I get so happy and patriotic when I see people have taken screenshots & gifs from British TV shows.
The B is back tomorrow! Are you as excited as we are?
Watch the premiere of Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23, Tuesday at 9:30|8:30c on ABC!
An Opportunity Missed, or How A TV Show Hopped Onto A Bandwagon Without Having A Clear Idea How To Engage Their Audience
Regular Tumblr users will, no doubt, have seen the above image as a featured post on their dashboard as they checked the site over the past couple of days. For those who had no idea what it was about, this is Krysten Ritter, eponymous star of the ABC sitcom Don’t Trust The B____ in Apartment 23. ABC had paid to have the post featured on Tumblr to promote the new season of the show, which aired in the US on Tuesday night.
On the one hand, almost-naked pretty lady. Prime Tumblr-bait, which at time of writing has been liked and reblogged over twenty thousand times in 48 hours, and I’m sure did a reasonable job of advertising the new series. A success, right?
The argument about whether it’s right or wrong to use such a sexualised image to sell your sitcom aside (just for the record though, Christ, isn’t this excessively demeaning?), the attention it has generated for the blog has been incredibly fleeting. The next post on the official blog, a screenshot from the new series, has been up 18 hours, as I write this. It has received just twenty one likes, and fifteen reblogs in that time.
Clearly without paying for risqué ads on the Tumblr dash, the blog is unable to generate much buzz. Even my quiet little backwater blog, with just 115 followers, can manage to generate that much attention from time to time. For an internationally syndicated TV show, popular enough to make it to a second series, to get so little love from Tumblr suggests their strategy needs significant work.
It really does.
The blog has quite a lot of posts, including animated gifs (which ABC also make available on their official site), custom ecards, captioned stills, promo shots, and so on. It’s a clear attempt to present the type of material that Tumblr users love to reblog, and it’s good to see that they’ve become aware of the fan-potential this social blogging platform can help them develop. I’m still, for example, seeing captioned stills from Firefly, from early Sex & The City, from Rugrats episodes from God knows when. Good for ABC for making a deliberate attempt to engage fans with the kinds of material they want (instead of, say, being litigiously precious because someone blogged a still and that technically violates copyright).
It’s just a shame they’re doing such a bloody ham-fisted job of it. This is why reblogs have dropped off so sharply since the picture above disappeared from the dash. The whole thing, despite featuring the format of content fans want, from a very funny show (yes, I’m a fan), just feels to lack the giddy excitement of the TV series. The blog doesn’t pop, even though the show absolutely does.
Better yet, how could it be improved? Because if one show can engage and harness their fanbase successfully via social media, lots of other shows could learn from them as well.
As I see it, the big problem with the blog is that it’s being used as a glorified billboard. Nothing on there adds depth. It’s just “We have a show. Did you know about our show? Watch our show.”
It all just feels kind of empty.
Contrast this with a show that’s recently finished its second season, aimed at a similar market - New Girl. Another show I’m a fan of, bearing a lot of similarities to The B In Apartment 23, but instead of a lone blog serving as a top-down promotional outlet, New Girl feels to have a much greater fan-based groundswell of support. Without being a Tumblr admin, there’s no easy way to put numbers on this, but my experience is that New Girl is reaching Tumblr users far more effectively. Some of this is attributable to New Girl having plenty of comedy, but also more touching sad moments too (or “feels” as Tumblr users would say). This isn’t really something The B In Apartment 23 can exploit just yet - a comedy show has to mature and get you liking the characters before it can put them in a negative situation to pull on your heart strings, and there just aren’t enough episodes of The B to make this work yet. That’ll come later.
Having Zooey Deschanel running a Tumblr is also a big help. Her character, Jess, is clearly heavily rooted in Deschanel’s own personality, giving fans an out-of-show way to connect with the character, and Deschanel also frequently posts candid shots from set and related information and comments.
These things may seem trivial, minor, and insubstantial, but they give New Girl a persistence beyond its broadcast-window, keep fans in the loop about show developments and increase empathy towards the characters. Viewers care about what happens in the show, and it has all happened organically.
The B In Apartment 23 could, of course, attempt to replicate this by getting Krysten Ritter or Dreama Walker to run blogs, but since neither of them were previously such fan-boy favourites as Deschanel was before New Girl even started, this isn’t necessarily the best solution.
I have had a better idea.
Well, I’m pretty sure it’s a better idea. Maybe I’m wrong, but fortunately I’m never ever wrong, so we can all be confident that I’m definitely not wrong on this.
Y’see, The B In Apartment 23 has already built-in its own perfect mechanism for blogging new content related to the series. It can keep its official blog, and it could extend its social media presence in a way that no series I’m aware of has ever done, and it could do this in a way that is entirely congruent with its storyline and requires no backtracking or retconning whatsoever.
Here is the Big Idea:
Most TV shows could only run a promotional blog featuring gifs, etc, in an out-of-story way. The B In Apartment 23 can run one in-story, and have it make perfect sense, even if it features stills that the character running the blog wasn’t present to see. The show has already established a character for whom this would make perfect sense.
Yes, Eli Webber, the friendly pervert next door, is the perfect character to run the official blog. He’s already previously set up cameras in June and Chloe’s apartment to secretly record them and put the videos online. Who’s to say he wouldn’t do that again? It needs no in-show in-script explanation at all. It is completely congruent with his character, but lets him be an official outlet posting exactly the sort of stuff that’s on the official blog right now. I can think of no other TV show which could get away with this.
The official blog can continue posting exactly the kind of things it’s already posting, but now instead of people following that glorified billboard, they’d be following a person. Not just a person, but a fictional character from the show they’ve just watched who can give them the inside scoop on what’s happening in the fictional world they’re a fan of, in a way that’s never really been possible for any other fictional characters in popular culture.
This is immensely more powerful and immersively engaging than expecting people to pay attention to a series of adverts.
It would require an afternoon of redesigning the official blog a little to make it look like Eli was running it, but I’ve played around with blog code in Tumblr more than enough to know that this isn’t a big job. You wouldn’t even need to change the URL of the thing.
It would also require a little writing, as it would be unnatural for Eli to never make comments on his blog, but this would only be a very minor amount of work. For the most part, this blog could be turned into something much more compelling very quickly.
It needn’t stop there though. Eli is a secondary character in the show. The young, connected characters in the show would definitely have social media presences. Why not build those and let fans see them too? Characters on a TV show have a finite existence, dictated by the length of an episode and the number of shows in a season. Giving primary characters a blog can change all that, making them persistent, even outside of the broadcast-window.
The closest I’m aware of any other shows doing something similar have been the British show, Sherlock, which had blog updates from the main characters, though these were rather limited and a bit awkward, and Caprica which ran a twitter account for the Greystone’s house robot, Serge. Although Serge was barely ever on-screen, his twitter account became disproportionately popular because fans could tweet him questions about the Caprica universe and he would answer them (in often surprisingly convincing technical detail) in-character.
The B In Apartment 23 could do a similar thing, but wouldn’t need to make up futuristic scientific advances, and could be far more prolific. So, aside from Eli running the official blog with content remaining much as it is (though lightly garnished with comments from Eli to personalise it), what would the blogs of other main characters look like?
- June. Easy one. Motivational statements and quotes reblogged from other Tumblr users, pictures of Indiana (some with homesick comments), a few personal pictures, but for the most part June would try to keep it clean and professional. June will also be a Facebook user, and a LinkedIn user. Setting up profiles on these sites will serve to deepen how real her online profile feels, for relatively little effort.
- Chloe. There is absolutely no way that Chloe would make the effort to set up most social media profiles, with the possible exception of occasional use of Twitter, since it’s an excellent place to gossip. She would, however, definitely have a blog at the very least, and have talked some poor unnamed sap into setting it up and maintaining it for her. Hell, if I were running this, I’d just say it was me who was running it, since that would further blur the line between what is and isn’t real, and allow people to suspend their disbelief more. Her blog would primarily consist of pictures of herself. This wouldn’t actually be that hard to arrange, given Ritter’s past as a model.
- James. Tricky one, since James is a real human being whose real-life persona and career could potentially be harmed. This one would require care. James, of course, wouldn’t be the one setting things up - Luther would do it for him. All those little vignettes with James would be perfect for this, presented as though they’re sort of a showreel. BeekJeans would get regular promotion, of course. And the James Van Der Beek reaction gifs would get some heavy usage. So much of the content for this blog is already in existence, so it would primarily be a matter of collecting it all together. The tone would need to be just a little too far into self-promotion, in keeping with James’ character in the show.
The best part about a broad blogging strategy like this is the two-way traffic. It’s true that having a rich and diverse series of in-character blogs would deliver a more compelling experience to viewers by breaching the Fourth Wall, but this could be played even more effectively if the breach is two-way. Characters could respond to comments from fans, and directly engage fans in conversation as a result. To the best of my knowledge, this has never been done.
Characters could even make reference to their internet presence within the show. Saying a fan’s user name, even once, would make their day, week, or even month.
Best of all, running all of this operation would be relatively easy to do. Seriously, I could do it all by myself, no problem.
So please, B In Apartment 23 producers & other TV people alike, yes, come to our Tumblr, use it for self promotion, but please don’t just advertise on it with cheap titillation - a little more thought and you can make us fans for life.
Here is how my generation of British schoolchildren learned about being a scientist.
“Its legs were all wiggly when we chopped its live body open, so we pulled them off FOR SCIENCE. Now, PASS ME THE ELECTRODES, THERE ARE CHILDREN WATCHING.”
Side note 1: I now do science for a job. BRB, hurting insects.
Side note 2: When you cut a live animal open it is not a “dissection” you FUCKING AMATEUR VOICEOVER GUY, IT IS A VIVISECTION.
This Is Funny, You Should Watch It of the Day: In a brand new, never-before-seen clip from Lost just unveiled at Comic-Con by showrunners Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, the show’s most frustratingly unresolved question is finally answered.
Father-Son Moment of the Day: In its latest round of housecleaning, CBS canceled its promising, yet ultimately banal sitcom $h*! My Dad Says. Justin Halpern, the comedy writer whose dad’s mercurial musings formed the basis for the novelty Twitter account upon which the show is based, broke the news to his dad over the phone.
Their conversation offers perhaps the most honest explanation for why the show was ultimately canceled: It may have been a decent show, but compared to the things Justin’s dad actually says, it was sh*t.
So yesterday the TV show based off the twitter feed, and my book, Shit My Dad Says, was cancelled. I worked on the show for the last year. It was a bummer, until I remembered that I got a TV show based off a twitter feed and a book and was basically the luckiest asshole who ever roamed this earth. Anyway, I decided I should call my dad to give him the news.
“Hey. What do you need. I’m busy,” he said.
“Do you have a second?” I said.
“Is this Justin?” he said.
“Yeah. Who’d you think it was?“
“Didn’t know. Just picked up the phone.”
“You didn’t know who it was and you answered the phone with ‘Hey. What do you need? I’m busy?,” I asked.
“Let’s people know not to f*ck around with my time,” he said.
“My show got cancelled,” I said.
There was a moment of silence on the other end of the line and I wasn’t sure if he heard me. I was about to say it again, when he spoke.
“Well. F*ck. Sorry to hear that, son.”
“Eh, it’s okay. It happens. It was crazy I got a show on the air in the first place.”
“Well, I liked it. It was kind of sh*tty at first, but I thought it got a lot better. You know what show I like? Cheers. That was a good show,” he said.
“That was a good show,” I said, wondering if that was part of a larger point he was about to make.
“Also I liked The Simpsons. At first I thought, it’s just a stupid cartoon for pants-sh*tters, but I was wrong, great show.” (Pants-sh*tters is how my dad refers to toddlers.)
“Well, I just wanted to let you know. I know you’re busy so I’ll let you go,” I said.
“I‘m 75. If you’re busy when you’re seventy five, you f*cked up the first seventy five years. I want you to know that I’m proud of you. You didn’t put a bullet through Bin Laden but I’m proud of you. You’re a bust-ass kid.”
“Thanks,” I said.
“And let’s not forget the big picture here. You don’t have to live with me anymore. One less person crawling up your ass every morning. That’s all anyone can f*cking ask for.”
TV presenter with audience of approximately 10% of the UK maintains false smile while quickly getting a dig in at the British Prime Minister. This is the single most rock and roll thing that has ever or will ever happen on The One Show.
Here, have your +10XP Matt Baker. I believe you just levelled-up.
Fascinating. Though there’s another important aspect of eating food here in the future that they never imagined back in the olden days:
Crazyass Japanese Thing of the Day: Want to spend the next four minutes watching a Japanese game show featuring random animals attempting to reach food pellets waiting for them at the end of a winding course bordered by intricately arranged domino spirals?
Of course you do.
What I really want to say to that armadillo is “CONNGRAJUWAYSHUNN!!!”
So the BBC have a new show called Paradox. It’s all about time, and the future, with a dash of space thrown in. Oh yeah, and some silly prime-time plots.
So, naturally, I’m all over it.
Here would probably be a good place for a SPOILER ALERT: THIS BLOG POST MAY CONTAIN IMPORTANT PLOT SECRETS AND/OR CONCLUSIONS, FOR EXAMPLE, THEY DON’T PREVENT THE EXPLOSION IN EPISODE ONE, BUT THEY JUST MANAGE TO KEEP THE KID ALIVE IN EPISODE TWO AND ALSO THE GRUMPY COP NEARLY GETS ELECTROCUTED BUT DOESN’T AT THE LAST SECOND!!!
Yeah, that sort of thing.
Anyway, for those who haven’t seen it, Tamzin Outhwaite makes eyes at this Physicist (because he’s aloof and standoffish and rude, which translates in slightly crap BBC drama terms to “enigmatically attractive”) who, for some reason, is getting pictures of the near future beamed to him from outer space during a solar storm.
Quite brilliantly for a show called Paradox, the first episode contained no paradox. I mean, sure, there’s the questionable issue of where the images came from but we can fudge that with some proof by hand-waving and muttering about Einstein-Rosen bridges and whatnot (and, actually, it’d be far easier sending an electromagnetic signal than it would be to send matter).
There’s the even more annoying question of who took the pictures? Personally, if I was writing the thing, I’d have the entire story using pictures from all the cameras we have around these days (phones, CCTV, an occasional errant TV crew). But this brings me onto my point:
Tonight things very nearly happened as in the images again. The image of the kid underwater did happen. They assumed he was dead from the picture, but he wasn’t the death they were looking for. The grumpy Scottish cop was the one supposed to die, and he was just a moment from realising his own grim electrocution death in front of Tamzin.
How brilliant would that have been?
I’m not trying to be facetious here; I really think that would be a brilliant piece of plotting and is exactly what I would have done if I was writing the thing.
Just imagine it…
- Episode 1: Tamzin spends the entire episode running around, only for her actions to ultimately have played a small part in the manifest destiny she has caught a preview of. The episode culminates with her helplessly realising that The Future happened anyway, as a train full of people get annihilated in a fireball that she’s watching.
- Episode 2: Tamzin squares her jaw and tries really really hard to prevent the future happening. Unfortunately her actions are ultimately responsible for the death of the grumpy Scottish cop right in front of her again. She realises that if she’d done nothing in both episodes, then the events wouldn’t have happened.
- Episode 3: Tamzin decides that clearly her only course to prevent whatever tragedy is happening this week is to take no action at all. Her team run around trying to give her information and get her to do something, but she just sits there. And then the oil refinery (or whatever) that she knew was going to explode, explodes. And she could have warned everybody and given the evacuation order hours ago. Once again, her choices caused the disaster.
- Episode 4: Tamzin sinks into depression. She refers to herself as “The Angel Of Death” at least once this episode. Eventually she tries to commit suicide, fucks it up, survives, but her suicide attempt distracts a crane driver or a pilot or someone, and KABLOOM!!! She’s only gone and done it again.
God, I could continue for quite some time here. The BBC should definitely consider hiring me. How good would this show be? Tamzin Outhwaite spends an hour running around having a nervous breakdown and trying to fight the inevitable, and every week the universe finds a unique and clever way to piss in her face. I’d call it EVERYBODY FUCKING DIES IN FRONT OF TAMZIN OUTHWAITE.
Someone get me a BAFTA.
Are You Fucking Kidding Me, Japan?! of the Day: The Japanese hidden camera show “Panic Face King” (AKA The Super Terrific Happy Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Variety Hour) seems to think it’s a good idea to lock a man in a room with a bunch of strangers and then proceed to have them picked-off by an unseen sniper.
And the laughter… so much horrible, horrible laughter…
Congratulations Japan. You just made me laugh at a guy genuinely utterly terrified for his life. I’m a cold husk of unfeeling, endlessly lulz-hungry misanthropy. This was quite funny though.