Quarterlife: Part one and part two (webseries premiere)
I mentioned last week, that I am a huge fan of Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick (creators of thirtysomething, My So-Called Life, and Once and Again), and I was eagerly anticipating the launch of their new webseries, quarterlife. Lots of people have talked about producing programming for the internet, but nobody has been able to launch a completely original successful series with mass appeal and excellent production value -- yet. So, I put a lot of faith behind the professional team of Herskovitz and Zwick, and applauded their bold experiment.
Unfortunately, their experiment, at least to me, went horribly wrong.
Wow, the ingredients in this show are terrible. Almost every word of dialogue had me gagging. There's not a likable, or even real character, in the cliche-ridden bunch. And I saw much better production values in the no-budget pilots that played in this year's New York Television Festival.
This webseries, now playing on myspacetv.com, has "amateur" written all over it. Which is a huge disappointment. Because I expected -- no, I wanted -- much better than this from Herskovitz and Zwick.
Quarterlife painfully tells the story (in eight-minute clips which seem longer) of a self-absorbed twentysomething video blogger named Dylan Krieger, played by Bitsie Tulloch (who seems to have been cast purely because she resembles a young Hope Steadman). By the third time Dylan screeches her name into the camera and utters the line "I often cry for no reason," I hated her freaking guts. What an unbelievable tool.
This would actually be funny, and not-so nausea-inducing, if blogger Dylan Krieger didn't take herself so gosh-darn seriously. Why is it that people who write about blogging still don't get it? Yes, Dylan Krieger, we're probably all idiots for blogging into the vast internet wasteland. But in my own experience, most people blog to self-promote their own writing, not because it's their "curse to see what people are thinking...what they want to say, but can't say." Give me an effing break. Another reason many of us blog is because we are able to find humor in the most mundane experiences around us. Blogging is all about the funny. Without it, you just have a self-absorbed tool spouting off pretentious, dreary dialogue like Dylan Krieger. And nobody wants to read that blog, let alone watch it.
I know Herskovitz and Zwick have been criticized for creating "whiny" protagonists in the past, but Dylan Krieger takes that whiny narcissism to a whole new level. If Dylan Krieger were a real person, I certainly wouldn't adore her. I'd want to kick her scrawny ass. What's to like? She pretends to be honest, but is merely sniping about people around her, revealing their flaws instead of her own. She makes bold statements about her entire generation being unrecognized geniuses (gag me). She believes she's better than her shallow blond co-worker because unlike Blondie, Dylan doesn't bother to shower or comb her hair for her job at a women's magazine. Plus, Dylan dresses like a 13-year-old boy (which we're supposed to find endearing?). She also still believes "young people can change the world" -- by writing boring copy on recycled paper -- without tampon advertising (oh, what an anarchist!).
Dylan dishes the dirt on her female roommates Debra and Lisa, literally turning the camera on them, without their approval. Dylan met Debra (Michelle Lombardo) in 9th Grade, and the two look so much alike that they apparently threw a pair of glasses on Debra so we can tell them apart. Dylan describes Debra as "the most there person I've ever met -- except when she's with Danny." Lisa (Maite Schwartz) is a slutty blond bartender, actress, and drunk who causes boys to "become stupid" around her. Dylan is brimming with jealousy though, because secretly she wishes she could be more like slutty Lisa. However, as Dylan is twentysomething, and unattached, I have trouble understanding why she can't loosen up, take the stick out of her ass, and have a bit more fun. If I remember correctly (and it's been a while), your twenties are all about partying and having a good time.
We are also introduced to the male neighbors -- Danny (David Walton) and Jed as they pitch a commercial to a local car dealer. Danny, (Debra's tool of a boyfriend), blabbers on about demographics and delivering on time and under budget. Meanwhile, Jed, the sensitive dude (we can tell because he has puppy-dog eyes and untamed, feathered hair) sputters about "post-modern filmmaking" making him also seem like a tool. Later we realize, thanks to Dylan's astute observation, that Jed is in love with Debra (his best bud's girl). We also realize that Debra deserves better than Danny -- because he obviously cares too much about business (this automatically renders him unworthy).
I couldn't help but think Herskovitz and Zwick created Danny and Jed from their own recycled backstory for thirtysomething's Michael Steadman and Elliot Weston. Let me guess what eventually happens to Danny and Jed, you know, when they grow up. They sell out, give up on their filmmaking dreams, and open an advertising agency together. Danny becomes more successful of the two -- buying into consumerism and the American Dream (the BMW, beautiful wife, two kids, and a mortgage). Jed settles down too, but is always more of a loose cannon which eventually come back to haunt him during his mid-life crisis (not to be confused with this baby quarterlife crisis) when he eventually cheats on his saintly wife.
Episode two also introduces a horny, nerdy film editor, Andy (Kevin Christy). I'm momentarily confused early in the second episode when Dylan appears wearing glasses because I honestly can't tell Dylan and Debra apart and I thought Debra was "the one with glasses." Later, Dylan (wearing the ugliest sweater vest ever and reading her own blog) is shocked during a staff meeting when Blondie (from episode one) steals her brilliant idea about adding a special section to the magazine that talks about important issues -- like racism and global warming -- without advertising. As an extra episode bonus, Marshall Herskovitz appears in cameo as a "director" who verbally dumps on Lisa during acting class.
Look, I'm 40, so maybe I'm not the intended demographic (a word Herskovitz and Zwick really seem to like using) for this series. However, I still remember what it was like to come out of college full of hope, only to have my creativity crushed in a soul-numbing nine-to-five office job. It's the main reason I left the boring office job to attend NYU Film School (to become an independent filmmaker and writer). I'm also a blogger, and I get that there is a need to connect to others through the blogosphere. But where the heck is the snark in Dylan's blogging? Only writers (or now bloggers) on TV whine about how artistic they are and how nobody understands their genius. Dylan's a pill, a party pooper, a wet rag. I've seen a better sense of humor on people suffering from clinical depression. Yes, there is angst and crisis in our lives (no matter what age we are), but with regular doses of humor -- most of us survive.
I wanted to like quarterlife. I really did. But I don't think this series is very good, nor do I think that it's going to revolutionize the way we watch TV on the web. This doesn't make me some unreasonable TV snob. I'm totally open to watching worthy episodic entertainment on my computer. In fact, I think I'm going to skip episode three of quarterlife, and go watch clips from My So-Called Life on YouTube.
To watch Part One of quarterlife, click here.
To watch Part Two of quarterlife, click here.