"Sci-fi is supposed to be about the future. Why are the fans so obsessed with the past?" That's the question faced by Wray Nerely, the nearly man of the science fiction convention circuit, in Alan Tudyk's new fan-backed Web series "Con Man".
Tudyk, a star of beloved but long-cancelled sci-fi show "Firefly" along with Nathan Fillion, plays Nerely, a star of beloved but long-cancelled sci-fi show "Spectrum" along with Jack Moore...played by Nathan Fillion. Moore went on to be a major movie star while Nerely suffered a different fate, trudging to public appearances while contending with a flaky agent, a bad back and, above all, a deeply ambivalent relationship with his fans.
Each episode of "Con Man" runs to around 10 minutes, during which Nerely encounters a galaxy of real-life sci-fi and fantasy stars. Familiar faces will pop up during the series from films, TV shows and games including "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", "Angel", "Battlestar Galactica", "Guardians of the Galaxy", "The Walking Dead", "Supernatural" and Uncharted.
The first two episodes of "Con Man" are filled with sly gags like a fan dressing the same as Nerely from a photo posted online just hours before ("Hmm, the shoes are a little off"), or an avowed critic of sci-fi who nonetheless can't stay out of Nerely's personal space.
The series is less effective when throwing around words like "retard" for comic effect or during a running gag involving Felicia Day's bowel movements. But as with "Extras", a similarly cameo-based study of the twilight zone of celebrity, it's hard to resist celeb caricatures like a gleefully former hobbit or a certain "Star Trek" star dropping a crushingly foul-mouthed retort.
While affectionately poking fun at the sometimes over-familiar behaviour of sci-fi fans, "Con Man" was paid for by those very fans. In March and April this year, Tudyk, Fillion and producer PJ Haarsma took to crowdfunding site Indiegogo to raise money for the show. Fans paid from $5, for a gif of Nathan and Alan high-fiving, up to $25,000 (roughly £16,430 or AUS$35,660), to visit the set, meet the stars and have their names listed on the credits. Other funding perks included scripts, props or a photo album of Nathan Fillion's behind the scenes snaps from "Firefly". Along the way, backers could follow the cast and crew on livestreaming app Hang w/.
Raising more than $1 million in 24 hours, the campaign smashed through its target, more than 46,000 backers pledging $3.15 million (roughly £2 million or AU$4.5 million).
The result is twelve episodes of "Con Man" plus an episode of the show-within-a-show "Spectrum". The first three episodes are available on Vimeo on Demand from today, followed by three more each week.
For more on "Con Man", we.