Executives at NBCUniversal have announced they’re exploring turning Shit Girls Say, a YouTube and Twitter phenomenon, into a TV pilot for the Style Network. That’s quite a leap. And, potentially, a new business model whose time has clearly come.
If the name isn’t familiar to you, let me explain. The series started as a Twitter channel in 2011 and quickly caught fire, gaining millions of subscribers after it made the leap to YouTube in 2012. The simple idea, assembling a string of things girl say (literally) into a non-stop collage of inane, slightly exasperating colloquialisms, perfectly fits the average web surfer’s attention span. Which seems to amount to about a minute and a half, give or take.
The brains behind the project, Canadian comedy writers Kyle Humphrey and Graydon Sheppard, breathe life into the characters, with Sheppard going drag as “The Girl” and Humphrey as the occasional, long suffering, endlessly annoyed boyfriend.
Whether or not Sheppard makes the ultimate cut, playing “The Girl” in the series, Style’s Senior Vice President of Original Programming and Development, Sarah Weidman, promises whoever lands the breakthrough Shit Girls Say role will be “exploring the worlds of fashion, beauty, and lifestyle through her unique and comedic yet universal point of view. Even as she finds herself in outrageous comedic situations, ‘The Girl’ represents our core audience. A passionista who loves fashion and entertaining.”
Plans are to follow a comedy sketch-show format, which makes the most sense. Turning 90-second skits into a character driven sitcom could not only be a tough task, but might skewer the character’s soul as well.
And, going from Twitter all the way to cable TV represents an exciting leap, rivaled in the electronic media age only by shows which started on radio and made it to broadcast television, successfully retaining and then broadening the core audience. Count those on two hands.
But, it’s not like this hasn’t happened before. The trailblazer for this new path to cable TV, Shit My Dad Says, was a surprise Twitter sensation in 2009 and made it all the way to CBS (starring William Shatner) a year later. After a promising start, however, the series died a quiet death before its full run was completed (airing only 18 episodes) despite winning a People’s Choice Award. Another Twitter hit, Shh, Don’t Tell Steve, rolled through the CBS pipeline around the same time until it was dropped, presumably because of the low impact of Shit My Dad Says. Steve didn’t even make it to air.
Which raises the question, what is NBC thinking? Despite a tremendous groundswell of publicity for Shit My Dad Says (and a rush by writers to jump on the bandwagon, creating any number of Twitter and YouTube channels emulating the phenomenon) the series was a ratings disappointment (although very well written) and probably killed development of other similar projects.
So, what’s different this time? Despite plenty of funny women on TV over the years, Hollywood has only just embraced the idea that humorous women can mean big bucks at the box office. The confidence on this one could come from the success of Mindy, Zooey, Tina, and others. With some reworking (and, presumably, recasting), Shit Girls Say could be the next big hit with a female lead.
So, if this cable TV business model finally works, expect a flood of Twitter-turned-YouTube-turned-TV projects. It may blunt the creativity and uniqueness of the online experience or it could be the new path to TV (or movies) that the web has been promising, but has yet to fully deliver.
Is there an Emmy in the future for, say, Leave Britney Spears Alone!, The Annoying Orange or even (shudder!) Ray William Johnson?
What do you think? Will you be watching? Can Shit Girls Say make the transition to television?
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