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`Studio 60,' your blog is so bleah

September 23, 2006|Richard Rushfield | Times Staff Writer

Not all Internet hoaxes are created equal. Some draw rapt audiences in the hundreds of thousands, others reap the whirlwind of the Web's collective jeers and scorn. The latter was the fate this week for NBC when a mock-blog concocted as a promotional stunt for its new show "Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip" became a meeting ground for the show's detractors, its comments section hosting a firestorm of catcalls and open contempt for the stunt and the show itself.

Dubbed "Defaker: Gossip on Studio 60," the faux-blog, which launched Tuesday, attempted to simulate the design and satiric tone of the popular entertainment gossip blog Defamer. "Defaker,", purports to be the work of a fan of the fictional "Studio 60." (According to NBC, Aaron Sorkin, the show's creator, is not involved at all.)

The NBC series revolves around the backstage life of the cast and crew of a fictional long-running late-night comedy TV show on a network called NBS closely modeled on NBC's "Saturday Night Live." In one of the opening posts, the anonymous author declared: "I am not some corporate shill, and I certainly don't work for NBS. I'm just a Studio 60 fan who's sadly been watching the show's decline over the past ten years -- give or take a decade or two."

The mock-blogger went on to chronicle the events portrayed in the series' premiere episode, saying of an on-air breakdown by the show's producer: "The man actually pulled a 'Network' on live television by stopping the show's cold open to deliver the ground-breaking news to the American populace that Studio 60 [was awful] and the network made him replace something that was incredibly funny with something that was incredibly lame. The whole thing has made waves all over town. Variety covered it extensively."

Although the stunt may have aped the design of Defamer, it did not take into account the great bugaboo of would-be Web hucksters -- the readers unleashed.

The comments section of the blog where, as on Defamer, readers can chime in, soon became a feeding ground for bashers not just of the stunt but of the show.

Comments posted on the blog soon ran the gamut from ad hominem, unreprintable assaults on the quality of the new show to innuendo about NBC executives' alleged drug habits to a complaint by a viewer that "I keep running in to the harsh reality of Studio $6.75 -- where janitors work full time for poverty wages and no health care benefits."

Perhaps typical was the comment, posted by a reader calling himself "All Publicity is NOT Good Publicity": "Your 'little evil laugh' is not only completely off-base, but it is all the more indicative that you're just some corporate shill who has finally been given a job that doesn't involve answering phones or delivering mail and you're already blowing it. Nice work!"

For his part, Defamer editor Mark Lisanti tipped his hat to the stunt, writing on his blog, "we wish the folks at NBC the best of luck with their continuing online marketing endeavors on behalf of Studio 60, which we're told include a series of cutting-edge YouTube videos starring a Lonelygirl look-a-like who struggles to find a way to tell Aaron Sorkin that she's only interested in him as a friend."

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