A new lease on 'Quarterlife'
MySpace hosts show produced as pilotNEW YORK -- Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick, the creators of "My So-Called Life" and "thirtysomething," will take their next project online, starting Nov. 11 on MySpaceTV.com.
"Quarterlife," a series that focuses on creative twentysomethings, was shot three years ago as a pilot for ABC, produced by the Bedford Falls Co. and Touchstone Television.
The series will be split up into 36 eight-minute segments debuting Sunday and Thursday nights on MySpace. A day after each segment's initial airing, it also will be presented on Quarterlife.com, a social networking site that Zwick and Herskovitz are starting with an aim to connect young creative people to one another and to the resources they need.
Zwick and Herskovitz, also the creative force behind "Blood Diamond" and "Legends of the Fall," were not happy with how the then-titled "1/4life" turned out and subsequently ran into "creative differences" with the network about the nature of the rewrites.
When the duo and ABC decided to part ways -- Herskovitz said it was done "respectfully" -- the two decided that the Web could be the right fit for the project, which has been completely reworked.
"I realized that because of the nature of the story, this was the perfect vehicle for us to go to the Net," Herskovitz said of "Quarterlife," which stars a "constantly blogging" young woman looking for creative outlets. "We'd been talking about that for a couple years."
No footage from the original ABC pilot appears in the new "Quarterlife," and it also has a completely new script. The cast, also totally different from the original, features six relative unknowns including Bitsie Tulloch and Scott Michael Foster, who has appeared in several episodes of ABC's "Greek."
Zwick and Herskovitz are just the latest example of mainstream Hollywood producers dipping their toes in the online pool, which has attracted original projects from the likes of Steven Bochco ("Cafe Confidential" for Metacafe.com) and Sam Raimi ( "Devil's Trade" for FearNet). "Quarterlife" isn't even the only example of a passed-over pilot to find new life online; "Nobody's Watching," a half-hour that "Scrubs" creator Bill Lawrence shot for the WB, was resuscitated online by NBC Universal after the pilot was leaked to YouTube.
The social network tie-in to professionally produced programming was a business model first exploited by Showtime and executive producer Ilene Chaiken for their series "The L Word."
"We immediately realized that this could go beyond a series," Herskovitz said. "There was a real need that wasn't being met to help people find the next step in their lives. This immediately became a much bigger enterprise."
The irony of using MySpace as a springboard to create a rival social network is not lost on Herskovitz.
"They're a social network, and we're building a social network," he said. "I give them a lot of credit to being open to that process."
Herskovitz also said that they are looking at deals to bring the show beyond MySpace, to sites like YouTube, as soon as Nov. 18. Under terms of their agreement, each segment, including the first, can be presented a week after its original airing beyond MySpace and Quarterlife.com.
"We will make deals," said Herskovitz, who stressed that he and Zwick are the sole owners of the creative content. "We will be seen on other platforms."
In July, a CNET blog reported that the social network is paying Zwick and Herskovitz $400,000 per episode. But MySpace denied that, and Herskovitz said the News Corp. division is not paying anything upfront; rather, he said, they are supplying promotion, and they have an ad revenue-sharing deal.
In fact, Herskovitz said that each hour of "Quarterlife" costs "way more" than $400,000 to produce.
"We're doing real television-quality programming," he said. "That's very expensive to do. We're taking a big gamble."
Herskovitz said he wants there to be future seasons of the show, but beyond the first four hours, they are not contractually obligated to MySpace. After the first run of "Quarterlife," both parties could decide a new strategy going forward, he said.
This is not the first high-profile Web offering that MySpace has distributed. The portal is airing "Prom Queen: Summer Heat," funded by Michael Eisner's Tornante Co. It's a sequel to "Prom Queen," which debuted exclusively on the site in the spring.
MySpace also premiered the finale of "lonelygirl15" last month and is presenting the Web-only "Afterworld," as well.
Herskovitz and Zwick are repped by CAA, which helped bring the project to MySpace.