Josh Schwartz, creator of Gossip Girl, Chuck, and The O.C., makes the leap online, with a new, web-based series, Rockville, CA, debuting on TheWB.com today. The show, made up of five-minute webisodes, takes place in an L.A. rock club and centers around a music nerd and his love interest … another music nerd! Schwartz spoke to Vulture about the pros of creating Internet TV, the cons of seeing live music at the Bait Shop, and his love of Seth Cohen–like characters.
After so much TV, why are you doing a web series?
I’ve wanted to do a web series for a while; I think we all have the sense that we’re heading into some sort of version of this in the future. TheWB.com came to me with the budget and the go-ahead, and I thought the music would marry well with the web components of the show. I was also nostalgic for the time in my life in my twenties when I spent a lot of time at these kinds of clubs.
You’ve tried to incorporate music into your shows before …
On The O.C., I found there was not as high a tolerance for people standing around, bobbing their heads to a band that was lip-synching. In Rockville, the music feels more organic because it’s integral to the plot and can be more like background. Since you can finish watching the episode and click on a link to watch the full performance, there’s not so much pressure to incorporate it. If the Killers or Death Cab played the Bait Shop on The O.C., we felt like we had to feature it prominently.
So many web series have failed. Why will yours succeed?
I haven’t done a lot of research, to be honest. I’m aware of a couple of web shows, but Rockville was really about the creative endeavor for me. Stuff about what makes it successful, how many impressions or hits it gets, I don’t really know about that. It’s less relevant to me because it’s not like TV ratings where you have to hit a certain number.
How did you change your TV style to fit web?
I had to change up my entire approach to storytelling. I’m used to thinking in terms of an episode, and here I’m thinking in five-minute bites. But it’s perfect for my attention span. We’re all headed toward only being able to pay attention to something for five minutes anyway.
How is this show different from your other ones?
These kids are older, they’re in their early twenties, they have no money, and they’re struggling to figure out their lives. There are echoes of some of my other shows, but it’s different.
Rockville has a Seth Cohen/Dan Humphrey–like character. Are you worried about that becoming your signature?
A cynical, hyperarticulate guy who’s kind of nerdy? Handsome in an offbeat way? Grows on you over time? What can I tell you, I have a type. I don’t think it feels inappropriate for this kind of show, though. There are a lot of people like that who work in the music world.
Do you think people like that watch your shows?
You’d be surprised. Hipsters believe in love, too.