Come now the 2000 fall season and 33 new series: 16 dramas and 15 comedies. Not surprisingly, every one of these 31 new shows has at least some form of Web presence. Clicking and pointing until my thumb started hurting, I checked out each of these sites. As I get older and the bookmark files around my Web browsers grow in girth, I don't suffer fools, or foolishly designed Web sites. Yet in most cases, I must admit that most of the new show sites aren't too bad.
Here are seven attributes any TV-series Web site ought to have:
When feasible, shows should have own URL
The reason for a proprietary URL (for example, showname.com) goes over the "duh" line: People in search of information on your show will naturally associate the program with its name, rather than the network that carries it.
Frankly, you programmers can do better. Let's see. I've just typed in "www.madiganmen.com." Nothing comes up, but checking the Network Solutions WHOIS registration database, I see that ABC has registered the name.
Some program names are so generic, they were taken a long time ago. Example: while Girlfriends is the name of an African-American-flavored Sex in the City program on UPN, the Web address has been taken by a "dating and relationships" directory.
Not all the 'good ones are taken'
Most movies have their own URLs. When the movie title is also a common phrase with an already assigned name, alphabetic variations are possible. Example: the URL for the new movie Almost Famous is www.almost-famous.com. Other films use the "movie" tag: for example, "www.thewatchermovie.com." So how about a TV or show-related tag, such as www.(name of series) show.com?
Intuitive link from network site
I've just said that links to show pages from network sites aren't important. That being the case, there's still some promotional value in placing these links on your site. Some people will see NBC's promotional spots for Deadline or ABC's on-air pitches for The Geena Davis Show, and gravitate to your network site in search of info. By "intuitive," I mean either a direct link from the home page to the show site, or a home-page link to a New Series Page-with each new program listed and linked from there. CBS' "New Fall Series" icon on its home page is the ideal way to do this.
Also, on-site search utilities ought to be able to find the individual show site. That means back-end database integration, not a very glitzy subject but one that your Webmaster should address.
What's it all about?
Give us a cogent plot summary. What is the main story arc? Who are the principal characters, and the behavioral traits we can expect from them on a week-to-week basis? A teaser about the next episode would also be helpful.
Streaming video highlights
Posting show trailers on your site is a great way to get potential viewers to sample your program. Archived clips are OK, but, as the movies have long known, the real value-add is in "coming attractions."
An episode log
Let's just say I missed an episode three weeks prior or have only discovered the show this week. Reading a short summary of each episode that has already aired would bring me up to speed on what's going on.
How many times have you watched a new series and wondered aloud at who this exciting new second-tier player might be. Your viewers may be thinking the same thing. One show site that has this down pat is the Web page for CBS' new comedy Yes, Dear. Read the synopsis at http://www. cbs.com/prime time/ yes_dear/ about.shtml and tell me if you agree.
Cast members should be available for live, online chats with viewers. You should also think about starting a discussion board where your viewers can vent about the latest plot twists. NBCi's does this as well as anyone. Many of its prime time shows have "clubs," where fans can express themselves. These clubs are linked from the NBC-TV Clubs page at http://nbc-tvclubs.nbci.com/. All debut programs are teased with the word "NEW!" in the Club menu.
The mother of all "duhs," but when is your show on in different time zones?
Russell Shaw's column about Internet and interactive issues appears regularly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.