The TV Column: Canceled 'A Beautiful Life' revived on YouTube

By Lisa de Moraes
Friday, December 18, 2009

"The Beautiful Life" -- CW's too-hip-to-live new drama series about supermodels in New York that became the 2009-10 TV season's first cancellation, despite its rampant Ashton Kutcherness (he's an exec producer), has risen like the phoenix from the ashes and is chirruping around on YouTube.

The first two episodes -- the ones CW aired back in September and which clocked only an average of 1.4 million and 1 million viewers, respectively -- were posted Thursday on YouTube, as was one of the three episodes that had been shot but never saw the light of TV.

The other two "lost" episodes will be unveiled Monday.

"Okay, so here's what happened. We put the show on TV, it went for two episodes, nobody knew it was on. And so the rating on the TV wasn't happening," Kutcher said in a YouTube intro, in which he's seen sitting in his Katalyst Films office with iJustine, who is known at her bank as Justine Ezarik but who, outside the bank, is immediately recognized as (at least according to Wikipedia) a viral video comedian-actress sensation with her own video-stream channel.

"I was like, listen: If we put this thing on the Web, more than a half-million people will watch it on the Web," continued Kutcher, seated on a really ugly leather couch, dressed as a preppy lumberjack in a plaid flannel shirt, rugby-stripe sweater, jeans and a Nike cap.

"So my feeling is, I want this to be the first show ever that gets more viewers on the Web than what it got on terrestrial television," he says in conclusion. (By comparison, the 2008 series "Quarterlife" had more total viewers online than on terrestrial TV, but only one episode aired on NBC, drawing 3.1 million viewers before being canceled.)

"It's some beautiful programming. Without commercial interruptions," chimes in iJustine, who looks liks a "Blonde Charity Mafia" reject.

"No commercial interruptions," says Kutcher.

"On the Internet," adds iJustine, who seems hellbent on getting in the last word, no matter how inane that word is.

The webcasts are being sponsored by Hewlett-Packard as part of a marketing campaign it has going called "Create Change." Kutcher wants us all to create videos in which we describe our New Year's resolutions that speak to "beautiful change in the world in 2010" and post them on YouTube with the tag "TBL," as in "The Beautiful Life."

Kutcher and iJustine's comedy cross-talk act had clocked 85,000 views at press time. Episode 1 of "The Beautiful Life" had not done as well, with just 61,000 viewers, but that's still better than the 31,000 views amassed by the second episode. That never-before-seen third episode? Just 9,506 views.

On the bright side, star Mischa Barton's New Year's Resolution to Create Beautiful Change in the World in 2010 video had already logged 92,000 views, out-tracking all three actual episodes:

"Hi. I'm Mischa Barton. Watch 'The Beautiful Life' on YouTube. In 2010, I want to get my dogs, Charles Dickens and Ziggy Stardust, registered as therapy dogs, so they can help me with my charity work and help people in need," she says.

Which, to recap, was of interest to 92,000 people. Or 23,000 people who each watched it four times. Or one Mischa Barton stalker who watched it 92,000 times.

Who knows? YouTube does not post figures that would let you know how many unique views a video gets. That information is available only to the party that uploaded the video -- maybe Ashton Kutcher.

YouTube also will not disclose for how many seconds, or nanoseconds, someone must have watched, say, Episode 3 of "The Beautiful Life" to count as a view. A YouTube spokesman told The TV Column, "It's based on a system I can't really go into -- we count views in a manner that accurately demonstrates real use of video."

Loosely translated: "A view is something we consider to be a view."

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