Girl Number 9: think 24 with the number referring to minutes
Tonight sees the beginning of a new series – but not on regular middle-sized telly-box screens: on the littler screen. Girl Number 9 is a web exclusive and it'll be interesting to see how successfully, over the next week, they manage to tell a complex cops 'n' murderers thriller in five-minute chunks.
It's not the first time anyone's made web-only content, of course: happens all the time, now. But Torchwood actor Gareth David-Lloyd and two former EastEnders – Tracy-Ann Oberman and Joe Absolom – have been appearing on GMTV, radio shows, and generally doing the kind of promotional work that you would associate with a full-length high-budget television miniseries.
But Girl Number 9, between the premiere episode going up at 9pm today and the finale next Friday, will be half an hour altogether: six five-minute episodes. And it'll be interesting to see how they manage it. There are probably two main crimes when people who make normal television turn their attentions to the web:
a) The kind where there's a sense of either trying to push through things as fast as possible because they believe everyone has a short attention span or, worse, b) the kind where they decide that since it's the web and they have all the time they want, they can produce something flabby and badly in need of editing.
They seem to have avoided this with Girl Number 9. Granted (having only seen the first episode) at first there's a sense that they might all-be-talking-very-fast-to-squeeze-everything-in, as well as swearing just 'cause they fucking can – but that fades soon enough, and the whole thing settles into a very steady pace, for a web series.
Which is fitting – writer James Moran and director Dan Turner say in an interview on the well-thought-out site that they approached the story format first, that they decided they were going to make a web series, and then approached the story, plot developments and so on from there. So everything's been created from scratch to fit the medium. Will it work? No way of telling yet, let us know as you watch it … but it's good to see people investing properly in making original web content.
At first glance, it would appear that Girl Number 9 manages to neither overstretch nor mistake the medium for something it isn't. And it's helped by choosing something time-specific. Not to reveal too much about the first episode, but think 24 but with the number referring to minutes, rather than hours.
It's a web-savvy approach, and that makes me happy to begin with: from the structure, down to the use of the Website on which it's being shown, which gets brought in to the narrative quite early on.
And for the past few weeks there has been a quiet build-up online, with the characters tweeting, or some of them, at least - from Tracy Ann Oberman's hardbitten chief, to "Ryan", who appears to be the office computer spod and possible comic relief another detective, Weinberg, and the murderer, whose under-the-radar presence on the micro-blogging site makes you wonder how many other boastful serial killers might be out there, gleefully tweeting away.
All that is by the by now it's actually starting, though. This week, we'll be watching the episodes as they go up online, and posting a tiny twitter-like review of each at the bottom of this post. But most importantly: if you're watching too, pop back every day and tell us what you thought. Is it possible to tell a complex story in bite-sized chunks, and if it is, what's the thing that makes it work? They're making something for the web. Well, we're the web. We'll review it webstyle.