TCA Tour, Jan. 2009: “Rockville, CA”

I’ve long thought – and I think my old friend Brian Becknell would agree with me on this – that a concert venue would make a great setting for a TV series…and I’m not talking about, like, “Hey, ‘90210’ fans, get ready for ‘Nat’s Peach Pit!'” I’m talking about a show that takes the music and people’s love of the music seriously…and although I’m not putting all of my eggs in one basket and saying that that show has arrived, I think that Josh Schwartz’s new online series for TheWB.com, “Rockville, CA,” is at least heading in the right direction.

“I think this is a show about people in their early twenties who are finding themselves, finding their place as adults,” said Schwartz, who arguably covers similar territory in “Chuck.” “They’re in that transitional phase. I think a lot of times when you are young, when you’re in your early twenties, music and the people who make music have a really sort of powerful affect on you, and sometimes you believe that the artist is the man. And sometimes the guy on the sidelines who is criticizing the music might be the better catch.”

As a former music journalist who spent his twenties in the audience rather than on the stage, I think Mr. Schwartz may be onto something here.

Alexandra Patsavas, the show’s music supervisor as well as one of its executive producers, said they went out of their way to make things as realistic as possible. “We really thought about how a real local rock club would sort out their schedule for a month,” she said. “A good local club has bands from the area, and that’s the backbone of any club; added to that, of course, were some national and international talent. So we really thought about what was coming out this spring, who was going to be touring in the fall, and tried to come up with an interesting and eclectic group of 20 bands.”

And since you’re wondering, those bands include…time for another deep breath…the Kaiser Chiefs, Phantom Planet, Travis, The Duke Spirit, Eagles of Death Metal, Earlimart, Frightened Rabbit, The Kooks, The Little Ones, Lykke Li, Nico Stai, Passion Pit, White Lies, Anya Marina, Bishop Allen, The Broken West, Cass McCombs, Lights, Oppenheimer, and The Republic Tigers.

“We shot in a local club called the Echoplex – owned by a local rock promoter, Mitchell Frank – and we used the sound system, so the Club Rockville you see is a real live club,” said Patsavas. “It put a lot of extra stress on the production because everything had to come down at night for whatever show to go on. And that club and the club above it, The Echo, would be a place that Anya Marina or The Little Ones or any of the bands that played at Club Rockville would play. In fact, some of them had a gig in the morning at ‘Rockville, CA’ and had a gig later that night upstairs at The Echo. And I think that, hopefully, that sense of real realism, it seeps through to what you are seeing.”

There will be 20 episodes of “Rockville” to start (as you probably already figured out if you did the math about the number of bands who are playing), and they will range in length from four to six minutes. “I think the idea is, initially, we are going to launch with the first four episodes,” said Schwartz, “and then, after that, it will probably be two to three a week moving forward until we’ve run out.”

In addition to the big-name acts, several of the cast members actually have pretty decent resumes, which can’t always be said for online-only series. Familiar faces include Alexandra Chando (Maddie Coleman from “As the World Turns”), Ryan Hansen (Dick Casablancas on “Veronica Mars”), Michael Cassidy (Charlie on “Privileged”), Matt Cohen and Mandy Musgrave (Aiden Dennison and Ashley Davies on “South of Nowhere”), Michael McMillian, who played Rev. Steve Newlin on “True Blood” but, to be fair, is probably known to more people as Henry on “What I Like About You.”

As far as the future of online series and whether they will ever serve as proper competition to traditional television, Schwartz does not claim to be Nostradamus, but he’s definitely getting a crash course in the genre. “I think everything is moving at an incredibly fast rate right now, and I think I learned a lot last year when ‘Gossip Girl’ premiered,” he said. “It felt like there was a reaction to the show that wasn’t necessarily in line with the ratings and that people were watching things in different ways. And I think one of the things that’s happened is that with content now, there’s no stigma in terms of where things show up or how they are viewed or how long they are. So I think this is part of this evolution. I’ve said before, I don’t know that is the final result. We are just only going to make five-minute episodes of things, and that’s it. But it definitely does feel like the next step. But I would not even begin to try to predict where this is going, except to say that where we are with television and where we are with ‘Rockville, CA,’ my guess is somewhere in the middle.”

The first episode of “Rockville, CA” premieres on TheWB.com on March 17.

  

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