The web series has come a long way in the last few years. Critical acclaim, star power and an increasing number of web-to-TV success stories have raised awareness and respect for the genre.
Of course, this has encouraged thousands of hopeful creators to turn their attentions to the tiny screen. This explosion of content means it’s harder than ever for shows to stand out from the crowd and audiences to find series worth watching.
To help you out, here are L.A. Weekly’s picks for the top ten must-see web series that premiered or released new seasons in 2014.
10. The Program
Comedians Maria Bamford and Melinda Hill created and co-star in this dark quirky comedy for Funny Or Die about a support group for debtors. The show’s bizarre cast of characters, including Oscar Nuñez (The Office) as the group's sweet schizophrenic, deftly poke fun at America’s uncomfortable relationship with debt. Watch The Program on FunnyOrDie.com.
9. Gary Saves the Graveyard
The Upright Citizen’s Brigade brought its stellar reputation for comedy to the tiny screen in a new kind of zombie show this Halloween. Gary (Jim Santangeli) missed one detail when he got his new job as graveyard caretaker — he’s now responsible for keeping 235 living corpses entertained while they wait their turn for eternal peace. Smart sci-fi/comedy writing, incredible production value and some of the best emerging actors in comedy make this a must see series for any season. Watch Gary Saves the Graveyard on UCB Comedy's YouTube Channel.
8. Long Story Short
Each three-minute episode of Long Story Short, directed by Chapman college student Almog Avidan Antonir, features fellow college student Tom Assam-Miller trying to complete a typical college task, like watch a movie with a girl or write a paper, accompanied by a neurotic narration of his thought process. The story bounces among fantasy, reality and everything in between in a hilariously hyperbolic devolution. The short form series is a successful college-themed riff on Israeli and French TV series that use a similar VO style. Watch Long Story Short on Assam-Miller and Antonir's YouTube Channel.
7. Not Looking
After being disappointed by the trailer for HBO's Looking, comedians Jason Looney and Jeremy Shane decided to create their own version of a show about complex, gay male characters — and it was gonna be freaking funny. Not Looking features Looney and Shane alongside the hilarious Drew Droege and Justin Martindale as a group of gay male friends in Los Angeles, dating, brunching and being Sex and the City fabulous as they search for true love and fulfillment. Watch Not Looking at FunnyOrDie.com/notlooking.
6. Millennial Parents
Being a parent in 2014 has a unique set of struggles, like deciding whether Outkast’s “So Fresh, So Clean” is an appropriate lullaby if sung for nostalgia’s sake or whether you want to take your baby to that theme park for their own enjoyment or for the Instagram photo ops. In Millennial Parents, filmmakers Jake Greene and Natalie Irby explore these timely questions through funny, slice-of-life conversations between an endearing, completely exhausted couple trying to raise a child in the 21st century. Watch Millennial Parents at YouTube.com/MillennialParents.
5. Backseat Bitches
Melissa Hunter and Jessica Lowe star in Backseat Bitches, a web series about two hashtagging, instagramming, flask-sipping, leopard-clad BFFs, Jinny and Mimi, who zip around L.A. to parties they are not invited to in the back of numerous Uber-esque vehicles. The two created the smart satirical show for Above Average, the digital arm of Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels’ production company, Broadway Video. Watch Backseat Bitches on Above Average's YouTube Channel.
4. Crack Duck
This surreal, disturbing and oddly heart-warming adult animated web series follows the tribulations of Crack Duck, the depressed, down-on-his-luck apartment manager of Grungetown Towers. In five-minute, fully-fleshed-out stories, creator Danny Lacy and animator Stephen Sloan bring to life a dark and mesmerizing world where tenants like Zqiygyxz, “Daughter of the First One,” perform stomach surgery on the sun, and Crack Duck deals with his crippling social anxiety and ends up becoming one with everything after ingesting Chaolium, the chaos chemical. Watch Crack Duck on Mondo Media's YouTube Channel.
3. Next Time on Lonny – Season Two
Each episode of Next Time on Lonny, directed by Dan Schimpf and starring Alex Anfanger, is a summary of what will happen next week on the fake reality show Lonny. It begins with mild-mannered Lonny (Anfanger) doing something mundane then devolves into a different genre-bending adventure story. The duo’s storytelling skills caught the eye of Ben Stiller, whose company Red Hour funded Lonny's glossy second season, which premiered this June. Expensive stunt scenes and recognizable actors are an added bonus to the continued delightful imaginings of this incredibly talented team. Watch Next Time on Lonny – Season Two on Maker.TV's YouTube channel Nacho Punch.
This totally addictive rom-com series takes place entirely through Skype conversations between the adorable and feisty New York City resident Cora (Avital Ash) and broody charmer Patrick (Chris Alvarado). The two have been set up on a bi-coastal blind date by mutual friend Allison Pill and they decide to Skype every night for the month of January. Over the 30 episodes, viewers watch the entire arc of their relationship in four minute snippets with a few email exchanges in between. The inventive and expertly executed series was created by Ash with Alvarado and Kyle McCullough and only cost $88.00 to film. Watch 7p10e at www.7p10e.com.
1. High Maintenance – Vimeo On Demand Season
Each episode of this critically acclaimed dark comedy redefines the “stoner” with a stand-alone, brilliantly crafted, cinematically stunning vignette. Created by husband and wife team Katja Blichfeld and Ben Sinclair, High Maintenance stars Sinclair as an unnamed weed delivery dude who brings small kindnesses to his customers along with his cannabis. Though the series premiered in 2012, they released their latest six-episode season this November as the first series funded by Vimeo On Demand. It’s well worth the $1.99 per episode Vimeo is charging and you can still watch the previous two seasons for free at www.HelpingYouMaintain.com.