The science-fiction series Spectrum was a revolutionary piece of television. It was critically acclaimed, nominated for numerous awards and cited for its originality as well as its realism. So naturally it was canceled by some idiot executive after only a season.
Despite this, the show developed a cult following. Even now, over a decade later, the show is fondly remembered by its fanatical fan-base. And the show’s stars are practically worshiped as gods.
Wray Nerely is one of those stars. He played ace pilot Cash Wayne. And he hates Spectrum with the intensity of a thousand exploding suns.
Why? Because Wray’s career outside of sci-fi B-movies is deader than Disco. This is in sharp contrast to his friend and fellow actor Jack Moore, who also starred on Spectrum as Captain James Rakker. Wheras Wray’s career has stalled, Jack’s has taken off in a big way and Wray can’t help but be jealous.
The only thing allowing Wray to pay the rent is selling autographs at sci-fi conventions. Thus Wray travels from con to con between auditions – a modern-day Odysseus seeking salvation. Or a part in Clint Eastwood’s new movie. Whichever comes first.
Con Man was clearly a labor of love for writer/director/producer/star Alan Tudyk. This fact is obvious watching the first few episodes of this series, which features in-jokes aplenty regarding Tudyk’s most popular role. But it’s also showcased in a tale regarding the show’s creation.
In an interview with Digital Spy, Tudyk revealed the reason he started an Indiegogo campaign to fund the series rather than going through traditional Hollywood channels. Apparently he did start out with the regular channels and felt pressure to craft a nerdy minstrel show that mocked convention attendees and geek culture. Needless to say this did not sit well with Tudyk, who is well-known for loving his fandom and being the exact opposite of Wray Nerely in his interactions with them.
Thus begat an on-line fund-raising effort that saw over $1 million raised on its first day, eventually earning $3.1 million overall. Not bad considering the original goal was for a relatively modest $425 thousand. Obviously Tudyk’s fans love him as much as he loves them!
It’s fortunate that Tudyk stuck to his guns regarding his original vision because it is hard to imagine Con Man working in a watered-down capacity. All of the humor is firmly aimed at the behind-the-scenes events that occur at a typical convention, involving the professional guests and the people who run the show. In this Con Man can be favorably compared to the film Galaxy Quest, which also celebrated fandom culture even while lovingly riffing upon it.
Naturally there’s a goodly number of nerdy in-jokes in Con Man. Heck, the show’s release date – on the 10th anniversary of the release of Serenity – is an in-joke! There’s also a number of geek-friendly celebrity cameos, including Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton and Felicia Day (of course) as Wray’s handler at one con.
Con Man would easily prove satisfying if limited to such fan-service. Thankfully Tudyk’s scripts go beyond that level and the show remains accessible to those who have never donned a cosplay nor waited in line for several hours to get an autograph. So all of you fans with parents who only know Nathan Fillion as Richard Castle can rest assured that you can watch this show with them without having to explain too much.
Con Man is available through Vimeo On Demand.