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Shocker Alert: Quarterlife canned! Except for the whole “shocking” part

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.

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10 people have left comments

Sean - Gravatar

Sean said:

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 .… 😉

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 2:32 amQuote this Comment
Christi­na - Gravatar

Christi­na said:

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.

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 2:34 amQuote this Comment
Christi­na - Gravatar

Christi­na said:

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.

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 2:37 amQuote this Comment
Sean - Gravatar

Sean said:

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 …
Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 2:48 amQuote this Comment
chris ull­rich - Gravatar

chris ull­rich said:

So, I’m con­fused. Did you like the show or not?

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 3:03 amQuote this Comment
Christi­na - Gravatar

Christi­na said:

Ull­rich — HEE!

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 3:06 amQuote this Comment
Mike - Gravatar

Mike said:

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!

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 11:33 amQuote this Comment
Christi­na - Gravatar

Christi­na said:

Wait, I have com­ment guide­lines?

Whoops.

That’s total­ly chang­ing — thanks Mike!

Posted on: February 29, 2008 at 12:04 pmQuote this Comment
Updat­ed Com­ment Guide­lines | www.ChristinaWarren.com - Gravatar

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 […]

Posted on: March 1, 2008 at 5:02 pmQuote this Comment
kad - Gravatar

kad said:

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.

Posted on: March 8, 2008 at 3:43 amQuote this Comment