. Mondays, CW, starting Aug. 19
— Thee previous version, with mini-episodes, is at www.cwseed.com