November’s Hot and Streamy: Shot in the Dark on Netflix
Welcome to the first edition of Hot and Streamy! This will be our monthly dive into the lesser-known shows and movies streaming on all of your favorite platforms. The goal is to uncover hidden gems buried throughout the millions of hours of video on Amazon, Hulu, Netflix, and any other providers that may pop up. Unfortunately for me, I won’t know what’s good until I’ve wasted a few hours of my life, but that is a sacrifice that I’m willing to make for you.
In my eyes, something either IS or IS NOT worth watching. It is for that reason that these reviews will be completely binary. Either it’s Hot and Streamy Sax ? and you should watch it, or it’s a Streaming Pile of Poo ? and you should skip it. Without further ado, enjoy our very first installment of Hot and Streamy.
SHOT IN THE DARK
What is it? – A docuseries following media “stringers”; camera operators who scour the streets of Los Angeles late at night in search of newsworthy footage that can be sold to larger media outlets. Imagine if “Cops” and “Nightcrawler” had a baby, and then dropped that baby once or twice.
Who made it? – Directed by Clint Leolas and Jeff Daniels. Clint Leolas has worked on some of your favorite “documentaries” on the “History” Channel such as Hunting Hitler and Ice Road Truckers. Jeff Daniels is most famous for not being the guy you think of when someone says “Jeff Daniels”.
Where can I find it? – All 8 episodes are available on Netflix as of November 17th, 2017.
For those as unfamiliar as I was, stringers listen in on police scanners throughout the night and track down car accidents, shootings, fires, and other disturbances deemed newsworthy. Wearing reflective press jackets and hats that they almost certainly ordered from Amazon.com, these men get as close to the action as they can, sometimes risking their own safety. I could posit that they toe the line of endangering others, but that’s purely subjective.
The series revolves around their nightly quest for the best action shots that can be sold to the nightly news. Think Jake Gyllenhaal in Nightcrawler but (slightly) less creepy. Whoever sells the most stories, or “hits”, wins the night. This often puts our characters in direct competition to get the best angle or most dramatic shot. Much of the show follows our stringers driving like assholes in hopes of being able to send the story off first. Once on scene, any sense of decorum goes out the window. Stringers are shown lamenting the worst possible outcomes while simultaneously hoping for pandemonium. It’s both enthralling and gross at the same time.
The series mainly follows three men running their own respective stringing businesses:
Zak from OnScene TV – Zak runs the largest group of stringers in Los Angeles. He often references his childhood ambitions of becoming a police officer or firefighter, but never explains why he couldn’t achieve his dream. Zak definitely sees OnScene as the most professional of our subjects and is quick to remind the audience of that. He’s often seen handing business cards to firemen on the scene and offering to email them footage to show their family. He’s even shown unrolling a length of firehose from a truck at scene of a car crash, though no one seemed to ask for his help. You’ll see him rolling through LA in his blue Ford Crown Victoria.
Scott from LoudLabs, Inc. – Your resident prick. If you were to ask him, I’m sure that he’d tell you that he loves being the heel of the show. WWE wrestlers could learn a thing or two from him. He’s often shown arguing with first responders about where he can or can’t film at active crime scenes. Scott proudly talks about his 17 years in the business, during which he likely kicked puppies and yelled at small children to get the best shots. He succeeds at pissing off the competition by packaging multiple stories and selling them for the price of one, undercutting his competitor’s prices. Scott speeds through the city honking and yelling at drivers in his white Dodge Charger.
Howard from RMG News – Easily the most likeable of the crew, though he may get a boost from his British accent. Howard started RMG with his twin brother Austin. Austin has quite the harrowing experience early in the season which succeeds in humanizing stringers as a whole. Howard is struggling to keep his head above water while competing with larger collectives. He seems to be the only stringer in the show that isn’t numb to witnessing horrendous accidents. Coupling those two factors together makes it easy to root for Howard. You can spot him in his unmarked Ford Taurus, yelling at “fucking penises” to get out of his way.
I pine for my college days and the hours of Cops reruns that G4 TV aired to soothe my hangover. Shot in the Dark does an excellent job of filling that void in my psyche while also being updated with modern touches. Technology is well utilized as you’re often treated to overhead tracking graphics showing the stringers racing toward a crime. However, the old shaky camera footage and street level chaos unearths just enough nostalgia to get that nice Cops-induced sweat brewing.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes this such compelling television, but that’s exactly what it is. As evidenced above, you’ll find yourself cheering on your favorite stringer to sell the most footage. The premise alone was enough to catch my eye. Throwing in the competing businesses, petty feuds between the main characters, and occasional cliff-hangers makes for icing on the cake.
It gives me great pleasure to open this series with a show worthy of a “Yeah dude, check it out if you’re out of shows to watch”. Shot in the Dark is worthy of some Hot and Streamy Sax ?!