Is Twitter turning on the very celebrities that have made the little, revenue-free web company into an outsized cultural and business-world presence?
It sure seemed that way, after Variety reported Monday that Twitter has partnered with Reveille and Brillstein Entertainment to "develop an unscripted TV series described as putting ordinary people on the trail of celebrities in a revolutionary competitive format."
Except that, first of all, Twitter claims it has not “partnered” with anyone in Hollywood.
As The Twitter blog clarified Tuesday:
“Some Hollywood folks are developing something that leverages Twitter and they are extremely enthusiastic as evidenced by all the media hubbub yesterday and today. We have little to do with their efforts but we wish them success.”
Still: What does it mean that the show being developed “leverages Twitter” to help people in some competitive hunt for celebrities? That is still far from clear.
Twitter’s attempt at damage control was too little, too late. Somehow, that ambiguously worded Variety report led a blogger named Liz Barrett to speculate –quite reasonably, given the story — that the show might involve “ordinary people” using Twitter to hunt down celebrities. Her post was called “Look Out Ashton Kutcher, Twitter Wants to Track Celebrities on New Reality TV Show.”
That did not sit so well with celebrity alpha-Twitterers Kutcher and Demi Moore. Kutcher tweeted:
“Wow I hope this isn’t true. I really don’t like being sold out. May have to take a twitter hiatus.”
He then tweeted, in reponse to someone who apparently asked him what his beef was: “Um how about… I don’t want to be stalked!!! RT @madbrendan: sounds like a crap show anyway! cant imagine it getting many viewers lol”
Liz Barrett saw what was happening and tried to calm the seas, explaining that the celeb-stalking scenario she laid out was strictly hypothetical in a post called "Anatomy of an Unintentional Twitstorm." In other words: She was just kidding!
But by then CNN was reporting the very ominous news, Kutcher Threatens to Stop Twittering. Moore, Alyssa Milano and other celebrities jumped in too, saying they’d get off the Twitter train if such a show were made.
Variety still has not corrected the original story, which named novelist/screenwriter Amy Ephron as creator and executive producer, with Kevin Foxe and Steve Latham, Reveille’s Mark Koops and Howard T. Owens, Brillstein’s Jon Liebman and Lee Kernis.
The idea that Twitter is behind this show, and that it involves some kind of hunt for celebrities, is still spreading over the web, gaining legitimacy: late Tuesday, The New York Times posted a story citing the Variety report and repeating the line about the show featuring “ordinary people on the trail of celebrities.”
If this show is not going to use Twitter to stalk celebrities, and if Twitter really is only casually connected to it in the first place, there’s some serious explaining to do.