With The Electric Playground, a TV show that dishes the latest news and reviews of geek culture, having moved from weekly to daily doses this summer, gamers, comic-book readers, and fans of Lost and Heroes have reason to celebrate.
Produced in Vancouver by Greedy Productions, The Electric Playground has been on the air for 12 years. The show wraps up the week in video games, technology, and entertainment, while EP Daily, which premiered in August, broadcasts the latest news. This fall, another new show, EP Canada, will begin profiling Canadians in these industries weekly.
Victor Lucas, Greedy's founder and owner, calls the company's multiyear agreement with Rogers-for 250 episodes a year of EP Daily, 50 of The Electric Playground, and 50 of EP Canada-the "most significant deal between a content partner and television broadcaster regarding video games".
"The time has come for it," Lucas, who hosts the shows, told the Georgia Straight on the EP set, which is located in a Downtown Eastside studio. "We have a shorthand connection to the audience, and there is an authenticity to the reporting. The audience is smart, and the game consumer is the smartest consumer."
With EP's expansion from a weekly program to a daily show, its domain has broadened to include the kinds of entertainment that geeks love: genre movies and television, comics, gadgets, and high-tech toys. But one thing hasn't changed. "It all starts with games," Lucas said.
And unlike entertainment newsmagazines such as Entertainment Tonight, EP Daily won't be dealing in celebrity gossip. "We're not talking about who's divorcing whom, who's in rehab," producer Mark Lefebvre said.
The new format has EP setting up offices in Montreal, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Sydney, where its crews are chasing stories. Lucas said he hopes to add bureaus in London, Tokyo, and Austin, Texas, in 2009. These are all cities where video games and related entertainment products are being created. Despite all these new expenses, Lucas remarked that "you can't be that foolish with your money in broadcast these days-you have to find ways to do things cheaper. The world of broadcast television has changed."
Going from producing one half-hour show a week to cranking out a 30-minute episode every 24 hours was daunting, especially considering that Greedy Productions continues to make 70 episodes a year of the video-game review show Reviews on the Run for Citytv and G4techTV Canada, and produce making-of documentaries for games like Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, Lego Batman, and the forthcoming Fallout 3.
Rob Koval, a producer and head writer, said the shows' staff were worried they might not be able to meet the demands of a daily program. "But we'd been doing it all along. We're just doing it more often," Koval said. Supervising producer Craig Cerhit noted that he doesn't think about his job in terms of making 350 shows a year, but rather focuses only on what needs to be done each day.
Art director Tavis Dunn and postproduction supervisor Aaron Mooney have been with Greedy from the beginning. "It's startling to think of the amount of content we've produced," Dunn said. He said he's confident that, with the team's experience, it will be able to create something to be proud of with the daily episodes.
According to Mooney, delivering a daily show was made possible by technological advances. He researched ways to make postproduction easier and to do it with fewer people. Not only is EP Daily produced in high-definition, it's edited in close to real time. "We made a number of good choices in technology," Mooney said.
Lucas hasn't secured distribution for EP Daily outside of Canada yet. "It's important to be in America," he said. "We have a fan base there, and we have a long history of creating good content for those viewers." Lucas said he has been in discussions with U.S. network G4, "but there are lots of other cool networks in the U.S.".
As for expanding beyond Canada and the U.S., Lucas said he's interested in franchising. "I think it would be cool to have an Italian host in Italy," he said.
In a way, EP Daily represents a coming-of-age for The Electric Playground. "It's a more mature 30 minutes than ever before," Lucas said. "We're still finding our way, but I see a sense of confidence and maturity."