HBO’s been trying to figure out the web scene for a while now. Early tries saw them signing former Rocketboom host Amanda Congdon to a development deal that ultimately has gone nowhere. More recently they threw some cash into the web comedy portal FunnyOrDie.com, the Will Ferrell-backed site made famous with its brief Landlord series. Even Goodnight Burbank creator Hayden Black has been signed.
Until now, we’ve seen nothing. Rumors were flying around town about HBO’s latest play, snatching up YouTube vlogger celebs, and we’re finally seeing some glimpses of the first actual web series to come out of all this. Launching October 1st, Hooking Up is a college-based series set on the campus of fictional Bask University, “where the guys and girls are always trying to hook up via their social networking sites, IMs and texting, but never seem to really communicate.” Sounds like a hyper-net-centric Sorority Forever starring vloggers instead of homecoming queens.
Ironically, Hooking Up actually stars the perennial college freshman Jessica Rose (lonleygirl15, Greek) who has been in demand on the web series circuit, starring in the just-launched college mystery-drama Sorority Forever and the upcoming 60Frames series Blood Cell. Rose’s character Meg has a love interest of course, who’s played by Philip DeFrano, aka sxePhil on YouTube. Then throw in Kevin Wu, aka KevJumba, as Ryan Davis, the “wingman” to sxePhil’s Nick. Kevin Nalty (Nalts), adds some slightly older viral fame to the team, and so does Cory “Mr Saftey” Williams. Rounding out the cast is the recent signing of What the Buck? host Michael Buckley to play the students’ much-loved Professor Jerry.
The 10-episode comedy series is the first from HBO’s web TV development arm, HBOlab. Adam Weissman and Jamie Nelson are Executive Producers of the series, written by The BC (2006) web series creator, Woody Tondorf, who also stars as Nick’s older brother TJ.
We’ve seen this move before, established players using attention-hungry web celebs to stir up business. Disney’s Take180.com portal just used LisaNova and the Shoes guy/girl, to capture wandering teen attention on YouTube, hoping to bring them over to the teen-focused video site. Even iJustine, who last summer broke onto the scene with her 300-page iPhone bill, is now doing an online campaign for, you guessed it, AT&T.
At the very least, they each bring a loyal and diverse following adding up to about a million combined subscribers on YouTube. So odds are that this experiment will certainly get watched. The real question that Hollywood’s waiting for an answer on – can these kids actually act? HBO is sure betting they can.