Harper’s Globe Gives Interactive Thrills

[show=harpersglobe size=large]Creating newteevee to supplement oldteevee is a tricky thing. How do you tie your online content to your TV show in a way that engages your TV audience without having so much integral content online that non-Internet-savvy viewers feel alienated? There’s no magic formula, but one effort hitting the sweet spot is Harper’s Globe, the new “social show” created as a companion to Harper’s Island, a “mystery event” coming to CBS next month.

Harper’s Globe — produced by EQAL, the folks behind a modest little success called lonelygirl15 — is the story of Robin Matthews (the ridiculously adorable Melanie Merkosky), a recent college grad who gets a mysterious job offer to digitize the archives of Harper’s Globe, the local newspaper of Harper’s Island (where the death-at-a-destination-wedding show takes place). Robin’s also tasked with building a social network on the paper’s web site. As she scours old files, her attention is caught by a murder spree that devastated the island seven years ago. And the more she digs, the more dangerous things get. Already, a poster named Dangerous Wreck has uploaded a seriously creepy video, and that out-of-the-blue letter Robin received with the job offer is looking more and more suspicious.

What makes it a “social show?” It’s not so much a simple web series as a constantly interactive site with a social network and daily content updates, where in-show characters upload videos and blogs, and participants can comment, interact with characters, and upload their own content. Every Wednesday, a week’s worth of character content updates gets edited into a new episode — meaning that those following the mystery have a choice to either follow the updates as they unfold during the week, or get a web-show-packaged version weekly.

(A “mystery event,” by the way — in the case of Harper’s Island — is a contained 13-episode series that will wrap up the mystery and reveal all by the run’s end. Think of it as the anti-Lost.)

Much like Harper’s Globe has launched several weeks before Harper’s Island, Robin arrives on the island a few weeks before the events that kick off the TV series. Producers for both platforms are reluctant to confirm how much crossover there will be (for fear of spoilers), but EQAL’s Greg Goodfried and Matt Siegel say that Harper’s Globe Episode Four — which airs the day before the premiere of Harper’s Island — ends with the arrival of the TV series’ fated wedding party, and the events of the first episode of Harper’s Island feature prominently in Harper’s Globe Episode Five. (Also of note is the fact that Jennifer Yale, head writer for Harper’s Globe, just happens to be Harper’s Island Executive Producer Jeffrey Bell’s assistant. So it’s fair to assume the creative teams are in close touch.)

The goal is to have a web experience that enhances the TV show without becoming too interdependent with it — what Goodfried calls, “relevant but not required.” So far, so good; the site and the videos are great-looking and intriguing, there’s extra content scattered around online (like Robin’s college blog), and the forums and comments on the site are heating up.

Newteevee that seems to be making a geniune effort to give us something new. That seems worthwhile enough to justify a small body count along the way, right?