This article was co-authored by Chris Hadley, who writes for the online web series magazine Snobby Robot, and for the film music magazine Film Score Monthly Online. In addition, he is the writer/creator of the cable news satire/parody THE LATE, LATE NEWS.
Part 3: Web Series Aggregators
In Part 2 of our series, we focused on some of the funniest, most popular comedies currently streaming on the web. Yet, there's so much more than just laugh-out-loud humor to be found online. There's also incredible drama, adrenaline-pumping action/adventure, and spooky horror series.
So, if we've convinced you to take your first foray into the web series format, how do you start watching? Almost all of the web series discussed are available on YouTube and most of the links we have posted are to the shows' YouTube channels. However, many web series can also be found on curated websites, sometimes called aggregators. Aggregating web series content into a single destination makes the process of selecting a web series easier, because you don't have to search all over the web for the series you want to watch. Think of these aggregation sites as television channels and the individual web series as programs - only they are all available on demand, all the time.
The problem, of course, is that each site has only the specific content that it has curated. If you don't like what's on the site, you have to "turn the channel" and go to another aggregator to look for different shows to watch. Yet, no matter what "channel" you choose, you're bound to find quality content that spans multiple genres.
We provide below a brief tour of some of the largest and most popular aggregators on the web.
When it comes to comedy, the big aggregator is Funny Or Die. Backed by Will Ferrell, Funny Or Die is filled with hilarious, critically acclaimed content from a variety of different sources. Some of its most popular content includes the Emmy-winning celebrity talk show BETWEEN TWO FERNS with Zach Galifianakis (see President Obama being interviewed), and DRUNK HISTORY (now a hit Comedy Central series).
Another popular Funny or Die series is GAY OF THRONES, starring real life L.A. hairstylist Jonathan van Ness delivering offbeat, outlandish recaps of the hit HBO series GAME OF THRONES. GAY OF THRONES has also featured cameo appearances by several of GAME OF THRONES' stars, including its equally famed creator, author George R.R. Martin.
Above Average Productions is another major comedy aggregator, created by Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels' Production Company. Above Average Productions' web site features a wide array of original content ranging from sketches to episodic series, plus wacky gag videos, articles and reviews. Given its connection to SNL, it's no surprise that many of its cast and crew feature prominently in the network's programming.
Launching its second season is one of Above Average's most popular series, ALEC BALDWIN'S LOVE RIDE. The show features the award-winning actor, 16 time SNL host and "internationally renowned relationship expert," bringing random New York City taxi passengers unsolicited, outrageous advice on love, sex and relationships.
There is also the hilarious HUDSON VALLEY BALLERS. The show's sophomore season kicks off with two Saturday Night Live staffers who are "fired" from their cushy staff writing positions. From there, they decide to take on a totally different challenge - running a bed and brunch in upstate New York. The web show features high profile guest stars, including Lena Dunham (GIRLS), Josh Charles (THE GOOD WIFE, MASTERS OF SEX), Natasha Lyonne (ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK) and Tina Fey (SNL/30 ROCK, countless other roles) as a no-nonsense (or is she?) online business reviewer named Gingie (think Angie from Angie's List).
There's also FORGOTTEN ASSHOLES OF HISTORY with host and Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) alumnae Siobhan Thompson bringing viewers "profiles'" of obscure, yet reviled figures whose stories of their evil deeds have been all but lost to time.
Another great destination for original comedy web series is Thundershorts, a service of ad-supported indie film aggregator SnagFilms, and home of TEACHERS' LOUNGE (which we talked about in our previous article). In addition to that series, Thundershorts features a diverse set of episodic content that, like Funny or Die and Above Average, stars some of the biggest names in comedy, plus up-and-coming talent.
Among them: GABE AND MAX NEED HELP, starring Gabe Delahaye and Max Silvestri as a pair of comics who try to overcome their own relationship problems through the advice of Kumail Nanjiani (SILICON VALLEY). There is also the TV home shopping parody TIMELESS SEASONS, and AUGIE, ALONE, featuring Lee August Praley in what may be the very first web series produced, written, directed, and acted solely by one man.
Created by such talents as Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera (ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT, CHILDRENS HOSPITAL, SUPERBAD, JUNO), Tim and Eric, and Reggie Watts (CBS' LATE, LATE SHOW bandleader/sidekick to host James Corden), Jash Network features those stars and more in a series of hilarious original videos.
There's also branded content (JASH AND CAPTAIN MORGAN PRESENT THE RUM ROOM), music video spoofs featuring such luminaries as Bruno Mars and Will.i.am backing Silverman, Watts and others, and the free flowing (in more ways than one) celebrity talk show GETTING DOUG WITH HIGH, hosted by famed stoner comic Doug Benson (known for the documentary SUPER HIGH ME, plus his other podcast DOUG LOVES MOVIES).
A YouTube-based offshoot of the popular satirical news site, Onion Digital Studios features a variety of short form content that covers all aspects of current events. While there's plenty of hysterical news items, Onion Digital Studios also provides a variety of additional series like the in-depth, on-location documentary spoof EDGE (obviously a takeoff on the HBO series VICE).
Before someone tries to pick your brain about the current state of politics, the economy, or any major issue in the headlines, you should consult ONION EXPLAINS, which puts some of today's biggest news stories in hilarious context. In addition, Onion Digital features hilarious movie reviews, fantasy football headlines on OWNER'S BOX (sponsored by Lenovo), and wacky parenting "advice" for new and current moms on MOTHERSHOULD - all presented in the Onion's own inimitable style.
A subscription-based, ad-free platform ($3.99 a month) that's also available via your Roku device, JTS.tv (Just The Story) features one of the most diverse lineups of original, indie web series anywhere; shows that are both entertaining and professionally produced. Whether it's comedy, drama, sci-fi, horror, soaps or action, JTS.tv has shows that are bound to appeal to a wide range of audiences, plus a selection of equally varied short films. The site's interface makes it easier for viewers to find content, thanks to its drop down menu of viewing options.
While such acclaimed comedies as JOHNNY DYNAMO, THE LADIES AND THE GENTS, PAIRINGS and ACTING DEAD are a major part of JTS.tv's lineup, the site also features the Canadian LGBT teen coming-of-age drama OUT WITH DAD, plus the theatre-based ensemble series PRODUCING JULIET, created, written and executive produced by Tina Cesa Ward (ANYONE BUT ME).
Those who want a taste of adventure can find it through such series as spy thriller ASSET, the time travel sci-fi series TIME KEEPER, and edge-of-your-seat crime dramas like CLUTCH. If you're in the mood to be scared out of your wits, JTS.tv's got shows like the supernatural-based LAST RIGHTS, plus THE INN (from Steve Silverman, creator of the beauty pageant parody PRETTY: THE SERIES), and the award-winning STILL, which depicts the lives of residents in a small town who attempt to escape from a deadly infection.
Web series have generated real audiences. But just how large those audiences are can sometimes depend on two important factors: the overall quality of the content (e.g., the ability to tell good stories) and the ability for the producers to promote their product. Aggregators like the ones reviewed in this post are a great way for web series creators to bring their content to wider audiences.
For the viewer, it's equally important to know where to find that content, and we hope that this article has illustrated some of the best places online to see great web content. While not every show will appeal to everyone, and that separating the wheat from the chaff will take some effort, there is a wealth of quality content out there to be discovered!