Blog Entry, Tuesday: Oh big, breathy sigh. Just watched a TV series about people in their mid-20s. Life is hard for the new generation, as they bear the weight of their intelligence and irony and fierce creativity. Poor Dylan, she is too real for her own good, too addicted to the poetry of the universe. She finds solace only in the naked honesty of her video blog, crying out about the truths of her existence and the authentic inauthenticity of romance. Dylan, be free in the night! Let your spirit fly! Go girl!
Oh big sigh indeed. "Quarterlife," which premieres tonight at 10 on Channel 7, is just plain creepy. The show was created by Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the team who brought us affecting, ground-breaking drama with "thirtysomething," "My So-Called Life," and "Once and Again." But this time out, they've come up with an excruciatingly self-conscious look at an age group for whom, supposedly, privacy is irrelevant. Rather than developing a clique of layered individuals, as they've done before, Herskovitz and Zwick deliver a small culture of flat, irritating generational emblems.
The show began as a pilot for ABC. When the network rejected it, Herskovitz and Zwick rejiggered their concept and presented it as a series of 8-minute episodes on MySpace and on a "quarterlife" social-networking site. NBC then made news by picking up the Web series for prime time, heralding a new source of creative fuel for network TV. Alas, "quarterlife" is lame online and even flimsier in hourlong servings. Drama and comedy created for the Internet may indeed supply the networks someday, but "quarterlife" will only be recalled as an unremarkable pioneer.
Dylan (Bitsie Tulloch) is the central figure, a would-be writer who talks to herself - oh yeah, and to the entire world - on her vlog. She's fashionably self-aware, making statements that begin "A sad truth about my generation is . . .," and she laments her own digital fate: "We blog to exist, therefore we are idiots." Dylan lifecasts her personal torments and she shares the dark secrets of her friends. Essentially, she is in love with Jed (Scott M. Foster), who's in love with Debra (Michelle Lombardo), who's in love with Danny (David Walton), who's in love with himself. Oh, and Lisa (Maite Schwartz)? She's a big old drunk.
The unspoken mantra: Log on, sign in, rat out.
The gang purports to be horrified about having their lives turned into Dylan's vanity Web project. But of course they love playing supporting characters in their very own "Real World" reality show. Like the wealthy New York teens on the CW's "Gossip Girl," whose dramas are fodder for a mysterious blogger, the quarterlifers are complicit in their own betrayals. After revealing Jed's love for Debra on her vlog, Dylan doesn't apologize to Jed so much as exclaim her own slightly freaky nobility: "I have to be honest," she says. "It's like a fetish or something." In other words, scandalizing and chatterboxing are really just honesty. Later, of course, Jed thanks Dylan for her blabbery.
Mixed in with the soap are vignettes about the gang's working lives, including Jed's aspirations to be a filmmaker and Lisa's demoralizing acting classes with a hard-nosed coach (played by Herskovitz). Since "quarterlife" is a Big Statement about a generation, a "Reality Bites" for MySpace cadets, the search for professional identity in the shadow of the baby boomers must intrude. But romantic melodrama is the show's priority, and everyone, particularly Jed, spends plenty of time staring longingly at someone else. The performances are obvious all around, but then the characters are written as types. They're as unintentionally ridiculous as the intentionally ridiculous characters on a "quarterlife" parody called "2/8 Life" (at icn.tv). They're deeply shallow.