In September, Siege gave us the scoop on Quarterlife, a web series from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the creators of My So-Called Life. The series stars Bitsie Tulloch and Michelle Lombardo (Girltrash!) as young artists. It debuted Nov. 11 on MySpace.
I’ve watched a few episodes, and for the most part I find it witty and endearing. Maybe it’s not quite up to Angela Chase standards, but it has its moments. And apparently NBC thinks so too: The network has picked up the series for rebroadcast on TV. Instead of 36 eight-minute episodes (the web format), NBC will air six one-hour episodes beginning in early 2008.
Because I’m not a fan of watching things on my computer, I’m much more likely to see the whole series now. But it’s a curious transition: One of the best things about Quarterlife is the associated networking site that allows users to post their own video content and interact with other artists. Will the whole concept lose something in the translation to TV?
And what about the business side of things? This deal goes right to the heart of the issues that led the WGA to strike. Say you have a brave new development model: Shows start out on the web and get picked up by the networks. But then what — do they go back to the web? If so, will the writers ultimately lose money? NBC does plan to stream the one-hour versions of Quarterlife on nbc.com, so it’s a perfect test case. Here’s how The Hollywood Reporter explains it:
NBC will pitch in on production and Web development costs for “Quarterlife” that had been partially covered by advertisers and private investors, but Herskovitz and Zwick will continue to independently deficit-finance the series through Quarterlife, Inc. Even with that additional financial help by NBC and the network’s license fee for the show, Herskovitz said “Quarterlife” is still losing money due to startup costs and the challenges of launching an Internet series. He declined to discuss the size of the license fee NBC is paying, saying only that it is “substantially less than what they would normally pay for a drama series.”
“It’s a bargain for them, and it’s giving us the level of ownership and control we wanted,” he said of the deal.
What’s more, “Quarterlife” is strike-proof, because as an independent Internet production company, Quarterlife, Inc. is not an AMPTP member and exempt from the writers walkout, though the company is a WGA signatory and is looking to negotiate its own deal with he guild, Herskovitz said. The company will also have to work out terms with the guilds on compensating its WGA and SAG-affiliated talent now that the show created for the Web will air on network TV.
There is no template for that, because “Quarterlife” is the first Internet series to make the leap to television.
Hmm. It will be interesting to see how this all turns out. I wonder what a virtual strike would look like?
Here’s the Quarterlife trailer. Full episodes are available on MySpace.