I only got through four episodes of WB’s Mortal Kombat: Legacy web series before I ditched it for good- I’m only going to waste so many articles worth of your time to call something garbage over and over. Much of my frustration stemmed not only from the objectively terrible nature of the show, but for the potential that it was wasting. As someone who ditched cable years ago and has had a media center laptop dedicated to his TV for almost as long, I’ve long looked for the next step in television production that acknowledges the changing environment.
Of course, I’m still using Netflix, Hulu, YT and all the other means of streaming digital media mostly to fetch content that was generated in a traditional TV environment, but more and more I’ve wondered who would have the inevitable first breakout hit doing something different. For a long time it’s been obvious that Warner Brothers is making the most daring moves, as they greenlit this series, pushed farther into digital distribution for their traditional releases, and even gobbled up some online companies with stakes in the digital world. While I still felt they were being hedging their best and moving too slowly (or outright blowing it, in the case of MK:Legacy), H+ changes that view considerably.
First, take a look at the trailer (which does begin with the silly fake ad cliche, but stick with it)…
Designed to reproduce the same kind of quality you get from a blockbuster network show like Lost, H+ is a wholly unique digital experiment. Present in four-dozen 3-7 minute pieces that span the globe and many years, H+ tells a story with a beginning, middle, and end that can be consumed in all new ways. The short will be viewed through a portal that lets you rearrange the order in which you consume the show, and as material accumulates you’ll be able to watch the story chronologically, or focused on a single character or location. The nature of the story itself –the world paying the price of billions of deaths for pushing past the barrier of physical connection with the internet– obviously lends itself to this format, but by looking like a high-value show in the vein of Lost, it could be the first show of its kind to cross over.
While it’s clear that WB doesn’t know exactly how this is going to work, what model could develop from it, or even what a measurement of “success” would be, they’ve gone out on a limb and given a crew of ambitious filmmakers the resources to do something different. Assuming the storytelling is worthwhile, I’m eager to see it succeed and for more studios to realize that the merging of TV and web currently offers the most interesting avenues for new forms of storytelling. Consider all the feature-length filmmakers that have become enamored with high-quality shorter form storytelling on HBO and premium networks… imagine what the next generation of content could be when your show could truly take any form? Content length, linear presentation, method of consumption… these are all things that no longer have to be taken for granted.
I was part of a rather intimidatingly long conference call concerning H+ last week and I will bring more from that to you soon. Until then, check out the trailer and let me know what you think.
I’m very interested in readers thoughts on the future of TV, film, and motion-picture storytelling. Do you think shows like H+ will lead the way, once one of them capture the zeitgeist? Or do you feel it will take a more traditionally popular show crossing over into the digital realm that will do it? Let me know your thoughts on twitter, through the comments below, or on the boards for a great discussion! Don’t be quiet…