If you’ve ever auditioned for a play, interviewed for a job or tried out for a sports team, you’re familiar with the constant fear that you aren’t good enough and that there is someone better, smarter and much prettier than you. Submissions Only takes that feeling and bottles it into 22-minute satirical webisodes that are all at once real and over the top.
Created by New York actors Kate Wetherhead and Andrew Keenan-Bolger, Submissions Only follows Penny Reilly (Wetherhead) and her best friend Tim Trull (Colin Hanlon) as they muddle through the New York theater world. It offers an honest perspective on the Broadway scene that Smash could only dream of accomplishing. Currently in its third season with original music, crazy made-up plays and one extremely cute guy, Submissions Only is the best television show that’s not on TV. If you’re in the mood for some binge watching, stop reading now and catch up with seasons 1 and 2 at SubmissionsOnly.com, and season 3 at BroadwayWorld.com. For fans and those who read a novel’s last page first, let’s meet this band of misfits.
Struggling New York actress Penny Reilly starts the series as a reader for her best friend Tim Trull’s new casting company. At the end of season 1, she is passed over for her dream roll in Iron Dog and is cast in the Mean Girls national tour. (This Mean Girls musical was before the real Mean Girls musical was announced.) Penny has an unfortunate nasty accident on tour involving a harness and returns to New York and her old job as a reader. At the end of season 2, Penny is cast in the new musical Jeremy’s Fort starring Serena Maxwell (Donna Vivino). She is currently in rehearsals, and they are not going well. Not only is Penny struggling with the score, written by the dynamic “Giddyup Guys” (Daniel Breaker and Teddy Bergman), but the tension between Penny and Serena is interfering with her work.
Tim is Penny’s best friend and loves a chunky cardi. Along with his assistant, Gail (Lindsay Nicole Chambers), his casting business has become somewhat successful. Since his breakup with Penny’s agent Steven (Stephen Bienskie), he has pursued the possibility of becoming lovers with “Compass-ition” creator Nolan Grigsby (Wade McCollum). Though Tim and Nolan are VERY different, they have a palpable chemistry. Nolan is encouraging Tim to let go and enjoy life, and Tim is slowly becoming a happier person because of it. Tim and Nolan’s relationship is still in the sweet, innocent phase, providing a perfect contrast to the absolute mess that is Penny’s love life.
Aaron Miller, an actor turned possible lawyer turned actor turned back to possible lawyer, is confused about a lot of things. He first meets Penny at an acting class in season 1 and is immediately infatuated. Although he considers giving up acting for law school, Aaron takes a job with Tim as an extra reader during the Iron Dog casting, where he is reacquainted with Penny. Penny finally realizes how adorable Aaron is just as he books a role in Iron Dog, and she doesn’t. This, along with her exile to the Mean Girls tour, puts an end to their burgeoning relationship.
Aaron quickly starts dating Broadway star Serena Maxwell and shines in the Boston production of Iron Dog. When the revamped production flops in New York following the firing of the director and the entire cast except for Aaron, he admits to Penny that he still has feelings for her. Since Penny has just been cast in Serena’s play, she is conflicted and decides to hold off any future romance with Aaron until after Jeremy’s Fort is over.
Despite sharing a kiss with Penny at the end of season 2, Aaron doesn’t break up with Serena. He’s not a bad guy, though. He’s just an adorably confused puppy. He is so confused that he is taking time off of New York and acting to “figure things out” back home. Aaron then tells Serena that he is thinking of applying to law school (again), although Serena thinks it’s for the first time.
When Penny first meets Serena in season 2, she comes off as a typical Broadway diva with no time for anyone else (including her boyfriend). She doesn’t go to the first preview of Iron Dog because previews make her nervous. How do you think Aaron feels? She won’t even accompany Aaron to his agent’s party because she is too fragile after reading the terrible Iron Dog reviews.
Working on Jeremy’s Fort, Penny is seeing a completely different side of Serena. Turns out Serena’s actually a nice person. All of a sudden she wants to be Penny’s friend, and somewhere along the way, Penny and Aaron forget to tell Serena that they know each other. Awkward. Every time Serena tries to be friendly, Penny becomes more and more uncomfortable with the situation. Penny is not good at keeping her mouth shut and is constantly letting things slip about Aaron. She definitely can’t keep the secret much longer. Aaron seriously needs to rip off the Serena Band-Aid and come back to New York.
Linda Avery is a woman who knows what she wants and goes for it, even when it’s a very gay man (and it usually is). As the original director of Iron Dog, Linda works with Tim, Penny and Aaron to cast the Boston production. During the casting, she fondly calls Aaron “Luke Wilson,” but only has eyes for Tim. When Linda finds out that Tim is gay, they have a huge falling out. Tim is not likely to cast another Linda Avery production anytime soon. Since Linda was unceremoniously fired from Iron Dog and replaced by Vincent Savio, who completely ruined the production, Penny hasn’t seen much of Linda. That is, until last week, when Linda appears as the new director of Jeremy’s Fort.
Completely oblivious to the Aaron/Penny don’t ask, don’t tell game, Linda immediately makes the whole Serena situation more awkward by bringing up Aaron’s old pet name. Penny quickly (like at side effect reader warp speed) reveals the whole crazy thing to Linda. Although Linda is skeptical, she gets on board with the lie. With Tim a thing of the past, Linda is now setting her sights on her new protégé, Josh Clark (Blake Whyte) — who, unfortunately for Linda, is also swinging for the other team.
Steven, who is Penny’s agent as well as Tim’s ex-boyfriend, has put up with a lot of crap from clients over the years. He is ecstatic that Penny is cast in Jeremy’s Fort and is not afraid to tell her when she’s being crazy about the Aaron thing. After Iron Dog‘s success in Boston, Steven’s agency signs Aaron Miller, creating yet another awkward situation for Penny. Steven’s office is no longer a safe haven for Penny to vent about her life. Now she might run into Aaron, or worse, Serena and Aaron together at Steven’s office, when she least expects it.
Steven’s new boyfriend, Cameron (Max von Essen), is the opposite of Tim in every way, which is perfect for Steven. Cameron is a foodie who loves the outdoors (it’s possible Tim has not been outside since last summer). Their relationship moves very quickly, and after dating for a few months, Steven and Cameron buy a weekend home in the Berkshires, which Penny lovingly nicknames “Gay Gardens.” Season 3, episode 4 (the most recent) is a big one for Steven and Cameron’s relationship. On the way home from a rather odd art exhibition, Steven proposes! We have to wait until Monday, April 28, for Cameron’s response, but all signs point to wedding bells in Gay Gardens.
Have I convinced you to watch? Give it a go, and I promise that within five minutes, you will be smitten with these characters and the tone of the series. Submissions Only is like wearing your favorite sweater while drinking hot chocolate. It’s cuddly, warm, and impossible to watch without a big smile on your face.
While some of the jokes may be over your head if you are completely unfamiliar with Broadway, the majority of the writing is extremely accessible. These characters are real, as are their relationships. We have all met a Penny, an Aaron (I wish), or a Tim in our lives. The emotion on Submissions Only is perfectly paired with side-splitting one-liners, just like a detectable French macaron. If you are in the market for a show that will provide hours of warm fuzzies, you are in the right place. And for all you Broadway babies out there, make sure you keep your eyes peeled for some unbelievably awesome cameos.
Submissions Only airs every other Monday at 9 p.m. EST exclusively at BroadwayWorld.com, and episodes are available on demand the following day. The next episode will air on Monday, April 28.