It's all about bouncing back

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

See "The Line" online -- and watch the quality of web video evolve

Bill Hader and Joe Lo Truglio, backed by much of the SNL crew (including Seth Meyers [directing] and Simon Rich [writing]), have just posted the last episode in a cute web series about the nerdy joys of a goofy summer pastime unique to our generation: waiting on line, for days on end, to see your favorite new sci-fi feature.

The series is called "The Line" and there is a lot to love about these little gems. From battles with costumed uber-fans to the risk of overhearing spoilers, they capture that happy summer feeling of having too much time on your hands (combined, of course, with the two other key secrets to happiness: an all-consuming nerdy passion and a good friend to share it with). The films are also clean and nice looking -- reasonably high caliber for a simple web video. And the high production value and the star power of this series got me thinking about the level of professional comedy currently being created for direct-to-web distribution. Yes, there are lots of other folks out there trying it; but it has been a bumpy road so far. For whatever reason, though, I think that the effort has made a great leap forward over the past year. The writer's strike is certainly partly to credit (this series was started during that time, as was Dr. Horrible), but I wonder whether many writers haven't enjoyed having the opportunity to create these little low cost, low risk side projects which provide them the freedom you just can't get when operating on network (or sometimes even cable) television. And, if they have, does that mean that we can hope to see more inventive future content that provides us an alternative to the more bland material on the tube?

Answer: maybe. This series had the tremendous advantage of being backed by Lorne Michaels' production company, "Broadway Video." As per the NYT profile of the video series: "The ability of “The Line” to attract name-brand talent reflects the increasing number of writers and actors who are showing interest in original Web video. “The Line” was the first straight-to-Internet series to be produced and financed by Broadway Video, the production company founded by the “SNL” executive producer, Lorne Michaels. But it won’t be its last: the company says it will produce other Web series created by and starring “SNL” cast members, and Mr. Michaels also intends to produce Web performances by Jimmy Fallon this fall, as that former “SNL” cast member prepares to replace Conan O’Brien on “Late Night” next year."

There are seven episodes in the series -- and here is number one:

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