When NBC announced that they were going to try airing this monstrosity on network TV back in December, I knew this would be the result. Not because the show was originally created for the Internet (thus being free of pesky things like "unions" -- and as it turns out, talent), though that didn't help, but because when I first saw the first segment of this show back in November, I was instantly appalled, insulted and amused in a "I can't believe people are actually buying into this crap" way. Simply put, the show is awful. Awful.
Variety reports the obvious, “Quarterlife”, the craptacular Internet show created by two aging Baby Boomers, still best known for writing about their own generation TWENTY YEARS AGO, that attempts to reflect on the lives of people MY age (that is 25, hence “quarter” life), has been canceled by NBC after one abysmal airing. 3.1 million people tuned in. To put that in perspective, freaking Veronica Mars would sometimes do better than that (not often, mind you, but it was also on UPN and then the CW, so…). Shit, I’d be willing to bet that the syndicated rerun of Friends from 10 years ago that it was up against in many markets did better than that. 3.1 million, for a network show? Pathetic doesn’t even begin to cover it. I did laugh hysterically after seeing the overnights, if only because I was totally unsurprised.
When NBC announced that they were going to try airing this monstrosity on network TV back in December, I knew this would be the result. Not because the show was originally created for the Internet (thus being free of pesky things like “unions” — and as it turns out, talent), though that didn’t help, but because when I first saw the first segment of this show back in November, I was instantly appalled, insulted and amused in a “I can’t believe people are actually buying into this crap” way. Simply put, the show is awful. Awful.
And I SHOULD be the target audience for the show, because its basic conceit, is in essence, my life. A bunch of 25 year olds who want to be writers or filmmakers or actors or Internet moguls or “insert other trendy shit people my age want to do here” meander about how pressing and dramatic and angsty their whole existence really is. Because I am a huge fan of angst-based television, commentary on the narcissism of my generation (and really, the narcissism of every generation as it reaches a certain age) and teen melodramas in general, you would think this would be right up my alley. Too bad the show got it all wrong.
Let’s look at some shows that succeeded where “Quarterlife” failed:
- “90210,” while not about my generation (it was about my sister’s generation), was awesome, because, well Brenda Walsh ruled all, and it had camp and kitsch. I mean, until they graduated from college and had like real people problems, it was a total fantasy land, which was awesome.
- “Dawson’s Creek” (which was about my generation, the DC kids graduated from high school one week after I did) was awesome because it was hyper self-aware and brooding and its overly dramatic diatribes perfectly encapsulated my life at the time. It also failed to take itself seriously. Like, it was totally self-important, but it wasn’t like everyone involved with the show didn’t know that they were really just making the Wednesday night 90210 replacement for the next generation (I actually wrote an academic paper charting the Wednesday night at 8:00, and also the Thursday at 9:00, teen dramas from 1990 — 2003 and how they all share the exact same character arcs for the main characters. That is NOT a joke.).
- “The OC” was awesome, because even though it wasn’t technically about my generation (all the actors WERE from my generation, whereas all the Dawson’s Creek kids were way older, so it kind of was), it was the best parts of 90210 and Dawson’s Creek in one.
Then there were the truly awesome, in a non-ironic sense, shows like “My So-Called Life”, “Freaks and Geeks” and “Felicity” which are accurate and true irrespective of what generation they were representing. “Quarterlife” wanted to be high-brow, like a “My So-Called Life” (which those two guys executive produced, but um, they didn’t write that show — that show was written by a woman who was amazingly able to tap into a generation not her own) but ended up being low-brow like the later years of 90210 when every Walsh had left, yet their house was still being used by the actors that will never, ever get work outside of Dancing With the Stars, the guy who owned the diner was in the opening credits and the plot lines were so ridiculous, Brenda from General Hospital asked to be released from her contract so that she could return to daytime TV (and um, you do NOT see actresses asking to go from primetime back to daytime, even if they are as awesome as Brenda Barrett of Supercouple Brenda and Sonny). And to be clear, I love and still love 90210 — I don’t TiVo the post season 7 episodes, but I still watch them if they are on. But 90210 never tried to be anything other than what it was. You would have to pay me to watch “Quarterlife” — and I’ll watch “Rock of Love 2″ with Brett Michaels voluntarily. Think about that.
What really pissed me off though, was how out of touch the show was with the voice it was trying to portray. I blame both the casting director and the actual writers. First of all, whoever the lead narrator chick is — she sucks. Like, she’s AWFUL. I don’t know how much of it is the writing and how much of it is that the actress can’t act for shit, I’d say a little of column A, a little of column B. Plus, not to be a total bitch, but she’s not even cute. As annoying as Marissa Cooper was, at least Mischa Barton was pretty to look at. I mean, I was happy when they killed that character off, but at least she wore cute clothes. I could covet her shoes, even as she butchered her line readings.
Even worse, the character is so completely annoying and insufferable, you can’t identify or sympathize with her at all. In the first little mini-episode, the character actually says, sans irony, “when we were all in elementary school, everyone told us we were geniuses. Why don’t people see that now?” NO. WRONG. The line should have been, “we were brought up believing we were all geniuses; whoops.” The reality is, my generation was raised with the idea that it is smarter and more special than it is — I firmly agree with that (hence, my non-existent book/manifesto is called, You Are Not Special: But That’s OK, Neither am I) — but if high school didn’t set us straight, all it took was going to college for almost all of us to get schooled in how not special we really, really are. The show doesn’t reflect that because it was written and created by people in my parent’s generation. You know why Reality Bites (which this TV show/Internet experiment is desperately trying to be, but with the whole 2008 thing rather than 1994) worked? Because the girl that wrote it WAS Lelaina Pierce. It had authenticity. “Quarterlife” has no authenticity. None. Thus the only people who could be possibly interested are people too young and naive (and brainwashed by My Space) to not realize that post-collegiate life isn’t being accurately represented, or are too old to understand that the actual generation, while absolutely that self-absorbed, is not that out of touch with reality.
Plus, from what little I watched, the whole thing was just insanely predictable. From the first 8 minutes, I was able to surmise and predict shit that was ultimately revealed in December or something. Like, as a total joke, I told Grant that the lead character would be in love with the guy who was secretly in love with her best friend. Um, I can see being able to predict that out of a 42 minute pilot — I can — but from an 8 minute segment of that pilot? That’s just sad and pathetic. Even for fake Internet TV.
If you managed to read and comprehend my rant on the state of awful television and/or made for Internet TV shows, kudos. I figure I might as well write SOMETHING that takes advantage of all the money my parent’s have wasted on me pursuing higher education.
10 people have left comments
Come on — Reality Bites is your parent’s generation? Shit I would be in serious doo-doo if I had a 25 year old kid … funny enough, it was filmed right here in Houston literally next door to my oldest brother’s house at the time (he’s appeared on my blog in a couple places). Funny story too — he was arc welding a frame of a 1951 Chevy in his driveway when the director came over and asked him if he could take a break since they were trying to film a movie. He responded, “No shit?” An igloo cooler full of beer and lawn chair later, he sat there and watched them film. To be honest, I completely missed all the generation dramas — not sure if it was late night Dungeons and Dragons playing or what I was doing but I don’t remember having an actual drama. My weekly show line up? The Cosby Show and Cheers, Miami Vice, old school Star Trek, Johnny Carson and Dave Letterman. I’m sure I’m leaving out some quality shows somewhere .… 😉
Reality Bites? HELL NO. This show wants to be Reality Bites. Thirty-something was my parents generation. Reality Bites, again, my sister’s generation. Well, my older cousin’s — tad older than my sister too, but much closer than it was to me.
LA Law. You forgot LA Law. No NBC Thursday night lineup is complete without the 10 PM anchor.
Actually, I don’t even know if Thirtysomething was truly my parents generation, as they turned 40 in 1985 and 1987 respectively. In comparison with my friends (hell, even with my sister’s friends), my parents are old.
Whew! I feel better! Hell yes!! LA Law! Shit that was a family event for sure. I think Hill Street Blues also. Hell your parents are young . . Funny just pulled up the trailer for Reality Bites on You Tube. It’s quite nostalgic for me with all that footage downtown; I lived in the Rice Hotel right there in the middle of all that for a few years at the turn of the millenium … sigh
Christina said: Actually, I don’t even know if Thirtysomething was truly my parents generation, as they turned 40 in 1985 and 1987 …
You’re cracking me up as usual. Especially loved the 902010 bit. Although I’m a bit SHOCKED at your comment guidelines: “Keep it PG-13 people!” Now…not to pick nits, but you are my favorite F-bomber. Say “NO” to fucki*ng censorship!
Updated Comment Guidelines | www.ChristinaWarren.com said:
[…] wasn’t aware I had any “comment guidelines” — whoops. So the infinitely awesome Mike Doe left me a comment, questioning the conservative nature of my “comment […]
I LOVED this show. I am in the twenty-something generation, and identified completely with many of the characters. I thought the writers did a purposeful job, in terms of creating something that was thought-provoking and artistic. I fell in love with the characters, their lives, their ambition, drive, and wonder. Maybe it’s just me? Maybe I have that undying hope for romance, love, deep thought and analysis. This show satisfied my hunger for all of the above, and I hope it continues even online.
And, by the way, 90210 is my all time favorite show. It was a completely different generation. I remember sneaking those episodes in when I was a little girl, not allowed to watch them. They never created deep thought or conversation, however. They did fulfill a sense of belonging and entertainment, especially at a young age when I probably was not at the point to want to think deeper (especially with, or because of a television show). I don’t know… as I get older, I desire more intellectual stimulation. I get that in a variety of ways… my higher education, my friends, my family, my interests, my adventurous soul… and yes, even television and internet.
So, I enjoyed Quarterlife, thought it had much to offer… And feel, very passionately, that the show’s quality is hidden even in the most skeptic or pessimistic of souls. It may even drive out the poet, philosopher, and “hippie” (for lack of better term) in us all. We are a unique generation, with a lot to offer. This show depicted what some of us are already discovering about us quarterlives… we have a connection and purpose in this all, just look, analyze, take a chance, protest, fight, dream, drink, live.