Video has been a core component of Twitter for some time, with a number of products — including SnappyTV, Vine, and Periscope — attracting broadcasters, journalists, and amateurs alike. But what about when Twitter accounts are transformed into actual TV shows?
Very British Problems, a Twitter account set up by freelance journalist Rob Temple with the sole purpose of poking fun at British habits and customs, has garnered north of 1 million followers since its inception in 2012. And it has just been greenlighted for a short TV series by U.K. broadcaster Channel 4, after it was optioned by London-based production company Alaska TV last year.
It will be interesting to see how a Twitter account that publishes nuggets such as “Suddenly remembering your tea and necking it like a massive, lukewarm shot” and “‘That Friday Feeling’ = tired and drunk,” will translate into a televisual feast.
Doctor: "How's the leg?" Patient: "Fine, I mean, it still hurts, but it's fine"
— VeryBritishProblems (@SoVeryBritish) July 2, 2015
Debuting later this summer, the three hour-long episodes aim to “unravel the complexities and awkwardness of the British psyche,” according to executive producer Chris Fouracre. And it will do so using the real lives of “our best-loved comedians and personalities.”
From Twitter to TV
While this is the first time a British broadcaster has launched a TV show based on a Twitter account, the move isn’t entirely without precedent elsewhere.
"A parent's only as good as their dumbest kid. If one wins a Nobel Prize but the other gets robbed by a hooker, you failed."
— Justin (@shitmydadsays) February 22, 2010
Warner Bros. produced a sitcom loosely based around the tweets, though the show was cancelled by CBS after six months, 18 episodes, and generally poor reviews.
While transforming a bunch of tweets into a TV show for prime-time viewing might not be the best idea, it helps demonstrate the democratizing nature of self-publishing platforms. Twitter helps budding writers and creatives get their ideas out there, but the public’s reaction ultimately decides what’s hot and what’s not.
It’s similar to how crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo are being used. Yes, they’re useful for attracting capital, but they’re also used as market validation tools to test whether an idea has legs. And companies often use this data and traction to gain the attention of bigger players in the business realm.
Vine’s videos have helped create online celebrities from mere mortals, with six-second looping skits pushed out to millions across social media, leading some to secure their own place on traditional TV too. With 1 million followers, Very British Problems already has a potentially big audience before filming even begins, though whether passive followers translates into active viewers remains to be seen.