There’s been an interesting debate going on in the web series community over the last day or so, sparked off by a strongly-worded TwitVid of former UTA agent and consultant Barrett Garese, about whether or not the web series as we currently understand it is doomed to be “derivative television.”
There has been some great discussion on the topic, including Gold creator David Nett’s Facebook response and Garese’s expanded thoughts, that are worth reading. No matter what side you agree with, if you’re looking for a recent example that defines the concept of “derivative television,” here you go: Alloy Entertainment’s First Day, a Kmart-sponsored web series that premiered this Tuesday.
Alloy, the production company behind youth-skewing TV series like Gossip Girl and Pretty Little Liars, has brought TV-level production values to this tale of an awkward adolescent girl (Tracey Fairaway) forced to repeat the first day of school over and over again. (Groundhog Day? What’s that? Kids born the year Groundhog Day came out, after all, are now 17 years old.)
While to watch First Day on the official site is to be barraged by Kmart-branded ads and graphics, the actual show is relatively free of branding. And though I’m not totally sure that First Day has its finger on the pulse of today’s modern teen (Um, do high school students still have journals? And re-enact the bus scene from Forrest Gump in the cafeteria?) it looks good, has a fast pace and an engaging lead actress in Fairaway.
But there’s absolutely nothing about it that makes it feel like content destined for the Internet, beyond the fact that if I like Cassie’s BONGO plaid shirt in episode 2, there’s a link to buy it right beside the video player.
The major concession to the show’s destiny is the casting of Molly McAleer, Internet famous as the video-blogging Molls. McAleer, in a phone interview, said that while she doesn’t watch a lot of television herself, the people who follow her online adventures are also big fans of Gossip Girl and other Alloy programming, which got her interested in joining the First Day cast as Cassie’s cruel science teacher. “[Teen dramas have] that wholesome irony we all love, like watching Saved by the Bell,” she said about why her fanbase is drawn to the genre. “It’s a little bit more cheesy than real life, but there’s something comforting and fun about it, it’s totally a guilty pleasure.”
Alloy’s launching two other web series this fall, one of which is an adaptation of a young adult novel series (Alloy’s bread and butter), the other of which, a drama/reality hybrid, sounds slightly more interesting. Both promise to please teen audiences (and older folk who enjoy indulging in teen fare). But it feels like more of the same — and lacking in innovation.
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