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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