By Liz Shannon Miller
One of “The Guild”’s most lasting legacies in the web video space (aside from serving as an inspiration to an entire generation of creators) is the launching of other series — and other talent. “The Legend of Neil,” “Jeff Lewis’s 5 Minute Comedy Hour,” and basically the entire Geek & Sundry empire were all basically born from “The Guild”’s success and popularity, as the actors and directors involved with the show struck out with their own projects.
“My Gimpy Life,” created by and starring Teal Sherer, is another “Guild” legacy series, directed by “Guild” veteran director Sean Becker and featuring many cameos from that show’s cast.
However, it draws its premise from Sherer. While her role as a member of a rival “Guild” guild was credited as “Venom,” to many she was better known as “the girl in the wheelchair.” And it’s just that sort of thing which is satirized in “Gimpy Life,” a vaguely fictional take on Sherer’s efforts to make it in Hollywood as a paraplegic actress.
Being a struggling actor in Hollywood is one of the most common topics ever for the Los Angeles-based independent web series. But Sherer, Becker, and writer Gabe Uhr have the luxury of a unique perspective on the subject, one which they lean into frequently by focusing on life on the outskirts of the industry.
The show is full of the kind of details you’d hope for in a story so close to its inspiration, tackling issues like what happens when the casting office is up a flight of stairs, or how to handle a manager who has you audition for the role of “Screaming Running Girl.”
But there’s more to “Gimpy Life” than a wheelchair: Over the show’s existing eight episodes, the fictional Teal has been frequently told how “inspirational” she is, but she’s also gone on dates, auditioned for parts, befriended a little person also named Teal (with an extra E), and traded barbs with her slacker comedian roommate Brent (Brent Bradshaw).
While the show is more than invested in Teal’s wheels, that’s not the show’s only source of comedy, or the only topic it’s interested in. And that diversity of subject matter lends itself not only to moments of sharp humor throughout every episode, but real humanity as well.
The first season of “Gimpy Life” ran for five episodes in 2011, winning awards for Best Lead Comedy Perfomance and Best Comedy Director at the 2013 IAWTV Awards. But it took three years and a $60,000 crowdfunding campaign to bring the show back for season two, which premiered this February.
While slightly tighter editing wouldn’t go amiss in some episodes, production values are solid, with occasional moments of real subtlety. The opening sequence of episode eight, for example, is filmed with the beauty and grace you might find in a Woody Allen montage — presuming that Woody Allen had a wheels fetish.
Thanks to the basic fact that no matter who you are, it’s not easy to find your way as an actor, there’s a surprisingly melancholy tone to “My Gimpy Life.” There are moments of hope, like the rather sweet ending of episode four, “Crowded,” in which Teal connects with a nice guy (a nice guy, we later discover, who can chug a beer while riding a unicycle). But the season one finale, which features Teal getting her first big break only to have things go south, doesn’t shy away from showing her real disappointment and frustration.
And it’s those moments where the show really hits its stride. While “My Gimpy Life” could just be a series about “a girl in a wheelchair,” it instead manages something much more impressive: To be a show about a girl, who happens to be in a wheelchair.