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Greg Mitchell

Greg Mitchell

Posted: October 21, 2009 10:32 AM

Beyond "Balloon Dad": Web Series Continue Startling Growth

What's Your Reaction?

Last month, I posted here for the first time on the growing popularity of Web comedy and dramatic series, suggesting they were a growing threat, down the road a bit, to network TV series. This was inspired by noting that The New York Times had just featured for the first time, in its fall print Arts preview, a wrap-up on what is coming from Web series. My overall interest in this field had been sparked by my filmmaker son directing two series this year.

That post proved so popular I am back with another, coinciding with Web Television Week activities.

One has to admit, however, that the biggest Web series news of the past week was the massive publicity for the wacky science series The Psyience Detectives produced by Richard Heene, the Balloon Dad. It never got off the ground, so to speak, but the genre will survive for sure.

As evidence:

--Mashable in its monthly Top 10 most popular Web series observed that the ten alone combined for over 93 million streams -- and thousands of other series added considerably to that, of course.

--Netflix announced last week that horror film legend Roger Corman will produce a new series called Splatter, directed by Gremlins guy Joe Dante and starring, get this, Corey Feldman. Corman is making his Web debut -- at age 93.

--At the same time, each week brings another unlikely success story that encourages young 'uns to continue to seek mainstream breakthroughs following this route (instead of the former attempts via writing screenplays or getting producers coffee on the set). From the Hollywood Reporter today: "In summer 2008, four college friends pooled $6,000 to shoot a 15-minute presentation for a Web series. A year later, the demo attracted Thomas Schlamme (Sports Night, The West Wing) as executive producer and sparked interest from a couple of TV networks as a comedy series, landing at ABC with a script commitment."

--Another key bit of news in the field this week is that the L.A.-based web series site Tube Filter has purchased friendly New York rival Tilzy.tv The companies had worked together to launch the Streamy Awards and the International Academy of Web Television. Tilzy created the web series answer to the mainstream "upfronts," amusingly calling them the "onfronts." Tube Filter's monthly "meetup" in L.A. this week drew over 500 participants.

-- Hollywood screenwriter James Gunn's latest web series, Humanzee, was dropped as a bit too offensive by original patrons XBox Live and Spike.com. Meanwhile, Sony's zombie web series Woke Up Dead got 1.4 million streams on Crackle.com in just ten days since its premiere. A new favorite of mine is Old Friends, from Crossroads Films, with several episodes here.

--Just as Parker Posey was the "queen" of the indies a few years ago, Illeanna Douglas seems to be holding that position with Web series, what with her popular Ikea-related project Easy to Assemble, its funny spinoff about fake Swedish band (starring Keanu Reeves) Sparhusen, and more. (Note: Not long ago I wrote a book about her famous aunt, Helen Gahagan Douglas and her 1950 campaign vs. Richard Nixon, Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady.)

--I would be remiss if I did not mention that my son's series, MacAwesome, just launched with two episodes over at Koldcast TV. In a perhaps not typical scenario, it grew out of his senior film school film, which has also just been selected for this year's Asheville Film Festival.

All signs point to growing viewership for Web series. Mashable concludes its Top 10 report, "Clearly made-for-the-web shows no longer have to live in the shadows of their studio-produced network television counterparts. We're excited to see the space continue to develop. Will we see new shows disrupt the status quo, or consistent competitors solidify their place atop the webisode food chain? Only time will tell."

Illeanna Douglas recently said on an industry panel in New York: "A year ago people came to me and were like 'what are you doing?' ... We're at the tipping point where people are saying 'Now, I get it.'"


Greg Mitchell is editor of Editor & Publisher and his latest book, his ninth, is "Why Obama Won." He can be reached at: gmitchell@editorandpublisher.com.


 
 

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