Your girlfriend’s brother has one, your barista has one, maybe your cool uncle even has one: We’ve all got the tools, so it appears we’re all making web series. Last year, HBO made deals with some high-profile web series creators, Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair of High Maintenance and Issa Rae of The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl (her HBO show is called Insecure and we’re ready for it, already!). Aspiring TV creators have heard the message loud and clear: if you’re hungry and talented, a web series just might be your path to TV stardom.
Then again, the way things are heading, every TV show will soon be a “web series.” The term is a bit misleading — couldn’t a Netflix original technically be called a “web series”? — although it’s usually used to describe independent, lo-fi shows uploaded by their creators straight onto YouTube. But the past couple years have seen an explosion of high-quality series created specifically for the web, many created not by individuals with time on their hands but professional writers, directors, and producers.
There are now global networks of “creators” and “influencers” backed by real money: This year, NBCUniversal launched Seeso, a subscription-based streaming network focusing on comedy (it’s $3.99/ month, but you can try it out for free now). And this month, the media company Fullscreen announced it, too, was starting a subscription video service focused on “digital first” young’uns.
The number of shows on “regular” TV is overwhelming enough. So we’ve waded through the recent and upcoming offerings to give you ten web series worth your time.
Gente-Fied (Macro, TBA)
I kinda wish this upcoming web series was a full-fledged TV show, not just because it looks good but because it looks like the kind of L.A.-set show that TV could really use. Backed by executive producer America Ferrera, who also stars, Gente-Fied is a Spanish- and English-language series that follows seven characters dealing with gentrification in the predominantly Mexican-American L.A. neighborhood of Boyle Heights. Keep your eyes peeled for a release date.
Flowers (Seeso, streaming now)
This dark comedy (sorry, it’s British — make that “black comedy”) from 29-year-old creator Will Sharpe is more than a little off-kilter (I told you, it’s a British comedy). Flowers follows children’s author Maurice Flowers, his wife Deborah, who teaches piano lessons, and his two 25-year-old twins, who all live in a big house in the middle of the country with Maurice’s senile mother and Japanese illustrator/ assistant, played by the English-Japanese Sharpe. It’s got a pedigreed cast that includes veteran British actors Julian Barratt and Olivia Colman, and it opens with Maurice trying — and failing — to hang himself. Did I mention it’s British?
Night Train with Wyatt Cenac (Seeso, June 30)
Night Train is already a successful live show, so the jump to the small screen shouldn’t be too painful. Daily Show alum Wyatt Cenac hosts the comedy showcase every Monday night at Brooklyn’s Littlefield; six shows were taped for the Seeso series (say that ten times fast) back in December, with performances by Aparna Nancherla, Brooke Van Poppelen, Jen Kirkman, Josh Gondelman, Phoebe Robinson, Sabrina Jalees, and more.
Take My Wife (Seeso, Aug. 11)
Comedian Cameron Esposito got married last year, and we’re about to find out how that’s all going: Take My Wife stars Esposito and her real-life wife, Rhea Butcher, also a comic. The couple play versions of themselves, and the series documents their domestic bliss as well as the standup showcase they run together —like they do in real life!
HarmonQuest (Seeso, July 14)
This part-animated, part-live-action comedy from Dan Harmon, the creator of Community, was adapted from a segment on his podcast, Harmontown. Last year, Harmon and comedians Erin McGathy, Jeff B. Davis, and Spencer Crittenden, filmed ten episodes of this live-action role playing series in front of a live audience; on HarmonQuest, the Dungeons & Dragons-like tales are animated. Special guests include Paul F. Tompkins, Aubrey Plaza, and Ron Funches.
Filthy Preppy Teen$ (Fullscreen, streaming now)
Created by The League’s Paul Scheer, along with Jonathan Stern and Curtis Gwinn, Filthy Preppy Teen$ first aired as a TV special for Adult Swim in 2013, then called Filthy Sexy Teen$. The name change likely has something to do with the porn-y connotations of the latter title, but don’t worry — Filthy Preppy Teen$ is simply a spoof of rich-kid dramas like Pretty Little Liars and Gossip Girl.
The Amazing Gayl Pile (Seeso, June 28)
The first season of this Canadian-made web series about “one man’s misguided quest to conquer the world of home shopping” premiered on the YouTube channel JASH back in 2014, and it’s back for two more seasons on Seeso in June. Set behind the scenes at a fictional home-shopping channel, The Amazing Gayl Pile’s deranged brand of comedy bears traces of Tim & Eric’s basic-cable aesthetic.
Bajillion Dollar Propertie$ (Fullscreen, streaming now)
A cousin of Filthy Preppy Teen$, the real-estate reality-show spoof Bajillion Dollar Propertie$, created by Kulap Vilaysack, will probably speak to Los Angelenos more than anyone else. But if you’ve ever gotten lost in the dreamscapes of Million Dollar Listing — or hell, any TV show in which the characters’ gorgeous homes steal every scene — you’ll appreciate the backstage drama at the fictional Platinum Realty.
The Outs (Vimeo, streaming now)
I’ll be honest: The Outs is overrated. A Vimeo original series that’s been kinda-accurately described as the gay Girls, The Outs centres on two gay friends (and exes) living in Brooklyn and trying to negotiate a treacherous dating scene. If it sounds a little familiar, well, it is, but the show, which boasts decent production values and music courtesy of local bands, was lauded when the first season came out in 2012 (the second was released back in March). Maybe that just goes to show how far web series have come since then — or the persistent lack of variety on TV when it comes to depictions of non-heterosexual relationships.
Lonely and Horny (Vimeo, streaming now)
Another Vimeo original, Lonely and Horny is the latest from comedy duo Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld, who played versions of themselves for eight years on the popular CollegeHumor web series Jake and Amir. Lonely and Horny stars Blumenfeld as Ruby Jade, an L.A. geek who enrols in a pick-up artist class taught by Hurwitz’s Josh.