The Academy Awards are one of the biggest TV events of the year. However, for the tenth year in a row, I and plenty of other cinema-heads won’t be watching. Not because we don’t care about the Oscars, mind you, but because we’ve found something better.
On Cinema at the Cinema, the beloved satirical web series, is the ultimate Oscar night counter-programming. Featuring Tim Heidecker and Gregg Turkington as fictionalized versions of themselves, On Cinema is back with its tenth live comedy special set to air at the time as Hollywood’s most prestigious awards show. Heidecker and Turkington always bring their A-game for this special, so if you’re as exhausted by awards season as I am, you may want to tune in.
You can watch it for the measly price of $8 on
What the heck is On Cinema?
For the uninitiated, it’s easiest to think of On Cinema as the
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It’s also one of the most ambitious fictional projects of the 21st century, though most of the action happens off-screen. For instance, there are several seasons of a fake, 24-esque action show called Decker that are part of the On Cinema continuity. Heidecker, at one point, starred in both a
That’s the most basic, to-the-point description I can possibly give for a show that’s been pumping out such a wide variety of content for so long. Despite the breadth of On Cinema‘s offerings, it’s really very simple: Two dudes review movies poorly while talking about all of the chaotic off-screen drama affecting their characters when the cameras aren’t rolling.
It’s all charmingly low budget, with comedy that relies more on ridiculous situations, long-term buildup, and tension than traditional punchlines. All of those things are at their best during each Oscar special, a raucous live event that’s so unpredictable each year that I can’t give you even the slightest hint as to what to expect from it.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how to catch up: The
Why should I watch this instead of the Oscars?
Do you really want to watch Hollywood celebrate itself for a few hours? Do you want to get your hopes up for your favorite movie of the year, only to watch it get drowned out by
I get it. I used to watch the Oscars every year. I’d go out of my way to see movies I didn’t want to see because they were nominated for Best Picture. Remember Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri? I wish I didn’t.
Plus, the annual Oscar special is the best thing the On Cinema crew does each year, and its unique time slot has made it appointment viewing over the Oscars for my friends and me. All of those storylines that develop during each season of the show come to a head here, turning it into a Super Bowl-like experience for those of us who have been following along for years. Conflicts are resolved while new ones start, someone usually has too much to drink, and the set typically winds up destroyed by the end.
If you don’t care about that, though, you can at least watch for the laughs and the surprisingly salient takes on modern pop culture and even politics.
The fictional On Cinema version of Heidecker, in particular, is a perfect villain for our time. He’s an astonishingly egotistical, chronically divorced man who feels entitled to fame and admiration by virtue of hosting a YouTube show about movies. He thinks he’s a genius filmmaker, critic, and musician while being none of those things. This man is a know-nothing blowhard who thinks he knows everything.
As the series has evolved, Heidecker’s character has too, turning into an overtly Trump-loving conspiracy theorist who will buy literally any snake oil that’s put in front of him, usually to the detriment of his health and physical appearance.
That does not mean Turkington’s character is any better. He’s just evil in different ways. This fictional Turkington routinely takes advantage of people for his own sake. He also fancies himself a film snob while regularly getting basic facts about movies wrong. Chiefly, he has maintained for the entire series that real “movie buffs” only watch movies on VHS.
Finally, On Cinema‘s secret weapon is Mark Proksch, perhaps best known as Colin Robinson in
I can’t guarantee that On Cinema or its Oscar special will work for you. Comedy is a fickle thing, and not everybody is wired for the kind of deliberately awkward and discomforting stylings of this show.
But these shows have brought me a lot of joy over the last few years in a way the Oscars really never have. It’s an effective parody of the culture around movies, sure, but it’s also the culmination of years of frenzied, improvisational world-building. Few things in media have impressed me as much as On Cinema in the last decade.
At the very least, I feel we should reward anyone who is bold enough to air their biggest annual event at the same time as the freaking Oscars. That’s the kind of radical thinking I respect.