Tuesday, November 13, 2007

"Quarterlife": The Web-Only TV Show from the Creators of "thirtysomething"

Producers Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz have always felt out of step with the whims of the traditional TV network game, even though they've definitely had success with it. So now they're making TV show on their own terms, except that you won't find it on any TV.

The show, "Quarterlife," involves a group of people in their twenties trying to manage love, life, work, and other things while trying to figure out what to do after college. "Quarterlife" can be viewed only on the show's MySpace page.

Zwick and Herskovitz have the creative chops to attract viewers and keep them engaged. Their series "thirtysomething" captured the minds (and eyeballs) of young professionals during the late '80s and ran for several years, attracting lots of critical acclaim (and some derision) along the way.

They had mixed luck with their later TV series, gaining more critical praise and loyal audiences (but the size of those audiences was modest by major-network standards). Each of these shows—"My So-Called Life," "Relativity," and "Once and Again"—ended up being shuffled around to different times and days, which Zwick and Herskovitz feel made it tough for them to gain a steady audience.

I've always liked the work and the approach of Zwick and Herskovitz. They presented characters who felt like real people in real-life situations, not cardboard cut-outs. And they've always had some great young actors. The 15-year-old Claire Danes played 15-year-old Angela Chase in "My So-Called Life," which also starred Jared Leto in his first widespread exposure as an actor. And I seem to recall that the young Brad Pitt even played a bad-boy motorcycle boyfriend of the family's babysitter on one episode of "thirtysomething."

So I'm glad to see these two pros at work again and having more control than they've every had. With "Quarterlife," Zwick and Herskovitz are producing the show they want without having to worry about network schedules, oversight, or bottom-line issues. (In fact, "Quarterlife" was originally supposed to be a network TV show, but never got aired, as far as I know.)

And if "Quarterlife" doesn't last very long, don't feel bad for Zwick and Herskovitz. Like I said, they're definitely got creative chops and can find work: Together they have produced movies such as "Blood Diamond," "The Last Samurai," and "Legends of the Fall." And Zwick has been the director of a number of films including "Glory" and and "Courage Under Fire."

It'll be interesting to see how the "Quarterlife" experiment turns out. If it goes well, we might see other creative teams deciding to bypass the whims of network programmers and seek out their own audience on the Web. Considering the tremendous network pressure for a hit, with new shows being pulled off the air after only one episode if they don't draw an immediate audience, it might be a smart move. Or the only move.

No comments :