It’s the perfect web video fairytale. Boys can’t get a break in Hollywood despite working on other people’s hit shows. Boys turn to digital to get an original series funded and distributed. Boys make up concept about cute girls. Show doesn’t get watched much in part because it’s constrained to a particular mobile platform. Boys get deal to convert show to TV series for a 12-episode run on Comedy Central. Pilot gets slotted right after season premiere of juggernaut show South Park.
|Secret Girlfriend||Starts Weds 10:30pm / 9:30c|
|Season One Preview|
That’s the story of Secret Girlfriend, a new show premiering on Comedy Central (s VIA.B) at 10:30 p.m. on Wednesday and made by Ross Novie, former assistant director on Arrested Development, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and The Office and his writing partner Jay Rondot. In a twist on the now-ubiquitous single-camera documentary style, the show is shot from the perspective of its unnamed protagonist, a 20-something single guy. The viewer effectively assumes the role of the protagonist as he encounters strip clubs, booty calls, pool parties, girl fights and pool parties — and that was just in the first episode. Novie calls it “the first TV show in America from a subjective point of view.” I can’t say I’m rooting for the premise (why, exactly, are all these hot girls throwing themselves at him/us?) but the first-person format is a worthy gambit.
The idea, actually, came from the challenge of creating a series for mobile phones in the first place. Novie and Rondot conceived of Secret Girlfriend for FremantleMedia North America’s mobile channel Atomic Wedgie — a content service Sprint customers could subscribe to for $5 per month. The original series consisted of minute-long video voicemails from hot girls (see our review from last year). It was one of many web series made by the duo, who spent all their free time and what limited budget they had making shows for Superdeluxe, Crackle, Break.com.
“We were basically being paid to make a presentation, something that we could show on TV pitches,” said Rondot. “‘Here’s what we could do for $10,000, just imagine what we could do if you gave us $300,000.'” Secret Girlfriend got 3 million views online and was Atomic Wedgie’s highest-rated series, though Novie and Rondot admitted thumbnail images of sexy girls might have been their biggest asset. However none of their web series ever matched the kind of views they got for posting one-minute joke videos that got featured on (the now-defunct) iFilm.
Part of the appeal of the series for Comedy Central, of course, was the assumption that Novie and Rondot could make something pretty good for not very much money. And with Novie’s 15 years of assistant directing, he knows how to manage trucks, crews, caterers and the like for a budget he describes as in the “hundreds of thousands” for the TV show as compared to “tens of thousands” for the web series.
The two say they also conveyed to Comedy Central that they know how to do “Internet pacing,” with the thought that they could reel in short attention spans for the modified 11-minute storylines (the current plan is to air two of these back to back in a half-hour timeslot). Fremantle continues to own, sell and develop the series, and Comedy Central brought in execs to supervise — but Novie finally got to direct!
As you might assume, the show will have an integrated web presence, including would-be viral videos made by the protagonist’s best friends that are a side plot on the series and will actually exist on Atom.com There’s also a When Booty Calls online game and a Facebook personality quiz.
Online video could really use a crossover hit right about now. Will Secret Girlfriend be it? As for precedents, quarterlife flopped on NBC, and The CollegeHumor Show is hanging out there waiting for MTV to renew it — though Sanctuary on SyFy did respectable numbers and was picked up for a second season.
Given its subject matter, Secret Girlfriend may not necessarily be the show everyone in the industry can rally around, though Novie contends, “We didn’t just do the show to be exploitative. But to have an element of sexiness and to embrace it I think can only help our chances. And it has to be funny, or it might as well be Girls Gone Wild.” Twelve episodes are made, with the first two showing tomorrow after the season premiere of South Park. So how will this story end? Stay tuned to find out.