Get ready for the future of TV, because it's here. On Nov. 11, a new drama series, quarterlife, premieres on MySpace. Why should you care? Because for one thing, it's the brainchild of Emmy-winning writers-producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, Once and Again). And it's being touted as the first "network-quality" series created specifically for the Web. Whether or not the show takes off, it's a sign that the times are changing. And with the Writers Guild strike in full swing, more Hollywood scribes may find a creative outlet, like Herskovitz and Zwick, by writing directly for the Internet.
Quarterlife revolves around a group of angst-addled twentysomething pals, including Dylan, played by Bitsie Tulloch, who's known to Web video fans as Alex from Lonelygirl15, Jed (Greek's Scott Michael Foster) and Debra (Entourage's Michelle Lombardo).
Herskovitz says he's not really doing anything differently than he would if the series were produced to air on TV, which is the point. "The only change, in terms of the Internet, is that we're using the Internet in the show," he says.
In the premiere, Dylan begins a tell-all video blog — at quarterlife.com — in which she shares personal thoughts about her friends, like how Jed, the guy Dylan's secretly in love with, is secretly in love with his best friend's girlfriend, Debra. "It's very much about the site called quarterlife.com," adds Herskovitz, "and it's certainly about a generation that is on the Internet all the time."
Dylan and Jed are this series' version of The Office's Pam and Jim. They're the potential super-couple who may get viewers hooked on the show's twice-weekly, eight-minute episodes (new ones will be posted on MySpace first, and on quarterlife.com the following day).
It's possible that such programming will be what viewers seek out if shows like The Office head into repeats during a prolonged writers' strike. The Simpsons' Harry Shearer, one of the stars of the all-original video and music website mydamnchannel.com, says, "It would be delightful if people came over to the Internet because they found that the fourth time they saw America's Next Top Model, it wasn't as satisfying." But, he adds, "I don't know if the writers' strike is going to be a big factor in the way people choose their entertainment."
The expectation, of course, is that viewers will go where the quality shows and new programming are, whether it be on their TVs or laptops. Quarterlife was actually first conceived as an ABC pilot about a group of twentysomethings in Chicago. "We just weren't satisfied with the outcome," Herskovitz says. "So I started from scratch. The theme you see now was devised to be on the Internet."
And quarterlife, which has its own social networking site, will take advantage of the Web's interactivity. Each of the series' stars has blogs at quarterlife.com, and users are able to share videos, photos, music and writing. Herskovitz and Zwick hope the site will provide opportunities for a whole generation of Web users itching to get their own creativity noticed.
"We've seen this from the beginning as a show and a social network married together, each one expanding upon the other," Herskovitz says. "The show is about these creative people, about the issues in their lives. We're hoping we can engender the same kind of emotional reaction in an audience that we did with My So-Called Life or thirtysomething, and at the same time create a community where people can deal with these issues in their own lives."
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