The number of scripted original series across the TV landscape grows by one on Nov. 19 with a somewhat unlikely player stepping into the drama game. The Art of More, a stylish art-world thriller with some notable names in the cast, is designed to make Crackle known for more than Jerry Seinfeld’s various projects.
Part of Sony Pictures Television (SPT), the online channel is perhaps most associated with Seinfeld’s unscripted Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, along with epochal comedy Seinfeld. After the 10-episode Art of More launches, Crackle plans to offer seven to nine original programs, including comedies, dramas, films and game shows, next year.
“This is not a one-and-done,” says Eric Berger, Crackle general manager and SPT executive VP of digital networks. “This is the beginning of a rollout stage.”
Dennis the Menace
Crackle draws around 18 million monthly users, according to SPT. Crackle’s original shows include action drama Cleaners and gamer Sports Jeopardy. Last spring, the service skipped the digital Newfront scene for a conventional TV upfront. With a cameo from Seinfeld himself, Crackle announced a sixth season of Comedians in Cars, along with originals including the film Joe Dirt 2: Beautiful Loser, a Bryan Cranston-produced (and voiced) animated series called SuperMansion and its first hour-long scripted show in The Art of More.
With Kate Bosworth, Cary Elwes and a louche Dennis Quaid in the cast, Art depicts the shady dealings behind the scenes of posh auction houses, including the looting of an Iraqi palace for artifacts that end up on the block. Creator Chuck Rose says he has long been fascinated by the art world and sought a way to bring it to television. After shopping the show to cable’s “usual suspects,” he says, Art ended up in front of Crackle executives.
“It wasn’t the typical doctor/cop/lawyer show,” says Rose. “For their first [hour-long] scripted original, they wanted to do something different. It turned out to be the right script at the right place at the right time.”
Crackle’s target audience is what Berger calls “rechargers”—viewers 18-34 who work and play hard, then unwind by streaming content with touches of mystery, sex appeal and thrills. The Art of More was “an idea we all fell in love with from the start,” he says.
Crackle is unique from OTT heavyweights such as Netflix in that it’s free and ad-supported. Dom Caristi, telecommunications professor at Ball State University, says Art is a logical next step after Comedians in Cars, which has been streamed more than 100 million times, per SPT. “Both are intended to make sure that Crackle doesn’t get lost among the dozens of different options available,” Caristi says. “People aren’t necessarily going to Crackle to watch old episodes of Seinfeld, since they’re also available on Hulu, TBS, on DVD and in syndication.”
Art showrunner Gardner Stern, a veteran of NYPD Blue and Law & Order, notes CBS’ decision to remake Star Trek for its All Access service as an indication that OTT is the platform of the not-too-distant future. He says the opportunity to try something in the space was a draw for the Art cast and for him. “I hope this show helps Crackle become as ubiquitous as Netflix and Amazon,” Stern says, “like how Transparent put Amazon [Studios] on the map.”