2014 felt like a year of transition for webseries. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and Vimeo all stepped up their original content offerings, but that also left webseries without a big online network attached in an precarious position. Can a series still flourish organically in 2015?
It was also a year in which webseries were picked up by big networks: Broad City, a former YouTube series, quickly become one of Comedy Central’s most popular shows. The channel also recently picked up another webseries, Idiotsitter, and partnered with online sketch duo BriTANick.
The case has been made that online networks are killing the webseries, but the 2015 Golden Globe nominations show how the streaming series is only becoming bigger a contender. Here are the 2014 webseries that also deserve a nod.
Vimeo’s first investment in an original series might seem like an odd choice: It centers around the daily life of an anonymous weed delivery man in New York City (Ben Sinclair) and his customers. The series technically debuted in 2012, but it found a bigger audience this year with Vimeo’s financial and marketing push. High Maintenance arrived at just the right time, too: State legalizations are changing how people view marijuana usage, but creators Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld have also scripted characters with real depth beyond stoner jokes. The Dan Stevens episode felt particularly transitional. New episodes are behind a paywall, but it’s worth shelling out for.
The first time I watched this Netflix original, I didn’t find it funny. The second time I watched, at the behest of a trusted friend, I realized it’s not necessarily supposed to be. The animated premise might throw some people off, but BoJack’s humor comes from its satire of Hollywood’s fame machine and the washed-up bits of humanity it spits out. Will Arnett’s BoJack is sufficiently self-absorbed, though the moments of clarity (sometimes within drug trips) are the real gut-punchers.
When Amazon announced its original pilot slate back in February, Transparent was already getting buzz. Jill Soloway (Six Feet Under, United States of Tara) has created a show not just about a father (Jeffrey Tambor) transitioning to life as a woman, but a family struggling with their own intimate question marks. The show was just nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Comedy, and Tambor got a nod for Best Actor in a Comedy. As Six Feet Under proved, Soloway knows how to make family dynamics compelling, funny, and heartbreaking.
Hulu premiered this new faux reality show from Dannah Phirman and Danielle Schneider in July, and while the first couple episodes of their Real Housewives spoof take a while to gain momentum, the last half is actually sort of subversive. Casey Wilson and Andrea Savage especially nail their roles as smize-addled “bizarro Disney princesses,” as Phirman called the characters back in July.
Flight of the Conchords’ Rhys Darby plays eight different characters in this show, which could originally only be found on New Zealand’s TVNZ. Netflix scooped it up earlier this year and brought season 1 to an American audience, but it was mostly a sleeper hit. There’s a peculiar charm to Darby’s characters: He excels, much like in Flight of the Conchords, at playing oblivious and insecure. That resulting awkwardness is channeled through the confused looks of real reporter David Farrier, who’s doing a story on the small New Zealand town where these characters live. The humor here is quick and dry and not for everyone, but Darby’s collection of oddballs is endearing.
6) Tough Love
Slacktory kicked off 2014 with its own original series, which focuses on two best friends and roommates living in NYC. While this premise has certainly been done before, Blaire Wendel and Steven Bell’s dialogue is relatable, their struggle to be adults familiar. Fingers crossed for season 2.
7) F to 7th
The first season of this series flew under the radar, but season 2 was helped along by Spike Lee. This “homoneurotic” series by Ingrid Jungermann features guest stars like Janeane Garofalo and Amy Sedaris, and explores what it means to be gay and “pre-middle age” in New York City.
Three webseries to look forward to in 2015
Director Jason Reitman (Juno) is bringing a dysfunctional family comedy to Hulu. The cast hasn’t been announced yet, but it’s centered around a “bachelor brother and his newly divorced sister” both wading through the dating pool.
Netflix is right where Tina Fey needs to be. The company just picked up two seasons of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, a show produced by Fey and Robert Carlock (30 Rock) and starring The Office’s Ellie Kemper as a woman who’s rescued from a doomsday cult and must start over in NYC. As of May, the show was still scheduled to debut on NBC, but the channel likely didn’t know how to market it. Netflix’s niche market is a much better fit.
Screengrab via Janky Clown Productions/Vimeo