“The Spot,” the first sitcom written and produced for the Internet, has run into a spot of trouble after a wildly popular debut.
Launched June 7 at 12:15 a.m. at http://www. thespot. com, “The Spot” is “Melrose Place” meets “The Real World,” focusing on a group of young people dwelling in a rambling old Santa Monica beach house. The characters include Tara Hartwick, a perky film student, handsome hunk Lon, sexy Michelle Foster, and Jeff the landlord, who is hated by everyone.
The house is a legendary party scene with a fabulous history; James Dean is said to have been a regular visitor. The original owner was found dead in the bathtub wearing a dress, or so they say.
Each day the adventures are renewed, and visitors to “The Spot” are able to click on their favorite characters to follow new stories, review the past episodes, post questions, leave Email and chat live with the characters. Michelle offers some scintillating photos of herself in swimwear “for the guys out there.”
Veteran web watchers were impressed with the site’s graphic and interactive design – what in a film or TV show would be called production values – and became hooked on the clever and intriguing story lines.
Computers that serve up “The Spot” to the Internet recorded 15,000 page hits the first day. Visitors in the chat room debated whether or not “The Spot” was a real place with real people or a complete fiction. Other visitors argued it didn’t matter, they thought it was cool anyway. On the second day, nearly 55,000 page visitors dropped by “The Spot.” And that’s when trouble started.
Overnight, hackers broke into the web site’s files. Rifling through the rooms, they read future episodes. In Lon’s room they found his “scorecard,” a graph showing his history with girls, and posted it for all to see. They also got the home address of “The Spot’s” true owner, 31-year-old Scott Zakarin.
Zakarin is the director and exec producer of Prophecy Entertainment, a subdivision of the L.A. advertising agency Fattal and Collins. Together with a group of hot shots at the agency, Zakarin created “The Spot” using the agency’s equipment at night and enlisting his staff to play all the characters.
While all involved worked gratis and the agency gave its blessing to off-hours use of its facility, Zakarin estimates real costs for mounting the episodic web site at roughly $200,000.
“We’re trying to help bring the Internet into mainstream media,” says Zakarin, some what overwhelmed by E-mail in the hundreds. “The girls are getting marriage proposals.”
One posting to Tara said, “You’re the first starlet in cyberspace.”
As for the purloined episodes, Zakarin says he and his programmers at Interverse, a Santa Monica firm, are working on better security.