Homicide's second shift on net

JEFF CRAIG

, Last Updated: 6:00 PM ET

This is the job:

You sit behind a government issue desk. You answer the phone on the second or third bleat. If a police dispatcher is on the other end of the call, you write down an address, the time and the dispatcher's unit number. Then you beg or barter the keys to one of a half-dozen unmarked Chevrolet Cavaliers, grab your gun, a notepad, a flashlight and a pair of white rubber gloves and drive to the correct address where, in all probability, a uniformed officer will be standing over a cooling human body.

So begins the latest move of mass media onto the Web, a non-existent TV show that offers weekly updates of a spiralling plot - based on a real TV show that offers weekly updates of a spiralling plot.

Homicide: Life on the Street.

The popular Barry Levinson series, based on David Simon's acclaimed book, appears every Friday on NBC, featuring such characters as Andre Braugher's Frank Pembleton, Kyle Secor's Tim Bayliss, Richard Belzer's John Munch and Melissa Leo's Kay Howard, among others.

But since all these characters work the same shift in this fictional Baltimore homicide squad, it stands to reason that there's another shift of detectives that fans never see on TV.

Until now.

As of last Friday, the TV show is on a six-week hiatus, returning for the spring ratings sweeps, so NBC figured it was well, a prime time to introduce an Internet version of the show to fill the gap.

And that show, Homicide: Second Shift, stars the fictional characters of the other shift. The first chapter of the episode, Sanctuary, went up last week.

Just like the TV series, the on-line version is not for kids, flagged at the very start with a parental warning that "Children under the age of 14" should not view the site unattended.

Based, the site says, on an actual crime, here's what visitors will see:

A series of young women have been found in the parks of Baltimore, naked and dead.

Shift Lieut. Walter F. Neal has named Det. Raymonda (Ray) Cutler the primary on the case. Her partner is Det. Layton (Lee) Johnson.

As fans progress through the episodes, presented in script format, they are aided in the investigation with time lines and crime scene photos which are about as realistic as you'd want.

There are six scenes to each episode, which will take roughly 20 minutes to complete.

As the virtual episodes progress, there will be passing references to the popular TV characters, says NBC's Edmond Sanctis, who developed the site.

"This is a new direction to interactive entertainment," he says, pointing out that so far, most studios and TV networks have limited their use of the World Wide Web to that of a promotional tool.

"We're going in a new direction with original drama," he says.

On-line soap operas have been the rage for about a year, but this is the first move of a major player onto the interactive field.

NBC hopes Homicide: Second Shift, succeeds not only on its own, but brings new fans to the main TV component as well.

To get there from here: www.nbc.com.


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