Silver Lake just got a lot hairier. Aug. 1 marked the premiere of Where the Bears Are, a
new comedy-mystery web series by the creative team of Rick Copp, Joe Dietl and Ben Zook. The show is part Golden Girls, part Murder, She Wrote and part Faultline.
Where the Bears Are follows the exploits of three gay bear roommates as they attempt to solve the murder of a party guest that turned up dead in their bathroom. The series consists of 26 four-minute episodes and is firmly placed in L.A.’s trendy neighborhood of Silver Lake (though the series’ mystery eventually reaches its climax in the desert outside Palm Springs). As actual ‘bears' themselves, the troika of co-creators had a treasure trove of personal experience from which to draw inspiration.
"Joe Dietl and I are partners who live in Silver Lake, and Rick lives Downtown and part-time in Palm Springs," says producer/actor Ben Zook. "We love going to bear functions around the country, so yes, we drew a great deal from our real lives. But the show is a comedy/murder mystery, so it's pretty wacky in comparison to our real lives. Our own lives aren't nearly as sexy or exciting. Rick Copp and I are actually playing very exaggerated versions of ourselves. However, Rick, who wrote the show, isn't nearly as mean as his character Reggie is. And I'd like to think I'm not as deluded in real life as my character, Nelson. However, Joe Dietl is as dumb as his character, Wood, is in real life. [Laughs] Just kidding. "
Similar to Sex and the City's Manhattan, Silver Lake is as much a character in the series as any of these eponymous bears. When taping the web comedy, Zook and company tapped into the neighborhood's generous sense of community.
"The business owners in Silver Lake have been wonderful to us," beams Zook. "Especially Charlie at The Eagle and the owners of Akbar. Jeffery Wylie, who was our director of photography, manages Akbar, and he was a godsend. Everyone in the neighborhood has been so supportive, knowing that we had basically no budget for this thing. I think there is definitely a community aspect to Silver Lake and to our project. Everyone here is proud of our neighborhood and wants to help each other succeed commercially and artistically. We moved to Silver Lake almost 10 years ago and fell in love with it. It’s really quite beautiful, nestled in the hills. Great gay life, nightlife, restaurants, clubs, coffee shops. And it has such a rich gay history, as it was ground zero for the gay rights movement back in the late ‘60s, even pre-dating Stonewall with a protest in 1967 over the raid of the Black Cat club. It’s also the neighborhood that was the birthplace of The Mattachine Society in 1950. So we actually are quite proud to live here."
Accompanying these three bruins is a cavalcade of L.A. gay talent, including nightlife promoter Mario Diaz, comedian Bruce Daniels and our very own Jackie Beat.
"Jackie Beat's episode is laugh-out-loud funny," Zook promises. "We go way back with Jackie. I actually directed her in a stage version of St. Elmo's Fire years ago, and she played Mare Winnigham's character and it was hysterical. She's a brilliant performer and writer both in and out of drag. We did a sketch show together years ago and he played all male characters and was amazing. What's so terrific about Jackie is she just nails every single moment, and it's almost impossible not to crack up when you are performing with her. Bruce Daniels is an old friend, and we've worked on various projects together for years. We actually were roommates back in the ‘90s. Bruce's episode is hilarious as well. He basically plays himself doing his weekly show at Akbar, and we completely disrupt it while he's trying to do his act. Bruce is one of the funniest people I know, and a great friend. His episode also features Shawn Pelofsky, who is brilliant as well. We also have some other terrific guest appearances by Tuc Watkins, Brooke Dillman and Loretta Fox."
But the true stars of the show are Copp, Dietl and Zook, respectively fulfilling the 'Blanche,’ 'Rose’ and 'Dorothy' archetypes. Not surprisingly, Copp's extensive writing résumé includes penning episodes of The Golden Girls. Other credits include the camp classic Brady Bunch Movie as well as several mystery novels. Dietl, a graduate of Circle in the Square Theater School, has guest starred on Two and a Half Men, iCarly and The Suite Life on Deck. Zook's credits include a reoccurring role on Reno 911 and scribing Adam Sandler's recent Jack and Jill. However, these TV and film veterans found liberty in the web format.
"It was nice to create something that nobody could say ‘no’ to," explains Zook. "That's actually why we decided to do it. Features and TV shows take forever to set up, and when you do, it's a grueling process of notes, revisions, etc., and it can take years. It's been really wonderful creating something in a matter of months that will be seen by people all over the world. The process is different as well. The episodes are only around five minutes long, so it's actually a much more relaxed process and shooting schedule. We could shoot half-days whenever we sort of felt like it, and we didn't have to do weeks of intense shooting and long days like most shoots. It was very low-budget and a small crew, so it was pretty laid-back for the most part. That really helps with the comedy, because the more relaxed everyone is, the easier it is to be funny and to improvise off the script. The shoots were a total blast, and we just laughed our asses off. I hope people have as much fun watching the show as we had making it."
It's Golden Girls with body fuzz. What's not to like?
Catch new webisodes of Where the Bears Are every Monday and Thursday at wherethebearsare.tv.