Third Wheel is a musical web series based on an earlier 2017 stage show by name of The Dysfunctional Guide To Being a Third Wheel. Adapting to the current situation, the creative team has taken the basic premise online, with Adam Johnson’s screenplay taking livewire Pam Maguire from stage to screen in all her manic glory.
Pam (Aveen Biddle) is flying solo in quarantine and has a crush on neighbour Sid (Jack McNeill). Big time. The pair keep in touch via screen calls in which poor well-intentioned Sid seems clueless of his dramatic impact on the infatuated Pam. Her heart is wide open and the show is a mix of her talking very frankly and exuberantly to camera for her Vlog and her screen time with Sid. The spanner in the works arrives in the shape of pretty Joanna (Ashleigh Johnston), who seems to be ‘well in’ with Sid while Pam’s most constant companion is a web icon on trial named Smile with Kyle (voiced by James Stirling) – a quirky little animated face with plenty of advice to give on the situation.
Currently there are two episodes of the series available. The first episode (My Friend Sid) is a bit of a shock to the system and seems to struggle a little to find its feet in the realm of a web series. By that I mean the performance screams BIG STAGE while there needed to be some simmering down for a close quarters web/screen version. It has a lot to do with the fact that the central character seems to have either fashioned herself an unseen IV of glucose syrup or she’s been necking something woozy. She’s New Girl’s Jess after a big life shake up…y’know, the scenes where she’s just left of stable? Those. It certainly has plenty of comic scope!
The second episode (My Friend Joanna) plants its feet much more firmly and quickly dusts off those issues of episode one. The second instalment does well to embrace the tech opportunities of its web series format more, offering some fun moments with filters and manipulations to land laughs. Henry Roadnight’s music and lyrics also raises the stakes and gives us a taste of the stage version’s success. It’s in those musical moments that Biddle most gets a chance to really shine comically; the reprise of the Joanna song is definitely the biggest highlight across the first two episodes with its fantastic nod to Sweenie Todd and classic 180 degree pivot on a ‘friend’ before and after an upset.
The set-up of Third Wheel captures the situation of the nation (or at least the young and single branch) pretty relevantly and the ten minute running time per episode cannily caters to our increasingly poor attention spans. Ten minutes with Pam in screen form is somewhere between just about right and more than enough! That shouldn’t be taken as an insult either. Just know that she’s that very specific kinda lass who offers plenty of unique charm and entertainment but must be loved in small doses. I’ll be interested to see how the web series develops and with those shifts between episodes 1 and 2 in mind, I think it’ll be worth sticking with – you can find all current episodes here.
Aveen Biddle: Pam Maguire
Jack McNeill: Sid Spencer
Ashleigh Johnston: Joanna Coffee
James Stirling: Smile with Kyle
Director: Tom Ramsay
Henry Roadnight: music and lyrics
Adam Johnson: Screenplay
Paige Collier: Editor
Mark Houston: Music Producer
Olivia Donlan: Animator
Zoe Furness: Animator
Lauren Simpson: Graphic Designer
Rachel Murphy: Pianist
Natasha Kenealy: Violin