The UCB Show: Amy Poehler is by far the biggest name attached to Seeso, though she’s mostly involved in her capacity as one of the co-founders of the Upright Citizens Brigade, now legendary as a comedy talent farm. That’s not a bad thing, though, as The UCB Show takes a tried-and-true approach for efficient, bang-for-your-buck comedy programming — cheaply filming a live performance and broadcasting it to a national audience — to sketch rather than stand-up. (See: The Meltdown with Jonah and Kumail on Comedy Central, any number of shows during the first comedy boom in the ’80s, Seeso’s own forthcoming stand-up show The Guest List.) The performances may be hit or miss, but so are shows at the actual UCB, and there’s something democratic about making comedy’s preeminent training ground, and the surprise appearances by heavy-hitters that come with it, available to people outside New York and LA.
The Cyanide & Happiness Show: Calling this a “Seeso original” is a bit of a misnomer; the creators of the hit webcomic actually funded an independent web series via Kickstarter earlier this year, then pulled it from the Internet in August before announcing its exclusive availability via Seeso at New York Comic Con. It’s… exactly what you would expect from an animated version of Cyanide & Happiness: vaguely clever, vaguely amusing bits that rarely last longer than a couple minutes, strung together into 13-minute episodes in the cartoon equivalent of a sketch show. It’s not bad, but it won’t make you laugh out loud, either — much like most webcomics.
Sammy J & Randy in Ricketts Lane: Again, not exactly a Seeso original, though the only one of these three that qualifies as a full-length scripted series. A musical comedy from popular, Bo Burnham-esque Australian performer Sammy J, the six-part season already aired on Australia’s ABC TV this October. The premise is a Muppets-style “what if puppets got PG-13?!” deal: Randy, a hard-drinking purple humanoid, is crashing with his incompetent lawyer friend Sammy J after a rough divorce. Most of the jokes come from the standard shock-them-with-contrast approach — a puppet who has sex! Songs with dirty jokes in them! It falls pretty flat, particularly when Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is raising the bar for musical TV over on the CW.
In short: if Seeso hopes to make itself a necessary destination for comedy fans, it’s got a long way to go before it can compete with the likes of Netflix’s BoJack Horseman or HBO’s stand-up specials. The idea of a comedy-only streaming service isn’t a bad one, but in the era of Peak TV, it takes more than specialization to stand out from the crowd.