i want my web tv

Download your TV: These web series will make you want to ditch cable

Download your TV: These web series will make you want to ditch cable

I've been watching a lot more TV since I got rid of cable.

Added up, monthly subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and Mubi give faster access to more than Time Warner ever could. And the selection's endlessly diverse (no more relying on TLC for my reality drama when BestWeekEver.tv rounds it up nicely).

With networks becoming less of a barrier to entry, it's easier to get video projects out to a huge audience. Want to host your own talk show? Try public access, or just stream online. Have a pilot you want to pitch, or a series of scenes you want to film? Say hello to the web series: broadcast exclusively online, and usually in shorter, 2-12 minute episodes, web series are more accessible to filmmakers on a budget (and audiences with short attention spans).

Comedy sites like College Humor, Funny or Die, Atom and My Damn Channel—long known for hosting original video content—are all building solid rosters of series; Hulu hosts a number of exclusive shows; and with the recent acquisition of new Arrested Development episodes, Netflix is getting into the game, too. There's not just one, but two awards shows—the Webbys and the Streamys—recognizing the best in the genre.

There are hundreds of web series available online, with new pilots popping up weekly. Where to get started?  Here are a few of our past and present favorites (warning: these bite-sized episodes can be highly addictive).

Scripted Shows

The Line

From Funny or Die

Starring Bill Hader and Jo Lo Truglio

Shot in 2008 (and now available on Hulu), this seven episode series follows two friends set on being first in line for the premiere of summer blockbuster Futurespace. Written by Hader and SNL writer / comedy prodigy Simon Rich, The Line features cameos from Paul Scheer as “The Spoiler,” Jason Sudeikis as a crabby theater owner and Bobby Moynihan, Will Hines and Chris Gethard as equally nerdy Futurespace fans trying to deal with girlfriends, kids and other responsibilities—all while camped out on a sidewalk for 11 days. 

Wainy Days

From My Damn Channel

Starring David Wain

About to enter its fifth season, this long-running series follows ex-The State / Stella member David Wain (you know, the one that Michaels Black and Showalter used to pick on all the time?) as he attempts to navigate the NYC dating scene as a neurotic 30-something (generally, while getting picked on all the time). The show bills itself as "lightly fictionalized," though some of the more awesomely awkward episodes—like the one where David gets a litle too in touch with his feminine side—are hopefully heavier on the make believe. Wainy Days features tons of comic cameos; winner of the 2008 Webby for Best Comedy Series, it also excels in the well-crafted-jokes-per-minute category.

Back on Topps

From YouTube

Starring Randy and Jason Sklar

Some shows are created specifically for an actor, or a network; Back on Topps is produced by Topps, the same company that puts gum in your baseball cards. (What don't they do!) The advertisement-slash-comedy series is written by brothers Randy and Jason Sklar—hosts of the podcast Sklarboro Country—who also star as Leyland and Leif Topps, heirs to the sports card empire. When they lose their unearned corporate status, they have to scramble to win their business back. Bonus: tons of pro athlete guest spots. Back on Topps is a solid comedy that stands on its own, avoiding being sales-y (despite its funding source). 

Broad City

Starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson

This series, created by UCB alums Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, is as much an ode to New York as a look at what it’s like to live there; episodes have everything from misty skylines to summery city parks, plus subway trips, street pretzels, Rockefeller Plaza and other iconic shots. While at time precocious (debating whether or not they’re cool enough to hang in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park, for example), the series is touching, focusing on Abbi and Ilana’s friendship with each other as they each deal with dating, work, moms and weird social situations. Broad City is produced by Amy Poehler, and just got picked up by FX

Bestie x Bestie

Starring Jenny Slate and Gabe Liedman

SNL alum Jenny Slate and stand up comic Gabe Liedman are best friends, as illustrated in these under-two-minute clips where they chat about Important Stuff (and look really cute while doing it).

Horrible People

From My Damn Channel

Starring AD Miles, Kristen Schaal, Joe Lo Truglio

Horrible People is an over-the-top drama in the style of your favorite mid-morning stories, packing a decades worth of plot into 10 short episodes. Written by Fallon head writer AD Miles, the show follows all the classic soap tropes: a crazy, overbearing mom; unexpected pregnancies; jealousy; murder; etc. 

Very Mary Kate

From College Humor

Starring Elaine Carroll

Clocking in at about a minute and a half each, these glimpses into the private life of Mary Kate Olsen, as imagined by writer and star Elaine Carroll, are brilliant. Carroll plays the impish, dreamy Olsen in a muppet-like manner that’s oddly not far from dead-on. Episodes unfold to expose MK and sister Ashley’s obsession with blimps, and introduce Bodyguard and acting coach Philip Seymour Hoffman, who serve as polar opposite influences on the spoiled star. 

Clark and Michael

From CBS

Starring Michael Cera and Clark Duke

This 2006 series, originally commissioned by CBS, made teen dreams come true: a mockumentary-style look into the lives of two aspiring writers, the show focuses on real-life actors Clark Duke (Greek) and Michael Cera (Arrested Development). The meta-humor of the two friends trying to sell a script to a major network and the absurdity of their cluelessness (in one episode, they try to get Kenny Loggins to perform the show’s theme song) are the perfect mix for plenty of weird guest spots from other Arrested Development alum, Patton Oswalt and Martin Starr, among others. 

Web Therapy

From L Studio / Showtime

Starring Lisa Kudrow

Despite the fact that she’s made a living playing airheads, a la Friends’ Phoebe and Romy and Michele’s Michele, there’s something about Lisa Kudrow that makes her totally believable as a brilliant therapist. Maybe the fact that she insists on conducting sessions via iChat, or that the sessions tend to expose her own agendas, makes it a little easier to imagine. Web Therapy was picked up by Showtime after airing online, and won the Best Writing and Best Female Actor awards at both the Webbys and the Streamys. Like Head Case before it (and Dr. Katz before that), the fictional doctor has an exclusive list of celebrity clients, including Selma Blair, Courtney Cox, Alan Cumming, Jane Lynch and Meryl Streep. 

Talk Shows

7 Minutes in Heaven

From Hulu

Starring Mike O’Brien

Imagine you had a sleepover party with a bunch of your closest celeb pals (for example, the Insane Clown Posse, Connie Britton, Christina Ricci or Amy Poehler). Wouldn’t it be the most fun like ever? SNL writer Mike O’Brien, the host of 7 Minutes in Heaven, knows firsthand that it totally is; each quick episode features an interview (in a closet, natch) that ends with an awkward kiss (Seth Meyers’ chin peck was particularly adorable). 

Between Two Ferns with Zach Galafianakis

From Funny or Die

Starring Zach Galafianakis

One of the better known web series out there, thanks to high profile guests and the rising star of Galafianakis himself, this low-budget anti-talk show loves putting guests in an uncomfortable position. On a studio stage framed by ferns, an erratic Galafianakis prods interviewees for personal information and usually ends up belligerent. It’s a good time. (The episode that features Conan O’Brien, Andy Richter and Andy Dick is particularly memorable.)

Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show

Starring Kevin Pollak, Samm Levine

Actor Kevin Pollak (who’s appeared in nearly 100 films, but is best known for his role in The Usual Suspects) runs this weekly talk show, which streams live for free every Sunday at 3 p.m. With an archive of over 100 episodes and guests including filmmaker Jane Campion, comic Eddie Izzard, cool uncle Dave Coulier and actors Henry Winkler and Bryan Cranston, there’s a lot to explore. And each interview is like a mini-Inside the Actor’s Studio, with expert interviewer Pollak spending hours asking his own questions alongside those submitted via Tweet and chat from live viewers. It’s not all serious, though—each episode features games like Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon or The Larry King Game, and usually things get at least a little offensive. 

 

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