Back in the ’80s, as you watched a fuzz-jawed, pastel-suited, and sockless Don Johnson chase drug dealers on Miami Vice, you probably weren’t thinking ”Now, there’s a future multimedia innovator!” But Johnson has staked fair claim to that status by providing online ”prequels” to his new CBS cop show, Nash Bridges. To hear Johnson tell it, last summer he hit upon the idea of offering online Bridges ”webisodes” that would lead to a cliff hanger resolved at the start of the next Friday-night show. ”It’s like a shadow world,” says the actor. ”You can tune in to Nash Bridges on your PC any time you want.”
Visitors to The Net Show meet San Francisco detective Nash Bridges, who narrates cases in Dashiell Hammett Lite text accompanied by photos. Clues wind through pages of classified police reports, government documents, websites, and E-mail from mysterious hackers. (Self-contained webisodes will continue weekly when Nash Bridges is on summer hiatus.) Like other TV sites, this one offers info about the show as well as a chance to buy the inevitable logo-emblazoned T-shirts and baseball caps. For now, the site’s not exactly technologically dazzling (video and audio are promised for the future); most of the effort seems to have gone into the story lines.
Indeed, Nash Bridges may offer better stories online than on screen. In some ways, though, the series and its site don’t even present the same character. Online, Bridges confides, ”This old fart has turned into a closet hacker….I’m psyched.” On TV, Bridges doesn’t speak like an aging Valley dude. But Net Show CEO Nick Kelly insists that the differences aren’t significant. ”The site doesn’t violate the show,” Kelly says. ”We can go off on tangents and do all kinds of things you can’t do on network television.” His writers send scripts to Johnson and Nash Bridges executive producer Carlton Cuse — but not for approval. The only advice that Johnson has offered to Kelly is, repeatedly, ”Take it to the edge.”
Johnson leaves the site alone. ”You couldn’t call me an Internet surfer,” he admits. ”I don’t have time.” He may want to watch his back, though: Unlike the TV detective, the online Nash Bridges doesn’t need Don Johnson.