Huffpost Entertainment
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bill_Robinson Headshot

New Media: Take A Seat In the Booth at the End

Posted: Updated:

2011-11-23-techscapelogocolumn.jpg

First in a 3-part series about the Internet mini-series sensation,
The Booth at the End. Part 1 will focus on
this unique new program and what makes it special.

There's a new web-only series called The Booth at the End (Booth). If you haven't seen it you should; it's causing an Internet phenomenon.

2011-11-23-Booth.jpg

Available only on Hulu, free for now, The Booth at the End is both a serial and episodic, web-only video production that is gripping beyond belief and the Internet TV watching, addictive equivalent of oxycontin.

The reason this series is a great example of 'New Media' is that it was developed with the unique viewing habits of Internet watchers in mind and reverse-engineered. As opposed to a TV show produced for TV or a film produced for theaters and then re-broadcast on Hulu; Booth was written, developed and produced specifically with Internet-generation viewers in mind.

Most Booth viewers report a rare and strange sensation: they can't stop watching the original five episodes and simultaneously feel compelled to share the same addictive experience with others close to them. Love it or hate it; they're helpless under this program's riveting influence.

And there's a growing "Occupy" movement, a kind of extreme clamoring for the next series of episodes; if the people don't get what they want--more Booth--then the establishment will pay. What's next, a slacker occupation of Hulu's offices?

Imagine if Tide or Crest could create the same phenomenon around their products? Apple is the only company I can think of which comes even close to Booth's magnetism for viewers, but even Apple falls sadly short.

If you don't like mystery, real mystery which leaves you wild with wonderment; if you don't like crisp writing mixed with strong storytelling; and if you don't like realistic acting which gets you right on the very edge of your seat or scratching your head in bafflement ... then do not watch The Booth at the End.

How does this simple web series do so much, so well? In this writer's opinion it's in the brevity and simplicity of the story, location and filming dynamics. If Shakespeare said "Brevity is the soul of wit," then he would've locked on to Booth, big-time. With its one-location shoot and in-close, tight-in camera angles, this show must be the most cost-effective show ever filmed.

What's the most compelling part of this tautly-written gem? The way in which all characters come to visit mystifying, Merlin-like "The Man" who seems to live in an ordinary diner's "booth" 24 hours a day. They come to get something they want--have to have--out of life but cannot seem to get on their own.

Jenny (walking up to the diner booth): You're him, right?

The Man: I beg your pardon.

Jenny: I hear they serve a great pastrami sandwich here.

The Man: Yes. Jenny, how can I help you?

Jenny: I hear you can do things.

The Man: I create opportunities for people to do things.

Jenny: You make things happen ... like magic.

The Man: What do you want Jenny?

Jenny: I want to be prettier.

The Man: Prettier? How would you know when you're pretty enough?

Jenny: I would know.

The Man: So, you want to know when you're pretty enough.

Jenny: No. I want to become prettier.

The Man: So, you want to become prettier until you know you're pretty enough.

Jenny: Yes.

The Man (with conviction): That can happen.

After "The Man" listens solicitously and takes profuse notes; he consults his "book" for guidance on what task the client must perform in order to get what they want--and they will get what they want, the viewer is regularly assured. "The Man" and "The Book" are the central mysteries in this series and beyond that--more importantly to the viewer: who or what is controlling these bargains and toward what end?

A deal is then struck to get these tortured souls whatever they desire--literally whatever they desire--such as an old lady's request that her husband be magically cured of Alzheimer's or a loser's call for a pin-up girl he saw in a nudie magazine for his own lascivious uses or a nun's appeal "to see God again." These are strange, off-beat and often infuriating requests, but 'The Man" we have to assume never fails them as long as they meticulously follow his instructions and report back with his weird and wonderful demand for "the details."

Should they hesitate on rapidly providing the details, The Man firmly and acerbically reminds them to ante them up--fast!

Our Booth visitors must perform what are often the most unpalatable "tasks." For the old lady, she must blow-up a crowded coffee shop on a Sunday; the loser must "protect" a little girl from an unknown danger; the father of a terminally ill boy must kill another child to save his own; and the nun, disturbingly, must get pregnant.

There are a number of other gripping characters in Booth and every single one of them fulfills a strange character demographic in our minds.

But of all the mesmerizing characters in this series, perhaps my favorite is the waitress, Doris. A pretty woman, who hasn't found a man, the viewer is always thinking she'll overhear something grave and deadly as she pours more coffee or water, but no, she doesn't. She only thinks "The Man" is "helping" people like some kind of therapist statue from the end booth. Clearly, because she comes on to him regularly, she will develop into a devoted love interest for our puzzling hero.

Booth is off-the-charts and off-the wall. In a decidedly good way, that is.

There is some crunchy writing and sparkling dialogue in this program. "The Man's" profound, ominous and often troubling statements include:

The Man: "What one starts, one must finish." (Spoken firmly and menacingly to an understandably trepidatious client.)

"I give people the opportunity to do things"

"What we do is, we make an agreement."

"I offer you a task, you do the task, you get what you want."

"I'm interested in the details."

Said to The Man: "You're a monster." The Man: "You might say I feed monsters."

Other intriguing exchanges include:

Sister Carmen: Do you believe in God?

The Man: I believe in the details.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Willem: You can only get what you can imagine you get.

The Man: That isn't want you want?

Willem: It's all I can imagine.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sister Carmen: I need to know one thing.

The Man: All right.

Sister Carmen: How can I know you're no the devil?

The Man: You can't.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Doris" the Waitress: I've been looking for love for a very long time.

The Man: That's not something you normally tell a stranger.

Doris: I've had no one else to tell.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"What one starts, one must finish," might as well be this program's instructions to its viewers.

With that, we conclude Part One of our three-part series. Stay tuned as Parts Two and Three cover "he Booth at the End's initial concept, writer, purchase by Michael Eisner's company, production and its
growth into a major global Internet video product.