Director Fajar Nugros and YouTube personality turned actor, Bayu Skak, return to expand their double sleeper hits, Yowis Ben and Yowis Ben II to small screens. Dubbed as Yowis Ben: The Series, this expansion takes place in the same universe as the movies; yet, it sets a few months before the first movie—making it effectively a prequel. While retaining most of the casts, the series offers leisurely laid-back backstories leading up to the main events in the original movie.
Ordered for 12 half-hour episodes by Tencent’s WeTV (in a deal similar to Bad Genius: The Series), Yowis Ben: The Series also retains its unique selling points as blockbuster in local tongue—Javanese language with Eastern dialect—in the daily conversation. While the characters will code-switch to Indonesian in some more formal situations, the dialogues reflect the daily problems of Malangese people. The story still revolves around the life of no-hoper, Bayu (Skak), looking for a sip of teenage love.
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The series reinvigorates the origin story of the soon-to-be personnels of pop-rock band, Yowis Ben, that lends the story its title. Some events deliberately retcon their first encounter, but the narrative will allow it as the movie never specifies the moment clearly. In developing the backstories, Nugros and Skak deploy characters from the first and second movie naturally into the narrative while, in the movie, they barely meet. And yet, what makes the conflict in the series alive is the new character, Rini (incredibly portrayed by Putri Ayudya, Kafir, Mudik), who unravels the story’s real potential.
After a few episode, it’s clear that the main arc in Yowis Ben: The Series revolves around the bittersweet relationship between Bayu and his uncle, Cak Jon (Arif Didu), who has raised him like his own child. Jon might be peculiar and having a weird sense of joke; he even sleeps with his chicken. In the movie, he’s portrayed as Yowis Ben’s inept manager who, against all odds, keeps gluing the band altogether. In the series, Nugros and Skak attempt to explore the ordinary human side of him. Rini’s proven to be a perfect catalyst for his redemption.
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There seems to be an allusion of a bizarre love triangle between Bayu, Cak Jon, and Rini. While Bayu sets his sight to find his first love, Cak Jon keeps him accompanied in joy and sorrow; however, the old man is torn between looking after his beloved nephew or chasing the love of his life, Rini. The series thoroughly (albeit a little repetitive in the later episodes) explores this arc while casually meddling it with Bayu’s sour love life and his camaraderie. Not only does this arc is well-intended, it also showcases just how incredible both Skak and, especially, Didu in managing the range of their performance.
While adding sufficient backstories to previously minor characters like Devina Aureel’s Stevia and Anggika Bosterli’s Mia, Yowis Ben: The Series surprisingly neglects the band members out of the exploration. Neither Joshua Suherman’s Doni, Tutus Thomson’s Yayan, nor Brandon Salim’s Nando has enough exposition to the conflicts that was once nudged in the movie. Now that the first season wraps itself, it’s safe to say that exploring Bayu’s best friends’ life might be an expected agenda for the next season.