NBC's 'One Big Happy' Turns Preemption Into "Twitter-sode"

The Twitter episode played out for about 40 minutes on Tuesday night with Elisha Cuthbert, Nick Zano and other cast members Tweeting as their characters.
Eric McCandless
'One Big Happy'

When freshman NBC comedy One Big Happy was preempted for a two-hour live broadcast of The Voice on Tuesday night, the cast turned to Twitter for what showrunner Liz Feldman is dubbing the first ever "Twitter-sode." 

What resulted was an extra scene featuring cast members including Elisha Cuthbert and Nick Zano that played out over about 40 minutes on Twitter on April 7. 

One Big Happy stars Cuthbert as a lesbian who agrees to have a baby with her best friend, Zano's Luke, and gets pregnant just as he meets and marries the love of his life (Kelly Brook). The show, which premiered March 17, had aired three episodes to solid ratings — it debuted with a 1.6 in the key demo but has seen a slight drop off since then — when it was preempted for The Voice. "Having a week off in your fourth week can be really challenging in the life of a series," explains Feldman. "We were thinking about how to somehow fill the gap during the week that we were off and keep the momentum going." 

That's when Zano suggested that they Tweet an episode. In less than a week Feldman and her team, including executive producer Jeff Kleeman, brainstormed about what exactly a Twitter episode would look like and Feldman wrote a scene designed to happen on Twitter through the accounts of its stars.

They also had to get the project approved by NBC and scramble to make sure the cast was available to live Tweet on Tuesday night. "It was so guerilla," says Kleeman. "Luckily we have a very tight-knit cast that has a way of talking together and problem solving." 

The Twitter-sode acts as an extension of One Big Happy's third episode, in which Lizzy falls for Kate (Erinn Hayes), a member of the local gym who turns out to be a nurse working for Lizzy's gynecologist. In the Twitter-sode, Lizzy sees Kate at a frozen yogurt shop and accidentally Tweets about it instead of texting Luke. What unfolds is a conversation happening between the characters entirely on Twitter as Lizzy realizes that Kate has seen her Tweet.

Part of the story also involves two of the characters (Rebecca Corry, Chris Williams) commenting on the episode of The Voice that was airing live during One Big Happy's time slot. 

"There were technical challenges and timing challenges in terms of making sure everyone Tweeted on cue," says Kleeman, who says they watched The Voice live to make sure Tweets about the singing competition happened at the right time. "It was really exciting for us."

For Feldman, the Twitter-sode gave her an opportunity to explore her characters outside of the framework of the half-hour show. "It helps you get a human pictures of these characters and who they are," she says. "You watch 21-and-a-half minutes of these characters each week and you see them in a moment that is so crafted and specific. I wanted this Twitter-sode to feel more conversational and relaxed." 

This isn't the first time that TV stars have Tweeted in character. Fox's Bones recently created a Twitter account for Dr. Temperance Brennan (Emily Deschanel) and Tweeted from it at the same time that the character Tweeted during a episode of the show. This type of multi-platform storytelling, known as transmedia, has also become popular with web series including The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. But it appears that One Big Happy is the first TV show to Tweet an episode. 

The show, which has made active use of Twitter by encouraging cast members to live Tweet each episode, has grown a following on the social media platform. The One Big Happy account has seen its Twitter follower count spike by 54 percent to more than 4,500 followers since its premiere. 

Feldman says the response from fans to the Twitter-sode has been largely positive. "We had a lot of comments from fans that this really filled a void," she says. "If anything, doing this Twitter-sode shows that we are invested in making this show successful and we'll try anything to engage our fans. I'm glad we tried this." 

Read the full scene as it played out on Twitter here