Check out these online original programs: The Line, Gemini Division
Folks looking for original TV content online once had only a couple of choices: low-budget stuff cobbled together with minimal expertise and maximum effort, or little experiments by superstars that played like deleted scenes from a hit DVD set. • But efforts such as FunnyorDie.com and MySpace-based Quarterlife offer a new alternative — bite-sized bits of online TV that stand on their own. Here's a look at a couple of new projects that show what works and what doesn't in this new small-screen universe.
On Crackle.com, YouTube.com, Hulu.com
Why it works: Co-created by Saturday Night Live's Bill Hader, right, and directed by SNL head writer Seth Meyers, these oddly compelling short clips about two nerds waiting in line 11 days for a science-fiction movie capture all the pathos and comedy of a tale Hader says is "about caring about something no one else cares about."
Comedy aces Jason Sudeikis (SNL and 30 Rock), Joe Lo Truglio (Superbad) and Paul Scheer (30 Rock) offer a bracing tour of geek culture, as Hader's Futurespace fan Josh faces a surly theater manager, cheating girlfriend, ruthless fellow nerds and a trivia challenge for a rare toy to maintain his first-place spot in line.
You will not believe how funny and addictive this nerdtastic drama can be.
On Monday at GeminiDivision.com, NBC.com and SciFI.com
Why it's flawed: I've seen only the two episodes NBC provided for review. But this drama featuring sci-fi geek Rosario Dawson (Sin City) as an NYPD cop tracking the odd behavior of her boyfriend reeks of stuff we've seen before (Invasion of the Body Snatchers, mostly) and moves too slowly to hold the MTV-quick attention spans of today's Web surfers.
Smallville alum Justin Hartley (we geeks know him as the Green Arrow) is cool enough as the dreamy boyfriend gone wrong. But telling the story though a series of Webcam messages Dawson's character sends to a friend smells like another, better low-fi genre hit, The Blair Witch Project.
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Escape to Dreamland, 8 p.m. Wednesday and 11 p.m. Friday, WEDU-Ch. 3: Florida is notoriously negligent about preserving its history. Which makes way cool documentaries like this one — detailing the history of the road that connects Tampa and Miami, the Tamiami Trail — must-see TV for Sunshine Staters hazy on their he-coon culture. And I'm not just saying that because the film was inspired by a St. Petersburg Times story and features interviews with Times staffers Jeff Klinkenberg and Scott Keeler. Well, not entirely.
Read our original story in The Vault at magazine.tampabay.com.
The Cho Show, 11 p.m. Thursday, VH1: It pains me soul-deep to write this. But the groundbreaking comic Margaret Cho has created the most derivative and predictable "celebreality" show it has been my displeasure to experience. It's as if she built her improvised, "semi-scripted" program on a checklist cribbed from comic Kathy Griffin's Emmy-winning reality show, complete with the quirky assistant (3 foot 10 Selena Luna), eccentric Korean parents and a public appearance that could go horribly wrong. Maybe they should just throw out the script and film her real life.
You might think you could judge the audience of TV shows based on the media coverage they get. But you'd be wrong. Here's a list comparing viewer totals for some of the most talked-about shows on TV, in the week ending Aug. 10, from Nielsen Media Research.
• America's Got Talent (NBC) 12.6-million
• The Closer (TNT) 7.8-million
• NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams 7.7-million
• CBS Evening News With Katie Couric
• The Oprah Winfrey Show (week ending Aug. 3) 5.4-million
• Secret Life of an American Teenager (ABC Family) 4-million
• Swingtown (CBS) 2.8-million
• Gossip Girl (CW) 1.1-million
Not that we would ever encourage unethical behavior. But Mygazines.com is an amazing see-it-while-you-can resource featuring scanned-in copies of magazines uploaded YouTube-style by enterprising fellow users. So far, the featured titles include Marie Claire, FHM, Wired, Sports Illustrated and Oxygen, allowing users to read all their content for free. See it before the lawsuits put an end to all the fun.