December 28, 2007 Jill

The strike, the internet and the future of television seem to be the topic of the moment. Will the strike drive viewers to the web? Will the internet spell the end of TV as we know it? Can television ever recover?

I think it’s pretty clear that if you’re a drama fan and your only viewing choices are Duel and Clash of the Choirs, you’re going to go looking.

But what are you going to find?

Every time I get onto this topic I mention the same series: Clark and Michael, Sanctuary for All, quarterlife. There are others out there. Prom Queen, a bunch of series at It’s All in Your Hands and comedies, The Maria Bamford Show, The Professor Brothers and Wainy Days.

I don’t really like much of it. Clark and Michael and Wainy Days, maybe. I try to watch quarterlife, but I can’t sit still for a whole episode. I don’t seem to want to sit for ten minutes of a show delivered on the Internet.

That’s the problem will all of these shows for me. As soon as they are web-shows, I can’t antsy. My fingers move to the mouse or the keyboard. I open another browser tab and start researching a Costa Rican vacation while I’m watching. And check my email. And Facebook. And the weather.

I don’t think we know how to tell stories on the internet yet. In the early days of television, cameras got pointed at stage plays and they called it television. It was a lousy use of the medium, just like taking TV shows and cutting them down to 10 minutes or less and call them webseries is a lousy use of this new medium.

CraziestI think Liz Dubelman’s VidLits are better examples of story telling on this medium than any of the series in the TV model. What she’s done is adapted books to the computer screen so it’s not episodic story telling but somehow I find Craziest (old as it is) fresher than quarterlife. Even though there’s no clicking or participation.

We have a lot of experimentation ahead before we learn how to tell stories on this screen. It’s early days and there’s a lot of playing ahead of us.

Obviously, the web is the future of the story delivery and I am producing my own experiment in web-based story telling right now. I hope to get a demo up by mid-January.

These new media offer story tellers lots of potential. We will master them. But we haven’t yet.

On the other hand, we sure as hell know how to make great television. I’d even argue that the greatest television ever is being made now. This is TVs golden era, the time of The Wire, The Sopranos, Jekyll, Skins, Intelligence, Friday Night Lights, Saving Grace, Dexter.

The US networks’ fall season was less than stellar. There was no break out hit. But who cares? There’s been tons to watch from other sources. Fabulous shows, pretty good shows, interesting and innovative shows. Shameless, Slings and Arrows, Californications, The Riches, The Tudors, Flight of the Conchords, Curb Your Enthusiasm, Six Feet Under, Durham Country, Damages, Weeds, 30Rock, Mad Men.

This is why I don’t think a prolonged strike is going to spell the end of television and drive us all to seek our entertainment on the internet. The Maria Bamford Show and The Professor Brothers may be terrific in comparison to the rest of the shows on the web, but they are not even close to being in the same league as any of the shows listed above.

Comments (5)

  1. Colin

    Love the Conchords.
    this blog chose them as best EP of 2007!
    I personally think it should be Black kids, but the conchords are just as awesome.

  2. Kevin Burton

    Totally agree about not being able to sit through web content on my lap-top – distraction is way too easy.

    The shows that have hooked me are the ones that have feeds that allow me to download them onto my video ipod (Mr. Deity for example) so I can watch them on a device that is focused on the content and doesn’t let me surf at the same time. Quarterlife doesn’t have that.

    And now with my ipod touch being able to access youtube, I’m finding shows there as well.

    Oh, and the iphone and ipod touch don’t play flash video content, so I can’t watch Quarterlife on it as that is the only format available on their web-site – what a huge and growing audience of mobile content consumers they are excluding.

  3. admin

    Tell me what you’re watching Kevin. I didn’t know about Mr Deity. What else? Tell me about anything that’s worth checking out!

  4. Elaine

    I like, made & set in Williamsburg. It’s not an ongoing soap like Quarterlife, so it’s easy to watch in segments. It’s still pretty fluffy, they don’t attempt much narrative — and maybe it’s turning out that’s what not viable on webTV — but it has some very funny moments (if you’re a slacker artist, anyway)

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