EmptyWeb site: Quarterlife.com
There is a moment at the beginning of "Quarterlife" that captures perfectly our capacity for simultaneously loving and loathing ourselves.
A webcam turns on, and a girl's face appears. "My name is Dylan," the girl (Bitsie Tulloch) says. She pauses, quickly adds "Krieger," and then explains haltingly: "My ... my name ... uh ... ." Even this simple declarative sentence has gotten away from her. So she gives up and sings: "My naaaame is Dylan Kreee-ger."
Sound familiar? That self-conscious twinge, the hesitant fumblings for a voice. It's footage common to any number of amateur video blogs; in "Quarterlife," the new Web series premiering Sunday on MySpaceTV and Quarterlife.com, it's re-created to excellent effect by executive producers Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick ("My So-Called Life").
Isn't that dangerous, to build a story around a hip, new medium? In lesser hands, there would be a tendency to focus too much on the webcamming, the typing of URLs and the gee-whiz of it all. Not here. Herskovitz and Zwick simply use the webcam as another camera, interspersing intimate shots with broader action. Like a reality show contestant explaining what just happened, this is Dylan Krieger's so-called quarterlife, updated daily.
Here we have a pretty postgrad girl, trudging through an unfulfilling magazine job ("I'm doomed to be an editorial associate"), envious of her roommates, silently crushing on her neighbor and suffering through it all on her webcam.
As she uploads her own insecurities, Dylan outs those of her friends. There's roommate Lisa (Maite Schwartz), the sexy bartender/aspiring actress who sleeps with boys to assuage her self-esteem problems. There's roommate Debra (Michelle Lombardo), the dependable one who's moving in with Danny, the lecherous TV adman. Danny's partner and roommate is Jed (Scott Michael Foster), who happens to be in love with Debra. They have to resolve that small problem while filming their first ad for a Scion dealership. All the while, Dylan's battling an out-of-touch editor at Women's Attitude who steals her idea for a new section.
And it's riveting. This is probably because "Quarterlife" doesn't seem to care about you. It doesn't pander to the audience, doesn't entreat you to view the character's profiles on MySpace or comment on their photos or write in to try and change the plot. "Quarterlife" doesn't need you to interact. As a series, it stands on its own. It seems not to care about what everyone is saying in the comments field under every video.
And that's odd, considering that "Quarterlife" isn't just a series. It's a media platform, complete with a vlog-based social network (quarterlife.com) designed to be a support network for "creatives" fumbling through postcollegiate life. You couldn't create a more self-conscious show unless you spent 30 minutes pointing a webcam at your pierced navel.
But Herskovitz and Zwick have managed to create a show that's compelling as a stand-alone drama but which offers further interactive rewards for those interested enough to pursue them.