Whenever we hear about a new web series these days, especially another one set in New York City, land of dreams crushed beneath the weight of a wayward condo crane, the first reaction we have is an exasperated one. It’s not that the subject of “Woe is me NYC” is ever closed, so much as that it’s been done poorly too many times to stomach another crack at it. Like if I have to hear one more joke about organic baby food I might just start eating it exclusively to spite everyone.
But Affordable NYC, a new web series about a queer couple of color trying to find suburban creature comforts in the big city, is actually pretty great. In just three sweet episodes, the series tackles the relatable challenges of finding a wedding venue, a suitable apartment and a good preschool for their kid, Daenaerys Stormborn.
The series was created by our own genderqueer Steven Hajar, so, suffice it to say, we’re beaming. They also play one half of the couple in Affordable NYC.
We asked Hajar about their inspiration for creating the series, and they told us the lightning bolt hit as they were walking home from the gym with a friend who had just finished planning a wedding in Brooklyn (one that had, predictably, gotten wildly expensive).
“We passed through the smallest, saddest, fenced in park in the corner of the Wendy’s parking lot near the southern entrance to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and she made an aside about how much cheaper it would be to just have the wedding there,” they explained. “And an idea was born. We ended up shooting the first episode right there.”
You can check out that first episode above, and you’ll see what we mean about the humor. The episodes have a distinctly self-aware style, and all end with the same shot of the couple clasping hands worriedly as they exchange fears about the future.
While there aren’t many jokes in here that you haven’t heard before, they’re treated with a lighter hand and better production value — not to mention acting — than other series. Having a couple that isn’t your run-of-the-mill straight Midwestern type doesn’t hurt, either.
FYI, Hajar isn’t actually dating the guy in the series. When we asked them, they said: “Brooklyn, get at me—I’m single and hesitant to mingle.”
If you’re single and in your late twenties (or even early thirties) like Hajar, then this series might hit home on more than just the affordability level. You probably recognize this couple from your own New York friend squad, a pair that was once always down to hang but is now elusive as they struggle to make wedding arrangements, settle into their one-bedroom digs and begin a new chapter of their lives in a city that doesn’t lend itself well to the task.
“I’m getting to that age where my friends seem to be contemplating nesting, babies, and marriage,” Hajar agreed. “I see them [struggling] to do it in New York City, and then I see my friends and family back home in suburban California who make adulting look like a breeze.”
Jonesing to make your own web series about adulting in New York? Well, look, we’re not going to stop you. It happens to be easy to do, and Hajar told us they were able to film legally in all these places for free, on their own schedule.
“Nothing in New York is cheap,” Hajar admitted. “I worked my ass of for a few weeks picking up shifts and doing doubles so that I could afford equipment rentals and stipends for everyone involved. We didn’t spend much, but everyone was compensated for their time and generosity.”
So sure, get out there, pay your artists and tell another story about New York. Just make it original, and for the love of god no jokes about artisanal food.
Besides the flawless Game of Thrones reference, our other favorite moment from Affordable NYC comes in the series’ second episode, “The Apartment,” where the couple is looking at renting an abandoned lot as their living space.
“Two years from now, your kid will be taking his first steps inside a Starbucks on that corner and learning how to ride a bike in a Duane Reade on that one,” the broker says to them. “AND it’s right next to the Express train.”
For more gripes and grousing about New York, follow Sam on Twitter: @ahoysamantha