The Bannen Way
The sexy drama about a charismatic crook trying to straighten out his life won four Streamys (Web video’s Oscars) this year, including Best Male Actor in a Drama Series for lead (and creator) Mark Gantt. Season one attracted 13 million views, and as season two develops, execs are exploring options for both Web and TV.
Actor/comedian Donald Glover formed this sketch group with Dominic Dierkes and DC Pierson while a student at NYU, and it proved more important than his education: Glover’s first job out of school was writing for 30 Rock, and he now stars in NBC’s Community. The group still posts videos online—don’t miss Gink, its Web 2.0 parody—and released the feature film Mystery Team last year.
This fall comedy about a bank robbery is the latest project from Randy and Jason Sklar (whose Web series Back on Topps is the gold standard in Web-branded entertainment.). The series will also feature Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) and comedian Jon Dore and is directed by Steve Carr (Paul Blart: Mall Cop). "We didn’t make this because it’s good for the Web," Randy says. "We made it because it’s good."
After his online dance-off challenge to Miley Cyrus became an Internet phenomenon, director Jon Chu gathered his dancing troops and created The LXD, an original Web series about a Legion of Extraordinary Dancers fighting a war of good versus evil. The cast performed at this year’s Academy Awards and TED, and opened for the Glee live tour, all before the series’ summer premiere.
BEHIND THE SCENES
The Canadian comedy troupe racked up 40 million views with its online videos and recently secured distribution for its feature film, Roller Town, about a young boy avenging his family’s murders by roller skating. "We’re fast-paced and silly," says member Andrew Bush. "Alternating between silly and offensive, but smart and cute. Sometimes smart, but mostly cute. I’m sorry, we’re not cute. I’m trying to be smart."
After premiering the comedy Johnny B. Homeless on Atom.com this summer, creator Al Thompson has focused on this drama. Debuting this fall, it features a group of male friends living—and loving—in Harlem. The series includes a number of actors from The Wire (including Michael K. Williams, aka Omar) and has already won praise on the film-festival circuit.
Jake and Amir
Friends Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld do little more than banter at the CollegeHumor offices, but somehow, it works. "We’ve got really passionate fans," says Hurwitz, who accepted the pair’s 2010 People’s Voice Webby for Best Comedy Series. "It helps that they’re 16 years old."
The award-winning series follows the misadventures of a fictionalized, sweatshop-working David Wain as he tries to meet women. Now in its fourth season, the star-writer-director has attracted big-name guests including Amanda Peet and Megan Mullally. "It’s more autobiographical than I’d like to admit," says Wain (Wet Hot American Summer, Role Models), who’s now slated to direct the 2011 comedy "Wanderlust" starring Jennifer Aniston and Paul Rudd. But Wainy Days will go on: "No reason to stop."
Anyone But Me
Co-created by former The L Word producer and writer Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward, this teen drama for the ethnically and sexually diverse post-9/11 generation has created industry buzz for leads Nicole Pacent and Rachael Hip-Flores. "I had just graduated, was working at Barnes and Noble, and was going on any audition that would have me," says Hip-Flores, who has since appeared on Gossip Girl and is currently performing with the Judith Shakespeare Company in New York. "To be part of this, quite frankly, is humbling." Anyone but me recently hosted the first ever Web-A-Thon to raise money for the third season. Though numbers have not yet been released, fans continue to donate and bid on ABM-themed prizes.
"I really like TGIF Dance Party. It’s particularly stupid," says Andrea Rosen in reference to one of Variety SHAC’s sardonic digital shorts, which helped the group—Rosen, Chelsea Peretti, Heather Lawless, and Shonali Bhowmik—secure a cult following and promote their sensibility. Rosen has appeared on Flight of the Conchords and as a talking head on various VH1 shows; Peretti recently wrote for the MTV Movie Awards; Lawless appeared in the film "Be Kind Rewind;" and Bhowmik heads indie band Tigers and Monkeys. The group recently filmed a pilot, which is expected to air on IFC this fall.
Zombie Roadkill, FearNet
When a group of teens encounters undead roadkill, the only person that can protect them is a park ranger, played by a deadpanning Thomas Haden Church. A product of Sam Raimi’s Ghost House Productions, the series will find a home on Fearnet.com this fall.
"Even when I had done a small amount of TV, more people recognized me from the internet," says Eugene Mirman, who’s been creating Web content since 1998. "Not lots of people, but handfuls of people." In addition to stand-up performances, film, and TV spots (he’s one of the voices on Fox’s 2011 animated comedy Bob’s Burgers), Mirman even ventured to COP15 in December to report for Grist.org.
Agents of Cracked, Cracked.com
An extension of the 52-year-old Cracked Magazine brand, Cracked.com’s first original series won the Audience Choice award at the 2010 Streamys. The comedy follows Michael Swaim and Dan O’Brien as they clumsily navigate the waters of Internet comedy. "We’re getting into conversations that, a year ago, we were removed from," says O’brien. "The creatives know us now, and we can be part of their community."
The End Of The Beginning — powered by Cracked.com
And here’s one to one of our favorite episodes:
The Web of Sites — powered by Cracked.com
The popular comedy videos of Matt McCarthy, Oren Brimer, and Pete Holmes—including series Doctor and Hotel—have become a calling card for the trio, who were finalists in the Doritos Crash the Super Bowl ad contest and have been enlisted to create interstitial advertising for Comedy Central.
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A version of this article appeared in the September 2010 issue of Fast Company magazine.