Eat Your Serials - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Q. Given the plethora of web serials I wonder if you could speak to the difference in structure and story when writing a web serial vs breaking up a TV script into 3-5minute chunks and calling the result a web serial. In other words, if I can't sell my idea to television producers and want to go it alone, how might the script change?
I certainly don't think you can just break up a TV script and call it a web serial. For one thing, in a serial, each episode has to work on its own in a satisfying way, with a satisfying conclusion. TV acts just have to keep you hooked.

More crucially, I think what makes a good web serial is probably not the same as what makes a good TV show. It's a smaller picture, with less resolution, almost always being watched by a single viewer, probably usually at the office. That makes for a completely different dynamic. For example, comedy is at a premium. Subtlety is not.

A lot of web serials seem to have gimmicks. The LonelyGirl15 phenom, for example, only worked because people were wondering if she was a Real Girl or not.

I'm not sure most successful web shows are serials, actually. 30 Second Bunny Theater and Têtes à Claques are one offs ("anthologies" in the parlance). Can anyone point me to an artistically and commercially successful web serial?

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11 Comments:

Thanks for answering. Two serials I believe made money (not T.V. money but whispers say they've seen revenues of 6 figures) are "Prom Queen" shown on Myspace and funded by Michael Eisner's company and R. Kelly's "Trapped in a Closet". Obviously Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick hope that "Quarter Life" does even better.

By Blogger Josh Cowan, at 12:45 AM  

I'm sorry, due to user incompetence, I didn't read your complete post before responding. My answer above spoke to commercial not financial "success". However, while Prom Queen's story was uninspiring it's production values were decent. Eisner saw it as a proof of concept project and is now funding at least two other projects including a second season for Prom Queen. Thanks again for your thoughts.

By Blogger Josh Cowan, at 12:51 AM  

I can't speak to how successful it is (or will be) but I just started watching Sanctuary - which is a web-based sci-fi program and, so far, it's blown me away. It does appear to follow the same structure as a traditional tv drama. It also looks like it has a lot of money behind it - the production value is pretty amazing.

By Blogger peb, at 4:18 AM  

At what URLs?

By Blogger Alex Epstein, at 7:20 AM  

Prom Queen URL: http://www.myspace.com/promqueentv

Trapped in a Closet URL:

http://ifc.com/static/sections/kelly/trapped.html

QuarterLife URL

http://www.quarterlife.com/ Though there's only a teaser, they open in November.

By Blogger Josh Cowan, at 10:18 AM  

How do you define commercial success? I think you’d have a difficult time comparing the monetary earnings of a web-based anything to that of television.

Two podcasts spring to mind that may satisfy the commercial and artistic merits, however, depending on the (possibly subjective) criteria: Ask a Ninja and Tiki Bar respectively.

www.askaninja.com
www.tikibartv.com

I especially like what they’re doing with Tiki Bar, but it, too, isn’t a serial. Hmmm…

There’s one out there called Pure Pwnage (www.purepwnage.com) that could fit the serial/TV format quite well, but again, I doubt they’d be considered “commercially successful.”

Yeah, I think they’re different animals altogether, web and TV.

By Blogger Arlo, at 12:48 PM  

Tiki Bar? Seriously?

By Blogger Scott Squires, at 10:56 PM  

Also Making Fiends, which has now been picked up for television.

By Blogger Piers, at 6:47 AM  

Two and a Half Men? Seriously?

By Blogger Arlo, at 12:09 PM  

I really love the series "i" on ichannel and ichannel2 at youtube and at www.connectwithi.com. It's quirky and charming and funny and the acting is top notch. I don't think it's making money, sadly.

By Blogger orfeo, at 12:02 PM  

This entry's over two years old now; don't even know if a comment left here will be read or not, but...

One of the podcasts I mentioned in passing (above) was Pure Pwnage. Looks like they were picked up by Showcase awhile back: http://www.purepwnage.com/index.php?GUID=92459

Maybe this is old news around these parts (I did only a cursory search through the archives), but I when I spied a Canadian Television Fund logo on the back end of one of their TV Production Blog videos, made me think of your blog. :)

By Blogger Arlo, at 4:23 PM  

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