Do you remember that classic 2001 email exchange between Fox TV rivals Judd Apatow and Mark Brazill, the one with the “Get Cancer” remark? Those were the good old days when Hollywood feuds were mostly private and took time to develop via email. Nowadays, they’re public and instantly viral. Take the current Twitter war between two creators of USA Network series, Burn Notice’s Matt Nix and White Collar’s Jeff Eastin.
It all started late last year with a race to amass more Twitter followers by the week of the shows’ January season premieres. Nix won that by a scant 100 followers). But it then escalated into mostly PG-rated trash talk on Twitter about each other and their series. On April 1st, some writers and a PA from White Collar snuck into the Burn Notice writers room and planted alarm clocks to randomly go off during the day. The last one to ring, which was hidden under the table, had a note attached: “Happy April’s Fool’s Day, Neal Caffrey”. (That’s Matt Bomer’s con-artist character from White Collar). There hasn’t been a retaliation by the Burn Notice camp — yet. “We’re waiting,” Eastin said. “Matt declared publicly he will get his revenge, but I think these are sad empty words.”
The hijinks caught the attention of USA’s digital division, which helped turn it into a promotional tool for both shows, complete with candid set photos and videos taken by the two showrunners. The strategy seems to be working because both series’ Twitter fan base is growing. Which brings me to the question: if Apatow’s and Brazill’s spat — indeed far more intense and personal than the frenemy Nix/Eastin squabble, but entertaining nonetheless — had happened today on Twitter, would it have helped save the shows they were working on at the time, Undeclared and That ‘80s Show? Neither lasted more than a season.