What would you do to make your dreams come true? Would you sign over your life to the public domain? Would you be willing to work toward your goal while the world is literally watching your every move?
On March 2, 2010, Hulu premiered “If I Can Dream.” Created by “American Idol” producer Simon Fuller, “If I Can Dream” (IICD) marks the first ever TV program to be broadcast directly and exclusively to Hulu. The show follows the lives of five aspiring artists who have taken their first steps to stardom and embarked upon a mission to fulfill their hearts’ desires. But IICD is not just another reality show. Instead, the show capitalizes on the possibilities afforded by modern technology to create links between the participants and viewers and transform the show into a truly interactive, hyper-reality experience.
The five young hopefuls–Alex Lambert, Ben Elliott, Justin Gaston, Giglianne Braga and Kara Killmer–left their old lives behind them and moved into the “Dream House,” a plush residence in the Hollywood Hills, where they are placed under the constant scrutiny of the cameras that line the walls of their bedrooms, living room, kitchen and even the communal car. The cameras are meant to document the journey of these participants, who will live and work in the house until they have secured a successful career for themselves. A collection of celebrities and other individuals trying to make it in the entertainment industry–including ex-“Idol” contestants Casey James and Michael Lynch, celebrity blogger Perez Hilton and TV personality Jason Kennedy–also visit the Dream House periodically to give the participants guidance and advice. Viewers of the show can tune in at any time to watch and listen to a live online feed of the house, as the five “Dreamers” work to accomplish their goals. The website provides viewers with the location of the Dream House residents at all times, along with several views of each room of the house so that the Dreamers are always in sight.
As if this set-up does not give viewers enough of a window into the Dreamers’ lives, anyone can also contact the Dreamers on their respective Twitter, Facebook and MySpace accounts, and watch them as they respond online (particularly during “Live Tweet Sessions,” which function as one-way video conferences, where the participants respond on camera to questions that viewers Tweet in). This format gives the audience access to the show’s participants 24/7–literally, you can even watch them sleep!–in what can only be described as a sort of real-life Sims game. In case viewers and fans miss anything on the live feed, an episode compiling the highlights of the video stream and events outside of the house is released on Hulu every week.
So who are these “Dreamers” and what makes them worth watching? There’s Alex Lambert, the youngest and most famous of the “IICD” participants. After being eliminated from “American Idol” just shy of making the Top 12, he’s already released two demos during his time at the Dream House, and he appears to be well on his way to achieving his goal of playing throughout the nation. Justin Gaston, possibly most famous for his stint as Miley Cyrus’ boyfriend, also aspires to be a singer. Although he has already made a name for himself by competing in “Nashville Star,” modeling for Armani and starring as the sultry “Romeo” in the music video for Taylor Swift’s “Love Story,” he’s looking to encounter the world more on his own terms, and it may not be long before he’s famous in his own right. Hailing from Hamburg, N.Y., 23-year-old is Ben Elliott, who dreams of one day starring in films alongside the likes of Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio. Although Ben had minimal acting training before entering the house, the ex-model has arguably made the most progress toward achieving his dream during his time on the show. He has already starred in the music video for Orianthi’s latest song, “Shut Up & Kiss Me,” and honed his acting skills with drama guru John Kirby.
The first of the two girls is Kara Killmer, who also dreams of being a famous actress. The 21-year-old Texan just graduated with a degree in Performing Arts from Baylor University, and shows a clear dedication to her craft. Last but not least is 20-year-old Giglianne Braga, whose glowing beauty lends itself perfectly to her dream career: modeling. Before joining the cast of “IICD,” the Brazilian-American knockout worked for a catering company in New Jersey, where she lived with her mother. While on the show, Giglianne has already landed a gig presenting the Young Hollywood Awards alongside fellow Dreamer Lambert, as well as starring opposite Elliott in Orianthi’s “Shut Up & Kiss Me.”
Regardless of public perception of the show and its participants, “If I Can Dream” is undeniably unique in its extreme integration of social media and technology into the narrative of the show. The entirely Internet-based format has exciting implications for the future of television and the entertainment industry as a whole. Most importantly, it drives home a compelling message for the youth of today: if you can dream it, you can do it.