Herskovitz: 'quarterlife' better for the Net, cable


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UPDATED 6:32 p.m. PT Feb. 27

The ambitious experiment of transitioning Internet series "quarterlife" to TV was a failure, says the show's co-creator Marshall Herskovitz.

A day after the drama about a twentysomething blogger and her circle of friends debuted on NBC to dismal ratings, the prolific writer-producer told an audience at the Harvard Business School on Wednesday that the leap to broadcast television should never have been attempted.

"It never should have been a network show. It's too specific," Herskovitz told the group at HBS' Entertainment & Media conference, adding, "It will probably end up on cable."

On Tuesday, the NBC premiere of "quarterlife" marked the network's worst time-period performance in the 10 p.m. hour in at least 17 years, averaging a 1.3 rating/4 share among adults 18-49 and 3.1 million viewers overall despite a strong lead-in from "The Biggest Loser."

Still, NBC co-chair Ben Silverman said putting "quarterlife" on the network was "so worth the try."

"The Web site traffic went up a huge amount, and we continue to try new things and new models," he said. "It's very inexpensive, but we hoped for higher ratings."

Although no cancellation has been announced, sources say the series will likely be yanked from the schedule before its second episode airs Sunday night. A one-and-out network run is a rare event that most recently occurred when Fox axed "Anchorwoman" in the summer after a single episode.

The former ABC pilot "1/4 Life" was revived last summer by Herskovitz and producer partner Ed Zwick as "quarterlife," a new show shot as a traditional one-hour drama but broken up into eight-minute segments and distributed on online platforms including MySpace. NBC picked it up as a midseason series in November, two weeks into the writers strike.

Herskovitz has said that if the show didn't find an audience on the network he would be happy to move it to one of the NBC cable nets. He said Wednesday that he has yet to have a conversation with NBC about the fate of the show.

When he first launched "quarterlife," a project that also encompassed an online community, Herskovitz hoped that it could become a template for a new kind of independent production. Network-quality programs, he said, could be made less expensively for the Internet and potentially migrate to television.

But Herskovitz said that the experience of watching the show on NBC, with the series' intimate storylines and tight camera angles, has convinced him otherwise.

"From the first three minutes, I knew it wasn't right," he said.

James Hibberd reported from Los Angeles. Steven Zeitchik reported from Boston.