Sweet Fever is a genre savvy web series about candy and pillow fighting. Sweet Fever owns a candy shop that isn’t doing too well. She finds out about a professional pillow fighting league with a $25000 prize fight coming up in a few weeks. The commissioner of the league, Crunchy Luke, will give her a shot if she completes a series of favors for him.
Mark Zanin (director) and Oliver Brackenbury (screenwriter) have hit on an interesting blend for a web series. The duo is riffing on classic exploit/grindhouse themes with a heavy dose of winking at the audience. When you have your leading lady say, “That makes no sense out of context,” in the first episode, you know you’re in for a show that’s not afraid to comment on genre and form.
Sweet Fever takes a little time to find its footing. The first episode, “How Sweet It Is,” exists only to set up the conflict and characters. I couldn’t really get a feel for the direction of the series until the final moments in the office. Sweet Fever convinces Crunchy Luke to make a deal with her. She tries to find out why he’s called Crunchy Luke, only to be mocked again for her perceived weakness in the pillow fighting arena. She puts on a look of determination, glances over shoulder, and the footage freezes and fades out to a typical promo pose for 1970s exploit features.
The series has five episodes available so far. After the intro, the next three episodes focus on different favors Sweet Fever has to complete for Crunchy Luke. They also focus on different genre tropes in pretty clever ways.
The highlight so far is episode three, “Apartment on Atmospheric Avenue.” It blends together so many horror cliches it’ll make your head spin. Sweet Fever, her maybe boyfriend Chet, and her best friend Sam have to spend the night in a haunted apartment for Crunchy Luke. They’re brought in by a creepy landlord who warns them of the terrors within. Crunchy Luke doesn’t get his uncle’s inheritance unless the task is completed, but the poorly written will creates a number of loopholes for our heroes to exploit.
If you weren’t sure about the direction of Sweet Fever, episode three makes everything clear. The show is all about the context of genre and how genre impacts our perception of entertainment. “Apartment on Atmospheric Avenue” mocks the jump scare, the classic haunted house sound design, and even the logical explanation conceit that has plagued the genre since the pre-Victorian Gothic.
You still get a short web video connected to the story of Sweet Fever doing favors to get her way into the Pillow Fight Federation. This one just happens to be a horror story. It’s filled with all the wacky floating heads and horizontal dissolves that defined the low budget films in the late ’60s/early ’70s (not to mention a synth-heavy score and very broad sound design), but is still clearly about this group of characters in the overall story. The entire production team just chooses to have fun while telling it.
The cast of the series is strong. They’re all able to play into the genre of the episode while maintaining the characteristics that defined them at the start of the series. Imogen Grace (Sweet Fever) is always going to use her brain to get her out a jam. George Gray (Chet) is always going to be frustrated by how people perceive his place in the story. Tiffany Claire Martin (Sam) is always going to respond with hyperbolic emotions to even the most insignificant detail. The actors just slide into the new context with a clear understanding of what the genre requires.
Sweet Fever is a fast moving comedy series. The favor through line allows the show to slide between a variety of B-Movie concepts without losing track of the overall series arc. It’s silly, not inane, and that’s a hard line to balance.
Here’s one of the teaser ads and the first episode. Give them a shot. I think you’ll like them.
Thoughts? Going to give Sweet Fever a try? Already watching? What do you think? Let me know below.