This Cult Toronto Web Series Is About to Take Over Cable Television

In 2008, Matt Johnson and Jay McCarrol released their web series Nirvana The Band The Show. It was as weird as its two creators: a documentary-style show about a fictional band (made up of Johnson, the energetic frontman and erstwhile lyricist, and McCarrol, the quiet and subversive pianist) who try, through various and increasingly madcap conceits, to get booked for a gig at The Rivoli, a bar across the street from their apartment.

It was hilarious.

But it’s hard to call the show a runaway success. It attracted a small following — mostly hip Torontonians and friends of friends of friends of the guys who made it — and fizzled out after its short, low-budget initial run. McCarrol and Johnson went on to work on other projects, most notably The Dirties, their 2013 feature about school shootings that won a Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, was championed by Kevin Smith, and extended their careers beyond the Internet and Canadian borders.

Now, almost a decade after the original idea for Nirvana The Band The Show was conceived, Johnson and McCarrol are bringing it back — in primetime. Their new series, Nirvanna The Band The Show (note the extra ‘n’ for mainstream copyright issues) premieres tonight on VICELAND as the network’s first original scripted series.

The new show is almost exactly like the old one, with Johnson and McCarrol reprising their hapless characters and the same ludicrous premise. But with the higher production values of television come higher stakes, and bigger hijinks. The show, often filmed guerrilla-style, sees its main characters going to even greater lengths to get noticed and get booked, including trying to put a float in the Santa Claus Parade or sneaking a film into Sundance.

Trust us: it’s funnier than it sounds.