From an online perspective, Current TV’s most talked-about shows over the past two years have been the short, snark-heavy media critique segments That’s Gay and Target Women, which build their audiences thanks to a niche appeal and an engaging host who gives each segment a clear personality. The new series Embedded, meanwhile, definitely has the niche audience thing covered, thanks to its exclusive focus on music. But the personality here comes directly from the bands being profiled, an eclectic yet talented mix.
The series title invokes two very different ideas — the HTML code that makes sharing an awesome music video online possible, and the placement of journalists alongside military troops during the latest Iraq conflict. It’s the latter that’s most at play here, as the film crews accompanying have acquired some truly impressive access to the behind-the-scenes lives of the artists as they engage with professional milestones.
Airing Wednesdays and fed out to digital partners like Hulu on Thursdays, Embedded began last week with an hour-long special that followed hip-hop artist and actor Mos Def around Japan. It’s since been broken down online into 15 segments that each run 5-6 minutes in length.
Current previously released some acoustic performances from the Mos Def episode back in June, to coincide with Mos’s new album, and these remain packaged separately from the full episode, along with additional performances and outtakes. Which means that on the episode page, you can click between clearly deliniated scenes from the episode, deconstructing the linear experience of watching a show, but allowing you to have some control over it. In the mood to watch some sumo, but not listen to Mos’s thoughts on bullet trains? You can make it happen.
This week’s episode features alternative rock chart toppers Silversun Pickups, and includes some shorter segments with K’Naan and Arcade Fire, which is more in line with future episodes (the all-Mos Def hour is an aberration). But the theme remains the same — the relatively unfiltered perspectives of artists, followed closely by cameras, and edited to celebrate the quiet moments of preparation and reflection on an equal level with the — so far — really stellar musical performances. (A highlight: Silversun Pickups performing their hit single Panic Switch live on the air.)
There’s no real urgency to the execution, however. And without the unifying presence of a host, a person’s decision to watch from week to week is determined largely by their interest in the artists being profiled. Online, we’re able to pick and choose our favorite bits. But the impetus to come back for more is lacking.