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The story began simply enough: the love triangle of Sylvester, Kathy and Rufus. But after 12 chapters the triangle was more like a lopsided octagon, with a dozen characters and as many cliffhangers. The dramas hinged on unlikely plot devices: leg cramps, pie allergies, the surprising things one finds hiding in cupboards.
Now Trapped in the Closet, the tale of infidelity, violence and violent infidelity by R Kelly, pictured, the R&B star, is getting even more complex, if possible. Kelly has created 10 more episodes of his cult video series, which he and a cast lip-sync as he narrates the story to a lilting and unchanging beat, punctuated by the sound of water dripping. Since Monday, the IFC cable channel's website, IFC.com, has been streaming one new chapter every day. On Tuesday, Jive, Kelly's record label, plans to release a DVD collection of the latest episodes, and next month IFC will present all 22 chapters consecutively, like a film.
Given the plot twists - Episode 9: "Not only is there a man in this cabinet/But the man is a midget! (midget! midget! midget!)" - fan anticipation is almost absurdly high. Private viewing parties, tribute performances and singalong screenings are scheduled throughout the country, celebrating the first hip hop-era/alt-comedy/independent video crossover hit.
"It's the intersection of brilliance and insanity," said Evan Shapiro, the general manager of IFC. "I've never seen anything like it . He creates a universe that is completely self-contained."