2014 marks the 10-year anniversary of “Mean Girls,” and a slew of new comedies are taking that film’s message to heart. Entertainment has moved on from queen bees and wannabes as shows like “Broad City” and the underrated gem “Playing House” feature female leads who do not threaten one another. “Dibs,” a web series that launched its second season in June, takes this idea to the extreme.
Following two lifelong friends navigating their 20s, “Dibs” puts its faith in positivity. Like Laverne and Shirley or Troy and Abed, protagonists Emily and Joey (played by series creators Tracy Soren and Jessie Jolles) are non-romantic life partners who need each other’s help to grow.
The second season of “Dibs” picks up where the first left off: Emily is unemployed and single, while Joey is presumably employed and an aspiring singer. Given the show’s short format, we never get much more than that — instead, the series focuses on how they deal with common problems, like first dates and dropping your purse in the toilet. The stakes aren’t very high, but the overwhelming good attitude of the leads keeps the show consistently funny.
Emily and Joey are two parts of the same whole, rambling in a rapid, metaphorical shorthand that only they understand; they are obsessed with the way they talk, as if they’re performing for each other. In “A Lot of Together,” we see them tell the same story over and over, as editor Erek Michalak jumps from space to space. The places may change, but the timbre and beats of the storytelling stay the same, and yet neither Joey nor Emily get tired of hearing themselves talk. This is where “Dibs” finds its own voice. The show’s obsessive compulsive analysis of the banal moves it closer to “Seinfeld” or “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” than the aforementioned “Broad City.” But rather than forcing these two into disagreement, Emily and Joey complain together, hitting the same high notes and locking into a rhythm like two members of a band.
“Dibs” finds something to hone in on in each of the five-minute long installments and drains humor from the most mundane scenarios. Preparing for a job interview becomes an exercise in futility, as Emily heightens a mock interview until she is playing both interviewer and interviewee. Yet, these crazier character bits resolve in scenes where the two become more assertive in their own lives, earning real character-driven moments over the course of nine episodes, a rarity in online comedy.
Emily and Joey change over the course of the series, evolving into better versions of themselves. We see, little by little, their characters forming throughout the series, growing inside and out, becoming more confident about what they want out of life. Emily and Joey collect strength in the first six episodes, flex their muscles in the climactic middle two, and cool down to reflect in the finale. In “Game Night” and “Red-Headed Orphan Girl,” “Dibs” demands development to punctuate what we know about these characters. Emily and Joey face their problems head on.
For as funny as the show can be, it really comes alive in those final three episodes. Emily and Joey break free of their snappy dialog and express their fears, hopes, and concerns in plain, slow language. These moments are earned because of the slow build of the season. Within each episode, we learn a little bit more about the characters that build to a greater whole. We see their neurosis bubble to the surface, so when it spills over, the result is surprisingly gripping.
Season 2 caps off with “Sha-Tie Day,” a celebration of the day Emily and Joey first met — yes, they invented a holiday to commemorate their friendship. The party opens with the expected pleasantries: a jester hat, a plastic gong, and the reading from the book of the ancients. But when Emily drops that she might be moving in with her boyfriend in a few months, the tide changes. A lesser show would spend the whole episode of one friend freaking over the other. They’d take out their frustrations on them. They’d make a new friend to make the other jealous. However, “Dibs” stays true to its premise. The news doesn’t cause a rift between the two; instead, they quietly recognize that things won’t stay the same forever.
Acknowledging that the leads‘ chemistry is the strongest aspect of the series, “Dibs” puts the heart of the show in their friendship and how they relate to each other. There are more and more shows on TV and online about friends who simply want to be friends, and “Dibs” is a perfect example of this trend. After all, sometimes it’s just more fun to watch two people figure something out together, than to watch them argue their way out of every situation.