The Austin-produced web series The Pantsless Detective returns for a third season this week. The serial, a comedic take on classic film noir detective stories, was created a few years ago by friends Tom Chamberlain and Dipu Bhattacharya and has gone on to become an award-winning continuing series.
That's not exactly what Chamberlain and Bhattacharya were expecting when they filmed the first installment of the show, though. The Pantsless Detective was born when Bhattacharya decided to create a short, funny video tribute for a friend's 40th birthday. Chamberlain came on board and brought some wardrobe with him. "Tom had a couple of trench coats," Bhattacharya says, "[and] the idea morphed from being a spy spoof to a '40s film noir spoof so we could use the trench coats. And he wanted an excuse to buy a fedora."
"I love hats," says Chamberlain. "I was buying a felt hat anyway, and I thought, 'heck, we got the hard-boiled detective thing going.'"
So the genre was decided largely based on the availability of costuming, but it also plays neatly into Bhattacharya and Chamberlain's pop culture loves. Chamberlain (who stars at the titular pantsless detective) grew up loving Raymond Chandler style detective stories, both in print and on the screen; Bhattacharya's had a lifelong love of Airplane!, The Naked Gun and other parody movies.
In the original short film, the detective character (who would later be named Richard Panceliss) was unnamed and the idea of his not wearing pants wasn't integral to the plot. That element was also created by a happy wardrobe related accident. They were shooting in Austin in August, and as Chamberlain remembers it, "It was just brutally hot, even at night." When he was being framed in a medium or tight shot, "I just wouldn't wear pants on those shots and stay a little cooler."
While filming a particular shot wearing his trench coat but no pants, Chamberlain recalls "we needed a wide shot...and I had no pants on, so that was exposed, and people thought it was really funny." Panceliss's pantlessness became not just his signature fashion look, but an integral part of the show's mythology.
Once The Pantsless Detective became an ongoing series, Bhattacharya and Chamberlain found themselves being selected for more and more web fests. They attended five for season one and the show was selected for twelve more last season. They've won a handful of awards at those festivals, including awards for best comedy ensemble and best international series.
Bhattacharya and Chamberlain have at least six seasons worth of pantsless stories they'd like to tell, and season three debuts online at pantslessdetective.com Monday, June 27.