Rockville, CA, the new web-series from The O.C./Gossip Girl creator Josh Schwartz premiered on-line today. Four episodes are available now, and new episodes will be put up every Tuesday. You can watch them here. Or don’t. Seriously, don’t. This thing is really, really rough you guys.
First of all, the videos don’t load. It’s kind of lame to criticize a show for minor (but seriously fucking frustrating) technical difficulties, unless that show IS A WEB SHOW. There is a lot of freedom in creating content for the internet, but one thing in which there is no freedom is making sure those videos are actually watchable in the one place they exist, the internet. Buffering problems are so 1998.
But, OK, the actual show:
As the trailer suggested, this is ham-fisted teenage melo-drama featuring brief interludes from up and coming bands. And in that sense, I am not the target audience. I’m not so old that I don’t recognize that the teenage melodrama of my youth was equally ham-fisted. That’s one of the main qualities of teenage melodrama. But this still feels like a bad Diablo Cody parody, or like Gilmore Babies. The sharp-witted dialog a-not a-so sharp. And it’s 2009, you guys. Does the smart mousy girl who wears Lisa Loeb glasses (still?!) and trades barbs with the bouncer about Richard Dawkins’s The Selfish Gene seriously have to get passed over by the over-talkative spastic music nerd seven times before he finally notices her? We’ve all learned from our mistakes. Those girls are desirable now. The world may have changed, and I may can feel it in the water, but apparently the cliches are exactly the same.
And what about these up-and-coming bands? I watched all four debut episodes and if it wasn’t for a handy sidebar (web 2.0) listing them, I wouldn’t have any idea who they are. They play for about 30 seconds, which would be normal and expected on a TV show that is beholden to advertiser-imposed time-constraints, but this is the fucking internet. If you want to feature bands, FEATURE BANDS. Let them have their full three minutes of basically-unwatched-by-anyone CW Online fame.
But the main thing I feel in watching this new show is not the frustration of not actually being able to watch it because they don’t know how to program a working video player, or cringey aversion to the meatfist dialogue, or confusion over who the band that’s being given such an amazing opportunity actually is. No, the main thing I feel is a mild sadness for the actors involved. Whether you like his work or not, Josh Schwartz has been responsible for some of the more provocative and influential non-reality TV programming of the past however many years I’m not actually going to Wikipedia Josh Schwartz. So, you can only imagine the excited conversations that everyone had with their friends and parents when they landed the job, explaining why it was going to be such a big deal and such a huge break for them. I mean, work is work, and you can’t begrudge them for putting food on their families (or whatever, they’re all a little young. Putting food on their iPods) but I just want to take all that hope and all that promise and invest it in something that doesn’t suck and that actually works right so people can even watch it in the first place.
It just goes to show you, all Josh Schwartz projects are not created equal. But we already knew that, didn’t we, Chuck?