“Online Nation”: “Laugh-In” for the YouTube aud?

OnlinenationNow’s about the time when things get harried in the production offices of new primetime series fortunate enough to land a slot on the fall sked. With most newcomers, there’s a honeymoon period between the time they’re picked up in mid-May and the time that cast and crew begin to hold their breath in anticipation of the first overnight ratings rolling in.

But there was no such luxury of an early-summer honeymoon for CW’s unscripted frosh series “Online Nation,” which bows Sept. 23. The frenzy of production set in as soon as producers got the official pickup word in May because of the research-intensive nature of program that exec producer David Hurwitz describes as “Laugh-in” for the YouTube generation.

“Unlike other shows where you can block things out, we’re dealing with upwards of 40 user-generated clips per episode,” says Hurwitz, who is steering the “Online Nation” ship along with exec producer Paul Cockerill. “This show is designed to be a showcase for all the creativity that is being displayed on the Internet. It’s a variety show in the old-fashioned sense that we’re offering something new every few minutes. But instead of producing segments, we’re assembling this show 20-30 seconds at a time.”

Hurwitz, an alumnus of “Fear Factor” and “The Man Show,” says the biggest challenge in assembling each half-hour seg is the detective work involved. “Online Nation’s” production offices in North Hollywood are stocked with nearly 20 staffers whose mandate is to surf the Web, as long as their eyes can focus, and hunt for interesting video snippets from people who qualify as non-pros, in Variety parlance. In many cases, the toughest part is getting past the user’s Web pseudonyms in order to track them down and get a hold of a master copy of the clip.

(Pictured above, from left: “Online Nation” exec producer David Hurwitz, hosts Joy Leslie, Lincoln Neal, Rhett McLaughlin and Stevie Ryan and exec producer Paul Cockerill)