Even though a handful of successful TV shows found their beginnings as short form serials (the Lone Ranger and the Simpson’s, to name a pair), the road to prime time television is rarely without potholes and stalling traffic. As the old maxim goes, fame or success is “a fickle food – Upon a shifting plate.” As net video program Quarterlife is finding out, that’s as true now as ever.
Quarterlife, a high concept Internet series about a group of twenty something artists coming of age in a digital world was expected to handle the transition to TV well. Because the show was conceived with six one-hour story arcs, translation of formats seemed easy. The show’s origination from the proven writing/producing team behind TV hits like My So Called Life and ThirtySomething (and movies including Shakespeare in Love and Blood Diamond) was also a nice bonus. For NBC, it seemed an easy way to fill the void of programming created during the Writers strike. (As an Independent Internet Production Company, Quarterlife Inc. was exempt from the walkout).
Unfortunately, finding an audience on TV was not so easy after all; and a different animal than finding one online (which is never assured either). In its TV debut earlier this week, Quarterlife drew little more than three million viewers. That was the lowest rated show in its time slot for NBC in almost twenty years. The show simply didn’t suit the primetime slot. So NBC is taking its chips off the table. One episode in and Quarterlife has been washed off the programming white board.
One of Quarterlife’s creators is not really fazed. The show reached a sizable audience online, and as a result, would have been repeats for hordes of potential viewers. Marshal Herskovitz also acknowledged at the Harvard Business School’s Entertainment and Media Conference Thursday that it probably shouldn’t have gone to the network in the first place. He added in a prepared statement, “It is important to remember that ‘Quarterlife’ has already proven itself a successful online series and social network with millions of enthusiastic fans. We live in a media world today where many shows are considered successful on cable networks with audiences that are a fraction of those on the Big Four. I’m confident that ‘Quarterlife’ will find the right home on television as well.”
Even without NBC, which arguably deserves some attention for the willingness to take the gamble, Quarterlife will live on. The 36 eight minute episodes will remain online, and more will follow. The website will also continue to expand.
As for TV, the remaining TV episodes will air on Bravo, an NBC sister station also owned by NBC/Universal. Future episodes could theoretically find a home somewhere on cable or satellite TV (there is no news or specific rumors discussing that prospect).
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