In recent years it seems that the number of web series has grown exponentially. There’s now something out there to suit every taste, and it’s a great way for aspiring filmmakers to gain an audience and experiment with a new format whose rules aren’t yet set in stone, but for new viewers the sheer wealth of material to be found online can be pretty daunting. These are some highlights from the wonderful world of web series, each one very different but all demonstrating the potential of this new form and proving that YouTube isn’t just for cat videos.
1. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
I first wrote about this modern-day web series adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice when it was only just starting out. Since then the show has turned out to be even more popular, and even more of a game-changer, than anyone could have predicted, thanks to its innovative use of social media to create an interactive viewing experience. The creative team behind The LBD has made another series, Welcome to Sanditon, based on an unfinished novel also by Austen, and another full-scale adaptation will begin airing later this summer. In the meantime the Diaries’ success has spawned a number of copycat adaptations, such as the wonderfully realistic Autobiography of Jane Eyre, which uses a similar vlog-style format to breathe new life into a classic text.
Zelda and Esther are small-town teenagers waiting for life to start, but they still have a lot to figure out along the way. This series features superb acting from Mary Kate Wiles and Kylie Sparks, with a supporting cast including the excellent Austin Rogers and Tiffany Ariany, and the writing is by turns hilarious and deeply moving as the characters face the realities of growing up square in a world where they don’t quite fit.
Silver Lake is where all the hipsters of Los Angeles love to hang out, wearing ironic skinny jeans and drinking expensive coffee because Starbucks is far too mainstream. Hipsterhood begins with a chance encounter between two of these hipsters in the cereal aisle of a supermarket, but because they’re too cool (and awkward) to talk to one another we only ever get to hear the voices of Cereal Guy and Faux Fur Girl via their well-crafted interior monologues.
Welcome to the theatre, where the only people who care, care way too much. Anxious accountant-turned-playwright Kyle Shantsky is putting on a production of his debut, 1 Minus 1 = None: Accounting On Her Return, with the help of child-star-turned-director Kirby Driscoll, but from the first auditions it becomes clear that neither is really prepared for the task. (Character) is laugh-out-loud funny and will have you rooting for the entire cast of loveable misfits.
5. Little White Lie
JK Rowling fans may be familiar with A Very Potter Musical, the stage adaptation of the Harry Potter series produced by a group of students at the University of Michigan and now a global hit on YouTube. Little White Lie is a web series created by the same group, Starkid Productions, and features cast members including Darren Criss (now famous for his role as Blaine Anderson on Glee) as high school band members who are willing to do almost anything for a chance of fame. As ever, the musical numbers (composed by Criss) are excellent, and the entire production is light-hearted and witty. Think High School Musical, but with sharper edges.