Just when we thought reality TV’s ability to intrigue and mildly horrify us had reached its peak, Peter Chernin and AT&T teamed up to bring us “@SummerBreak.” The show, which premiered last summer, was billed as a reality web series that would follow L.A. teens in their last pre-college summer. The catch? Unlike reality TV, which airs months after the action has taken place, episodes of “@SummerBreak” were uploaded to YouTube mere hours after filming. Furthermore, all nine cast members would tweet, Instagram and Vine their way through the summer. Fans wouldn’t just watch “@SummerBreak,” they’d become fully immersed in the drama by following the stars on their various social networks.
The show was a hit, so now that the temperature is rising a new season of “@SummerBreak” is about to premier. Based on the just-released trailer, it looks like season two will feature a mix of returning cast members and new faces. Season two will also feature an even wider social media profile as the show incorporates Tumblr and Snapchat into the mix.
Reality TV has traditionally been wary of social media. Reality stars are generally forbidden from tweeting specific details during filming for fear that it will spoil the final product. Because there’s virtually no gap between the filming of an episode and its online release, the creators of “@SummerBreak” benefit from social media buzz created by the stars. Fans can watch the cast react and interact live on Twitter and then watch the episode to put those tweets into context.
Produced by Judy McGrath, formerly CEO of MTV from 2004-2011, “@SummerBreak” is “The Real World” for the social media generation. With its intense saturation of every top tier social network, the show’s tagline, “Summer will be unforgettable,” would seem to be literally true. Every single moment will be extensively documented across the web. It might seem fatiguing at first, but fans find the ability to immerse themselves in the reality behind their reality TV totally addictive.
Digital releases of television programming is becoming more prevalent every year. With the turn around time on production also shrinking, could “@SummerBreak” be the future of reality TV? Find out for yourself. The show premieres June 24 on a dedicated YouTube channel, but the stars are already tweeting in anticipation.