The first few moments of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Internet brain trust-turned-TV show, “HitRECord on TV,” is not entirely dissimilar to music blaring while a blender and doorbell compete loudly in the background. Perhaps a wailing baby and a strobe light should be thrown into the mix as well. There’s too much happening, the ideas are unwieldy, and none of it is making much sense.
But Gordon-Levitt, eyebrows perpetually arched and grinning widely, explains it all. What the “Don Jon” actor has done is develop a Kickstarter for creatives. He’s not looking for cash, but ideas, stories, music, art, pictures, and pretty much anything else that can be uploaded and made into entertainment of one sort or another. It’s part of his “open collaborative production company,” which has already used this concept to make films that have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, publish books, and record records. He splits profits 50-50 with contributors.
The raw material comes from the hundreds of thousands of artists who contribute to Levitt’s website, and this is where the fun (or is it the madness?) begins. All of these artists also collaborate with one another. Trust me, Gordon-Levitt and his dimples can explain it much better than I can. He and his “HitRECord” cohorts then curate the overflowing Internet cauldron by plucking bits and pieces of art and stitching them together. In some cases, the result is stirring and magical.
Each hyperactive episode revolves around a theme. In the first episode, which you can watch on YouTube, Gordon-Levitt explores the number one. He walks around carrying a camera on a pole, swinging it like Frank Sinatra with a microphone, between himself and the audience that fills an unnamed theater. But he’s not singing — although he does occasionally sing. Instead, he’s mostly filming himself. It could be the world’s first selfie TV show.
But ultimately the show is about artist collaborations, and Gordon-Levitt tosses out a real heart tugger as the first example. A woman with retinitis pigmentosa recalls the first time she saw the stars. It’s acted out by Elle Fanning, narrated by a woman from Scotland, with backdrops drawn by multiple artists, and a score written by several musicians. The final tally of “HitRECord” collaborators on the story is 1,440.
This is, in a way, the intramural soccer of television shows. Everyone gets a chance to play! The first episode feels like a trial run. The second episode, which looks at the idea of fantasy, feels less disjointed. It begins with Gordon-Levitt and “Don Jon” costar Tony Danza performing a fantasy song-and-dance number. Where’s the collaboration, you ask? A chorus line from the audience cuts a figurative rug, artists and animators put the pair in fantasy animated scenarios (think hipster “Bedknobs and Broomsticks”), and we see cutaways to home musicians recording the score. It’s clever and cute.
It’s also exactly what the often engaging “HitRECord” could use more of. Instead of Gordon-Levitt, experts, and ordinary folks pontificating about what the number one means to them, or how fantasy plays into their lives, show us more of what we came for: the art. Those moments when we see what a thousand people can create together are surprisingly inspiring.Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.