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New series review: quarterlife (NBC)

Premiering: Tuesday, Feb. 26th at 9 p.m. (central) on NBC. Then moves to 8 p.m. Sundays.
Starring: (from left to right, above) David Walton, Bitsie Tulloch, Kevin Christy, Michelle Lombardo, Maite Schwartz, Scott Michael Foster
Created by: Edward Zwick, Marshall Herskovitz

Edward Zwick and Marshall Herskovitz, now respectively, 55 and 56, have joined yours truly in aging beyond any network's preferred audience demographic.

And yet they -- probably/certainly/maybe unlike I -- retain the uncanny ability to interpret the cares, woes and technologies of much younger generations.

Their quarterlife, premiering Tuesday on NBC, splits the difference between the high schoolers of My So-Called Life and the denizens of thirtysomething. Those landmark Zwick/Herskovitz series premiered in 1994 and 1987 in primitive, pre-Internet times.

quarterlife, centering on six friends/lovers between 20 and 30, took wing on the Internet with eight-minute "webisodes." There are 36 of them to date, and many already have been seen by their target audience. NBC's one-hour version of the series, which edits and then stitches them together, will provide a much wider viewing platform -- for now at least.

Consider this a Gossip Girl with brains, and with a multi-faceted, angst-ridden protagonist named Dylan. She's in the formative stages of her tell-almost-all, but non-clandestine quarterlife video blog. We first see her hunched over an Apple computer, much like your friendly correspondent is at the moment.

"Why do we blog?" she asks. "We blog to exist. Therefore we are idiots."

There's already a lot to like right there. And quarterlife quickly takes shape as a hand-held, verite look at formative young adults whose lives are still in the starting blocs. Back to you, Dylan, who says without any off-putting sense of entitlement: "A sad truth about our generation is that we were all geniuses in elementary school. But apparently the people who deal with us never got our transcripts because they don't seem to be aware of it."

The quarterlife orbit also includes young filmmakers Danny and Jed (David Walton, Scott Michael Foster), bust-thrusting bartender/actress Lisa (Maite Schwartz), lovelorn Debra (Michelle Lombardo) and so-called "geek extraordinaire Danny (Kevin Christy), who easily is the least fleshed-out in Tuesday's opener.

Maybe these sound like typical TV "types." But what cast of characters doesn't -- at least on paper? quarterlife excels because it speaks the language, hits the nerve spots and gets at the essence of what it's like to love/like someone who feels the same way not about you, but your closest friend.

Whatever the generation, those dynamics haven't changed all that much. But the mechanics have, and the language, too, of course. Damn the luck, "The net is nasty-slow today."

Herskovitz also puts himself in this mix as a demanding drama coach who lashes Lisa for her "pretty girl syndrome" and clenched-up interior.

"Every moment onstage is crap because of it," he tells her in front of her peers.

Not every moment of quarterlife is gold, but we're definitely in a crap-free zone. NBC programming executives, who have dished out ample swill in recent months, should be credited with making this very enlightened move, too.

Maybe quarterlife won't click outside its Web womb. But it's well-worth finding out whether NBC has the programming steal of this still young century or a show that easily can go back where it came from.

Grade: A-minus