Friday, February 11, 2011

Current TV serves up Bar Karma February 11

Cassie Howarth, William Sanderson, Matthew Humphreys
Get ready for cocktails at the edge of the universe.

Bar Karma, a new 30-minute science-fiction series, is set to premiere its first of 12 episodes on Current TV on Friday, February 11 at 10 pm (EST) / 9 pm (CST).

Bar Karma tells the story of a time-traveling bar owned and operated by members of a mysterious organization named Karma, Inc. In each weekly episode, a new bar patron enters at happy hour and must make a life-changing – and possibly world-saving – decision.

The show stars William Sanderson (True Blood, Lost, Deadwood) as James, a 20,000 year-old bartender, Matthew Humphreys (Obsessed, Big Love, The Forgotten) as bar owner Doug Jones and Cassie Howarth (Deranged High, Deathclock) as waitress Dayna.

Will Wright
However, what sets this show apart from other TV fare is that it is billing itself as the world’s first community-developed television series.
Bar Karma was created by world-renowned videogame designer Will Wright (creator of The Sims and SimCity) and Worldwide Biggies’ CEO, Albie Hecht (former President of Spike TV and President of Entertainment at Nickelodeon) and invited a community of fans to drive the show’s content – from storylines to art direction, soundtrack to brand integrations.
Bar Karma uses Wright’s Storymaker application, which Wright developed exclusively for Current TV. Users can contribute by logging on to the website ( as well as through social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter (@barkarma) and a free iPhone App.

“I have always been excited by innovation and what we are creating is unlike anything on television,” Hecht commented last October. “The technology that Will has invented empowers viewers to participate, but also provides direct communication to me and my production team.”

“We will be taking our cues from the viewers, working with them and then quickly producing high quality, original content,” Hecht said. “This is truly a paradigm-changing project that will showcase the creativity of the general public in shaping a television series.”

How it works
The global online community is invited to vote on the top storylines chosen by producers. Once a final storyboard is selected by the community at large, the producers adapt, shoot, produce and edit the winning storyline into a 30-minute episode. Users whose submissions are used will be on the credit roll at the end of the show.

The Bar Karma production process is:

1 – JOINING: Log on to Current TV’s Creation Studios at by computer or via mobile device to join the online community.

2 – CREATING: Submit potential story ideas (called “pitches”). The show producers will provide the community with a rough outline for upcoming episodes. Participants then have the ability to create various storyboards of unlimited plot possibilities.

3 – VOTING: Browse, comment and merge various ideas for each episode. Final proposals will then be reviewed and voted on.

4 – PRODUCING: After the final storyboard is selected by the community, Hecht and Worldwide Biggies adapt, shoot, produce and edit winning storylines into 30-minute television episodes.

Jonathan Frakes (photo:TheMighty & Dapete)
While fans can pitch story ideas, provide input to the bar design and even suggest names for the bar’s prestige cocktail, professionals are hired for the production end-run.

In fact, Current TV recently announced that actor and director Jonathan Frakes (Star Trek: The Next Generation) will be directing an episode of Bar Karma.

Fans will be able to cast their vote for the storyline that they would like to see Frakes direct. The episode will air on Current TV in early April.

Cart before the horse?
TV shows like Star Trek, The X-Files, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Quantum Leap and other genre fare have long been fodder for fan fiction and “what if” postulation. The difference is that those shows were developed by professionals and had a solid grounding for the characters and the “feel” of the show before fans wanted to take new spins with the franchises.

James sketch by Janet Hetherington used in Bar Karma pitch
With Bar Karma, fans have been shaping the show; at the very least, they have been posting ideas to help shape the show. It will be interesting to see if this TV show creation by committee produces a show that has legs rather than an experimental novelty.

I want to add here that I’ve been part of the Bar Karma community voice. If you go online, you can find my “pitches” under BestDestiny. I did a storyboard pitch for “The story of the wayward reporter,” and had a lot of fun coming up with a ticker-tape feed that would play at the bar. Feel free to read my pitches and recommend.

And meet me for a cocktail later.

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