Remember the 1995 film Hackers? I'm one of those people who's watched
it about a dozen times yet still claims not to like it. I think the
reason is that I don't really like metaphors, especially in such a
literal medium as live-action video footage. Whereas most people
might appreciate mathematical symbols floating around someone's head
in order to capture the essence of how they romanticise computer
code, I for one would rather see the characters exploit, say, a known
vulnerability in the version of SSH installed on a server (a wish
the Wachowski Brothers granted moviegoers in 2003 with The Matrix
Reloaded). No matter how you try to make hacking look glamorous,
the fact remains that hackers spend almost all of their time staring
at reams of text on a flat screen.
For better or for worse, The Scene is the first TV drama that isn't
just about Internet movie pirates, it actually looks like it's
made for people in the hacking community. Almost all of the
dialogue is in the form of text on computer screens, specifically
on IRC channels and in IM clients, save for the occasional phone
call or face-to-face conversation. Even the live-action footage
consists of a webcam feed that's shown in a window that takes up
less than a quarter of the screen. You don't really watch the show
so much as you read it.
Despite how boring this may sound, The Scene is an interesting idea
that's actually fairly well executed. Yes, it has a budget that
makes Clerks seem epic, but that just gives it an edge of realism
comparable to The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield. Unlike Blair
Witch, however, it's written well enough to draw you in, complete
with cliffhangers that have you reaching for your BitTorrent client
to leech the latest episode. What it lacks in budget it makes up
for with characterisation, plot, and the novelty of both its medium
and its Creative Commons license.
There's plenty to like about the story. It's about a group of people
who have never met in real life, but who nevertheless keep in regular
contact in order to release illegal copies of Hollywood movies on
the Internet. Such shady characters obviously have a lot of
opportunities for conflict, and the show's writer, Mitchell Reichgut,
takes good advantage of this fact. They're self serving, lying, and
paranoid, yet still loyal friends. The paranoia is with good cause,
of course - some of them may not be all that they seem.
The Scene proves - to the people who like it, at least, myself
included - that a good script is much more important than a big
budget. Most importantly, it gives hope for anyone looking to make
or even simply find a gripping show that's licensed under a Creative
Commons license. Admittedly, it's not going to have any of the TV
networks scared of the competition yet, but it's definitely a step
in the right direction.
This is what Internet TV should be all about: trying out new ideas.
I think it's safe to say that this one works well. I'd recommend
it to the kind of people who already know how to download it, which
is kind of the point. It's tailor made to the new distribution
medium, not just in terms of delivery but also in its content. If
you've ever watched a film or show you dowloaded from the Internet,
it's a must.