Last year, when thirtysomething creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick debuted their birthed-on-the-Internet twentysomething drama Quarterlife,
I cranked out a snarky blog post
noting that the most revolutionary thing about this series was it's delivery system.
And now that NBC has used the writer's strike as an excuse to boil the 30 or so snippets aired online into a network TV series, which they've circulated to know-it-all critics like me, I'm prepared to second my first emotion -- with a huge side order of "told you so."
Thanks to its cyberspatial pedigree, Quarterlife has an almost irresistible patina of cool as the first series to make a backward migration from online to TV.
Standing centerstage is Dylan
, a boyish, thrift-store-fashion-wearing heroine who reveals her friends’ innermost secrets on her confessional video blog.
Fans of Herskovitz and Zwick's previous series will recognize the self-obsessed angst which permeates
the show; the kind of overwrought navel-gazing which used to drive critics of thirtysomething crazy --
substituting the “quarterlife crisis” facing just-out-of-college Millenials for Baby Boomers’ existential worries.
Fear is the subtext drilled into every scene: from the terror of Dylan’s actress roommate Lisa, who is afraid to really perform, to Dylan's guy pal Jed, who worries about his romantic feelings for Dylan’s other roommate, Debra.
And almost all the male actors seem to be afraid of razor blades, sporting the kind of unruly beards guys first wear after they realize they can grow facial hair. The result feels mostly like Dawson’s Creek: The Post-Graduate Years, right down to the knowing observations set to poignant, singer-songwriter tunes.
There’s also a space for people who know you to talk about who you are, just like Dylan dishes on her friends. No wonder creatives like Eric Stoltz (Mask) are on board directing episodes.
But this also makes the TV product frustrating. Because Quarterlife isn’t nearly as groundbreaking as the process that created it,
which suggests Zwick and Herskovitz may have missed the point along the way.