‘quarterlife’ crisis

quarterlife (New episodes posted to quarterlife.com and myspace.com/quarterlife on Sundays and Thursdays)

Dylan is a tortured writer. Her roommate Lisa is a tortured actress (and also a bit of a slut). Her other roommate, Debra, doesn’t seem very tortured at all, but then, Debra doesn’t claim any sort of artistic inspiration.

A portrait of contemporary twentysomethings (and an orgy of self-reference), quarterlife is a failed network pilot that found new life on the internet as not just a web-ivision show, but also a real-life social-networking website (quarterlife.com). In the show, Dylan uses the website’s video-blogging feature to create little diaries about herself, her roommates, and the two dudes (a pensive filmmaker and a gregarious ad/marketing type) who live next door. This provides the show’s narrative structure. Dylan blogs her innermost thoughts; the other four get pissed about what she says.

It’s all meant to speak (and sell things) to people of my generation.

It won’t.

There’s no question that, as marketing,
quarterlife is brilliant. It’s a novel content-delivery approach and the way the show nests in its own social networking site has created a buzz. With product placement up the ass and Toyota onboard whole-hog (the filmmaker is making a Scion commercial), the demographic is clear and the revenue streams are in place.

Too bad the show is one colossal lie. The creators — old men Marshall Herskovitz and Edward Zwick (My So-Called Life, thirtysomething) — are clever to recognize the whole web 2.0 thing as a cultural paradigm shift, but too blind to realize it comes with a radical change in ethics and self-perception. Dylan, the show’s moral compass, is a compulsive truth-teller. The blog revolution and the rise of the YouTube confessional, though, have ensured there aren’t any compulsive truth-tellers left on the internet.

In taking the diary form and opening it up for mass consumption, blogs and video sites have become breeding grounds for people to bare their souls in exactly the way they’d like to be perceived, not the way they truly are. In helping us become emotional exhibitionists and voyeurs, YouTube, MySpace, and the blogosphere have led us to become a generation of, at best, actors, and, at worst, liars.

That’s some heavy shit Dylan doesn’t even begin to deal with. Making her a little less honest and a little more conflicted about what it means to be an “artist” expressing to the world her sanitized feelings would give the show a lens on my generation. As it stands, though, quarterlife is just thirtysomething minus ten-something, and that’s useless to me. •

See also

Gossip Girl A narrative centered on online gossip in the microcosm of an uptown Manhattan private school, Gossip Girl is a bitchy, new-feeling way to tackle the whole teen thing. (CW, Wednesdays, 9 pm)

Reaper This Buffy-ish show about a kid who had his soul sold to the devil ain’t saying anything essential about early-20s slackerdom that hasn’t been said, but it’s funny. In a season of mostly boring and pensive, funny feels good. (CW, Tuesdays, 9pm)

Friday Night Lights Still the best show on television about young people or otherwise. (NBC, Fridays, 9 pm)

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