There’s never been more great TV being created, but there’s also never been more binge-watching. So what do you do when you’re waiting for a new episode of “Atlanta” and you’ve already burned through the archives of “Game of Thrones,” “Broad City,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “Orange Is the New Black,” “Transparent,” and so on?
Stay calm: The world of digital video series doesn’t end with Amazon and Netflix original offerings, nor even with all of “Seinfeld” appearing on Hulu. In recent years, the quality and quantity of indie web series has skyrocketed, and there’s no limit to the brilliant entertainment you can find on Youtube, Vimeo, and even Facebook Video.
One problem: It’s hard to find the best shows out there without a major network’s publicity machine and press coverage.
To get a taste of all the web series the world has to offer, we checked out the slate of shows at Brooklyn Web Fest, which took place on Oct. 7 and 8 ― and we found a rich lineup of sketch comedy, romantic comedy, dark comedy, reality TV, and even drama.
As evidenced by well-known web series that ultimately were transformed into TV series, such as “Broad City” and “Awkward Black Girl” (the basis for Issa Rae’s new HBO comedy “Insecure”), the format has the potential to offer greater opportunities to people of color, women, and other underrepresented groups often held back by traditional TV gatekeepers. Not only can artists simply make their own shows and put them out there for audiences to judge on merit, they can make shows that subvert stereotypes, take on touchy topics, and expand the world viewers are accustomed to seeing on screen.
In a BKWF panel on women creators Saturday, the panelists agreed that the ability to create their own series allowed them to explore roles and storylines that they often couldn’t when auditioning for mainstream projects. Laura Hankin, the co-creator of “Emergency Contacts,” recalled that she and her co-creator and co-star had become frustrated with the narrow range presented to young women like themselves during the audition process. “All the notices were like, ‘Must be willing to be naked, no pay,’” she joked.
Veronica Dang, creator and star of “Subway: The Series,” pointed out, “As an Asian-American actress, I’m often relegated” to stereotypical roles. She explained that she created the series to make more interesting material for herself ― in it, she plays a shy, anxious woman, the child of Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonites, who wants to make it in New York City.
In a panel on diversity in comedy, the panelists emphasized how they sought to push the envelope toward diverse and honest representation in their work. “I’m talking to black people,” said Alex Ubokudom of “BOK TV.” In traditional TV, he noted, a white audience is assumed; directing his web series to a black audience freed it from the stifling pressure to “explain blackness to white people.” Melissa Mickens, the creator of “Shampagne,” pointed out that she was able to decide to choose a cast and crew entirely composed of people of color.
While it’s troubling that certain groups still struggle disproportionately to get their ingenious concepts picked up by networks, the compulsively watchable shows on display at the BKWF prove just how far talent and drive can go. And if hits like “Broad City” are any indication, the web series pool might just be where TV execs and viewers go for their next hot show.
To begin your journey into the weird and wonderful world of web series, we’ve recommended 21 of the top-notch shows screened at Brooklyn Web Fest 2016 for you to binge the next time you’re jonesing for a new Netflix miniseries:
A dark -- very dark -- comedy about a group of friends who take a rather extreme approach to vindicating their buddy's demise after he was hit by a distracted driver.
A biting satirical news commentary show that takes on pressing issues like police brutality against black people.
The wedding industrial complex is objectively bizarre, even for those (like myself) who actually love everything about weddings. This goofy web series about a newly engaged couple brilliantly parodies the whole process.
Not all web series are comedies! This dramatic series deals with the struggles of a teacher who believes his tough past can help him connect with a class of troubled kids.
A couple decides to remedy their mutual lack of sexual experience by opening up the relationship.
Even the smallest mysteries -- like a neighbor's WIFI password -- merit full investigation in this comedy about friends who put their boundless free time to use as amateur detectives.
"47 Secrets To A Younger You"
A comedy about two middle-aged women, both struggling to balance career, kids and romance.
Thanks to hits like "Key and Peele," sketch comedy is having a moment -- and this series focusing on millennial foibles perfectly marries the short web format with the current demand for quick, funny bits.
A comedy about two 20-something friends trying, and frequently failing, to adult properly.
"Knights of New Jersey"
A Renaissance faire peopled by mostly in-character knights and squires -- and some "Game of Thrones" cosplayers -- puts a quirky twist on the workplace comedy.
Thrown together by circumstance, two roommates -- one relentlessly chirpy and the other unfailingly cynical -- forge an unlikely friendship in this comic series. (Full disclosure: One of the series co-creators is a personal friend.)
"No Strings Attached"
Who doesn't love hearing insanely weird stories from people's real dating misadventures? This web series takes it to the next level by acting on those stories with surreal puppetry.
The sharing economy, as proven by "Broad City's" take on Airbnb, makes for great comedic fodder. In this hilariously well-scripted series, overbearing landlords and misbehaving guests leave our hero in a perpetual state of chaos.
There might be no better food for comedy than the intense ambition of wealthy, urban parents for their kids -- even if those kids are still in nappies. "Precious Cargo" pokes fun at this achievement-based culture from the perspective of two harried sisters working as tutors.
"Other People's Kids"
Every family is different -- full stop. In this anthology show, each episode shows a different family's quirks and oddities through the eyes of their babysitter.
"Subway: The Series"
In this offbeat comedy, a young woman from a Pennsylvania Dutch Mennonite family tries to make it in New York City -- despite the obstacles she faces in the city's nightmarish subway system.
The young queer couple at the center of "Affordable NYC" just want to live a comfortable, middle-class life -- too bad New York is so expensive the only wedding venue they can afford is a lot next to a Wendy's.
This comic series is built around a very depressing truth: Creator Melissa Mickens, an actress, became frustrated with being asked to freestyle at auditions, despite not being a rapper. In the series, the protagonist decides to pursue her acting career indirectly -- by first becoming a rapper named "Shampagne."
This low-key comedy about two unlikely roommates takes on issues like colonialism, racial identity, and, of course, friendship.
"Three's a Crowd"
Two guys go on a magical first date, and everything seems to be going perfectly -- except one of them still lives with his ex of nine years. Hilarity ensues.
"Fuck These Guys"
Some guys are just the worst. This laugh-out-loud series, from actor and comedian Brad Einstein, deconstructs the many types of dudes who totally suck.