harpersislandAn island’s quiet life is rocked by a brutal murder — that is the beginning of the story behind Harper’s Island, the new TV series by CBS set to air starting on April 9th. But even before the series premiere, the curious among us can already immerse themselves into the narrative by participating in the “social show” that has been built to promote the show, and we have news from the team at EQAL as to what we can expect from both Harper’s Island and its multimedia counterpart.

The proverbial rabbit hole, or starting point, is found at the web site harpersglobe.com. Designed as the island’s news resource, it introduces the players to Robin, a college student that was recently hired under mysterious circumstances to be the paper’s community manager and archivist. Working diligently, she posts videos of her progress which is when things get weird. As she starts to unravel the mystery of the island’s past (in full view of all the players, no less), a new character is introduced that has seemingly sinister intentions, drastically changing the atmosphere of the community.

Once the TV show airs, the players will advance further into the story and the mystery surrounding it. CBS is tight lipped about the project’s details, other than promising that the players/viewers will not only watch but also help catch the real killer. It’s possible that this is why people are encouraged to setup their profile once they sign up on Harper’s Globe — the social networking features may help players to interact with the characters of the ARG/TV show.

We had a few questions about what might happen with the online experience once the television show debuts in two weeks, so we went straight to the source yesterday and got in touch with Miles Beckett, the co-founder and CEO at EQAL, who has partnered with the producers of Harper’s Island to create Harper’s Globe. Beckett had as many answers as we had questions, so hit the jump for all of the gritty details.

The skinny on the relationship between the Island and the Globe was first on our list of curiosities, and Beckett was quick to give us the facts:

  • the videos that are part of the Globe’s web site are episodes of a separate-but-connected “social show” featuring characters that will be featured on the television series as well.
  • The first two episodes of Harper’s Globe are already up, with subsequent episodes arriving every Wednesday. There will be sixteen episodes in all, and each episode will be approximately five minutes in length.
  • harpersglobe.com will be updated daily, and updates will include daily multimedia content — a combination of videos, text blogs, photos, and user-generated content.
  • Community members will be able to submit their own messages to characters and videos, and will have opportunities to participate in live chat. Selected interactions will be reflected within the weekly episodic videos.

Beckett went on to add that the multimedia content is part of the overall narrative of Harper’s Island and is not a parallel experience. Over the course of the television series, there will be a lot of crossover, as the worlds are “very much connected.” He noted that the idea for expanded elements for the series came forward as the producers were pitching the project to CBS. The idea for the television series, as Beckett recounted, was to have a one-season mystery told over the course of thirteen episodes where all questions raised by the narrative would be answered within the story arc and the expanded content.

EQAL got word of the pilot and contacted Jon Turteltaub, one of the executive producers of the television series. This led to further discussion with the production team and a pitch from EQAL based on the pilot. From this point forward, the writing teams for each project were able to share and integrate ideas, as writing was ongoing on both fronts. Based on the comments by Beckett, it’s our opinion that the collaboration between creative teams should result in a very robust experience for audience members who take in both the television series and the multimedia content.

In terms of storyline, this murder mystery is the kind of tale that has been told time and time again. People have already drawn parallels between Harper’s Island and the very well known novel And Then There Were None
by Agatha Christie. As well, this is not the first time a television-based whodunit has been attempted, as FOX aired Murder in Small Town X in 2001, a murder mystery reality show that, for the competing participants, played out as an alternate reality game might. That show faced significant challenges in presentation, due to the linear nature of a TV series, so it will be rather interesting to see how Harper’s Island will attempt to overcome this obstacle having the advantage of even more interactive technology such as Tweeter in their arsenal of tools.

So you think you can catch a killer on the loose? Log in to Harper’s Globe and watch Harper’s Island and the chase is afoot! You can also join others at the Unfiction forums to talk about the mysteries of the island.