As content creators are quickly learning, the road from successful Internet series to successful network television show is fraught with peril. Just ask Ben Silverman, who was raked over the coals when he tried to port Quarterlife directly from the web to NBC without making any creative tweaks last winter; the show was cancelled after airing only one disastrously rated episode. ABC was determined not to make the same mistakes when they acquired the rights to In the Motherhood, originally a long-form commercial/web series that starred Jenny McCarthy, Chelsea Handler, and Leah Remini. Instead of simply re-airing something that millions of people had already watched online, they decided to recast the show (good choice!) and turn it into a more “traditional” sitcom (maybe a good choice?). However, as Brian Stelter reports in today’s New York Times, producers found that the Writers Guild of America wasn’t so keen to play along with one of the reasons the show became such a big hit in the first place: user-generated content.
You see, when the show was nothing more than a web series on MSN.com, one of the key tenets of the show was that its ideas came from the show’s target audience, mothers. Users would submit their funny, motherhood-related stories to the show’s website and, if their ideas made it to “air,” they would receive an onscreen credit. However, when crafty producers at ABC tried to institute the same policy for their new TV show, they quickly found themselves on the receiving end of a stern note from the Writers Guild of America. As you might expect, the WGA found these actions in direct conflict with the contract they had signed with the network — after all, if ABC could convince Main Street to help write their shows for FREE, surely they wouldn’t need to PAY so many darn writers to work on the show — and forced ABC to remove the idea-solicitation language from the show’s new site earlier this week. And now, apparently, all seems to be well between the two camps. Now the only thing they have to worry about is getting all the people they just alienated to actually watch the show when it debuts tomorrow night. Crisis averted! (Ish.)