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Two Mediums, One Earth

Two Mediums, One Earth (photo)

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As a kid, I loved “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, which (for anyone too young to remember the series and ignorant of its recent, ho-hum revival) offered fantastical tales that branched out in different directions depending on decisions you made during the story. If you wanted to enter the haunted mansion, you turned to page 15, and if you instead wanted to go into the cave, you went to page 25. Of course, despite supposedly having a say over the action, the books offered readers only the illusion of control — every “choice” was obviously already written and thus preordained.

As such, the interactivity of “Choose Your Own Adventure” novels isn’t all that removed from that provided by video games, which let you steer a main character, and in some cases give you the chance to alter a tale’s final outcome, but — since everything has been coded and programmed beforehand — can’t give you true power over the proceedings. You may be able to travel down this path rather than that path, or finish with a “good” rather than “bad” ending, but such influence is at best minor, and largely a mirage.

This isn’t a negative thing — you could definitely make a convincing argument that art (whether it be games, TV, theater, or film) functions far better when its creators maintain overriding control. Not to mention that it’s up for debate whether consumers really want to shape the nature and development of their entertainment. Don’t, however, tell that to the Syfy network, which has announced plans to go forward with a cross-medium venture tentatively known as “One Earth” that will involve an ongoing TV show and a complementary MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game).

The hook of “One Earth” is that events on the show will be reflected in the game, and events that take place in the game will have direct consequences for the show’s storyline. It’s a hybrid project that aims to combine two things popular with the network’s fanbase — fantasy TV series and video games — in ways that not only make opportunities for cross-promotion, but also offer the possibility of new and unique interactive storytelling paradigms.

01292010_worldofwarcraft.jpgAt least in theory. For now, “One Earth” remains mostly a mystery — its title was only revealed earlier this month by Syfy Channel parent company General Electric during a shareholders’ report, and details continue to be sketchy about how the show/game will actually operate. What we do know is this: Syfy will be developing the project with Trion gaming studio, it was originally planned to be an offshoot of “Battlestar Galactica” but will now take place in a wholly original universe, and repercussions from things that happen in the show will be felt in the game and vice versa. Even the promotional video found on the GE Reports’ website provides little more than generalized talk about the upside of melding these two different art forms into something supposedly revolutionary.

There’s no denying the upside to the “One Earth” concept — the popularity of the “Battlestar Galactica” and “Stargate” series, as well as that of blockbuster MMORPGs like “World of Warcraft,” make it seem that there’s a sizable overlapping audience to be enticed by the notion of two-as-one entertainments. With a compelling narrative that players could sway with their own behavior, the game/show might in theory deliver the type of consuming immersion that even “Warcraft” can only dream of, providing a wholly realized sci-fi world in which viewers/players would feel like genuine members.

Hypothetical business benefits aside, “One Earth” seems like the first real attempt to fashion a 21st century mode of storytelling, one that embraces at-our-fingertips digital culture while still allowing its creators to retain a level of control over their inventions. To develop a TV show that, for example, hints at conflicts that are then played out in an online game console/PC realm, and to have the outcomes of those conflicts reflected in a subsequent episode of the program, is to take steps toward a fairly bold new frontier in which authorial control is more evenly divided between artists and users.

That said, even if Comcast’s purchase of NBC Universal (which owns Syfy) doesn’t derail the project, there remain serious questions about cross-medium integration like this can properly function. Will the scripted show air every week, or less frequently (so writers can integrate gaming-world events into the plot)? Will gamers play as show protagonists, or random nobodies? And will gamers’ actions really have significant impact on the show, or will online battles and plot twists be merely high-tech versions of “Choose Your Own Adventure” style phony-control gimmickry?

01292010_ificandream2.jpgIt’s hard not to believe the latter will wind up being closest to the truth — if there’s one thing a conglomerate like NBC Universal is determined to maintain, it’s power over high-profile properties it’s spent years and millions developing. Yet hope springs eternal, and at this early stage, it’s still possible to believe that “One Earth” could create something new and groundbreaking out of its marriage of TV and gaming, even with these myriad unanswered questions. And if not, there’s always Simon Fuller’s upcoming reality/social media hybrid “If I Can Dream,” which combines a “Real World”-esque scenario with webcam/chat elements. If gaming isn’t going to lead the interactive show charge, maybe the chance to Facebook message an aspiring model/actress will.

[Additional photos: “World of Warcraft,” Blizzard, 2004; “If I Can Dream,” Hulu, 2010]

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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