In the short time since the new video streaming platform Facebook Watch went live in September, clickbait videos have risen to the front page of the platform, obscuring smaller producers from the spotlight. It’s bad news for guys like Doug Kim, who bet $165,000 of his own money on producing his Facebook Watch series, Just Doug.
Kim describes Just Doug as a mix between Togetherness, the HBO drama about two couples pursuing their dreams, and Bojack Horseman, Netflix’s madcap show about an anthropomorphic horse who is also a failed actor. He co-wrote, executive produced and starred in the series, where he plays a version of himself in a semi-autobiographical tale about how Kim, a former professional poker player turned struggling actor, took $2.4 million home in 2006 from the World Series of Poker. In a sea of clickbait, Just Doug stands out as a bitingly sarcastic take on one Asian-American man’s struggle to break into Hollywood—the same thing the real Kim hopes to accomplish with the show itself.
Kim has made three episodes of the show so far—a total of 26 minutes of footage— although he has prepared a show bible for an entire season. His hope is that despite the odds, TV networks will see something in his nearly finished product that they like, especially as Facebook Watch hasn’t given him as many views as he would like.
The show pays particular attention to the specific struggles faced by Asian actors in Hollywood. In one episode, Kim is asked to play a stereotypical Asian character on a sitcom. It’s a situation that many Asian-American actors find themselves in when they’re starting out in Hollywood. Partway through filming, Kim gets fed up with the racism in the scene and throws a tantrum, storming across the set and shouting in an exaggerated Asian accent.
The showrunners decide to run with his tantrum take when the show airs, and the result is a scene where Kim seems to be participating in a racist caricature rather than criticizing it; on Twitter, he is attacked as a sellout. It’s moments like those that make Just Doug stand out, especially in a sea of Facebook Watch videos about “How to Date an Asian Girl” or “How to Get Out of the Friend Zone.”
The premise of Just Doug sounds similar to Aziz Ansari’s Emmy-winning series Master of None, where Ansari plays a loosely autobiographical South Asian-American man pursuing an acting career.
“When I saw the Vulture article [about his show] I was like, fuck. We were so deep into it already and then his show came out in November,” Kim told The Verge. “Although I noted similarities, I’m not too worried. Master of None is like standup, every episode is a different topic. My show is more like Girls, it’s more narrative-based.”
To further differentiate himself from Master of None, Kim plans to develop his character in distinctive ways, perhaps getting back into his roots in the Las Vegas poker world.
“Eventually, I see the show being about compromise,” says Kim, “How willing are you to sacrifice your values to get to your goals? Is it worth it to stay in [Hollywood]?”
Kim knows that his show has been buried under clickbait since its release in early November. He’s been in talks for months with Facebook about getting the series in the featured section, and so for December 10th, Just Doug will be featured in Today’s Spotlight. The three episodes already filmed look nearly ready for traditional broadcast, and he's hoping a network will pick up the series.
When I asked him why he didn’t just make a web series with lower production values, perhaps on YouTube, so that he could afford to produce a whole season, he said he wanted to prove he could deliver higher quality work from the get-go, even if it’s not the way it’s usually done in Hollywood. “I’m a gambler,” he says, “You could say that this time, I’m betting on myself.”