From Killing Eve and Doctor Who to Sharp Objects and Derry Girls, 2018 has been a fantastic year for female-driven TV shows, but one series that won’t get mentioned on the usual end-of-year best of lists? Liza On Demand. Why? Because it’s on YouTube Premium, YouTube’s subscription service designed to offer the video giant’s users an equivalent to Netflix.
After initially launching solely in the USA, the lack of following for YouTube Premium in the UK means that any YouTube Original series are assessed on the basis of whether they’d get you to sign up or not. Liza On Demand, a sitcom about a 23-year-old trying to find her way in life, succeeds on another basis: it’s very, very funny.
The show stars vlogger Liza Koshy as Liza, who is working for herself, using a range of apps to find random odd jobs and tasks to earn a crust. She is, from head to foot, a product of the gig economy, someone hustling to make ends meet without any sense of stability or grounding. Her aim, then, is simple: to get enough five-star ratings to graduate to Elite Status on TaskIt (a fictional platform), so that she can more work, more regularly and for more money.
It’s an inspired premise for a TV show, giving a rare voice to a generation that is destined to face several tough decades, with little security or savings. And that fact gives Liza On Demand a likeable, relatable undercurrent, as we sympathise her seemingly trivial ambitions.
It’s also a smart way to ensure that each episode can have a different focus, as Liza’s tasks range from such things as taking a sick cat to the vet and completing a jigsaw puzzle to driving some romantic deliveries to sweethearts or being a professional party guest or mourner. Each one is chosen to give Koshy just enough of a showcase to impress with her pinpoint comic timing – she has several million subscribers on YouTube, and from her fast-talking quips and mugging facial expressions to her physical slapstick, it’s very clear why very quickly.
The only problem is that the spotlight shining so brightly on Liza means that her sidekicks get short-changed somewhat. Harlow (Kimiko Glenn) and Oliver (Travis Coles) each have their own careers, from real estate to an Insta-famous dog (called Bark-Paul Gosselaar). They function, primarily, as sounding boards for Liza, as Oliver points out that she never commits to completing anything. It’s a pertinent point, as young people today stack their plates with hefty workload, giving them so many side hustles to juggle that there’s no time for a main hustle.
Nonetheless, Glenn and Coles have excellent chemistry, forming a whip-smart trio that tosses pop culture references back and forth at a blinding pace – the script, written by Deborah Kaplan and Harry Elfont (Can’t Hardly Wait), stuffs one-liners in at a pace that’s not far off Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. The writers and cast also find myriad ways to address interesting issues, like the way women and men are treated differently, without bogging themselves down in anything too serious.
The result zips along brilliantly, racing from dog-sitting and twerking contests to Russian Doll-style cupcakes and lifting heavy furniture. By the time it climaxes with a morning-after hunt to track down a missing phone (“It’s like that Bradley Cooper movie with a hangover…” “American Sniper?”), you’ll only stop chuckling long enough to give Liza a five-star rating. The best show of the year? Not quite, but in the round-up of comedies worth talking about, it certainly deserves elite status.
Liza On Demand is available exclusively on YouTube Premium, as part of an £11.99 monthly subscription – including YouTube Premium Originals and YouTube Music, as well as the rest of YouTube advert-free.
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