Showtime is doing what renegade Mad Men on Twitter could only dream of: pushing television into another dimension by having characters officially live tweet from screen. When hospital series "Nurse Jackie" returns for its second season next month, Dr. Cooper will be sending out thoughts, observations, even photos in tweets that post in real-time as the show unfolds. (Unfortunately for MST and PST fans, tweets will be timed to East Coast viewings.)
This isn't the first time that characters have tweeted from fictional worlds, of course. Fans of Mad Men ignited the movement to extend television to twitter by launching accounts for characters and have been tweeting unofficially, sometimes during episodes, since August 2008. (In a particularly meta-moment the actor behind Trudy tweeted that her 1960s character had discovered twitter before she did.) Last summer, the Broadway play "Next to Normal" had characters (ostensibly) tweet during pauses in onstage dialogue, as a marketing ploy which proved extremely successful. More and more TV shows--Trueblood, Heroes, Glee, The Good Wife-- have established official twitter feeds, some in the voice of characters, but tweets exist parallel to shows, not incorporated into them. Interestingly, The Good Wife did an episode that revolved around twitter, but the twitter feed involved wasn't from a character, and subsequent postings have been sporadic.
“We want the story to extend beyond the hour that it lives on air," Robert Hayes, Showtime’s GM for digital media told NY Times reporter Brian Stelter. No doubt, Hayes has tuned in to the fact that 1/3 men and 1/4 women viewers multitask regularly by watching TV while using the Web.
But how far will he go to extend the story? Will he be the first to officially recognize the potential that twitter represents in extending a drama? Providing platform for not only extending the story as written, but expanding plots and subplots, creating parallel dramas contiguous with story, developing characters in ways they can't be developed on screen, even testing out new characters with a twitter "focus group" audience?
The @DoctorCoop account is already live, giving writers a chance to develop a twitter voice for him, the hardest thing to achieve when setting up an account for a character.
Why isn't there a feed for Nurse Jackie, I wonder? @Nurse_Jackie and @NurseJackie are live accounts, with no posts. Perhaps they're building the twitter cast slowly. The fun (and success) of @DoctorCoop will be watching him interact in real-time not only with followers (ahem, more of this, please) but with fellow cast members.
Or, perhaps the project is on hold as they trawl for writers well-versed in the medium. If so, let them know @BettyDraper is available ;)