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July 23, 2006

Nobody's Watching on Broadcast Yet...But That May Be Changing

An update on my post a couple of weeks ago regarding the series Nobody's Watching, which was never picked up by a network despite almost landing a deal with The WB, only to have the pilot show later appear on YouTube and garner a significant following.

According to an announcement on Friday, NBC is currently developing the Bill Lawrence show for a shot on its network. The Peacock Network had worked with Lawrence on Scrubs, and he created Spin City on ABC as well. And, while the NBC Universal Television Studio initially worked with Lawrence on the show, NBC said the project that it would be more appropriate for the youth-driven WB. When the WB didn't take it at the last minute when announcing last fall's lineup, the show seemed to be destined to stay forever on the shelf, until it found anonymous distribution online and garnered a significant fan following and a fair amount of publicity.

According to the announcement Friday, the show will be in contention for the coming development season. But, in the meantime, Lawrence and the other creative forces behind the show will be creating original online Web episodes with the two primary characters of Nobody's Watching to keep online fan support going.

And, while the networks are demonstrating their pleasure that they may be getting a show with a fair amount of grassroots support already behind it, they still warn that they aren't crazy about what this means for piracy issues, as journalist Robert Tur has also expressed through his lawsuit with YouTube. Nevertheless, if NBC does pick up Nobody's Watching, it further demonstrates the potential ramifications for garnering fan reactions of shows during a pilot season through these online distribution models. Already, the Sci-Fi Channel is trying this with a program that it's currently on the fence about, as Jason Mittell has written about here on the blog.

If NBC accepts Nobody's Watching, and if the show manages to be a long-term success, it may help to forever alter the way television shows move from development to the network schedule and help make the process a little more fan-friendly...if they can just quit thinking about piracy long enough to realize the benefits.

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