The Web is television's newest test kitchen for comedy and entertainment. Backward as it may seem, the fact is that Tosh.0, Comedy Central's low-budget YouTube smorgasbord, is the network's biggest sleeper hit of the millennium. The blog-to-book phenomenon, $#*! My Dad Says, is also now a CBS sitcom starring William Shatner. Then there's TMZ, the salacious gossip site that transitioned off the Net to become a hit for Fox properties across the planet. In Boston, there are two nascent examples of Web-video projects getting flipped into legitimate TV deals, providing vastly different case studies of how the Internet is energizing television programming.
On the regional front, Allston renaissance jester Rob Potylo (formerly known as Robbie Roadsteamer) secured a nine-month deal to air his YouTube-spawned reality sitcom Quiet Desperation on the Fox-affiliated New England network MyTV. His show, which follows real and imagined tribulations of the Hub's creative class, plays Friday nights at 11 pm.
On a much larger scale, Boston-based lifestyle machine Karmaloop is launching an entire cable station. Built on music videos, eclectic movies, and original content like the Daily Loop, a karmaloop.com favorite for three years running, Karmaloop TV (or KTV for short) is scheduled to arrive in more than 10 million households by the end of this year.
"Nobody really tried to develop edgy, cool new things [on television] for this generation — something like MTV used to be," says Karmaloop founder Greg Selkoe. "But cable isn't dead, and it's not going away anytime soon."
Selkoe and Potylo are both operating outside of familiar paradigms; rather than importing Tinseltown ideas to Massachusetts, they're bringing Boston-born Web concepts to television. For Quiet Desperation, Potylo works with local comics, writers, actors, and musicians, and hopes to eventually build a platform that can help retain talent in the region. Selkoe has a similar idea; though his KTV arm is housed in New York City, a significant amount of content will be shot at Karmaloop's Boylston Street headquarters and Newbury Street retail store. (Selkoe, a Jamaica Plain native, says, "No other channel on cable will have more stuff done in Boston than us.")
Cable may be an older, less-vital medium than the Internet, but it still has prestige and advertising potential, which is why more Web hitters are looking there (collegehumor.com, for example, is also developing a network outpost). If this keeps up, it could mean that the days when you had to leave the Hub to score a sitcom deal or start a niche cable network are over.