HBO has lifted the lid on its secretive Steven Soderbergh project, Mosaic, sharing a new trailer for the innovative Garrett-Hedlund-starring murder mystery miniseries. With the trailer came the news that the series, in a way, is available now: viewers with access to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple TV can download the Mosaic app and watch all the raw footage right now. An Android version of the app is on the way, as well.
As HBO’s official announcement puts it, the Mosaic app allows viewers “to choose what point-of-view from which to follow the story and to, in effect, build their own experience from the material Soderbergh and [writer Ed] Solomon created.” HBO will release the official version of Mosaic as a six-part miniseries in January, but until then, audience members can traverse the narrative in any way they see fit, playing with perspectives and following different characters for an utterly unique app-based experience.
The Mosaic trailer sells the concept better than any amount of explaining can do, showing that viewers can follow various characters and revisit important scenes, in the hope of putting together the clues surrounding a murder. Sharon Stone’s character has been killed, and it looks like there are plenty of suspects, including Hedlund’s protagonist.
You’ve got to applaud HBO, Soderbergh, and Solomon for crafting such a mold-breaking piece of storytelling. The online age, where every viewer of every show has multiple internet-ready devices littered around their home, presents writers and directors with a multitude of options, and it’s hard to think of a project that has explored these possibilities better than Mosaic.
Netflix has dabbled in “choose your own adventure” content, but HBO's new launch offers something a lot more off-the-wall than that. The story of Mosaic plays out the same whichever options you choose, but in following different characters and piecing together more of the plot, viewers can build a wider understanding of the narrative and come to their own judgments about who is guilty or innocent.
However, it remains to be seen if TV audiences are ready for this. Mosaic appears to be a trailblazing concept, unlike anything else produced by a major network. HBO is asking viewers to download an app, play on it for hours and then tune in next year to see Soderbergh’s version of events. It’s a lot to ask, but the payoff could be huge if HBO manages to crack into a whole new arena where interactive TV storytelling can be distributed by an app.
The Mosaic app is available now for Apple customers. The official version of the series will arrive on TV in January.