Quickie Nostalgia That's Easy to Skip

Media Reviews for Media People: TheWB.com

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Nostalgia, by definition, lacks immediacy. At least a decade is supposed to lapse before we can resume trumpeting our fondness of cultural entities that we dug ("Full Moon Fever," "Jerry Maguire," "Cheers") before their seismic popularity dictated that we regard them as paragons of mainstream suck. One cannot be nostalgic for something that just went away.
TheWB.com's headline act is 'Sorority Forever,' complete with interchangeably bitchy gals and occasional moralizing.
TheWB.com's headline act is 'Sorority Forever,' complete with interchangeably bitchy gals and occasional moralizing. Credit: The WB

That is, unless you feel the need to force the issue. Ach-tooey to your delayed nostalgia, sez the WB, the network that birthed a thousand dewy glances. Two years after being folded into the similarly extinction-bound CW, the WB (minus Michigan J. Frog, its uppity-amphibian mascot) has returned to life on the web. With full episodes of WB mainstays like "Gilmore Girls"* and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" as well as a handful of glossy web shorts, the site attempts to be a Hulu for the eye-rolling, gum-snapping set.

All dressed up, with no good shows
To quote another reanimation-minded wonderwork: Sometimes dead is better. TheWB.com has ventured out into the wide world of the web without a single nugget of alluring original content. By all indications, it hopes to eke by on the legacy of its former programming, gambling that viewers old and new still thirst for Felicity's golden curls of wide-eyed pretty optimism. But this seems like a dicey bet, given that the site's target audience of 12- to 34-year-old gals has already moved on to nouveau-WB-ish shows like "Gossip Girl."

TheWB.com does curious visitors a favor by prominently featuring made-for-the-web series that haven't garnered as large an audience as they deserve. "The Jeannie Tate Show," a faux talk show hosted by a rattled suburban mom in her minivan, is gamely played in spite of its tired clueless-interviewer premise. "Pink," which follows a smokin' bounty hunter as she attempts to, like, exact revenge or something, picks up where gleefully trashy syndicated fare like "V.I.P." left off.

Here's the thing, though: Along with just about every other long-form show featured on the site -- the former WB programs as well as Warner Bros.-produced entities like "Friends" and "The O.C." -- "Jeannie" and "Pink" have long since been available elsewhere. That leaves TheWB.com without a true calling card, unless you count the dribs and drabs of content that have materialized on the site since its formal debut last month.

Forever in blue jeans
And you shouldn't. The site aims low and still manages to miss its target. Got some dim web video featuring fetching young people in distressed jeans? Send it to TheWB.com. From all indications, they'll provide anything fitting that description with a loving home.

Australian import "Blue Water High" sets a typical high-school drama in the ocean, while "A Boy Wearing Makeup" is a perfect balm for those who believe "Project Runway" has gotten too butch. Then there's "WhatEveR Hollywood," which features three wooden white chicks affecting style and 'tude for videos like "Spray Tan Rap." This may well be the single most depressing thing on the internet -- an impressive achievement, especially now that "Two and a Half Men" clips have found their way online. "Lazy Sunday," what hath thee wrought?

TheWB.com's headline act, however, is "Sorority Forever." Judging by both its lineage (director McG has something to do with it) and the volume of its hype, "Sorority Forever" arrives as the site's cornerstone. What nobody seems to have realized is the difficulty of sustaining coherent plots and characterizations in the context of two-minute installments. The gals come across as interchangeably bitchy, and the occasional moralizing ("shoplifting is wrong") mutes what little fun there is to be had.

But let's not dwell on the programming, because TheWB.com won't generate much traction until it gets its technological house in order. For those viewing TheWB.com using the most recent version of Internet Explorer (with apologies to Firefox and Safari cultists, that's most of us), each video temporarily farts out around the 30-second mark before resuming six or seven seconds later. This isn't exactly a catastrophic flaw, but we've come to expect a less choppy experience.

Where to begin?
Speaking of which, TheWB.com could learn a little something from the easily navigable layouts of YouTube or Hulu. Games, blogs, playlists, mash-ups, MySpace and Facebook tie-ins -- TheWB.com seems hell-bent on confusing the dickens out of both regular viewers and those who drop in to find the musical episode of "Buffy."

It's equally schizo on the marketing front. Anyone who spends a substantial amount of time on TheWB.com will be forced to view a single H&M pre-roll ad 37 times, which prompts me to wonder whether the disposable-style retailer has more than one bullet in its marketing arsenal. H&M also enjoys a dominant presence on the home page and "Sorority Forever" plugs aplenty. The other advertisers on board constitute an odd mix: the "Sims 2 Apartment Life" video game, Acuvue contacts and McDonald's. Basically, marketers have no clue what to make of TheWB.com, either.

Right now, the existence of TheWB.com is premised on quickie nostalgia. The site expects that the WB brand, remembered so warmly by the target demographic, will be enough to keep visitors coming back for more. Alas, that ain't enough in this era of content and marketing clutterosityishness. Here's hoping that viewers make TheWB.com earn its keep.

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CORRECTION: An earlier version of this incorrectly listed "Golden Girls" as a WB mainstay, not "Gilmore Girls." We regret the error.
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