It’s Tough Out There

Sam (Hunter Canning), Lisa (Madeline Wise), and Ari (Dylan Marron)  in the season finale of “Whatever This Is.” | WHATEVERTHISIS.COM

Sam (Hunter Canning), Lisa (Madeline Wise), and Ari (Dylan Marron) in the season finale of “Whatever This Is.” | WHATEVERTHISIS.COM

Fuck you. My time is worth something,” Sam says with a smile before walking off set — quitting his job. The scene is a perfect culmination of the season finale of “Whatever this is.,” the web series that is nearly flawless in capturing the angst of discovering your personal worth while starting out your career.

Adam Goldman has had one busy year. After having wrapped up his other critically acclaimed web series, “The Outs,” the writer and director launched a new one, “Whatever this is.,” focused on a group of 20-somethings struggling to make it big in New York City.

Many critics and viewers question how much innovation network and cable television is willing to risk, an issue highlighted by companies like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu producing original content unfettered by the typical industry self-censorship. The results have provided some breakthroughs for LGBT storylines and characters. Netflix’s “Orange is the New Black” has garnered widespread praise for its depiction of women and lesbians, and stands out even more so when compared to the cookie-cutter LGBT characters network programming offers.

Adam Goldman doesn’t sugarcoat fortunes of three young New Yorkers in web series season finale

Goldman takes this notion a step further and shows that you do not need any big names behind an idea to create something that is equally good — if not better.

In “The Outs,” co-written with Sasha Winters, Goldman gave viewers a series with strong gay characters who were anything but stereotypical. The scripts showed a sharp ear for dialogue, and the cinematography was crisp. Every actor seemed born to play their roles — including Goldman, who portrayed one of the main characters, Mitch. He achieves the same success with “Whatever this is.,” which was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign.

The series’ pilot premiered in August, introducing viewers to a somewhat hapless trio — Sam (Hunter Canning) and Ari (Dylan Marron), who work on a film production crew, and Sam’s girlfriend, Lisa (Madeline Wise). Since the first episode, things have gone from bad to worse for the three. Their so-called “plan” is not working.

While not as gay-inclusive as “The Outs,” “Whatever this is.” doesn’t shrink from LGBT issues, whether homophobic violence or discrimination, in the workplace and otherwise. The show addresses the recent spike in LGBT violence in the third episode, “Ghost Cheaters,” which features an off-screen shooting outside of a gay bar in the West Village, reminiscent of a real shooting death that occurred in the neighborhood this past spring. Homophobic discrimination is most apparent in the gay character Ari, who is harassed throughout the show, which he weathers with grace. What does get to him is the lack of support from his roommate and co-worker Sam. “What problems does this straight, white guy have?,” Ari asks. A lot, apparently.

Sam, the trio’s would-be leader, spends most of the show “asleep at the wheel,” literally and figuratively speaking. Although he is the next person in line to lead the production crew, he suffers from being overworked. He starts making careless mistakes, one of which gets another co-worker fired. Sam’s shortcomings are not limited to his professional life — he ends up cheating on Lisa with another girl on the set while on a shoot upstate.

While Sam and Ari tackle their work, Lisa is a school teacher on summer vacation. Unlike the boys, who loathe their job, she loves hers and eagerly awaits the return of fall so that she can return to school. Looking for summer employment while on break, she takes a job working for a lesbian power couple. Things progressively take a turn for the weird as the couple shower Lisa with gifts and invite her to dinner parties, leading viewers to question their motives. Lisa is eventually coerced into attending a foot fetish party with them — which blows up in her face when a parent of one of her students recognizes her.

Appropriately titled “Broke,” the season finale opens with the rascals finding out they’ve been robbed. Their rent money has been stolen, and their spirits are broken — everything is in ruins. Lisa comes clean about the foot fetish fiasco and having been forced to quit her teaching job.

Back on the set, the boys’ superior gets fired, and Sam is given a shot at taking his place. Their situation finally appears to be getting better, but the offer instead serves as a wake-up call for Sam, who storms off the set, Ari in tow.

The two return home to find Lisa packing to move out. Sam begs her to stay and give him a second chance, owning up to all of his shortcomings of late. He says he has an idea — different from a “plan” — to pursue their own work instead of waiting for someone to give them a chance. “I can do this, Lisa. But I don’t want to do it with out you — either of you,” Sam implores, ending the season.

Goldman finishes with an open ending, perhaps holding on for a second season. Or maybe the ending is just that frank. It’s a tough business — some people make it; others are not so lucky. Here’s to hoping Goldman does.

WHATEVER THIS IS | Directed by Adam Goldman | Rascal Department |