Originally created 08/10/00

Internet fan site wins attention of NBC sitcom

So shoot him.

Henry Hanks' Web site is getting all kinds of notice from the people who produce one of his favorite shows, Just Shoot Me, an NBC sitcom about the quirky staff at a trendy fashion magazine.

The show's producers contacted him several years ago. On July 21, his site was reviewed in the "What to Surf" section of Entertainment Weekly, earning a B- (much higher than MTV's official House of Style site, which earned a D). After the magazine mention, even the network got into the act - its public relations people got in touch with Mr. Hanks and invited him to see the filming of the show's season-premiere episode.

Mr. Hanks - who actually works in sales and production at the rival UPN affiliate in Augusta (WBEK-TV, Channel 67) - leaves for Los Angeles on Saturday. He'll be in the audience on Friday, Aug. 18, when Just Shoot Me shoots the first show of its fifth season.

Mr. Hanks, 22, says the Internet has made TV shows - and the people who produce and star in them - more accessible to fans.

"A lot of fans are insiders now - a lot more than they used to be," he says. "I've really been upset when I've heard rumors of people saying that fans are just a bunch of geeks - because without the fans, where would the shows be?"

Three years ago, after Just Shoot Me's first season, Mr. Hanks looked for information about the show and couldn't find anything. So he put up "The Original Just Shoot Me Web Site" with episode synopses, chat transcripts from cast members, links to news articles, and a list of updates on the show and other projects the actors are working on - in short, a primer to all things Just Shoot Me.

He also has an e-mail list affiliated with the Web site that allows subscribers to post an e-mail about the show to a central address. The message goes out to more than 170 members.

During his week in California, Mr. Hanks also plans to meet with fans of NBC's canceled drama Freaks & Geeks. He has never met them in person - "FTF" or "face-to-face" in Internet-speak - but he has talked to them via the Internet. The group hopes that one of the actors - an extra on the show - will attend the gathering.

Mr. Hanks' Web site, his contact with the show's producers and his meetings with other fans are part of a groundswell of fan activity since the Internet became popular, said Henry Jenkins, director of Comparative Media Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The Internet has given fans of TV shows and movies a quick, easy way to communicate.

It's an ideal medium for those who want info and want it fast, Mr. Hanks says. Before the explosion of fan Web sites, it was hard to find a central place for information about a show or its stars. And it was difficult to find out anything about what would be happening on the show ahead of time.

"Compared to seven years ago .ƒ.ƒ. then, if you wanted information on a show, you got it - maybe - a week beforehand from TV Guide," he said.

The Internet also brings fan activity out of the underground, making it more accessible, familiar and legitimate, said Dr. Jenkins, who a decade ago authored Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. The book examines fan subculture - which has pre-television roots in science-fiction and Sherlock Holmes fan activity - as a community, a form of folk culture and a way of being an active, rather than passive, consumer of popular media.

Along with recognition in print media, fan Web sites are beginning to be recognized by producers of TV shows as a valuable resource, Dr. Jenkins said. Some creators and actors are open to fan activity - Mr. Hanks said actors from Freaks & Geeks have shown up on that show's official bulletin board, talking to fans, and one of the show's producers, Paul Feig, is "big on Internet stuff." But networks and production companies are usually wary because of legal concerns, Dr. Jenkins said.

The recognition NBC has given Mr. Hanks' site represents a new direction. "The powers that be" have been known more often in fan circles for shutting down fan sites. Web sites for Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons, among others, have been shut down.

"In some cases, they're embracing fandom, and in others we're seeing producers shutting down fan Web sites," Dr. Jenkins said. "And no one can predict ahead of time how producers of a certain show will act. The uncertainty is there. .ƒ.ƒ. It's clear that some of them are starting to get it, but at the same time, they're saddled with legal departments concerned about protecting their intellectual property."

Employees at a public relations company that represents NBC did not immediately return messages seeking comment for this story.

Mr. Hanks said he tried to be careful about what he put on his Web site to avoid problems with the network or production company. For instance, he uses only promotional pictures of the cast and will not use "screen caps" - still shots of the actual show taken from the television.

The Web site allows him to indulge his fascination with television and his favorite shows, he said.

"I'm just enthralled by the business. I want to be a writer. And I like the humor on this show; I like the actors."


Just Shoot Me airs at 9:30 p.m. Thursdays on WAGT-TV (Channel 26).

Reach Alisa DeMao at (706) 823-3223 or ademao@augustachronicle.com.

On the Net

The Original Just Shoot Me Web Site: http://www.angelfire.com/ga/hikeeba/jsm.html

Just Shoot Me e-mail list homepage (with subscription directions): http://www.egroups.com/group/just-shoot-me

Official NBC Just Shoot Me page: http://www.nbc.com/justshootme

Just Shoot Me newsgroup: alt.tv.just-shoot-me


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