'Family' man enlists TV scribes for campaign
Legendary sitcom creator Norman Lear has recruited top television writers for a series of voter awareness short films to be distributed across sites such as MySpace and YouTube.Lear commissioned comic shorts from “Reno 911!” creators Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon on the importance of youth voting. Lear is in final negotiations with “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin and “Grey’s Anatomy” exec producer Shonda Rhimes for similar shorts. Garant and Lennon will write and shoot more than 20 ironic shorts that center on a group of preppies who advocate against voting because it will damage their stock portfolios. “They’re a little obnoxious and a little smug,” Garant said. “Their goal is to get people not to vote.” Content will be marketed and distribbed across MySpace, Yahoo, YouTube, Google and other new-media platforms, Lear said. It also will be seen on Lear’s own activist site, DeclareYourself.com, part of his youth-voting initiative Declare Yourself that aims to register eligible voters before the 2008 election. Comedy Central and Clear Channel will team with Declare Yourself to air spots ahead of the election. Lear, who helped bring political issues into the mainstream with skeins such as “All in the Family,” has stepped back from active television producing to focus on Declare Yourself and the issue of youth voting. He said the shorts are meant as entertainment vehicles — as well as public service announcements — and hopes the films will see a great deal of viral pickup. “The ability to vote is an amazing moment in one’s life, and the best way to reach young people is through their sense of humor,” he said. As the business of Web advertising continues to grow, and as an increasing number of consumers watch content online, traditional television creators have become more willing to write for online-only venues. AOL has signed up original nonscripted projects from Endemol USA and Mark Burnett, while television vets such as Nell Scovell (“Sabrina the Teenage Witch”) are creating original series for sites such as GoFish. Garant and Lennon, whose clips from “Reno” often benefit from exposure online, said that in many ways, the reach of the Web is stronger than that of traditional media. “People don’t tell jokes anymore,” Lennon said. “They send links.”
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