Yoga Partners, a web series about, um, partnered yoga, starts off with a great premise. The weird and wonderful characters who find themselves in yoga classes, combined with the ad-hoc spiritualism which can sprout in that environment could make for a brilliant show. However, as I have mentioned before, a good premise can dissolve pretty quickly into a disappointing experience in the wrong hands. Sadly, in many ways, this is an example of just that.
The show mainly focuses on ‘Satellite’ (so called after being asked to find her ‘real’ name, played by series co-creator Leah Henoch) a new recruit to a partnered yoga class whose boyfriend breaks up with her just before the class begins, leaving her to attend on her own. Run by the slightly manic ‘Quipie’ and featuring a cast of slightly odd yoga initiates, the partnered yoga class would seem like fertile ground for good comedy. Unfortunately it really isn’t. The acting, whilst mostly pretty convincing, often comes across as flat and poorly timed (co-creator Katie Shorr, who plays Quipie is a refreshing exception to this), the writing definitely has potential, but it leans on the performances to make it sing, and that doesn’t usually come off. Often the filming has problems with white balance making reverse shots a little jarring for the viewer.
I should point out that this show is not all negatives. There were moments which made me chuckle, like the ‘warrior‘ position or the pregnant character’s constant ‘false alarms’ in the fifth episode. As I say, the writing has potential, and when the action’s focused on Quipie and her near neurotic spiritual improvisation the show actually shows some real comic guts. However, the acting really needs to be kicked up a gear. By way of example, at one point we are expected to believe that ‘Satellite’ has become interested in a fellow yoga attendee – however if you were to judge it based on dramatic chemistry, you wouldn’t even know they were friends. I can’t be sure if it’s just the collections of actors involved, the fault of uninspired direction of if they are just bad at acting. Whatever it is, something needs to change there if the show’s creators want us to care about the characters, because it just doesn’t feel like they’re driving the plot forward a lot of the time.
The series itself is pretty short at only 5 episodes and a couple of extras, and I think it suffers for that. Another series about a group of oddballs in a class, Enter the Dojo, clocks in at 7 episodes per season – it may not seem like much of a difference, but even a couple of extra episodes could have allowed time for some much-needed character development. Aside from Satellite, Quipie and the two unnamed, insane yoga enthusiasts in the class (two of the more impressive actors in the cast, Diana Ruppe and Geneva Carr), we learn almost nothing about anyone who is there, and the supporting cast often come off as slightly muddled characters who fail to stand out.
It’s the hardest part of this job to criticise people who clearly have talent and show promise, but sometimes don’t quite hit the mark. I’d be interested to see what happens next for this series, because as I say, it could be so much more, and I would certainly not write off series creators Leah Henoch and Katie Schorr just yet. I just hope that they learn from this and come back stronger.