Here's my new rule of thumb when it comes to internet doodads: Any site, web series, e-commerce offering or marketing program that doesn't boast an all-encompassing social-media component deserves banishment to the Google rankings' nether regions. If I can't publicly react to something and share it with the two remaining people who haven't e-blacklisted me, it isn't worthy of my time.
I want to post videos about songs and songs about videos. I want to engage in witty banter with pets, fictional characters and floor waxes. Meanwhile, memo to Senor Zappos.com, who is otherwise the web's most admirable and responsive denizen: I can befriend croutons on Facebook but not the New Balance MT812, in which I plan to encase my precious little toesies? Shame on you.
This is a lesson that "Harper's Globe" -- a web series produced by the folks behind Lonelygirl15 and designed to drum up buzz for CBS's upcoming "Harper's Island" -- has learned well. Its "Confused? Learn how to watch 'Harper's Globe'" page asserts, with great cogency, that "'Harper's Globe' is a social show" and that it can prove a handy "meet new friends" facilitator. The site asks -- nay, demands! -- that you and I interact with and comment upon every aspect of its videological being. On Thursday morning, for instance, its message-board cheerleaders were beseeching visitors to "comment on youtube!" and "oh yeah digg the video as well."
Happily, the social-media and self-promotional overload is just about the only thing "Harper's Globe" does wrong. As opposed to most other "web exclusives" that supplement televised programming, "Harper's Globe" stands on its own merits. Compare its creative vigor and attention to detail with the bonus content from, say, "30 Rock," which plays as if cobbled together during a coffee break. The "Harper's" videos don't backstop the on-air product so much as run parallel to it; viewers can enjoy them independently.
That's more attributable to their storytelling than their presentation. This isn't to knock the production values, which rank with "Gemini Division" and Stephen King's "N" among the web's classiest lookers. Starting with the unsettling title sequence, "Harper's Globe" practically oozes dread. I just wish the site offered a full-screen-viewing option, because the ads that run alongside the player (Dove's brave efforts to rid the world of the scourge of soap scum, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter's ongoing campaign to make us believe that, indeed, it's not butter) compromise the dark aura.
The storytelling, on the other hand, is taut and twitchy, unfolding the mysteries of the island's recent past via both the episodes themselves and a glut of supporting materials. The tale is mostly told through the eyes of two stalwart journalists at the local gazette (see? newspapers aren't entirely useless after all!), but the videos don't hesitate to dart between one character's perspective and the next's. In doing so, they give viewers plenty of credit; "Harper's Globe" doesn't serve up the looky-here-we're-engaging-in-the-act-of-foreshadowing-now! cues that dumb down most detective/murder-y fictions.
As for the spooky a-doin's that are a-happenin' on Harper's Island, suffice it to say that they're creepier than anything that has aired on CBS since ... well, ever. Since I wouldn't want to compromise anybody's sense of discovery, just go check 'em out for yourself.
Sure, I could do without the oh-so-sensitive acoustic balladry that "Harper's Globe" features in its initial episode (and, naturally, offers for sale via the website). Such minor annoyances notwithstanding, "Harper's Globe" sustains a tone and constructs a story line in a manner far, far, far more skillful than what we've been conditioned to expect from the web. The minds behind yet-to-debut TV shows ought to use it as their online-video Rosetta Stone.