TV lovers' gain

'Clark and Michael': Great series, created just for Internet.

Click. A cooking show. Click. Overmuscled men hauling logs. Click. Soap opera. Click. Spanish soap opera. Click. Man with bad toupee selling kitchen utensils. There's nothing to watch, or so it seems way too often, considering how many channels we're supposed to have and how many the cable and satellite people would like us to own (anyone subscribe to National Geographic Wild yet?). Desperate for a TV fix, we took the advice of a fellow junkie and headed to the Internet to check out a new phenomenon that has been taking off: TV shows, actual dramatic and comedy series, that are being created for viewing exclusively on the Internet and made specifically to NOT be seen on the big screen. OK, here and there some of them, like Quarterlife, the series created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the creators of thirtysomething, make it to real TV (interestingly, the series bombed in its NBC debut, with the creators insisting it really belonged on cable or the Net), but most are just made to watch on your computer. A prime example and one we enjoyed quite a bit is Clark and Michael (, a breezy, cynical effort created by co-stars Clark Duke and Michael Cera (Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad) with the first episode directed by Duke as part of his college thesis, itself a goof since the series opens with Clark applying to colleges since he and Michael are having problems selling the show, The Family Cruise, a kind of updated Love Boat starring the pair, to anyone. The series revolves around their efforts to sell their program, itself an evolving entity, while they explore their friendship and deal with Tinseltown, and it's much more fun than about 90 percent of what's on your TV right now. The pair, best friends in real life, take dead aim at network execs, with Michael, after another tryout for a music video, ruminating that "apparently every network is being run by children now." Stuck at home with nothing to do, Clark zaps channels, observing that "this is that weird time of day when nothing's on TV except animal shows." They're also inclined to make ridiculous observations about the universe, as when facing another setback in selling the show, Michael muses: "Did Chris Columbus pop on the brakes when the iceberg came out of the Atlantic?" But when Clark actually gets accepted to Columbia University, it seems like their friendship, which is constantly threatened by the kind of dopey fights that only best friends can have, might be over. But wait. CBS is interested in buying their show! Pulling out his lighter, Clark sets fire to his Columbia acceptance response letter, suggesting, "Why don't I RSVP it back to hell?" The show's zany opening is fun, with the two frolicking on the California beaches in '70s style bizarre-colored clothes. While Cera - who's obviously had a lot more acting experience and was so great in Juno as the initially clueless boyfriend who finally grows into the responsible guy Juno thinks he can be - is great, Clark's got his moments, too, as when he decides he needs to take up smoking to look like a real writer to the CBS suits. "I'm too legit to stop smoking," he observes. Besides the script, the fourth wall is often broken down when the actors turn to the camera man filming them and comment on what he's shooting. "No bathroom stuff!" they yell at him when he tries to capture Michael crying in the bathtub after a mutual friend tells the pair he doesn't like Michael's character in the script. The other plus here is that each episode is generally not longer than about 10 minutes, meaning you could watch the entire series in one evening. And it's hard not to fall over laughing at some of the ridiculous things Michael says, as when he notes that "Chinese people love controversy. We know that - Pearl Harbor." Whether working out at the health club, dodging sting rays on the beach, or acting goofy at the local 7/11, Clark and Michael puts a smile on your face and goes down smoothly in nice, small doses. Plenty more Internet TV shows are out there, and the list is growing daily. Who knows, soon it might be time to junk that 32-inch Plasma job and just get your fix on-line. It certainly beats watching Survivor promos all day.