Can a TV Series About Twitter Escape the Shadow of ‘The Social Network’?

By  · Published on December 18th, 2013

Listen, I know we all love Twitter (don’t we?). The short-yet-still-sweet posts. The bird-shaped logo. The ability to follow your favorite celebrities and find out the intimate details of their eating and sleeping habits. Yet it’s not enough to simply Tweet your Tweetings on Twitter. Nor is it enough to watch Tweets cycle through the lower third of every TV show in existence or see entire TV series aired on Twitter. No, what we truly need is TV show about Twitter – and Lionsgate Television has graciously stepped in to fill that niche. The studio is crafting a show out of Nick Bilton’s best-selling book, “Hatching Twitter: A True Story of Money, Power, Friendship and Betrayal,” which documents the rise of the 140 character social media craze.

You see, Twitter was the product of four men – Evan Williams, Jack Dorsey, Christopher Stone, and Noah Glass. And then, Williams had Glass fired from the group and expunged from the history books (at least, the rare history books that would mention the founding of Twitter). Despite being one of the original creators, Glass was left behind to watch the social media platform rocketed up to the multi-billion-dollar mark, where it currently sits as the eleventh most popular website on the planet.

Young software engineers with a genius idea, falling upon each other with sudden betrayals and shifts of character- sounds familiar, no? It should, if you’ve seen (or at least heard of) The Social Network. Hatching Twitter is essentially the same idea, only with a different website and one founder kicked out by three others instead of three being kicked out by one. Those in charge, at least, acknowledge that at least for now, they exist in The Social Network’s shadow. Says executive producer Allison Shearmur: “The Social Network was a perfect film, and this series will be different, providing a longer view of the work lifechanges, gamesmanship and personal sacrifices made by a group of individuals who are building a company that will change the way that people communicate.”

Ok, that quote doesn’t really give us a lot. It’s safe to assume that any television show will give a “longer view” than a film, considering that your average TV show eclipses the running time of an average film by at least ten hours. And that’s the only difference Shearmur is offering up for now. So we’re in the dark about how Hatching Twitter (or whatever the series might be called) will actually differ from it’s bigger, Facebook-ier competitor. What exactly could the series do to stake an original claim?

Well, for one, it could adhere a little more firmly to the truth. The Social Network skirted around the actual events behind Facebook’s founding, something that the real-life founders readily admit. According to Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskowitz, “It is interesting to see my past rewritten in a way that emphasizes things that didn’t matter…and leaves out things that really did. Other than that, it’s just cool to see a dramatization of history.”

Another co-founder, Eduardo Saverin, says “The movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary.”

Hell, even screenwriter Aaron Sorkin admits it: “I don’t want my fidelity to be to the truth; I want it to be to storytelling.”

So Hatching Twitter could go its own way by doing justice to that little “based on a true story” line that runs before every vaguely biographical film or TV show in existence. But the series could also go in another, riskier direction. One of the bigger reasons that The Social Network was given a fictional boost is that the real story is mostly a bunch of dudes sitting around and clacking away on computer keyboards. I’ll admit – on its own, that doesn’t sound like an edge-of-your-seat thrill ride. Yet a little innovation can go a long way. Showing a text message onscreen is often a disaster waiting to happen (case in point: Dexter, which is set in an alternate reality where text messages look like Powerpoint slides). Yet Sherlock turned something ugly into a unique dash of cool; just by taking the text out of the phone and placing it into the real world.

Beautiful, no? Now, if the folks behind Hatching Twitter could think up some unique visual metaphor for all the coding and Twitter-building being done on its protagonist’s computers, they’d be well on their way to exiting The Social Network’s shadow. Because as of now, the fledgling series is still very much hidden under the great mass of Mark Zuckerberg’s presence. True genius takes time – the Twitter crowd may not be used to works exceeding 140 characters, but Hatching Twitter will (probably) extend beyond that. Time will tell if it’s actually worth anything beyond a footnote on Twitter’s Wikipedia page.