Media Relations: media commentary and criticism

Friday, September 16, 2005

quick take reviews

-- quick take reviews -- soapdishing: 24 college ave

After much contemplation, I decided not to call this piece, "What in heaven's name is ESPN thinking? ARE they thinking?"

But seriously. What on earth ARE they thinking?

ESPN.com: Page 2 : 24 College Ave: The Panty Raid

EDITOR'S NOTE: "24 College Avenue'' is a new fictional series describing the lives of 11 college students sharing a filthy old Victorian house near the campus of State College. The series will run on Page 2 three times a week throughout the school year. If you miss a chapter, don't worry. You can catch up in our archive of installments.

Leaving aside the fact that their archive isn't precisely well organized -- to be fair, there's not much archive to organize at the moment -- "24 College Ave" is a thorougly peculiar thing for ESPN to be doing, especially in this way. It's quite clearly as adults-oriented as any broadcast soap -- perhaps just the teensiest bit more so, in fact. The illustrations, by Howard Chaykin, are nothing you'd expect to see on ESPN. The clothes that Cheryl Bellamy, the med student, is wearing in her introduction illustration are, to put it mildly, somewhat impractical. And the first episodes involve a fetish party and its rather unexpected (and scantily and peculiarly clad) outcome.

If nothing else, at least this time, ESPN isn't likely to be assailed by college presidents and coaches for trying to dramatize sports that they're also responsible for broadcasting and commenting on, the way they were when they tried with Playmakers. For one thing, the audience is likely smaller, and for another, even given its banner presence on Page 2, "24 College Avenue" is damn near invisible on the ESPN site; I ran into it completely by accident.

That said, assuming the illustrations continue as they have, ESPN can expect to hear a few pointed inquiries from interesting places about why their website is carrying adult content. Which will make for an interesting article or two.

Frankly, I wouldn't expect 24 College Avenue to last out the year. Not because it's bad -- there isn't really enough of it to tell how good or bad it is yet. Mostly, the issue is that it's a severe mismatch with everything else on the ESPN site. The reaction of most people won't be "Hey, cool, kinky soap operas on ESPN!" but "What the hell is THIS, and why is it on the ESPN website?" The other issue is that web-based soaps tend to have a difficult time generally. It's not that there aren't a few, as one can see at soaps.about.com -- although what actually constitutes a web soaper seems to be subject to interpretation -- it's that they seem to have a hard time finding and holding anything but very small core audiences. Oddly, serial comic strips, containing much the same sort of thing, seem to succeed where a straight text-based web soap will fail.

In any event, it'll be interesting to see what comes of this.

Posted by iain at 02:51 PM in category quick take reviews