'Foreign Body'

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A 50-episode daily published medical-industry thriller partially set in India, "Foreign Body" is the fourth series release from online video studio Vuguru — the Michael Eisner-led company that has earned 25 million views to date with the MySpaceTV teen thriller "Prom Queen."

With this latest online drama, outlined by novelist Robin Cook and fleshed out by "Prom" production company Big Fantastic, Eisner continues his online video experiments: The entire series serves as a prequel to Cook's Aug. 5 book release of the same name. But as a shortform video series, it's straight-to-DVD-quality fare, sans DVD production and distribution costs.

Businesswise, "Foreign" is a neat trick. Obviate distribution costs, capitalize on Web video's cachet and circumvent the online video advertising hoi polloi by creating a series that is, effectively, a very long advertisement. Regardless of its success as original entertainment, the book (the real breadwinner) receives tremendous press coverage (e.g., this review) just in time for summer travelers to snag an airport copy and read about medical tourism.

That subject provides the series' plot: A health care company called United, losing money as patients travel abroad for medical care, hires a mysterious couple to "expose" the danger of foreign hospitals. After meeting with a United bigwig inside a dimly lit office, the couple train a beautiful Indian woman, who in the season opener kills an elderly patient by injecting serum into an IV.

To judge by the two episodes I've seen, "Foreign" also centers on boobs. Blonde boobs, Indian boobs, boobs in racy lingerie, boobs in comfortably supportive bras. For their part, the boobs act passably well. In the season opener, an Indian woman strips to her lace-covered boobs and runs into the ocean. In the second episode, the aforementioned couple disrobe to boob-level. The trailer for the series: more boobs.

In this salacious manner, "Foreign" is similar to "Prom." But whereas "Prom" targeted tweens and teens, "Foreign" is meant to titillate a different audience, an older one that reads potboiler thrillers. In and of itself, that's a strange twist, using the supposedly cutting-edge medium of online video to sell dead-tree publications.

At its best, "Foreign" will open online video to a broader demo; at its worst, it'll sell books. Whether that's an accolade for online video is anybody's guess. (partialdiff)
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