I was thinking about an idea for a nighttime soap opera to pitch to a television network. Using members from my one hundred strong repertory company of actors, I wrote roles for many of them in the way that characters were created for Tamara, a play back in the eighties where every role was a lead and the audience could follow their favorite characters as the story progressed. While developing the concept, it occurred to me to experiment with the Internet as a delivery system and take the product directly to the end user rather than navigating the hierarchy and labyrinth of network television. The show was called Confessions. I knew very little about the Internet and it would be at least three years before I would create my first email account. At the time, there was no such thing as streaming video. YouTube had not yet come on the scene.
The first season of Confessions concerned the murder of Jimmy Beacon, an undercover policeman of questionable integrity. Set in Briarwood, a community not unlike Brentwood in Los Angeles, the characters were all major or peripheral figures in the local Catholic church and each, it seemed, had played a part in the events that led to the demise of the unfortunate Jimmy Beacon. Kathi Carey played the icon role of Madonna Hewitt, appearing on the poster, whose father is a Supreme Court Justice and whose husband Preston is an attorney on the fast track for a seat in the US Senate. Throw in Preston's mistress who was one of Jimmy Beacon's informants, a financial speculator who is funding Preston's campaign and a priest who has heard--perhaps even done--too much and the stage is set.
The only other web soap at the time was The Spot which offered photos and text. My approach was to do likewise adding WAV files to the site so one could listen to dialogue as though it were a radio play. To see the episodes, one had to order a cassette of the half-hour episode or subscribe to the entire season. An extra element was the Briarwood Breeze, the fictional community's newspaper that posted intriguing, sometimes enigmatic, stories about what the characters were up to day by day. The newspaper articles told stories that were not in the episodes and were interstitial in nature. Appetizers, you might say.
The launch party attracted media from around the world. My first television interview about Confessions was given that night to a Chinese television crew. My second was for CNN at their location on Sunset Boulevard in the following days. The press response was immediate and positive.--front page and inside double-truck in the Santa Barbara paper where the exteriors were filmed, front page and inside in the Business section of the Daily News in Los Angeles. The Daily News referred to it as "Dynasty meets The Thorn Birds". Our press clipping service confirmed articles in about thirty papers around the country. Fans from twenty-five countries visited the site regularly to follow the stories. Would that we could have had streaming video instead of relying on video cassettes via the mail. We were, you could say, an early, primitive version of Netflix.
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