Quarterlife, the drama about a 20-something magazine editor who seeks freedom by documenting her life online, came together through a series of unlikely coincidences. The show — which is from Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick, the team behind My So-Called Life— started its life as a rejected pilot for ABC. Years after that attempt, it surfaced online with a new focus, a new lead character (Dylan) and actress (Bitsie Tulloch, whom Herskovitz met at random in jury duty), and a new social network to support it. And tonight, the series starts its new life on NBC.
Quarterlife — which debuts at 9 p.m. before moving to its regular Sunday time slot — will air like a traditional hour-long drama. But there's little else traditional about the show. NBC doesn't have control of the show; instead, it's being hailed as a new model for TV, one where the producers fully own their product. (Fun fact: Devon Gummersall, aka Brian Krakow, is one of the show's writers.)
The move to NBC was something Herskovitz "had mixed feelings about," as he said in a recent call with reporters — and I'm not sure about it, either. I found parts of the first episode insufferable; from the way Dylan acts much of the time, it's hard to believe Herskovitz and Zwick have ever seen a blog. But there's still something comforting in the rhythms of their language and the earnestness of their characters, and I know I'll be hooked for the whole six-episode run, no matter how much it occasionally makes me want to hurl pillows at my TV.
Herskovitz and Tulloch recently chatted with reporters about the series, and here are some of the highlights of the chat.
- On being worried about the stereotypes of "an Internet series":
Bitsie Tulloch: When Marshall Herskovitz and Ed Zwick say 'Will you play the lead in my series?' it doesn’t matter what platform they’re doing it on. You don’t say no. . . . The other reason I really wasn’t nervous about it is that I, myself, tend to watch TV shows that I have missed on TV on my laptop. So if I was doing it, and I have friends who do it all the time, then I had no misgivings about thinking that it would be successful at all."
Lots more from Tulloch and Herskovitz, so
- On how blogging has affected a generation:
Bitsie Tulloch: "First of all, we seem to really define ourselves by our creativity in a way that other generations maybe didn’t — not because they couldn’t, but because they didn’t have access to this incredible, far-reaching platform. . . . It’s the first generation that grew up on the Internet, when you think about it. I mean, I was a freshman in high school when I had my first email account. . . . There’s this strange, sort of ambiguous thing that goes on a lot with the blogs, you know, particularly with my character, where Dylan is sort of simultaneously inviting people in while at the same time keeping them at a distance because at the end of the day, she’s still talking to a computer screen. She’s not talking to a living, breathing human being."
- On what makes Quarterlife different from a normal series:
Marshall Herskovitz: "We love television. The problem we’ve had with television is that the business has changed so much and that the networks exert too much control over the producers. And the fact that we’re coming to NBC with complete creative control of our product and that we are delivering them completed episodes — they haven’t even seen the scripts. They don’t even know what the stories are about until they get the episodes. That’s never happened literally in the history of television."
- On how the show changed from the original, rejected ABC pilot:
Marshall Herskovitz: "Honestly, we really picked the wrong characters to write about for the ABC pilot. We talked about seven people who all lived in a house together who were all lost and confused and didn’t know what to do with their lives. And I think we missed something because . . . if you talk about people in their 20s today, one thing you do see is that a lot of these people do know what they want to do and are very passionate about it. . . . There are a lot of different aspects of this generation that we kind of missed in that pilot. And the sum total was that even though I loved the cast and it had a nice feel to it, you didn’t have any emotion at the end of it. And so we realized that we had to start all over again and that’s when this character, Dylan, sort of just appeared full-blown in my mind one day — this sort of semi-difficult, amazing, intelligent, slightly feral, vulnerable, contradictory person."
- On becoming the self-conscious, insecure Dylan:
Bitsie Tulloch: "Initially Marshall was sort of like, 'I don’t know. You might be too cute to play Dylan. She’s supposed to sort of fade into the background.' And my attitude was, you know, I can do this. I desperately want to give this character integrity but it did come down to really layering it, down to coming up with a walk, a very childish, kind of almost boyish walk for Dylan based on — you know, I had seen the movie French Kiss. And I always remembered that there was a scene where Kevin Klein said to Meg Ryan, 'You know, you walk like a little girl.' And she said, 'No I don't,' and of course saunters off childishly. I always remembered that and I tried to sort of do something similar with Dylan. She’s very fidgety, and the walk is just kind of all over the place. And she can't sit still."