The New York Times just can’t make up its mind on quarterlife. In the course of one week, it’s had four different takes on the web-to-TV series. And yes, we understand the Old Gray Lady has a stable full of staff members with diverse opinions aplenty, but three out of four stories were by one writer.
Dec. 17, “New Life for ‘Quarterlife’”: TV Decoder writer Brian Stelter blogs news of quarterlife getting a premiere date on NBC, plus mentions of Chris Albrecht’s Dec. 4 piece on NewTeeVee “Is quarterlife Cooling Off?” which had taken a hard look at the series’ viewer numbers and determined that it lacked a consistent large audience.
Dec. 18, “Herskovitz Calls ‘Quarterlife’ ‘on the Upswing’“: Stelter changes his tune after speaking to quarterlife creator Marshall Herskovitz, putting a positive spin on recent episodes drawing an average of 100,000 views. “Mr. Herskovitz believes the most elusive method of marketing — word of mouth — is beginning to boost the five-week-old series.”
Dec. 23, “Artists Only“: New York Times Magazine columnist Virginia Heffernan has high praise for quarterlife, calling it “Internet’s best-wrought original series to date” and describing its “more than two million views since its Nov. 11 debut” and its NBC deal as proof of the show’s success.
Dec. 24, Can NBC Do for ‘Quarterlife’ What YouTube Could Not?: Stelter reuses much of the reporting from his December 18 blog post, but switches back to a negative take on the series’ viewership. Is it a rebuttal to Heffernan’s piece? “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.”
To be fair, I’m probably being overprotective of Chris’ excellent story. We don’t, as Herskovitz claimed in our comments, have a pre-set agenda against quarterlife. In fact I’ve watched every episode, and not just cause it’s my job. I do think it’s great that the creators of My So-Called Life are working online. But I don’t think quarterlife‘s the greatest thing ever, or even the greatest show online, and there’s no reason to hold it up as such.
One last aside: We’ve compared quarterlife more than once to another original series featured on MySpace, Roommates — which, by comparison, is definitely lower-brow as far as writing goes and more skimpily clad as far as acting does. Herskovitz even mocked the series in our comments, “By the way, even if you take away the first episode, our average plays on MySpace are higher than any series other than Roommates (to which I happily defer since it is so superior to our work in every possible way…),” he wrote. But I gotta say, there were multiple gratuitous boob shots featured prominently in last Thursday’s quarterlife episode. I’d screenshot them here, but I don’t want to be crass. Getting a little hungry for views, I guess?
Further reading: What Constitutes an Online Hit?