When TV Works Online: Web Series We've Actually Heard Of
by Stephanie Earp, posted Jul 19th 2011 1:00PM
Lisa Kudrow's new comedy 'Web Therapy' debuts this week on Showtime, and if the title didn't tip you off, the show is a 30-minute reworking of a web series Kudrow started in 2008. The simple premise worked beautifully in the miniature format.
Kudrow plays Fiona Wallice, a therapist who thinks 50 minutes is too long for a therapy session, and conducts her mini-sessions via webcam. Of course, like most of Kudrow's characters, Wallice is self-centred, mean, and not all that well-informed. (I don't know why Kudrow insists on creating such unlikeable alter-egos for herself, but that's another column.) The trick will be to see if whatever charm the original held is maintained in a 30-minute format.
I'm going to be totally honest here -- I had never heard of 'Web Therapy' until it got picked up for television. Am I completely out of touch? Was the whole world watching this and nobody mentioned it to me? Or are you just as surprised as I am to hear that Kudrow has been regularly employed -- and winning Webby Awards -- for the last four years?
I have this theory that the reason web series can't seem to really take off is the vastness of the internet when compared to the television universe. I'm just saying, if you and I, two strangers, are sitting on our couches for an evening, and we are both channel surfing, the chances that we might see the same show are fairly high, even with all the new diginets. If we're browsing the web, who knows what we might stumble on?
So here's my 'stumble upon' -- the five web series I've actually heard of:
lonelygirl15: Initially thought to be the frank and honest video diary of a teenage girl with a wacko cultish family, but it turned out this scripted series was funded in part by Creative Arts Agency. People were pissed about the fraud -- not Oprah/James Frey pissed -- but irked nonetheless. Despite that, the series went on and spawned several spin-offs, but never made the leap to TV. Jessica Rose, who played the eponymous v-blogger, has since been seen in 'Greek' and 'Ghost Town.'
Sanctuary: This SyFy hit was developed from an 8-part Canadian web series. I know almost nothing about the show, except that it was a ratings blockbuster when it debuted and has been renewed for a fourth season as of January 2011. The first two episodes of the TV show blew through pretty much all the content from the entire web series -- which goes to show that if you're going to develop a web series for TV, you'll want to select a creative team with a lot of vision.
The 'Bu: I found this send-up of 'The O.C.' totally unwatchable, but it led me to a holy land of web television, channel101.com. It's also where 'Saturday Night Live' found lead actor and creator Andy Samberg. So this show is directly responsible for the rise of the digital short, and all the sound and fury that came along with it (to recap: people thought a digital short went against the whole idea of the 'live' concept). That whole argument kind of died out after 'D--- in a Box.' You take funny where you can find it, I guess.
Yacht Rock: This channel101.com comedy series featured host Hollywood Steve as he guided us through his record collection to an era when smooth was the most desirable adjective you could apply to music. Badly acted, badly filmed and frequently nonsensical, 'Yacht Rock' somehow transcended its limitations to create comedy gold. The Hall & Oates street fight episode lives on in infamy.
Salad Fingers: A creepy-as-hell psychological horror series done in Flash animation, 'Salad Fingers' has been around since 2004, and got plenty of press in 2005, when most of the 9 episodes were released. Since then, creator David Firth has been up to other things, and updates come less and less frequently. In May of this year, the internet practically stood up and did the wave when episode 9 -- the first new 'Salad Fingers' adventure since 2007 -- was posted. It did not disappoint. In no way gory or bloody, I would still advise any newbies who are sensitive to nightmares to watch while the sun is still up.
Honorable Mention: 'Pure Pwnage'
Have you seen these before? Or are you watching a whole other universe of web content I haven't surfed to yet? Hook me up with some new fodder in the comments.