There were rumours even before the U.S. writers strike started that it might lead to one of the networks picking up Quarterlife, the new Web drama about twentysomethings created by Ed Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, the team behind Thirtysomething and My So-Called Life, and now it appears that those rumours have come true. NBC, which like other networks is looking down the barrel of an empty TV season, said that it has picked up the show and will run it starting in January.
The show becomes the first to move wholesale from Web to TV, but I predict (as others have) that if the strike continues, Quarterlife will not be the last to make that jump. The major networks have a voracious need for content, and when the chips are down they really couldn’t care less where that content comes from, so long as it fills the airwaves. During the last strike it was reality TV shows like Cops and America’s Most Wanted that filled the void for the networks — this time around it’s the Web.
As I noted in this post about the writers’ strike, it’s more than a little ironic that while the Web is the hot-button issue in the strike — in terms of the revenue share that writers want for online content — it’s also the place that writers are going to get their message out, and it has also now become the source of content that is replacing their traditional TV work. As my friend Tony Hung notes, these are interesting times.