Improv isn’t always funny. Each of these scenes is of a break-up, and each is improvised. Some are hilarious, some are awkward, and all of them are tragic.
What better way to capture the tension of a relationship pulling itself apart than to do it unscripted?(Screengrab: Vimeo)
Comedian Cory Cavin put together these 10 brief episodes about a normal guy, his model wife and their two ever-present neighbors. The show is manic, smart and a lovely way to blow an afternoon hour.
Bonus: Netflix bingers will recognize Model Wife’s Carme Boixadera as the Season 2 model wife of the photographer Adam Galloway from House of Cards.(Screengrab: YouTube)
Released as three 15-minute episodes, AMC’s foray into web video is a about a successful playwright, starring Adam Goldberg with Jeffrey Tambor as his therapist.
It’s a black and white film noir, replete with a lolita femme fatale, a hoarse narrator, smokey diners, bowties, and women with names like Chloe and Annette.
If that coffee house, finger snapping aesthetic is your thing, you’ll die for this one.(Screengrab: AMC)
The “unofficial biography of everyone’s favorite Olsen twin” is a College Humor series chronicling the misadventures of Mary Kate, Bodyguard, Fat Professor, and a number of other characters whose lives revolve around Mary Kate’s drugged out insanity. Sure, it's not the real Mary Kate... but that doesn't take away from the fun.It’s hilarious, addictive, and they made an insane number of them. (Screengrab: verymarykate.com)
Sure, this one doesn't come from some plucky independant. Still, forget House of Cards, Lilyhammer, Orange is the New Black, Arrested Development… out of all the Netflix original series, this has to be the most overlooked by far.
Ricky Gervais plays an autistic nursing home attendant in a show that blends candid, The Office-style comedy with a deeply sympathetic and delicate airiness. Derek has taken flak for being offensive to the mentally disabled, but only from people who have only seen a trailer and assume the worst.(Screengrab: netflix.com)
This show, a popular retelling of Pride & Prejudice as a video blog, was shot across five YouTube accounts for over 150 short episodes. The show had a massive subscriber base, and of course spawned hundreds of pieces of fan fiction (we refuse to link to them).
The show won a Creative Arts Emmy and has been honored by The Academy for Outstanding Achievement In Interactive Media.
The Lizzie Bennett Diaries is supplemented by blog posts, tweets, photos and various other multi-platform pieces of the puzzle, but the main site collects them all in one neat package if you’re not looking to hunt down all of the loose ends.(Screengrab: YouTube)
Tubbin' With Tash is a raunchy interview show that can best be described as Between Two Ferns, as done by Natasha Leggero. Ms. Leggero told The New York Observer she got the idea when she was high one night.
“I thought if I got a hot tub and used it for work, I could write it off,” she said. Natasha Leggero will be hosting the Shorty Awards this year, and Betabeat will be bringing you more coverage after the ceremony.(Screengrab: YouTube)
Smart writing and great scene work is getting High Maintenance major attention right now. The show follows The Guy, a marijuana bicycle salesman making deliveries to neurotic New Yorkers.
The show is a collaboration between actor Ben Sinclair and his casting director wife Katja Blichfeld, which explains the cameos from marquee names like Greta Lee (Soojin from Girls) and Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens.
High Maintenance is still in production, putting out a new video once in a while, with each episode growing longer and incorporating more recurring characters.(Screengrab: Vimeo)
Comedy duo Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson play two grody, bohemian young women in Brooklyn — treading a simple premise with masterful execution. Called “sneak attack feminism” by the Wall Street Journal, Broad City gained a cult following back in 2010, and has since gone on to be a Comedy Central show produced by “Amy Fucking Poehler”.
The Comedy Central show just wrapped its first season to favorable reviews, but the original web series is still available online.(Screengrab: broadcitytheshow.com)
So much web video is garbage. Still, everyone once in a while someone manages to get it right.
Web series as a genre is finally coming of age as viewing habits shift from television to digital. More and more writers and directors are doing web video well, and great series are finally getting a chance to shine.
Sure, the most popular work is still being produced like major houses like Netflix and Hulu. But every once in a while, a small team or unemployed director manages to make a short series (or series of shorts) actually worth diving in to.
These are our picks for narrative web-exclusives actually worth watching — prepare to lose the next six hours of your day.