Marshall Herskovitz’s first glitter of stardom came with the creation of thirtysomething – a dramatic television series revolving around the angst-ridden lives of restless tercegenarians. Three years after that hit show ended, he would follow it up My So-Called Life – a dramatic television series revolving around the angst-ridden lives of restless teenagers. Last November, nearly 15 years after that cult show ended, he launched quarterlife – a dramatic television series revolving around the angst-ridden lives of restless twentysomethings.
Keeping consistent with the dissatisfied theme and simply changing the age group (septuagenarians, you could be next!) seems to have been a marginally successful entertainment tactic, or at least it appeared that way until Tuesday night.
When the series was just a pilot, ABC let quarterlife fly by. With much fanfare, Herskovitz then retooled the show and launched it on the web. The high production value is an eye-pleaser, but I found the subject matter to be stale, tired and pretentious. It tried so hard to speak to me that it missed the mark. But others liked it and it did okay online. After its modestly good showing on teh internets, NBC scooped up the rights and premiered the series earlier this week on good ole’ fashioned TV.
###I probably should care (perhaps I’m suffering from some kind of transposed Oscar backlash). The fact that a show went from web to prime time, national TV is kinda a big deal, especially since it’s never happened before. In some ways, it displays the power of the new medium as a distribution tool and shows the evaporating line between broadcast television and internet-TV.
It’s like when Family Guy returned to Fox after multiple cancellations and a three-year hiatus. Incredibly strong DVD sales and a huge following of its syndicated episodes on Adult Swim resuscitated the series back to the small screen. The ordeal showed Hollywood the importance of the tiny silver discs.
But Seth McFarlane’s cartooned, “cutaway-gag” goodness got a second chance because it had a lot of fans. Quarterlife had no such following. It got a new life because its creator is hooked up in Hollywood. He’s the president of the Producers Guild of America, has been a member of the industry’s elite for over 20 years, and has the means and contacts necessary to throw a bunch of marketing dollars at a mediocre product to find it a home.
The idea that a big budget show originally conceived for television took at pitstop on the web before actually being aired on television doesn’t turn me on. This is not a rags to riches story. What’s much more exciting are the Cinderellas of online video that are in some stage of transitioning from web to TV. The Lonely Island, We Need Girlfriends, God, Inc., and (to a certain extent) Sanctuary are much better examples of this “new era” of entertainment.
Now if 2/8 Life got some sort of TV deal, that’d be something to get excited about.