For many artists, filmmakers, and actors, the internet has been an amazing tool for launching their unique ideas and stories. Not only can web content develop a solid viewership, but it can also catch the attention of established people in Hollywood. But can a great TV series really start from producing web content? Read on and discover that sometimes the answer is yes, and increasingly so.
The perks of starting with a web series are clear. The creator of the show is able to develop their own authentic story, structure, and style without the limitations or guidelines of a cable network or streaming platform. In addition, web series allow the creator to feel closer to their audience who can both help the show grow and spread its importance. Here are the best shows that began as TV series.
Children’s Hospital started out as an absurdist medical drama parody, mocking shows such as Grey’s Anatomy and ER, consisting of four to five-minute episodes available on The WB.com. The ten-episode series was posted back in 2008 and was picked up by Adult Swim in 2010. The series was created by actor and comedian Rob Corddry of Hot Tub Time Machine, The Daily Show, and Arrested Development.
Basically, the show follows the eccentric and sex-obsessed staff of Children’s Hospital, named after Dr. Arthur Children, and the unconventional practices that go on there. Children’s Hospital concluded back in 2016 after eight brilliantly weird seasons.
In 2009, actresses Illana Glazer and Abby Jacobson started producing a web series named Broad City that followed their real-life friendship and struggles to make a life for themselves in New York City. Actress Amy Poehler discovered the series and went on to guide Glazer and Jacobson in the acting world. Poehler became an executive producer when Broad City was pitched for TV. FX showed interest in the series, but Comedy Central ultimately ended up committing to the show.
The series went on to receive very positive reviews and featured numerous guest stars including Wanda Sykes, Hilary Clinton, and RuPaul. Broad City ran as a web series for three years and ran on television for five seasons from 2014 to 2019.
In 2008, LStudio introduced a web series comprised of no more than 15-minute episodes starring Lisa Kudrow of Friends. Kudrow plays a self-professed therapist called Fiona Wallace who establishes a new practice called “web therapy.” The series was improvisational and featured many well-known comedians and actors including Julia Louis Dreyfus, Meryl Streep, and Conan O’Brien. Web Therapy was developed for TV in 2011 with Showtime taking it on as a project. The series ran on television for four seasons and gathered mixed reactions; however, Kudrow’s hilarious, hyper-focused performance has been praised since.
This HBO show began as a YouTube web series called The Mis-Adventures of an Awkward Black Girl, developed by and starring Issa Rae. Rae plays the awkward and insecure J, who on a daily basis interacts with love interests and co-workers only to be led into uncomfortable interactions.J reacts to her daily experiences through witty voice-overs.
The web series ran from 2011 until 2013, and HBO picked up Insecure in 2016. Insecure went on to receive 100% ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and ran for five successful seasons.
Yet another hilarious web-series setup, Drunk History features an intoxicated narrator attempting to explain important historical events. Celebrity guest stars try to follow the narration and re-enact the drunken narrator’s explanation but often fail as the narrator begins to make up details. Many famous comedians appeared in this project, including Jack Black and Bill Hader.
Drunk History was originally posted on the website Funny or Die, a video website established by names like Will Ferrell and Adam McKay that also produced Zach Galafankis’ Between Two Ferns. The series was adapted for television by Comedy Central in 2013. The show continued for seven seasons with mixed reactions and was eventually halted and then canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Much like how Children’s Hospital which made fun of medical dramas, Burning Love makes fun of reality dating competition shows such as The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. The episodes either featured a contestant looking for a match in a group of contestants or had contestants living in a house together.
Burning Love, the web series, was first developed by Erica Oyama and her husband Ken Marino. Ben Stiller was a producer on the series, which featured a panoply of comic talent (Michael Ian Black, Adam Scott, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Cera, Paul Scheer, Kristen Bell, Seth Rogen, and many more). Burning Love was eventually adapted for television by E!
High Maintenance, created by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield, tells the story of a cannabis delivery man and all the clients he delivers to throughout Brooklyn, New York. As a web series, it was posted to Vimeo for six installments and aired on HBO for four seasons.
Critically, the show has been praised for its representation of modern Jewish life and for the diversity of its characters. The series is a comedy-drama and so integrates emotional glimpses into the lives of its characters.
Adam Ruins Everything
Adam Ruins Everything started out as a web show on CollegeHumor, starring Adam Conover. The show’s format is an interesting one and goes something like this: an ordinary person is going about their day and eventually says something that is a common misconception. Out of nowhere, Conover appears and proceeds to explain the misconception in ridiculous depth, going on to cite studies, reference historical events, and consult experts. After its successful run online, Adam Ruins Everything was taken on by the Warner Bros. channel TruTV and ran from 2015 until 2019.
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