Under the hood with Penn's only student–run sitcom
If you’re like me, you probably spend a lot of time avoiding work by trolling the internet, looking for funny videos to post on Facebook. And if you’re like me, you’re probably getting a little tired of the slap–dash “Shit ____ Say” variations.
Kelly Diamond hopes you’ll give Classless a try. Classless is Penn’s first comedic web series, and Diamond, a junior Cinema Studies major, is its executive producer — the “showrunner,” to put it in Hollywood terms. She has a hand in everything from writing to shooting to casting, as well as in keeping the all–student cast and crew focused.
“We have meetings every week where we usually read scripts, talk about advertising, and generally yell at each other about completely random things that have nothing to do with the show,” Diamond wrote in an e–mail. “We’re all friends, so our writers’ meetings tend to be hang–outs that include alcohol, food and more yelling.”
This camaraderie is evident in the programming it generates. Classless is a charming, goofy, ensemble comedy, walking a fine line between lampooning college campus stereotypes and embracing them. And it improves every episode, developing character specificity that will keep audiences invested.
The protagonist is Steven Green, who wants to establish a second student newspaper on his campus. Steve mostly serves as a foil for the more outlandish characters that work on the paper with him; for example, the “Single Ladies”–dancing Ernest Owens, and the indignant Women’s Studies major (sample line: “I took a Taiwanese rape defense course for five years, and just with my pinky and my forefinger, I can rip off your dick!”) who speaks with the bored drawl of an over–privileged sorority girl.
Those who tuned in to the Classless premiere last year may be surprised at this new newspaper–centric conceit; originally, the show was about a student looking into sperm donation for some quick cash.
“It’s sort of an unspoken thing because it was really, really awful. It’s like the Voldemort of Classless — never mention it and pretend it never existed,” Diamond said of the first pilot, which aired on UTV. The current season, which debuted on October 26th, can be watched on their website or YouTube channel.
“The storyline we have now came about when I teamed up with a new head writer,” continued Diamond. That writer is Sean Kelly, whose face you might recognize from the many Pennsylvania Punch Bowl covers it has graced. Kelly is the humor magazine’s Editor–in–Chief, if you needed some convincing of Classless’s humor bona fides.
The show is funded by the Kelly Writers House. “My advisor is the director of KWH, and I went to him at the beginning of my sophomore year and told him I wanted to start a comedic TV show,” Diamond stated. “He said, ‘Okay, here’s some money. Go do it.’”
Classless is an exciting prospect for college–age kids who may have grown tired of teeny–bopper TV but aren’t exactly interested in watching The Good Wife. Young adulthood is not frequently given the serialized treatment, and Diamond recognized an under–represented niche, as well as a lack of student groups devoted to creating such a product.
“I’ve always had an interest in screenwriting and film, but Penn didn’t have any clubs that were focused on creating anything in that medium,” she said. Diamond already had some experience in the field from working at Nickelodeon Animation studios and Mandeville Films, a production company run by a Penn alum.
Diamond also provided me with an amusing list of reasons Penn students should tune in to the next episode of Classless, which will air in about two weeks. Lines like this one encapsulate well her show’s irreverent spirit: “Classless actors are even more sought–after than Tabard lunch boxes.”
Or how about this: “Classless will complement your dinner even better than an expensive box of fine wine.” Don’t you wish your life could be this Classless?