We take a break from our regular film and television coverage for a special report: The web series’ you need to be watching
Web series’ are pretty much the Timon and Pumbaa’s of the food chain when it comes to showbiz. But what they lack in budget and established talent, they make up for in not-needing-much-budget and providing an accessible platform for emerging stars to shine (and earn some money to eat…maybe).
It seems even the bigwigs are picking up what the web series’ are putting down as CW Seed, Warner Bros, Hulu, Netflix and more come to the party. There’s enough award shows for film and television productions to keep red carpets on the ‘valuable commodities’ list these days (really, red carpets are surprisingly expensive), so it’s about time the industry shared the love with a new format for the YouTube Generation. And they are not all sidewalks of New York dialogue fests (although, granted, there’s a few), so here is our pick of the best web series no matter what your genre of preference.
And I mean really, what would the circle of life be like without Timon and Pumbaa? I don’t know man, but it keeps me up at night.
Finalist: Video Game High School: If you like video games, you will love Video Game High School, where – you guessed – people go to a special school for video game geniuses. Sort of like a less fascist “Ender’s Game”. I don’t even like video games and I liked it, and with almost ten million views of the first episode, I’m obviously not the only one.
Finalist: H+: the aforementioned foray by Warner Bros and the “Titanic” of web series budgets, the series takes place in an apocalyptic future where technology has spiralled out of control. Produced by Bryan Singer, the effects are incredible and the storyline compelling. There is an obvious advantage of having a big studio behind such a series, and not to drown out some of the more indie endeavours, this one is worth a look.
Finalist: The Power Inside: Another big budget sponsor in the form of Intel and Toshiba (seems the action based web series can be a little more expensive to produce), the storyline is straight out of an advertising creative brain storm session (“yeah, let’s play on that whole hipster thing! The world is threatened by moustaches! Moustaches! You know sometimes I amaze even myself”), and yet the execution is enough to push it from ‘try hard’ and more to ‘Zombieland 2.0’ territory. Also, Harvey Keitel is in it. And if you can’t get Bill Murray, that’s pretty cool.
WINNER: Red Vs Blue: One of the first web series to play with the format, Red Vs Blue began in 2003 and continues to this day. Hearing about it from a fellow geek in 2007, I didn’t know what a web series was, all I knew was that each episode was three minutes of random hilarity that I could watch at my leisure, for free, as they consistently threw shade at first person shooter games, military life and science fiction, with characters who could barely move unless they were shooting something. And they’re up to 11 seasons and counting. Also I’m referring to pink as “light red” from now on.
Finalist: I Hate Being Single. Sort of a male equivalent of “Girls”, the show follows the heartbreak and loneliness of being single in your 20s. And living in Brooklyn. Written and directed by Rob Michael Hugel, a regular of The Upright Citizen’s Brigade, the show is currently crowdfunding for Season 2 here. For $25 you can get a personalised sad vine and contribute to a show that doesn’t have a big studio backer behind it. Bargain.
Finalist: Emma Approved. From the creators of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and following the now successful formula of ‘adapt Jane Austen for a modern retelling’, this one tackles the enigmatic Emma as she runs a lifestyle business and matchmakes her life away. The cast is charming, and they’re finally gearing up to the good stuff – Frank Churchill and more Mr Knightley.
WINNER: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Emmy winner for ‘Interactive Web Series’ (okay so there are awards, but they don’t even let them in the same building as the TV peeps, let alone the movie stars). The show was a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice”. Very modern. Lizzie even has a video blog and is a financially struggling grad student. This show is the beacon to which all web series now aspire as it broke out into the mainstream (i.e. Tumblr), had its own spinoff (the character of Lydia has never been so fleshed out and relatable), successfully funded a DVD release through Kickstarter, and introduced the world to some great new acting talents in Ashley Clements (Lizzie), Mary Kate Wiles (Lydia), Laura Spencer (Jane) and Julia Cho (Charlotte). Read our Beginner’s Guide to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries here
Finalist: Wainy Days. Okay so this is a sidewalks of New York one, but while the setting is familiar, this show always manages to turn tropes on its head and go in some unexpected places. Basically, they had me when Wain and his friends talked romance while working in a sweat shop before breaking into a spontaneous groove-along. Created by and starring David Wain, and with guest stars including Elizabeth Banks, Ken Marino, Rashida Jones and Jonah Hill, this web series is punching above its weight in terms of talent, but that’s no reason not to give it a try. It’s a very good reason in fact. Go watch it.
Finalist: Neil’s Puppet Dreams. So I don’t really need to explain this one too much because, well, in each episode Neil Patrick Harris has a puppet dream, and that’s what happens. All I’m going to say is I recommended this one for my sister, because her baby daughter will love the puppets and the colours, and my sister will be entertained by the lyrics. Something for everyone! But let me be clear – this is not for any child that can understand words. Damn those songs are catchy though, my favourite is “The Lullabye” (also available on iTunes).
WINNER: High Maintenance. A clever series to showcase many an acting talent, each episode has a different focus with the one commonality being a nameless drug dealer as he provides an outlet for stressed out New Yorkers. Sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, always visually rich, the show from creators Katja Blichfeld, Russell Gregory, and Ben Sinclair, consistently wins the Vimeo Staff Picks and for good reason. A highlight of the episodes and a good introduction to the series below.
Finalist: Husbands. Buffy fans will be familiar with writer Jane Espenson (oh yeah, she also did “Battlestar Galactica” and now does “Once Upon A Time”), who with Brad Bell independently created two seasons of the show before being picked up by CW Seed (who has also commissioned a new “Veronica Mars” related web series). Billed as the world’s first marriage equality comedy, “Husbands” is a modern look on the classic premise of the newlywed sitcom.
Finalist: Burning Love. What does it take to get famous actors to star in a reality show looking for love? $900! Now in its third season, and featuring such names as Ken Marino (the Tom Hanks of web series?), Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Malin Ackerman, Jennifer Aniston, and co-executive produced by Ben Stiller, the show spoofs all things “The Bachelor” and my personal favourite, “For Love or Money”, as they compete for love and, you guessed it, $900. It’s worth it just to see them get so excited every time the $900 is mentioned.
WINNER: Super Café. What started as a breakout during “How It Should Have Ended” skits (also a great watch) where an animated Superman and Batman would sit in a café to discuss whichever superhero movie they were analysing (sometimes with special guest superheroes as well…just not Tobey’s Spiderman) has morphed into their own videos where they discuss the most important movie happenings, in particular, the upcoming Batman Vs Superman movie (good timing). Honestly, Zac Snyder, if this new movie doesn’t feature them sitting in a café chatting, ala “Heat”, I’m going to be very disappointed. Always funny and spot on, you will never look at Superman and Batman the same way again. Also very excited for a new spinoff – “The Villain Pub”. Why? BECAUSE HE’S BATMAN.