Fan web site clicks with insiders

Showrunners, talent check for feedback

NEW YORK — For years, small-screen fans have turned to the Internet to share commentary and insight on their favorite shows. Lately, however, one site — — has been drawing attention from a different demo: Hollywood insiders.

Tara Ariano and Sarah Bunting — aka Wing Chun and Sars — launched in 1999. It quickly became the site to turn to for smart, thorough episode recaps. At last count, it boasted 300,000 unique visitors and 13 million pageviews per month.

These sometimes include showrunners and talent who check in for feedback, although not always in plain sight.

In July, “The West Wing” creator Aaron Sorkin found himself embroiled in a small scandal when he logged on under the name “Benjamin” to comment on a dispute he was having with series writer Rick Cleveland.

Sorkin’s true identity was discovered and confirmed by his publicist — easily done, as he had registered using her email address. Sorkin had been posting incognito in the “West Wing” forums since January and continues to check in.

“Popular” producer Ryan Murphy was the first to capitalize on the show’s MightyBig fan base, submitting to interviews and posting messages on the boards.

Stars of “The Real World” and “Making the Band” also have checked out the site to see how the show recappers have been describing them — and how fans are reacting to them.

These summaries are sometimes so well done that they led to deals for the writers. “Making the Band” recapper Heather Cocks was discovered by MTV and now works on its wrestling reality series “Tough Enough.”

When “The Street” was set to debut on Fox last year, Darren Star’s production company checked in to make sure it would be included in the recaps — it was, and those recaps live on in the archives under “permanent hiatus,” giving them a longer lifespan than the series itself.

In its third year, the site has tried to become more discerning, shifting its focus to include programming such as HBO’s upcoming miniseries “Band of Brothers.” This season, the site plans to recap 12 fall season shows, down from last year’s 26.

“Our audience realizes that TV kills your brain, but recognize it as a real art form,” editor Bunting says.

There are no immediate plans for MightyBig to get any bigger, although execs do hope to expand into MightyBig Movies at some point.

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