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Current explores 'user generated' TV with the new series 'Bar Karma.' Should professional writers be worried?

February 11, 2011 |  8:56 am

Producers of a new television drama airing Friday night called "Bar Karma" derived the show's concept, characters, setting and back story from thousands of contributors to a website over the past year.

Their pay: zero.

Bar Karma They do, however, get to see their names in the credits if their ideas are chosen to be in the show's episodes.

Even so, "Bar Karma" has a full array of veteran script jockeys, casting directors and set designers. That's because it still takes pros to bring polish to a show that mainstream audiences will watch.

Albie Hecht, executive producer of the show and the former head of Nickelodeon, said the concept is supposed to be a collaboration in which an online community generates ideas, which are then handed off to a team of professionals. The result would be something that neither could come up with on their own, Hecht said.

Why bother at all asking audiences what they think?

"This is a generation that isn't watching TV," Hecht said of the show's target audience of young adults ages 20 to 35. "They're watching a screen. And they're pulling up whatever it is they want to see. Collaborating with them helps ensure that we create what they want to see."

So Hollywood and New York writers can breathe easy. For now.

Current TV, the cable channel airing "Bar Karma," is holding a contest on the show's website to hire a new programmer. On "Be a TV Programmer Challenge," contestants are invited to use Bar Karma's StoryMaker software, created by game designer Will Wright, to come up with five to 15 scenes of what their first day at work would be like. The winner would get a six-month stint at the channel's offices in New York or San Francisco as a TV programmer -- and a $40,000 paycheck.

Breaking into television never seemed easier. Read the L.A. Times feature on "Bar Karma" here.

-- Alex Pham

Photo: Screen shot of an online promotion for "Bar Karma." Credit: Current TV