‘Leap Year’: Branded Sitcom From ‘Break a Leg’ Creators Is Worth a Look

Even though its final episode airs Monday

"Leap Year," a well-wrought online comedy with ties to the viral sitcom hit "Break a Leg," concludes its ten-episode run Monday. But please don't let that stop you from checking out the show retroactively.

The scripted episodes, which are posted on YouTube and also run on Hulu, concern five friends competing in a $500,000 contest to fund a promising start-up. "Leap Year" was financed by Hiscox Small Business Insurance to promote its direct and online coverage products, but even those who are cynical about such matters should laugh at the show. Well, at least cynics with a sense of humor.

Helping matters is that Craig Bierko (pictured, in hologram form, per the storyline), from "Damages" and "Necessary Roughness," turns up now and then as the group's former boss. But even without his funny presence, the characters, such as an American-born man overplaying his Russian heritage to the hilt of his AK-47 replica, won't have you shaking your fist at the sky and bellowing, "Damn you, Hiscox!" 

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"Leap Year" was created by Wilson Cleveland, through his company, CJP Digital Media, which produces non-corporate-seeming material for companies like the Better Sleep Council. To develop the concept after Hiscox had given its approval to the series, Cleveland hired writers Yuri Baranovsky and Vlad Baranovsky, the tandem behind "Break a Leg," one of the Internet's first serial sitcoms. (Cleveland also co-stars in "Leap Year," and appears in the image above looming ominously over Bierko.)

"Break a Leg" recounted the downfall of a San Francisco writer whose idea for a sitcom named "Groomates" gets picked up. The web series began as an entry into a 2006 MySpace contest sponsored by the FX comedy "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia," and while the Baranovskys didn't win, the buzz generated enough support to inspire them to complete 17 episodes of the independently produced series — which, we should point out, awesomely featured a character named Adult-sized Gary Coleman.

The Baranovskys, along with Mark Gantt (of "The Bannen Way" fame), are shopping the upcoming romantic comedy series "LoveMakers," which features many of the same actors from "Leap Year." It is about the founders of a successful Internet matchmaking site.