Think about it for a moment, if you would. A blink of the eye ago in terms of human history, no one had heard of this new social media-type product with the twitchy name of Twitter.
Cut to a few years ago, and Twitter was verging on the edge of being a household name, particularly if your house included roommates as opposed to elderly folk. Some television shows – such as CNN’s Rick Sanchez (who later got himself fired over… but that’s a different story) – began to integrate the social media phenomenon into programming in an attempt to make the traditional broadcasting medium more interactive.
And now, in 2011, Twitter is all over television, all the time. TV has been infiltrated by this deceptively simple little product that essentially boils down to concise messages of no more than 140 characters a pop.
I was struck by how true this is in the course of one night last week – Wednesday to be more specific – when I saw two fictional shows use Twitter in different and interesting ways. The first involves Cougar Town’s “You’re Gonna Get It!”, the nearly always delightful ABC show that features Courtney Cox as a not so cougar-ish 40-something mom and her cul-de-sac crew of goofily sarcastic-sweet pals. During the opening credits, the Cougar Town title card – often the place where the producers sprinkle in tasty little messages for a discerning audience – invite us to follow @TheLarmy, and we are further that we’ll “thank us later.” We soon find out during the episode that the Twitter handle references something called “Laurie’s Army,” an entity devoted to the Twitter steam of Laurie Keller (Busy Phillipps). Head over and you’ll find such insights as this reference to the recent royal wedding: “UGH, how many tame hats were they rocking at Suckingham Palace last week?! Grow some lady stones, Britishes!”
Later that same night, I caught up on the new Comedy Central show called Workaholics. An updated Office Space update for the 2010s (and I mean that with the utmost reverence), it follows the workplace travails of three twenty something losers adrift in a low paying corporate void. When Blake (Blake Anderson) dons a crazy bear coat (literally a coat that is replete with bear head, full fur, and bear claws that drape over one’s wrists) throughout an episode, I noticed the hash tag #BearCoat in the bottom left of the screen. I had never seen that level of Twitter integration into a fictional television show, which then begets such things as: “I've been pondering what would be a good birthday present. Then I thought of how sweet it would be to own a #bearcoat from#workaholics.” I then began to pick up that many Comedy Central shows, including South Park, are doing the same.
This is to say nothing of course of the eruption of Twitter activity stemming from the news that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. forces. This story was mostly written prior to this weekend’s events, but it’s still interesting to note how integral Twitter has become to all major world events.
And in terms of television as a whole, Twitter has become a significant piece in how shows are looking to create a “two screen” interactive platform in terms of how people watch television and interact with friends and followers at the same time.