Hollywood will never let us forget that prom queen is one of the country's most dangerous professions. Whether it's Prom Night, Carrie, or Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II, there's obviously a lot of pain beneath every tiara.
Hopefully, the cliche will get a clever tweak with today's debut of Prom Queen. The episodic thriller will be releasing daily 90-second snippets from now through mid-June. The 80 installments will be put out through various video-sharing sites, though a distribution deal with News Corp.'s (NYSE: NWS ) MySpace will land new episodes on the social networking site a day early.
Anchoring the series to MySpace is a smart move. It appeals to the target audience that would relish a springtime thriller, doled out in daily teaspoons, revolving around five attractive prom-queen hopefuls. Thirteen of the characters already have their own MySpace pages.
However, let's not mistake this for a MySpace property. In fact, the initial video embedded in the official PromQueen.TV website is actually being streamed from Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) YouTube.
Maybe you're wondering what all the buzz is about. A cinematic online serial with a murderous hook? That's exactly what Sam Has 7 Friends accomplished a few months ago. That series also had an attractive cast of unknown actors, with daily installments served for free through sites like Apple's (Nasdaq: AAPL ) iTunes, YouTube, and Revver. It wouldn't be fair to call Prom Queen a Sam Has 7 Friends rip-off for one simple reason: It's the handiwork of the same production team -- Big Fantastic -- that brought us Sam Has 7 Friends.
Some are comparing Prom Queen to Lonelygirl15, but that's not accurate. Lonelygirl15 doesn't have a set schedule of release dates, and as ponderous as YouTube's most subscribed-to serial can feel at times, at least it feels interactive. The community chimes in to help guide the series from time to time. When Hershey (NYSE: HSY ) contacted the LG15 creators with a product placement deal for its Ice Breakers Sour Gum, the series creators polled their users. All but three of the 203 votes cast claimed that they would keep watching despite the obvious plug, so in it went.
So why is Prom Queen necessarily buzz-worthy? The public itself hasn't caught on. Despite the publicity of MySpace as its distribution hub, the Prom Queen page has amassed a somewhat minuscule 821 friends. That doesn't seem like much of a crowd for a series that has received coverage from financial heavies like BusinessWeek and The Wall Street Journal over the past few days.
The key to the journalistic appetite for Prom Queen is that the Big Fantastic series is being put out by Michael Eisner's Vuguru studio. Eisner's investment arm launched Vuguru just last month as a way to cash in on the "clip culture" revolution.
Eyes on Eisner
Since being nudged out at Disney (NYSE: DIS ) , Eisner hasn't kept still. He acquired a production company that makes college-sports DVDs geared toward toddlers and a stake in video-sharing site Veoh last year. He made bigger waves last month with a bid to acquire trading-card giant Topps (Nasdaq: TOPP ) in a $385 million deal.
Eisner's Rolodex and the seasoned experience of Big Fantastic's sophomore stint find Prom Queen at an advantage to the original Sam Has 7 Friends. There are plenty of sponsors and product placements already on board. The serial is being broadcast through Verizon's (NYSE: VZ ) VCast, and the first installment is padded on both ends with an ad for the upcoming Hairspray theatrical remake.
Prom Queen has potential, though it's always tricky to launch a series with a quarterly lifespan. If it takes too long to build momentum, the June 16 finale may come too soon. Then again, for a Web video audience that is accustomed to short-form celluloid, this may be as good as it gets. The future will bring more opportunities for community building and viewer interaction.
As for the overdone prom theme, let's hope we don't see a slasher chasing Jamie Lee Curtis or a bucket of pig blood hanging delicately over Sissy Spacek's head. If it's been done before, there's no point in doing it again in smaller chunks.
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Longtime Fool contributor Rick Munarriz can't remember what he wore to his prom, much less who was ultimately voted prom queen. He does own shares in Disney. He is also part of the Rule Breakers newsletter research team, seeking out tomorrow's ultimate growth stocks a day early. The Fool has a disclosure policy.