Web drama wraps groundbreaking first 'season'

"LonelyGirl15," the sweet 16-year-old who set the Web buzzing last year with her playful and mysterious video blogs, will meet her fate Friday when the successful and influential show ends its first season.

Will Bree die at the hands of the strange cult that abducted her? Will her friends save her in time? Will she once again play with hand puppets and engage with best friend Daniel in the precocious game "Proving Science Wrong?"

The answers will come in 12 episodes to be posted one per hour starting Friday morning.

But here's the good news for fans: No matter what happens to Bree, the show will continue with its second season starting Monday.

LonelyGirl15 started with a test-the-waters video on May 24, 2006, posted on the video sharing site YouTube. The character Bree made her on-screen debut on June 16 in a video titled "First Blog: Dorkiness Prevails."

Nearly 260 episodes later — more than most TV shows — the series still ranks as one of the most-watched on YouTube and has expanded its audience to other video sites as well.

The "12 in 12" finale will air exclusively on MySpaceTV in a new deal with the huge social networking site. The episodes also will air on the official LonelyGirl15 site.

The online drama has come a long way in little over a year.

LonelyGirl15 burst onto the national scene in September, when reports began to surface that Bree was not a real 16-year-old home-schooled girl at all, but an actress playing a role in a scripted series.

Speculation was that some Hollywood studio was behind LonelyGirl15, taking advantage of the video blogging trend to hype some new horror flick or TV show, a la "The Blair Witch Project."

Finally, "The Creators," as they called themselves, confessed: They weren't Hollywood but LonelyGirl15 was indeed fake, and Bree was played by a then unknown actress, 19-year-old Jessica Lee Rose of New Zealand.

The three creators saw the show as a new form of interactive storytelling, involving the viewers in ways network TV or Hollywood films could not.

"We were the first ones to tell stories using social networks and the tools they have on their platforms," said Greg Goodfried, a 27-year-old Los Angeles lawyer. "Our goal has been to continue doing that and pushing the envelope and staying ahead of the pack. We have the freedom of not asking a network executive, 'What do we do now?"'

While the episodes are still produced on a shoestring budget, the show's creators are no longer begging fans for donations or relying on loans from family members to pay the bills.

"There was a good solid month when payroll for the actors was coming from revenue from donations," Goodfried said. "The show would have stopped if the fans hadn't reached into their pockets."

Miles Beckett, 28, Mesh Flinders, 26, and Goodfried have already created a spinoff series, Kate Modern, which airs on Bebo, a social networking site in Britain. Each show now employs a staff of about 20 and more spinoffs in other countries are in the works.

"This has changed from a fun thing in our apartment to an actual business," Beckett said.

The show has also boosted the career of its star.

Rose is represented by the talent agency UTA and is a regular on the new ABC Family series Greek. She also appears in the latest Lindsay Lohan film I Know Who Killed Me.

LonelyGirl15 has evolved into more of an ensemble show, introducing new characters as it prepares for its second season.

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