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Is There Quarterlife After Television? Yes.
November 12, 2007  | By David Bianculli
Today, on its own website called www.quarterlife.com, a new TV series, also called Quarterlife, is scheduled to be unveiled. Actually, it was unveiled yesterday as a sneak preview on MySpace -- where, as I watched on my laptop that afternoon, a MySpace counter announced that "Quarterlifehas 856 friends."

I don't have a MySpace page. In my opinion, no one with firsthand memories of The Mickey Mouse Club TV show should have a MySpace page. (There's a point at which youthful crosses over into creepy.) But if Quarterlife wants an older viewer to call friend, count me as number 857.

Quarterlife logoQuarterlife is a bold new concept for a TV series, with an even bolder way of delivering it. It comes from Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, who, throughout their careers as writer-producers, have done amazing work on network television in an increasingly endangered genre: realistic drama about everyday family life.

Their TV resume as creators and/or executive producers includes thirtysomething, My So-Called Life and Once and Again. (To read about the new My So-Called Life DVD set, see the TV ON DVD page of this site.) And yet their newest series, about artistic twentysomethings trying to make it as budding writers, actors or producer-directors, is being presented only on the Internet.

Serialized episodes are only eight minutes long, and will unfold twice weekly. (Yesterday, to launch Quarterlife, MySpace showed the first two.) But their location and brevity do not minimize how good these shows are, how instantly they pull you in, or how much better they are than most full-length TV shows on this season's standard network schedules.

So here it is: a review of Quarterlife, written by someone who's closer to threequarterlife. If he's lucky.

But since the mission statement of TV WORTH WATCHING is to find, embrace and support quality TV wherever it exists, there's no reason not to write a blog about a web-based show about a young blogger.

Quarterlife, the title, refers not only to the youthfulness of the characters (the central protagonist, a winning young wannabe writer named Dylan Krieger, is 25), but to a social website, in its Beta test phase, to which she provides confessional video blogs about herself and her friends.

In other words, where Dobie Gillis once spoke directly to viewers in the 1950s about his hopes, dreams, fears and activities, and where Doogie Howser wrote the same sorts of things into his computer diary in the 1980s, Dylan Krieger photographs herself on and with her laptop in the brave new cyberworld of 2007. She and her generation have a new set of problems - but the anxieties, of the scary life ahead and the unpredictable people and opportunities around her, are universal.

"My name is Dylan," she says, opening the show and her first video blog. She stops, coughs, starts again, asks "What is a blog?," then mocks her own rambling monologue, saying, "Blog, blog, blog, blog, blog." She wants to be heard, and wants to connect - but doesn't yet know what she wants to say.

She finds her voice, very quickly, by telling the honest truth. She has a job at a magazine called Women's Attitude - but no sooner says that than adds the self-deprecating admission, "I spend most of the day fetching coffee, but what are you gonna do?"

Her boss doesn't seem to take her seriously, which leads to the kind of offhand observation that makes her, and Quarterlife, so charming.

"A sad truth about my generation," she says on her blog, "is that we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts, because they don't seem to be aware of it."

Eventually, other characters in the show become aware of the Quarterlife website, and Dylan's blogs on it. Actually, elsewhere on the Internet, such video reports are called "Vlogs," and people like Dylan are called "Vloggers." But to me, that sounds Vidiculous.

Bitsie Tulloch photoDylan, as played by Bitsie Tulloch, is the perfect voice for this show: part Angela Chase from My So-Called Life, part Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye, only a few years older than both.

Dylan has two female roommates: Debra (Michelle Lombardo), an earnest young woman, and Lisa (Maite Schwartz), a struggling actress whose sex appeal is noted wryly by Dylan.

"When Lisa walks into the room," Dylan says in her blog, "it's like the gravitational field changes. Boys become stupid. Or stupider."

As for the boys on the show, there's Danny (David Walton), who's Debra's boyfriend, and Jed (Scott Michael Foster), who wishes he were Debra's boyriend. Danny and Jed, in the opener, are pitching an idea for their very first commercial ad campaign, with some input from mutual friend Andy (Kevin Christy), who's very tech-savvy. They're like the best friends from thirtysomething, at the very start of their ad-agency careers - only Quarterlife isn't a flashback.

What it is is this: an instantly engrossing drama about six young people, acted credibly and crafted to wholly professional standards and aspirations. Herskovitz and Zwick are the producers and crafted the story, Herskovitz is the director and wrote the screenplay, and the music is by longtime collaborator, the always classy W.G. Snuffy Walden.

I haven't seen everything produced specifically for the web - no one has, or can. But of everything I've seen, Quarterlife is miles ahead of, and above, the rest. I've seen two episodes, and can't wait for episode three. By any yardstick, no matter what the manner of delivery, that's the definition of a success - and a probable hit.



David Bianculli said:

I just wanted to see if the Comments area works. If it does, my comment is this:

Comment posted on November 12, 2007 10:31 PM

Brandon said:

Great review & thanks for showing some much-needed love to this wonderful series, which I have followed the fate of since it was first announced as an ABC pilot in mid-2004.

Comment posted on November 20, 2007 12:06 AM

Marlark said:

Here we are now, in late February 2008 at Episode 32, and the show continues to get better and better. The only mis-step so far is the standard, Herskovitz/Zwick "parent with baggage" -- literally, in the case of Dylan's mother. I don't remember my posse being so manipulated and obsequeous at that age. But maybe that's because, like a radioactive isotope, I'm closer to halflife.

I hope we're far from quarter way through this series. It's riveting as well as delightfully...wait for it...(ready?)...drawn and quartered.

Comment posted on February 26, 2008 1:31 PM

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