Hollywood’s toe-dipping online for the past few years always seemed to tread somewhere between afterthought or novelty. The real action was on network and eventually cable TV, with the web being a place seldom inhabited by the heavy television players. With standout teen hits like The O.C. and Gossip Girl, Josh Schwartz could be excused for letting others take the bumbling early steps into web television.
Maybe the 32 year-old Schwartz is a little more clever than you’d expect from his teen drama resume. Perhaps he see’s what’s coming. His business after all depends on him staying sharply tapped-in to current teen zeitgeist.
Tuesday marked the debut of Schwartz’ long awaited web series Rockville, CA on TheWB.com and with it the launch of his web television conquest to tap the growing hordes of kids for whom the internet is their entertainment.
Set in a fictional Eastside LA rock club that share the show’s title, the series steeps with on-the-verge-of-mainstream bands. Not a surprise really, as Schwartz brought along his longtime music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas to insure the cool that Rockville needs to tell its story. It’s a music story after all. Not the pseudo-hip office of a label or an early 90’s record store soap opera, but something more current.
“What if it’s about the kids who go to the clubs, the fans of the music, instead?” Schwartz asked in a recent New York Times interview. “That world hasn’t changed at all.”
Schwartz could see a radically shifted music industry; one of smaller labels and rabid online followings. It’s only fitting that with the old-guard television biz hitting some of those same winds, that he takes this story to the web. The series stars a handful of young TV regulars like Alexandra Chando (As The World Turns) and Andrew J. West (Privileged), Jelly Howie (Dexter) and Ryan Hansen (Veronica Mars). The 20-somethings all spend their nights at Club Rockville, all with different gigs, from club rat to A/R rep, but all there for the same thing—the music.
We had a chance to hit the set of Rockville last fall, when the hefty production took over the stalwart The Echoplex in LA’s Echo Park. That day we caught Phantom Planet‘s high energy set which had even the crew bobbing their heads by the last take. Twenty bands, one in each episode, frame the series with its always changing lineup of Rockville acts. The Little Ones, Earlimart, Lykke Li, Nico Stai, The Kooks, Eagles of Death Metal, The Broken West, Passion Pit, White Lies, Frightened Rabbit, The Duke Spirit to name a few. I asked which one stands out for the young stars. “I can’t stop listening to White Lies – their song ‘Death’ is constantly playing in my car,” says Chando. West concurs, having a little fun with words, “I would be lying if I said anybody else but White Lies.”
Rockville, CA premiered four episodes this week on TheWB.com and its new MySpace hub, with two new eps coming out every Tuesday through May 12. For the first 24 hours, the new episodes are exclusive to TheWB and MySpace. The MySpace deal follows the largely successful pact last fall with TheWB.com’s college drama Sorority Forever which also shared an exclusive window on the two sites before wider distribution.