As with most pop culture sensations, Lonelygirl15 spawned a spin-off, and some competition. Falling somewhere between direct offspring and competitor is REDEARTH88, a series that’s starting to build a serious fan base at a time when Lonelygirl’s audience is falling off from previous highs.
If REDEARTH88‘s (RE88) format rings familiar — cute girl in room shares her life through a webcam, and heck, both shows feature run-on words with numerals in their titles — then it should come as no surprise to learn that the show’s creator, Glenn Rubenstein was once part of the LG15 team. His “OpAphid” alternate reality game (ARG) and his character “Tachyon” were both integrated into the LG15 universe. Rubenstein also worked in varying capacities on the show for about five months.
But Rubenstein and LG15 did not part amicably. In fact, neither party would provide comment on the split. Suffice it to say that Rubenstein wanted to go in a different direction. “I’m very aware of some things to avoid, based on LG15,” said Rubenstein. Speaking about the overall story arc he said, “If you ask questions you have to have answers.”
Rubenstein launched RE88 in July 0f 2007, and kept many of the same elements that made LG15 a hit. RedEarth stars a young, attractive girl vlogger who is, unbeknownst to her, wrapped up in a web of intrigue and secret agents. To be honest, it’s hard to keep up with Rubenstein as he explains the machinations of the RE88 universe — different characters upload different sides of the same story, there’s a murder, a mysterious organization, and I haven’t even mentioned the Maddison Atkins ARG that’s tied in as well.
Surprisingly, Rubenstein sees RE88 as a reinterpretation of the sit-com with misunderstandings playing a central role. “The audience has more knowledge than the characters,” he said, “If you just watch the Rachel videos, you’ll think they are just comedic. But if you’re watching the Tachyon videos you get the real story.”
This requirement of audiences to discover and keep up with multiple video from multiple characters across multiple locations adds excitement for the so-called “Red Army” fanbase, but could alienate new viewers who don’t have the time or energy to keep up. It’s something Rubenstein is aware of, and wrote about in a follow up email to me: “We find ourselves having now had some greater success with Rachel’s videos, and yet with the separate character accounts it can be easy to miss the entire concept of ‘multiple perspectives’ … we are currently working toward a better solution in terms of presentation.”
RE88 has more than 25 episodes in its canon at this point, but it wasn’t until recently that the show really started to take off. Episode 12 was the first one to break the 100,000 play mark on YouTube, and the audience is growing as three episodes in the past month surpassed 200,000 plays.
The traffic spike couldn’t have come at a better time, as Rubenstein hasn’t made a dime off the show since starting it last year. He says that since the bump in play counts, he’s been contacted by agents and managers, and with all his show’s new fans, he won’t be feeling lonely anytime soon.