Monday, February 25, 2008

For TV GUIDE: QUARTERLIFE: Re-Drawn and Un-Quartered

As you've probably read by now, quarterlife didn't begin as the web series it's been since last November, as well as a social networking site of some ambition beyond the show itself. As the potential fifth series producers Ed Zwick and Marhall Herskovitz would bring to ABC, after thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, Relativity, and Once and Again, ABC passed, and the producers decided their concept of a series exploring young adults' lives, just after college but before they've actually settled into full-fledged careers and other aspects of "grown-up" existence, would lend itself handsomely to a webisode format, five to nine minute segments rather than 42 or so before the commercial breaks are added. And since Zwick and Herskovitz love to feature characters addressing the audience directly, in voiceover or, as in the brilliant Once and Again, in segments in which the characters' inner monologue is represented by their speaking (or staring silently!) directly into the camera (in black and white, on a limbo set), to add the aspect of video blogging into the drama would just make that sort of device even more organic.

NBC apparently snapped up the series before the strike (either as a bulwark against the looming strike or simply as a relatively safe midseason replacement, since it was in production anyway), but with the proviso that it will go on as a web series even if it doesn't go forward on NBC as an hourlong show. (Which also opens the possibility that another network might consider it...why do the letters "CW" seem to form on the distant horizon?)

As a web series so far, it has had both strengths and weaknesses. Being doled out, even twice a week, in such small chunks means that some transitional bits will have to be left behind in the web edits, and some things might have to be telescoped that might have a little more room to breathe in the longer format. The focus on twenty-somethings, which this series shares with the impressive, too-often overlooked Relativity, is a good idea (driven in part by the working life the producers found themselves in), but unlike the series since My So-Called Life, the greater texture that intergenerational interaction brings to the drama has mostly been unexplored (till the most recent webisodes, wherein Bitsie Tilloch's Dylan tries to cope with her mother and their difficult relation). For 25-year-olds, or thereabouts, the characters often seem remarkably adolescent; and, as some of the commenters on the quarterlife site itself tend to note, the characters often seem to drop out of sight for extended periods (a function, probably, of the tight focus the webisode length imposes).

But the series is well-acted, well-shot, and interesting, and I look forward to seeing how the longform version of the series might differ from what we've seen so far.

No comments: