Dating and romance site YourTango has always had an eclectic approach to its coverage of modern love; the front page of the site today, for example, includes stories about Hanukkah, social media addiction and strippers. But what’s really put them on the map, at least in the online video world, is the invocation of 1950s nostalgia in order to comment on the current state of modern romance.
In 2009, the web short Facebook Manners and You was a breakout viral hit for the company (and a Webby honoree), thanks to its clever combination of social networking parody and spot-on period references.
A year and a half later, YourTango is now following up on Facebook Manners with a Facebook-exclusive series similar in theme and style. Bringing back Alice (Alice Callahan) and Timmy (Tom Miller) from the original short, Alice and Timmy’s Electronic Picture Diaries focuses directly on the dating experience, taking modern concepts like online dating and getting all your ideas about romance from Sex and the City and putting them in a 1950s context.
I gotta say, I’m not in love with the Facebook-exclusive distribution model; in order to watch any episode of Electronic Picture Diaries, I had to “like” YourTango on Facebook, thus giving me access to the app hosting the videos. The app looks good, but even aside from loading problems in Firefox, a Facebook wall is not the most user-friendly way to host video.
If the goal is to build up YourTango’s Facebook following, then, sure, it’s a potentially clever approach, and shows like Ashton Kutcher’s Katalyst series have had successful Facebook launches. But with the videos totally un-embeddable and limited currently to YourTango’s 4,500 fans, there’s not much chance of the series having any viral spread.
However, the acting is truly top-notch — both Callahan and Miller really nail the “aw, shucks!” overacting style from that time period — and the show’s post-modern quirks, like asking the audience to leave “opinion notes” and give the videos “merit stars,” prove to be really charming. Every once in a while, the show gets dangerously close to overplaying the technology references (Alice buys an apple at the Apple Store, geddit?), but more subtle references, like Timmy’s experimentation with online dating, are more successful.
Production values are uniformly great, and the writing witty. Making the audience watch video on its own terms might not be a successful approach, ultimately — but this content might be worthy of that.
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