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Tuesday, 26 September, 2000, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
TV meets the net - at last

First stab: Attachments comes to TV
The BBC's drama Attachments is about to hit the screens. It's a new subject for TV, but old media have already given it a go - with varying degrees of success. By BBC News Online's Giles Wilson.

Before the landmark TV series This Life, few people would have thought there was anything glamorous about the life of young lawyers. Now Attachments - the new drama from the team that created Miles, Egg and Anna - could well do the same for the generation.

The opening episode, to be shown on BBC Two on Tuesday at 9pm, makes no secret of its This Life roots, with an abundance of sex, nudity, smut, and lust.

Startup boss Mike: Long hours needed
Added to this are ample helpings of supposed office life. Highlights include:

  • lattes and trendy warehouse premises
  • temperamental designers
  • people shouting things like "Can't you do a traceroute on the IP address?"
  • webcams in the toilet
  • swearing, abuse, and practical jokes
  • brooding "techies" who have body odour
  • investors who seem to be friends but turn out to be enemies

    But it is the opening scene that will probably raise a smile of recognition with more of the

    It shows a coder, hard at work with his HTML. We then realise he is completely naked, just before he gets up to make a call on his mobile phone while skateboarding - still naked - across the room. He calls his boss, who is otherwise occupied, making love.

    Good reference point

    It all brings to mind the name of a celebrated tale of Silicon Valley excess, Po Bronson's The Nudist on the Late Shift. The book falls into a category loosely termed "wired lit".

    Spot the difference: The cast of This Life
    It is an interesting reference because while Attachments is one of TV's first forays into treating the net as more than just a business news story, "wired lit" is now a well developed genre. Where TV is now following, good old books have been for years.

    Hollywood has largely failed to rise to the challenge of expressing the change in lives and attitudes which the internet has hailed.

    There was The Net, and You've Got Mail, neither of which took the debate very far. Perhaps more credibly there was Tron, Johnny Mnemonic, Sneakers, and Hackers.

    But it was The Matrix in 1999 which won admiration for its vivid interpretation of what cyberspace might be like. For books, though, cyberspace as a concept came 15 years earlier.

    'Consensual hallucination'

    The term was coined by William Gibson in his 1984 novel Neuromancer with the words: "a consensual hallucination... Unthinkable complexity. Lines of light ranged in the non-space of the mind..."

    Since then, it seems most possible angles of the digital revolution have been put down in analogue ink and actual paper.

    To illustrate the maturity of the genre, one need only consider a handful of recent titles, and their variety of approaches and subjects:

    A wired lit highlight

    • Sci-fi/detective: Noir by K W Jeter in which a private eye hunts down and grotesquely punishes software or copyright pirates
    • Reportage: The Nudist on the Late Shift by Po Bronson, as mentioned above; a collection of bizarre tales from Silicon Valley, including the story of the creation of Hotmail
    • Autobiography/business thriller: Burn Rate by Michael Wolff - a fantastically readable account of nasty dealings with venture capitalists
    • Spirituality and technology: Techgnosis by Erik Davis - human dreams and visions cluster around technology, influencing religion
    • Novel by hyperlink: 253 by Geoff Ryman, originally an online novel, based on a London Underground train, in which the reader moves from one character to another by hotlink
    • History:The Victorian Internet by Tom Standage - everything we've seen in the internet revolution - including cyberspace - already happened when the telephone was invented.

    Don't feel too bad, TV

    This Office Life: The cast of Attachments
    But even if television is some way behind the written word in its exploration of the subject, Attachments does it justice in its warm embrace of multi-media.

    The show is about the start-up of a fictional website, but if you look on the web, the site actually exists and will develop as the plot in the drama unfolds.

    Had the existence of the site been kept a secret, it could well have been a smart example of what is termed viral marketing.

    This involves allowing the message to be spread not through conventional advertising but through personal contact. Fans of the show might have discovered the site, and e-mailed their friends with a "Look, this really exists!" comment.

    Unfortunately the cat was let out of the bag a few weeks ago by the press, thus denying the programme makers the kind of multi-media kudos accorded to Big Brother or the viral marketing cachet of The Blair Witch Project.

    Abusive comments about the Queen Mother on the site, however, around which some of the plot of the first episode centres, may give the producers rather more experience than they had hoped for in another great media theme of the age: the condemnation and wrath of the tabloid press.

    Attachments can be seen in the UK on BBC Two on Tuesday at 2100 BST

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    25 Sep 00 | Entertainment drama breaks the mould
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