While traditional television tries to figure out how to adapt the online experience to hook younger viewers, Pivot TV is showing not only how it can be done, but how it can result in compelling content.
The fledgling Millennial channel, an arm of Participant Media, has a cool late-night news program called TakePart Live, a docu-talk series starring Meghan McCain, the coolest new sitcom of 2013 in Please Like Me and an engaging “docu-soap” called Jersey Strong.
Now Pivot has landed actor, director, writer and all-around polymath Joseph Gordon-Levitt to work his considerable charm with HITRECORDonTV, adapted from the online site he developed with his late brother, Dan, in 2005 to cultivate collaboration and creativity in various formats. The TV version premieres with back-to-back episodes Saturday night.
The website ( hitrecord.com) has established itself as a global community of artists of all descriptions who collaborate on films, music, illustration, photography, live shows and more.
Once a project is submitted, other HitRECord members add to it online. A film may need music, or editing. A story may be looking to be adapted to film or animation. Once the project is finished, “we figure out ways to get our artwork out into the world,” the site promises. Since 2010, HitRECord has published books, made music and films and even gone on tour.
Gordon-Levitt has unshakable cred among the 18-to-34-year-old demo targeted by Pivot, but the cool thing about HITRECORDonTV is that it’s great TV for anyone.
The pilot episode is filmed in part in front of a live audience, all of whom eagerly comply with Gordon-Levitt’s command to “hit record” on their cell-phone cameras. Gordon-Levitt’s delivery is so smooth, it evokes the classic TV announcer, but with an unmistakable note of self-awareness.
The first of Saturday’s two shows begins with Gordon-Levitt explaining the origin and purpose of HitRECord and announcing that the theme of the first show will be the number one. Flash images of talking heads recount firsts in their lives.
We meet a young woman named Roswell Gray who recalls the first time she saw the sky. Afflicted with an ocular disease, she couldn’t see the stars until her father bought a pair of night-vision goggles.
The episode includes a segment on the Pando forest of Utah, where thousands of trees are, in fact, the same tree, all connected to the same root system. Where the Utah forest is nurturing and growing, the honey mushroom in Oregon is also a single organism, a huge fungus that is devouring trees in the Malheur National Forest to remain alive.
From there, the show ponders singularity of the human race, that each human is 99 percent the same as every other human on the planet. An anonymous contributor offers a charming animated film about the commonality of all music.
The mission of HITRECORDonTV is perhaps best represented through a song called You’re Not the Only One, created by 934 contributors. Gordon-Levitt wrote the lyrics, on a kind of We Are the World theme, and, wouldn’t you know, he sings the finished product while accompanying himself on piano.
Is there anything this guy can’t do? Probably not, but he’s clearly doing even more as part of the ever-growing HitRECord network.