This weekend I was looking for something to watch and someone suggested I watch The Booth at the End. I was somewhat skeptical at the description he gave me: ‘it’s about this guy that grants wishes and people have to do tasks but it all takes place in a diner’. Intrigued by the ‘granting wishes’ part I decided to give it a try, even though I wasn’t quite sure that a show taking place entirely in a diner with little or no action would hold my interest. Boy was I wrong. After the first few minutes into episode one, I was hooked.
The Booth at the End was created by Christopher Kubasik as a web series that premiered in 2010. It stars Xander Berkeley as a man that hangs out in a diner and can seemingly make people’s desires come true. People, his ‘clients’, hear about him by word of mouth, show up at his hangout (the diner) and tell him what they want. Usually they arrive with a passphrase: ‘I hear the pastrami sandwich is really good here’. Most of the time he dismisses people that don’t know the ‘code’, but there are exceptions. Once invited in to the booth the man asks them questions, finds out what they want, and consults his well-worn notebook. He then gives them a task to complete. The rule is simple: if they complete the task, what they want will come to pass. They can choose to do so or not do so, it’s completely up to them. They can change their minds at any time and opt out of the deal with no repercussions other than the possibility of not getting what they want. The only other rule seems to be that once set on a task, they must report back to the man and tell him the details of their progress.
Some of the tasks seem harmless while others are downright horrifying. But the man never presses for people to go through with their task, instead he only seems interested in capturing their stories. He reminds them often that they can stop any time they wish. He is also adamant that he doesn’t make things happen, the people themselves make things happen by completing their tasks. As the series progresses you begin to question how much control the man actually has over things. Is he just a middle-man? Who is he? Perhaps more importantly, what is he? There are hints dropped here and there, especially in the second season, but they are so very vague. Rather than frustrating, I find that mystery part of the fun.
The set up of the show creates an environment rich with storytelling. Because the entire show takes place within the setting of the diner any action happens off-screen and is told through the dialogue of the characters. Some of the characters are reluctant to talk and the man must press them for details, all of which he carefully notates in the book that is always within his reach.
If you’re looking for something a that will simultaneously give you the creeps and warm your heart, let me suggest you check out The Booth at the End. There are only two seasons of the show, each consisting of five twenty-two to twenty-three minute episodes. It makes for a quick and easy marathon if you’re looking for something to do for a few hours. I’d suggest you set aside the time in a block if you’re going to watch it; once you start, you won’t want to stop. Both seasons are available on Hulu.