Mad Men Meets Melrose

Quarterlife, the new series from Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, is far from racking up impressive broadcast-style numbers on MySpace and YouTube, which leads The New York Times to question.

The low traffic numbers are significant because the series has been touted as the first television-quality production for the Web, as well as the first to be introduced online as a warm-up for its network debut. NBC will broadcast “Quarterlife” in one-hour increments beginning in February, and the Web-to-broadcast process is being closely watched as a potential business model for television on the Internet.

YouTube has the first nine webisodes posted at this time, whereas MySpace has 14, so that needs to be addressed (although I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s some kind of deal that prevents it, since the show debuted on MySpace).
Since I had the time today, I watched webisodes one through ten. While I’m outside the target demographic, I like the show. If I was the target I’d probably feel compelled to deliver some snarky commentary. But I’m not, and Gawker’s already got that covered.

Here’s what I will say…
The writing is smart and the actors are attractive. Herskovitz and Zwick weave in multiple levels of narration via the use of Dylan’s video blog, which adds an authentic element to their portrayal. I also like the critique of advertising, media and entertainment as delivered by the 20-something characters. Sure, it’s make believe but the characters depict real struggles that go on in these businesses and inside the people who work in them.
Then there’s the whole social networking thing to consider. “Quarterlife” is the show’s fictional name for MyFaceSpace. Dylan, who is a writer trapped in an editorial assistant job, lets her true voice out on Quarterlife, much to the chagrin of her friends. Yet, even when secrets are revealed, her friends rebound quickly. In the case of Lisa, she moves from “you’ve violated my privacy!” to “how can this thing make me famous?” in record time. also extends this chance at fame to the program’s fans. Betz28, for instance, makes video blogs of herself singing on the site. I’m questioning if she’s a real fan or a plant, but either way, she’s showcasing what can be done. She inserted herself into the action and that’s what social media is all about.
The show’s actors also have profiles on MySpace and profiles on, which makes them accessible in a way that would have been unheard of a few years ago. Long story short, Quarterlife is a model show for this time in social media history. It’s not perfect, but it’s a signpost saying, “Come this way.”



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.