In the first episode of “TBH,” a web series written by and starring Tisch sophomores Sarah Sampino and Sabra Kojis, Sampino’s character Ashley meets a guy she likes on a trip to what definitely looks like a Whole Foods. They talk for a bit but she can’t quite muster up the courage to ask him out and he walks away. He turns back around and begins to write down his number. “Isn’t this what I’m supposed to do?” she asks. When he responds, “I don’t conform to gender norms,” and walks away, she stands in awe, knowing that this was the most romantic thing he could ever have said.
This is the style of “TBH” in a nutshell. It is a show that is influenced both by conventional sitcoms and newer, feminist shows like “Girls” and “Broad City.” It is about two roommates, Ashley and Tessa, who date, hookup, drink, take NyQuil and generally do their best to survive their twenties.
For its creators, the show is an opportunity to hone the skills they have acquired at NYU. They first met when they were in the same Writing the Essay and Theatre Studies classes. Sampino is in The Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute for acting and has also taken production classes to help prepare for an industry in which being multifaceted is key. Kojis is in the Playwrights Horizon Theater School, which focuses on theatre acting above all. “TBH” gives her a chance to work on film.
Web series have increasingly become a way for up-and-coming talents to show that they are capable of good work. David Garelik, who plays Rob on the show, noted the new trend in independent film production.
“Now, with film, people can make their own stuff,” Garelik said. “If you make an incredible movie that gets into festivals, auditions don’t matter so much. The people that matter most are at these festivals. And social media allows you to build up an audience.”
It also offers the creators the chance to create well-rounded female characters, which they have both found in short supply, even at Tisch. Kojis noted that it is nearly impossible to find plays in which two women speak to each other. She has written an essay on this phenomenon and the Bechdel test, which determines in a work of fiction whether two women talk to each other.
This is not to say that the show is overwhelmingly ideological. Above all, Sapino says she aims to entertain.
“What I love are seriocomic pieces where you have a dramatic plot but the life of the piece comes from the humor and the subtleties of the characters,” said Sampino.
The dialogue is fast and wonderfully sarcastic. The characters are fleshed out quickly and each episode has a good overall arc. Walking around the set, a small apartment in Astoria, it is clear that the entire team is very devoted, even as they juggle other projects and dozens of hours of classes each week. They take their comedy extremely seriously.
“TBH” is streaming on Youtube here.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 29 print edition. Email Tony Schwab at [email protected]