Just two weeks ago, "Quarterlife" creator Marshall Herskovitz told MTV News that the new Internet show, which runs on both the show's official Web site and MySpace.com, wasn't picked up by network television because "it was not the piece of candy they were looking for."
But try refusing a piece of candy when you're on a diet.
With the WGA strike set to carry into the new year — and the networks fearful of a resulting regimen of reruns, game shows and sports — "Quarterlife" was picked up by NBC in a first-of-its-kind deal on Friday. Created by Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (who together were the brains behind shows like "thirtysomething" and "My So-Called Life"), the show is the first program to ever go from the Internet to broadcast TV.
The show, which centers on six twenty-something artists and their struggles to cope in the digital age, was originally shot for ABC, who declined to pick up the project. With the pilot rejected, Herskovitz and Zwick instead took "Quarterlife" to what they saw as other, more viable platforms. "For two aging adolescents who have problems with authority, this was good for us," Herskovitz joked.
But while it's now tempting to read the subsequent pickup by NBC purely as a salvo of defense from executives in search of original programming, that might be unfair to what "Quarterlife" accomplished on home computers. While popular (some immensely so) Internet shows like "Lonelygirl15" and "Prom Queen" have previously used the medium to tell long-form narratives, perhaps none have done so with the production values of "Quarterlife."
"I just don't think anyone's tried to do it at the level we're doing it, just in terms of budget and the level of storytelling, the complexity," Herskovitz insisted of the program. "What we haven't adapted is the notion that you can do real storytelling with deep emotional values. No one's tried that on the Internet before. I think that's what's been missing."
Herskovitz and Zwick might be the first developers to take advantage of the medium's advantages, but with the Internet continuing to create opportunities for potential filmmakers, they will hardly be the last.
"I think there's a whole generation of viewers that are platform-neutral," "Chuck" creator Josh Schwartz said. "They'll watch [shows] on anything."