The "Buffy" creator, whose web series "Dr. Horrible" airs on the CW this fall, is appearing in Season 2 of the enjoyable online comedy "Husbands," which premiered last week (two more episodes will appear Aug. 29 and Sept. 12; behind-the-scenes videos appear Aug. 22 and Sept. 5). He's one of a number of high-profile guest stars visiting "Husbands" this season: "Two and a Half Men" star Jon Cryer, John Hodgman, Tricia Helfer, Mekhi Phifer, Felicia Day, Sasha Roiz and Amber Benson all guest guest star, and "Caprica's" Alessandra Torresani returns as the lead couple's ditzy pal, Haley.
"Husbands," for those who haven't seen the first season, is about Brady (Sean Hemeon), a successful major-league baseball player, and Cheeks (Brad Bell), an actor/celebrity, who drunkenly get married in Las Vegas only to have the morning-after realization that they don't know each other that well. Nicely calibrated hijinks ensue.
"Husbands" was created by Jane Espenson and Bell, and Espenson ("Buffy," "Game of Thrones," "Battlestar Galactica," "Once Upon a Time") prevailed upon her old boss to play Wes, Brady's agent. As you can see from Episode 1 of the new season, Wes is very concerned about Cheeks' flamboyant personality and how that might affect the career of his client.
"He joked with us about being really nervous, but I'm not so sure -- he was so good," Espenson said of Whedon's jitters on set. "This is by far the largest role he has had to date and he nailed it."
When it came to Cryer, who first appears in the Aug. 22 episode and talks about his work on the series in the exclusive clip posted below, the goal for the "Husbands" team was to let him show off skills he doesn't usually get to display on his CBS sitcom.
"We specifically wrote him a different role than what you normally see for him," Espenson noted. "People are gonna howl at how funny he is and how he fits into our world."
He also got to show off snazzier threads: "I was very much looking forward to wearing my nice suit," Cryer said of his "Ryan Seacrest-ian" celebrity interviewer role, "and I got to do that."
There are a lots of good web series cropping up all over these days, but what makes "Husbands" distinctive is its mix of earnestness and straight-up comedy (which is crisply directed by executive producer Jeff Greenstein). "Husbands" doesn't sidestep the complexity of the situation faced by Brady, who has only recently come out as gay, and by the couple, who didn't immediately get divorced because it would have been a setback to the marriage equality movement -- it deftly uses those problems as comedic fodder. Brady and Cheeks both struggle with the conflicting dilemmas of their public and private identities, and that's a struggle that might well have been onerous to watch if it were not the centerpieces of something so light and entertaining.
The comedy, which was funded in part by a Kickstarter campaign, has certainly upped the ante budget-wise this season; it was filmed on location in a swanky Los Angeles home and the 9-minute episodes flow as well as any mainstream comedy. But the show's premise is more or less the same; it's a topical romantic comedy that "really allows us to delve into both the complicated social reality and the simple truths of the relationship," as Espenson said.
Also, there are vampires. And space ships. Um, wait -- sorry. That's next season -- at least that's the hope.