When a Web TV company announced this year it had paid $2 million for the defunct Pseudo.com, speculation from the online entertainment network’s former employees came fast and furious. On a closed e-mail list the laid-off producers and talent debated the merits of going back and, more important, whether the revived new Pseudo would resemble the crazy old one in the slightest. Meanwhile, callers jammed the phone lines of the new owner, INTV, demanding to hear more.
“I didn’t think it was such a big deal, but everyone loves Pseudo,” says Carlin Ross, a 27-year-old attorney and the newly appointed president of Pseudo Entertainment Inc. “People are saying, ‘I wanna leave my job,’ where they would take less money to follow their passion. They probably could’ve gotten 40 percent of their staff working for nothing to keep it going.”
INTV’s proposal, at least on the surface, sounds like a dream come true for the creative minds who were frustrated by the botched business practices of the old operation, which burned through $2 million a month at its studios on the corner of Broadway and Houston. The new plan calls for INTV to provide the means — the studio, the equipment, the distribution — and for Pseudo programmers to generate the freewheeling content that made it so famous.
But there’s a catch. The revamped Pseudo, says Ross, which is slated to launch in the fall, will have a mix of free fare and subscriber-only material, available for $1.99 per month. And while producers won’t have to worry about little details like finding a studio, they also won’t be paid for their services — at least not at first. “If you want to produce a show, you’ll be producing it and I won’t be paying you directly,” she says. “If they can get backing or if their show generates subscribers’ fees,” then performers and producers will see some money. “I’d just love to get it on the air,” she says.
Theoretically, a hit like the electronic music show Freq could reappear with original hosts Jess and J.C., but neither would get paid, nor would the person booking the DJ talent, nor the person responsible for overseeing the production. “It’d be more like a Warhol kind of factory,” explains Ross, echoing the crashed dream of visionary cofounder Josh Harris.
Which shows will be returning? Ross says INTV has been reviewing the archives, which Harris controls. She has also been accepting résumés and talking with former employees. About 10 ex-staffers may find work at INTV’s Pseudo.
Mike Rinzel, a former executive producer, believes the new owner’s call to laid-off employees is just a polite political maneuver. “I don’t think INTV has any interest whatsoever in hiring old employees. It merely wants to hold informal interviews with a select few to discover where Pseudo went wrong and not repeat it.”
Cofounder Tom Linder agrees: “They are in the enviable position to cherry-pick the best properties.”
Other ex-employees seem skeptical but cautiously optimistic, says Andrew Einhorn, the hyperactive former host of his own five-minute show. “It’s a really nice gesture,” he says. “With all the demise and things going out of business, here’s this company that says, ‘We really thought you were doing something good,’ and wants to revitalize it.”
Although many Pseudo staffers say they haven’t been contacted, even the ones who have, like cofounder Galinsky, say they wouldn’t return. “You can’t go back home again,” he says. “There’s too many ghosts there and I don’t want to look back. It was cathartic to leave the place.
“Most hope that INTV can do a great job of rebuilding something similar,” he adds. “But we all know that they could never recapture what we did. I know it sounds corny, but the corner of Houston and Broadway will forever link together the 3000-plus people who passed through Pseudo’s doors.”
Some are not so wistful. Says Harris, whose girlfriend aired the dirty laundry of his latest cash-bleeding venture, WeLiveInPublic.com, for The New York Observer, “I don’t think I’d go back — unless they put a ton of money in front of me.”