The Tragic End of The Burg

This is a little old, but Silicon Alley Insider’s look at The Burg‘s untimely demise is worthy of your attention. The Burg was a cutesy web-only semi-sitcom following a group of mostly well-meaning youngish people, all of them broad comic archetypes. It began as a very DIY exercise.

Actors and crew worked for free and Woodley and Grace spent about $300-$400 a 20-minute episode, mostly for web hosting, hard drives, food, beer and cab fares.

But then Motorola offered the creators a sponsorship deal. Hurray! But … wait.

The Screen Actors Guild, for instance, wanted Woodley and Grace to pay each of four SAG members $800 a day. The producers were able to get that down to $200 a piece, but costs still ballooned — to $1000 a minute.

That was fine while Motorola was paying the bills, but when that ran out, the producers had an expensive show and no sponsors. Woodley estimates an additional 12 15-minute episodes, plus requisite Web shorts, would run about $250,000, if done on the cheap. “It would have been prohibitively expensive for every sponsor we would want,” Woodley says.

Minor point: SAG needs to evolve.

Speaking of web-only, DIY comedy, Dorm Life is surprisingly good. This isn’t to say that it’s great or terribly innovative, but I actually think it beats Judd Apatow’s celebrated Undeclared in overall goodness levels. To be sure, Undeclared was a pale reflection of Freaks and Geeks, but it did feature the brilliant South Asian comedian Gerry Bednob as “Mr Burundi” in one particularly memorable episode. I’ve been thinking about changing my own name to “Mr Burundi,” or possibly “Mr Rwanda.” But I fear I would dishonor my ancestors in doing so.