Last week came further proof (as if we needed any) that popularity on the Internet does not necessarily translate into popularity in the real world. The web-sensation-turned-TV-show “quarterlife” drew a tepid 3.1 million viewers when it debuted on NBC last Tuesday. It was NBC’s worst performance in the timeslot in nearly 20 years. Which doesn’t bode well for a long and healthy life.
The show is the brainchild of longtime TV vets Marshall Herskowitz and Edward Zwick. Herskowitz and Zwick were the writing/producing/directing duo behind the late-’80s sensation “thirtysomething” (note the trademark lack of capitalization). The duo shopped their new dramedy concept to every network in Hollywood, all of which rejected it. Inspired by the growth in online media, Herskowitz and Zwick went high-tech and produced a series of interconnected, eight-minute story segments that caught the attention of MySpace malingerers. Stuck with nothing to fill the airwaves during the Writers Guild strike, NBC made the bold move of picking up “quarterlife” and giving it a berth in prime time. As bad ideas go, that’s one of them.
The show concentrates on a group of whiny, self-centered twentysomethings. Twenty years ago, Herskowitz and Zwick were chronicling the lives of whiny, self-centered thirtysomethings. Now, these fiftysomething fossils are going to pretend they know how twentysomethings talk, think and act? Sure enough, this group of young, Slacker-esque “creative types” (film school nerds, computer geeks, actors and--worst of all--journalists) behave like no human beings on Earth. (Dialogue sample No. 1: “Happiness is a construct invented by the bourgeoisie for the purpose of stimulating the desire for material possessions and creating an unsustainable consumer economy.” Dialogue sample No. 2: “A job is where you check your soul at the door and spend the day doing the bidding of people trying to exploit humanity, where you give up your dignity in order to strip others of theirs, where your greatest asset is inauthenticity.”)
The storylines centers loosely (very loosely) around sodden-looking Courteney Cox substitute Dylan Krieger (Bitsie Tulloch, famed for her work on aborted viral video sensation “lonelygirl15”). She’s an associate editor at an upscale women’s magazine. Like her six photogenic friends/roommates, she struggles with the idea that she’s “sold out” and spends her days and nights searching for some way of regaining her precious artistic integrity. Unable to vent to her friends (odd, considering that’s all anyone does on this show), Dylan pours her innermost feelings out on a video blog. (Cue endless shots of Dylan monologuing into a grainy Web cam.) For reasons inexplicable, Dylan’s blog becomes an Internet sensation. Dylan’s friends soon find out and get mega-bent over the fact she’s spilling their dirty secrets into computer land.
Taken in eight-minute segments, “quarterlife” might be considered tolerable. Glued together into a one-hour glob, the show is unwatchable. Angsty diatribe follows angsty diatribe, and no one comes out looking even vaguely sympathetic ... least of all, the creators.
“quarterlife” aired Tuesday at 9 p.m. on NBC, but probably won’t be back. NBC said they might move it to Bravo. Or not. If you wanna see it, go to www.quarterlife.com.