Tomorrow, at 8:00 am PT, 25 year old Tristan Couvares will be doing something crazy: he’s handing over his life to you. ControlTV, a new online reality series from Robot Chicken creator Seth Green, is a 24-hour nonstop experiment over the next six weeks during which viewers will make the daily decisions of Tristan’s life.
Several times a day, viewers will be presented with a set of choices on which they will vote to determine Tristan’s course of action. Cameras will follow the former IT recruiter nonstop throughout the next month and a half of his life in Los Angeles.
ControlTV Executive Producer Richard Saperstein tapped web television experts Big Fantastic to direct the show. The ambitious undertaking makes use of new technologies like robot surveillance cameras in Tristan’s apartment to a special portable pack that allows mobile live streaming through the combination of three wireless 3G networks.
The show is sponsored by Sprint and Ford Focus, and will be distributed through Digital Broadcasting Group.
We were able to catch up with ControlTV executive producer Seth Green, who was on set this weekend as the team performed the final tweaks in anticipation of tomorrow’s launch.
Tubefilter: What was the most exciting part about the show that caught your interest?
Seth Green: It’s tapping into a moment in culture that’s undeniable where we as people are communicating with each other at an incredibly rapid pace, and we’ve also become sort of the judge and jury of public figures. The individual’s voice is more influential than the press even because we have a more direct conduit from one another. All the social networking has put us in touch with each other and created these collectives of people with opinions, and whether you are talking about Alec Baldwin’s message to his daughter, or Jesse James cheating on Sandra Bullock, the collective has an opinion. We’re all inherently voyeuristic and so this just seemed an interesting opportunity to combine all those things and see if people would not just watch someone trying to make their life better but if they would actually participate, given choices to make that person’s life better or worse.
TF: Who comes up with Tristan’s choices?
SG: We’ve been spitballing tons of ideas for things for him to do; we want to give people the opportunity to decide really basic things like dress him in shoelaces or velcro, oatmeal versus an orange in the morning, but then it is also really complicated things like date this girl date that girl, take this job take that job, call your mom don’t call your mom. We’ll also have audience suggestions, and there will be things that are silly like wear a clown costume or wear a cowboy outfit, but we’re going to stack the deck in his favor so that option c is not ‘commit suicide.’ It’s all meant to nurture this guy along, and let the audience be involved in his six week evolution.
TF: Was it difficult to find someone?
SG: Yes, it was difficult to cast someone that’s appropriate for this level of social interaction because the requirements are so specific you need somebody that is not trying to be a celebrity but is willing to give themselves over to a very public event. You got to find someone who is both charming an charismatic enough to be engaging, but is awkward and still embryonic enough to be malleable.
TF: Is this voyeur-exhibitionist dynamic emblematic of a particular generation?
SG: It’s undeniable. You can pretend that it is not or you can hold on to old ideals, but the generation that’s younger than us is far more advanced—people are learning about things at a younger and younger age and it’s just unavoidable. Look on the internet, look at every kid’s blog or Facebook or Twitter—this immediate exchange of information is something that is rampant and it has become expected. If you have to wait five minutes to hear an update on something, it’s too much time. So as that speeds up and we’re transferring and exchanging information more quickly than we can fact check it—that’s a fascinating time. So the technology is such that we can literally watch someone online and we can make decisions on their behalf, get someone to agree to accept those choices, and just hope that the audience is on his side.
TF: Could this show be on any other medium besides the internet?
SG: No, it couldn’t exist. That’s the benefit of doing something online—you have immediate transference of information. You don’t have interactive television to this degree. No one would make appointment television to watch a show that they could be watching streaming 24 hours a day at their own convenience. Anybody at any point in the day can hop on Tristan’s feed and see what’s happening. Anybody at any point in the day can get a note on their phone that says “a, b, or c?” and they can participate in that vote or not. It’s entirely up to the user. You don’t get that same type of experience with television.