News

Millennials' 'quarterlife' series debuts on the Web

Ellen Gray
Philadelphia Daily News (MCT)

Morley Safer seemed to be having trouble keeping his lip from curling during Sunday's "60 Minutes" report on the length companies are going to learn to deal with the workplace newbies dubbed "the millennials."

Born between 1980 and 1995, the millennials - some of us just call them "our kids" - are, at least to the consultants who've sprung up to prepare the rest of us for them, some exotic breed of hothouse flower. Though since we're also told that their parents' expectations and their own self-esteem are so high that nothing much fazes them, the consultants' care-and-feeding tips are meant to keep them not from wilting, but from fleeing to other nurseries.

Thing is, I don't actually know any kids like this, though I've seen a few on "Gossip Girl."

The millennials I encounter, whether at the office or over the dinner table, might have more stuff than I did at their age (if only because there's more stuff to have), but they don't strike me as any more obnoxious in their ambitions than I was.

But then it's an obnoxious time of life.

Perhaps if so many members of the "Greatest Generation" hadn't spent their own late adolescence risking - and too often losing - their lives thousands of miles from home, we wouldn't think they were so great, either.

There's one business that's bent over backwards to attract and retain the millennials, and that's broadcast TV, a medium largely supported by advertisers willing to spend huge quantities of money to get the attention of even a small number of people who may not yet have decided what brands of stuff they'll be using for the rest of their lives.

Oddly, though, TV seems to think the people it's trying to attract are losers, which is how you end up with two shows - NBC's "Chuck" and the CW's "Reaper" - about underachievers whose only escape from their big-box store jobs is the discovery of a superpower.

A few years ago, "thirtysomething" creators Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick took their own shot at this demo with an ABC pilot called "¼life."

ABC never aired it (and I never saw it, so I can't say if the execs who passed were right or wrong), but on Sunday, Herskovitz and Zwick's latest collaboration, a made-for-the-Web series (and social network) called "quarterlife," made its debut on MySpace.com. Monday, it opened at www.quarterlife.com.

And as you might expect from the producers of "My So-Called Life," it centers on a talky, introspective girl - she's not ready to use "women" for her contemporaries - with a video blog.

"I often cry for no reason, and later it turns out there was a huge reason, and that scares the crap out of me," blogs Dylan (Bitsie Tulloch) in the opening minutes of Episode 1, Part 1. ("quarterlife" is meted out in eight- or nine-minute blocks.)

Dylan has an entry-level job at a magazine and considers herself a writer, a person cursed with the ability to see what others don't.

Though the relationships she sees are often surprisingly like the ones we're used to on the other small(ish) screen: a guy too much in love with his best friend's girl to notice the perfectly good girl - yeah, that would be Dylan - in front of him, a beautiful roommate who may drink a bit too much, business partners (Michael and Elliot or Marshall and Ed?) who can't always agree on the line between art and commerce.

Twenty years ago, when Zwick and Herskovitz launched "thirtysomething," the two were in their mid-30s, and if their characters' whining occasionally seemed unbearable even to those of us who felt as if the show's writers were hiding in our closets, it at least was of a vintage its creators had earned.

By contrast, "quarterlife," which the Hollywood Reporter last week reported that a strike-pressed NBC was looking at for possible broadcast, feels at times like a show made by middle-aged people who've brought in consultants. (One of the producers, Joshua Gummersall, the brother of "MSCL's" Devon Gummersall, has an IMDB.com listing whose early credits were mostly of the "assistant to Mr. Herskovitz" variety. So at least they promote from within.)

The result? A potentially addictive, but also slightly off-putting blend of tried-and-true soap elements and intergenerational judging.

"A sad truth about my generation is that we were all geniuses in elementary school, but apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts, because they don't seem to be aware of it," says Dylan at one point as somewhere, way off camera, Morley Safer's lip begins to curl.

___

FX, up until now noncommittal about a second season of its thriller, "Damages," Monday jumped in with both feet, announcing a two-season pickup for the series, which stars Glenn Close as a cutthroat lawyer.

Production will begin early next year, according to FX, which didn't mention the ongoing writers strike.



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