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With: Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis, Sandeep Parikh, Robin Thorsen, Amy Okuda, Vincent Caso, Brett Sheridan, Wil Wheaton, Viji Nathan, Erin Gray
Written by: Felicia Day, Jeff Lewis, Kim Evey
Directed by: Sean Becker, Greg Benson, Jane Selle Morgan, Christopher Preksta
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 480
Date: 07/27/2007
IMDB

The Guild Complete Megaset (2007)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Funny Gamers

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

As a film critic, I spend most of my time watching movies. I rarely ever get to relax and watch TV. For example, I have been interested in checking out "The Wire" for years now, but have not had the time to invest in a whole season. Thankfully this wonderful new web-based show turned up, with episodes running just 4 to 8 minutes apiece, and I was able to devour whole seasons in a reasonable amount of time, and come away as perfectly relaxed, satisfied and entertained as if I had watched dozens of hours. Although it's available online for free, all six seasons are now available on a new DVD, "the Complete Megaset," with higher quality picture and sound and tons of extras.

"The Guild" was created by Felicia Day, best known for her roles on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and in Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog. She writes and stars in every episode. The show follows a team of six guild members ("The Knights of Good") who play a video game together over the web. (I'm not a gamer, and you don't have to be to enjoy this show.) Their disparate skills and personalities allow them to work together in virtual reality, even if they don't do quite so well in real reality. Codex (Day) begins each show with a webcam broadcast. She's a meek people pleaser, who attracts the unwanted romantic attentions of guild member Zaboo (Sandeep Parikh). Vork (Jeff Lewis) is the bald, middle-aged, anal-retentive leader of the group, and Clara (Robin Thorsen) is a housewife who cheerfully neglects her husband and three kids to play the game. Bladezz (Vincent Caso) is a good-looking high schooler who doubles as a model, and Tink (Amy Okuda) is the opposite of Codex, proud of her bad attitude.

"The Guild" works like any great sitcom, by creating a brilliant mix of characters, each likeable in his or her own way -- no one character outweighs any of the others -- and with a strong group chemistry. Thankfully, these characters all have much more amusingly dark, twisted personalities than something like "Friends." But what's really incredible about this show is how much funny stuff and character development it crams into such a short amount of time. It left me feeling that most TV shows are really very wasteful sticking to all those old-fashioned half- and full-hour time formats. "The Guild" proves that, in the age of the web, and that a great deal of entertainment can be had in a short amount of time.

I previously reviewed DVDs of Season Three and Season Five, though I caught up with the rest on the show's official site (www.watchtheguild.com).

As Season Three begins -- and the production budgets have improved -- our six guildies have survived various shakeups and are now waiting in line together to buy an upgrade to the game. A rival guild ("The Axis of Anarchy"), led by Fawkes (Wil Wheaton) cuts in line and thus begins a nasty, below-the-belt battle between good and evil. Over the course of Season Three, Vork resigns as leader and goes on a personal quest, driving around in his van and occasionally logging on via some free WiFi. Meanwhile, Codex takes on the role of leader, a job for which she is woefully unprepared. Zaboo begins a relationship with the superhot Riley (Michele Boyd), who begins to abuse him sexually and then mentally. Tink decides to abandon her guild to join the evil "Axis" and Clara's husband has discovered that she kissed another man at a wild party during Season Two. Likewise, Bladezz must try to undo some of the damage inflicted upon him in Season Two. (It's recommended that viewers check out all of Seasons One and Two before embarking on Season Three.)

Though Season 5 picks up a few threads from it -- notably the new sexual tension between Codex and rival gamer Fawkes -- it begins fresh as the six guildies hit the road for a big-time game convention. They have been invited to attend for free after Bladezz has achieved viral video fame for his performance in a Cheesybeard's restaurant commercial.

The entire episode takes place over one weekend, and they are forced to stay together in a single hotel room, though this hardly comes into play. There's too much going on. Guild leader Vork tries to make money from personal appearances by Bladezz when he spies Madeleine Twain (Erin Gray), a former star of a once-popular sci-fi TV show; she arouses mixed feelings in Vork, who is attracted to her, but angered by her sudden departure from the show. (In real life, Gray starred in the "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century" TV series of 1979-1981.)

Meanwhile, Codex tries to deal with her newfound feelings for Zaboo, while simultaneously worrying about the uncertain future of their game. Zaboo dives head-first into the convention, starting a group of seat-savers that quickly turns into a powerful, corrupt organization. Tinkerballa tries to avoid her family, which has unexpectedly turned up at the convention. And Clara becomes fascinated with the snobby "steampunk" booth at the convention.

This fifth season lacks the simple, fresh approach from the first season (shown almost entirely through webcams), but the convention setting shows an insider's look at geekdom, and shows how fun and seductive it can be (geeks are generally nice people). Likewise, there are a whole bunch of great cameos here, including Stan Lee, Kevin Sorbo, and Brent Spiner, not to mention costumes and actual visual effects! I hope to see more "Guild" someday, but even better, I hope that "The Guild" inspires more short-form shows of this nature.

Alas, Day has announced that Season Six -- which aired earlier this year -- is the final one. New Video has released it on a separate disc, as well as a "complete megaset," with all six discs on one package. Season six begins as Codex goes to work for The Game, as the personal assistant to its neurotic, unstable creator Floyd Petrovski (Ted Michaels). Vork gets deeper into his relationship with Madeleine Twain and realizes that he doesn't really know the person at all, only the character she played on TV. When Floyd bans Vork's character from The Game, Vork stages a protest. Meanwhile, Bladezz helps Clara to become a viral video star, but realizes that he must distract and entertain Clara's uncool husband (Brett Sheridan) while Clara makes videos. Zaboo tries to get over Codex by creating a "perfect woman" collage, and eventually all six giuldies end up visiting Codex at work, giving her more trouble. Frankly, it was tough for Day and her group to follow up the wonderful Season Five, and this one gets by on warmth more than it does on laughs. Nevertheless, I was sad to see them all go.

New Video's DVD comes with many, many extras, all that guildies could want, including several featurettes, a Halloween special, the "Do You Want to Date My Avatar" music video (plus the making of said video), other music videos, commentary tracks, optional subtitles, gag reels, table reads, and screenplays in PDF form.

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