There It Is. Crowdsourcing For Television

I recently published a post on Crowdsourcing (Crowdsourcing. In Bb) for Logic and Lightning, and was surprised at the number of responses the topic generated. If you’re a newbie, you should know that Crowdsourcing is a relatively recent phenomenon made possible mostly by the Internet and social media. Basically, it’s a “group rules” mentality akin to standing in the middle of a crowded courthouse square and yelling, “What do you guys think we should do?” Applied to marketing, it usually means a brand or an organization has decided to take advantage of the wired world’s potential to reach out and ask the opinion of its followers in order to create or make a decision. Applied to entertainment, you get Current TV’s newest series venture, Bar Karma. The new “dramedy” could very well be the next big thing in television – a story written by its viewers. I know, right? The whole thing just bubbles with potential.

A social network disguised as a bar at the edge of the universe

Bar Karma is an oddly attractive premise, with definite sci-fi overtones that put it in good company. By creator Will Wright’s own admission, the show was influenced by all kinds of classic sci-fi fare, and “Easter Eggs” are buried everywhere in the visual landscape. There’s an origami bird that hints of Blade Runner, a Star Wars Light Saber that sits on the bar, and a sign that advertises a special on “Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters.” That one’s straight from Douglas Adams’ Restaurant at the End of the Universe. There’s a bit of Twin Peaks vibe as well, so it all adds up to a richly colored soup of fun, freaky meaning. It’s definitely watchable, with three compelling main characters including the infinitely quirky William Sanderson. But what makes this show special is the fact that the story lines and subsequent plot intricacies will actually be sourced from an online fan community. That’s very different indeed, making Bar Karma the first of a whole new breed. Viewers are invited to help create story lines and plot twists using something Executive Producer Albie Hecht calls an online “story engine.” The ideas with the highest votes will make their way into production, setting up a situation that will surely have the fans waiting impatiently for events they already know are on the way. You can also bet that a few new rock star writers will emerge from the online sea, creating a unique dynamic and possibly a very unique success. The whole thing represents a bit of a paradigm shift, especially if it works out over time. As a writer, I’ve been in lots of rooms where multiple people are sitting around trying to sweat ideas out of their pores. The usual mandates that accompany this kind of activity are “must be original” and “make it ground-breaking.” The phrase “big idea” is thrown around pretty liberally too, so there’s a good bit of pressure to paint the Mona Lisa on command. It should be interesting to see if the crowd really has the ability to supply the sharp stories and dark wit this show needs, but it’s very possible. Also, we shouldn’t forget that the show actually has a writing staff, which will offer a much needed idea safety net. In essence, Bar Karma has just secured itself an ideation staff of hundreds (maybe thousands) who have the potential to provide powerfully fresh thinking anytime it’s needed. This bodes pretty well for BK if it can build a significant fan base, because the show will always be exactly what its viewers want most, and because it will always have the potential to remain fresh. Suddenly, I wish I’d thought of it.

Check out Bar Karma here:

Meet show creator Will Wright, who also happens to be the creator of The Sims (not the Simpsons) game series. Yeah, he’s a video game legend, and the idea of interactivity is pretty much par for the course with him.

William Sanderson rules! Also pictured, Mathew Humphries, who plays former super-lucky guy Doug Jones – now being kicked in the teeth by Karma. To the right is Cassie Howarth, who plays Dayna – Bar Karma’s lone waitress.

William Sanderson ruled in Blade Runner and Bob Newhart too. “I’m Larry, and this is my brother Daryl and my other brother Daryl.”

Learn more about the Current/Bar Karma Creation Studios here:

Yes, Al Gore – along with partner Joel Hyatt – created Current. Wait a minute! Is he still yapping about creating the Internet?

What is Crowdsourcing exactly? Well, it all began in 2006, when Jeff Howe coined the phrase in Wired Magazine. Here ya go.


  1. Good read … headline catchy … good points, some of which I have learned along the way as well (humility, grace, layoff the controversial stuff). Will share with my colleagues at work as we begin blogging from a corporate perspective. Thanks!


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