If you still haven’t heard of Zhe Zhe by now, you’re really sleeping on the only (and possibly last) great satire of New York City, specifically that oh so anomalous borough–Brooklyn. Or rather, North Brooklyn, which is of course an entirely different animal. When last we left the heroines (and heroin addicts starring in an adaptation of Peabody Cornhole’s Romeo and Juliet) of this surrealistic–yet all too real–web series, they were being plotted against by their former benefactress, Chewie Swindleburne (Emily Allan). Jean D’Arc (Leah Hennessey), however, is still more concerned with pursuing fame that will result in her eventual immortality (or at least a nod on a show three years from now about musicians from 2017). Meanwhile, Mona DeLiza (Ruby McCollister) continues to reel from the potential death of her boyfriend, comedian Pat Phone (E.J. O’Hara), that left us on a cliffhanger in the final episode of season one, “The Musical.”
This episode is, in many ways, the perfect one to watch to note both the distinct differences and similarities between the duo’s styles and forms of self-involvement respectively. On the one hand, you have Mona’s throwback vibe to the screwball likes of Carole Lombard and Lucille Ball and, on the other, you’ve got Jean’s Robert Smith meets Narcissus mirror show happening.
It also brings us up to speed with Chewie’s evil plan to persist in brainwashing legions to do her evil bidding via her twangy country drawl interspersed with occasional white girl rap. As she owns up to all that Pat Phone has accused her of while he runs across the U.S. in that Forrest Gump way to show Mona he cares and to help free his comedy partner, Clay, it appears as though she has everyone in NYC eating out of the palm of her self-admitted diabolical hand. After all, as she sings, “They say that bein’ crazy in that heartless murderin’ way happens ’cause of some shit with your dad… I’m a rich white artist so I’ll never do time.”
After Mona comes to terms with her love of Pat upon seeing him declare his love publicly on national television for her, she discerns in her sing-song voce, “Acknowledging the reality of another human being’s emotional existence doesn’t necessarily mean that I’m not the center of the universe.”
With Pat approaching the city and Chewie set to hold her press conference as Mona and Jean are stuck watching it all helplessly on the TV from the Brooklyn-baroque confines of their apartment, Mona reminds, “I have the power to jump into the TV. Don’t you remember? I did it in episode three!” The self-referentialness–the sheer artistry of being meta is what you have to love most about Zhe Zhe–and it seems they’re still set to deliver it in spades with the advent of the second season.
Indeed, the trailer for season two shows that little has changed with Jean D’Arc’s “androgyne narcissism” in the midst of her insistent voiceover, “I don’t think culture is the problem so much as the commodification of creativity.”
“America is about making everyone a star!” and “Anyone can be a star!” are the maxims declared as a pan-up shot of the “Freedom Tower” at night accents that this is what New York City is all about. Hell, it’s the very city that spawned the monster of Donald Trump. And oh how Zhe Zhe predicted “the rise of Trump’s army of clones, the gender revolution and its discontents, the mainstreaming of wingnut conspiracy culture” and just about every dystopian thing in between.
Nonetheless, in the midst of it alls remains: FAME LUST POWER CORRUPTION LIES. Five entities that always make for a gripping narrative. With funding provided by devoted fans via Zhe Zhe‘s Kickstarter, the second season will premiere its slew of episodes on May 15th. If all goes as it should, Zhe Zhe can hopefully take the High Maintenance route and get picked up by a network that will still allow the creative freedom it has enjoyed thus far under more independent financial backing. Because by God or whoever, we could really use their take on the current carnival of events in New York and, by extension, the world at large.