Web series are just getting started. Long before successes like Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards came on the scene, high-quality Web programs struggled to claim the spotlight. But now that Netflix has legitimized the concept, people are starting to notice.
Think I’m kidding? When the writers’ strike hit in 2007, Lost temporarily transitioned into Webisodes called Lost: Missing Pieces. In 2012, science-fiction hit Battlestar Galactica came out with a Web-only prequel called Blood and Chrome. And in 2015, fan-favorite Community aired its sixth season through Yahoo! Screen.
That’s not even to mention all of the wonderful Web series that you can find on YouTube, Vimeo, Blip, Hulu, and more. In fact, some of these are good enough to stand side-by-side with “real” television. Check these out if you haven’t already.
High Maintenance (Comedy)
HBO recently announced that it would air the next six episodes of High Maintenance directly. Following the acquisition of the Broad City Web series by Comedy Central, this is the second time that a Web series actually made the transition to a high-profile cable channel.
Needless to say, this is a show you should be watching.
High Maintenance follows a marijuana dealer (whose name we never learn) as he makes deliveries to his various clients throughout New York City. In every episode, which are about 15 minutes long, he encounters a new set of characters and situations.
There are 19 pre-HBO episodes available right now and you can watch all of them except for the latest season (which includes the last six episodes) for free on Vimeo.
H+ (Science Fiction)
H+ is an ambitious exploration of a lofty concept: What if humanity became a hive-mind through a neural implant that internalized the Internet? And what would happen if a virus infected that global neural network? Which seems an extremely promising premise to me.
The show is produced by Bryan Singer, who’s best known for The Usual Suspects and the recent run of X-Men movies.
These kinds of concept shows tend to be 95% miss and 5% home runs, but I would wager on H+ being the latter, especially after watching the first season which aired online between 2012 and 2013. A second season is currently under production, but how cool would it be if it actually aired on Syfy?
The episode structure is a bit unusual, numbering 48 in the first season alone. Each 5-minute episode looks at a particular location and a particular time, either before or after the virus hit. This is innovative, creative, and well worth tuning into watch.
Video Game High School (Comedy)
Video Game High School is a half-comedy, half-drama about a kid named Brian who attends an educational institution called the Video Game High School. It sounds exactly like its name: high school politics wrapped up in a five-minutes-in-the-future setting.
People have compared it to Community in the past and I think the comparison is a good one. There’s a good amount of wacky and nerdy humor to be found, but underneath it all is a healthy dose of heart that makes it enjoyable to watch.
There are also a few YouTube celebrities working on this project, including the well-known Freddie Wong, which explains the above-par production quality.
Hop over to the YouTube channel to watch all three seasons consisting of 21 episodes, each one approximately 10-15 minutes long.
The Booth At the End (Science Fiction) [No Longer Available]
Mystery. Suspense. What the hell is going on? That’s pretty much the description for this wonderful Web series on Hulu. It stars Xander Berkeley, who starred in 24 as George Mason, and his casting is absolutely perfect for this role in The Booth at the End.
What’s it about? Well, there’s a man who sits at the end booth in a diner who is rumored to have a gift: he can solve any problem you have. The catch? You have to complete the task he gives you before he’ll solve your problem — and these tasks aren’t always particularly pleasant.
There are 10 episodes split between two seasons available on Hulu. No more episodes are currently slated for production, which is sad because the concept of this show is strong enough to go on indefinitely in a procedural format. Maybe one day…
Long Story Short (Comedy)
Long Story Short is a 10-episode comedy series that ended far too quickly. Each three-minute episode is a blow-by-blow commentary by the narrator about a particular task or errand he had to do that day. For example, “I Went to the Bathroom”.
As the name implies, these small skits are long stories made short, often using intercuts and smash cuts to exaggerate the comedic effect. The recapping is rapid-fire sentences one after another, so it can get overwhelming if you try to binge-watch them.
Would I want to see a full 30-minute episode in this format? Absolutely not. That would get old quite quickly. However, using episodes of Long Story Short as breaks within a broader sketch comedy format could work fantastically well.
We’re Just Scratching the Surface
Still itching for more stuff to watch? Give these YouTube comedy miniseries a try and don’t forget about these Funny Or Die Web series that might tickle your fancy. Otherwise, you’ll probably want to browse through Blip’s <>Web series list and subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu Plus.
Also, remember that Web series aren’t the be-all-end-all of Internet entertainment. For something more educational, you can find most of these shows that teach science available to watch for free online.
Which original Web series do you like the best? Do you have any recommendations for us? How would you feel if your favorites were acquired by broadcast or cable TV? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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