Webseries: The New Wave of TV

It was four years ago that major TV and movie moguls claimed that online TV shows would never amount to anything. Dr. Horrible? A nice little musical, but it’s not Broadway. The Guild? A comedy about gamers would never work.

Of course they did. Not only were they successful online, they sold pretty well in the DVD market. Not only that, Dr. Horrible will be on the CW this October and The Guild will have a new season this fall, according to creator Felicia Day.

But the biggest news of all is that YouTube had a special panel during the Television Critics Association summer tour. Does this mean YouTube and other internet channels could be the new Showtime or HBO? More after the jump….When TV critics asked why some actors have turned to the internet for new roles, actresses like Julia Stiles and Jennifer Beals explained that roles on webseries are just as good as roles in regular dramas. One reason is that YouTube shows gives actors a chance to try new ideas you aren’t likely to see on the networks, not even on cable.

Want more proof? Yahoo Screen has a new show called Cybergeddon, about a federal agent framed by a master computer hacker who plans major crimes. An interesting idea and Norton anti-virus is even releasing a hacker code  where people can make a computer virus. The code, however, is already obsolete, but it’s an interesting way to promote a show. On the same channel, Tom Hanks has an animated show called Electric City, about a post-apocalyptic world.

It’s getting to the point that tomorrow’s TV networks are online. Yahoo has its own TV network, Netflix will bring back Arrested Development, YouTube has dozens of channels with original content. You don’t need a TV to see TV. Just use a laptop or your iPad.

Over the past five years, the line between regular TV and online TV shows has been blurring more and more. There’s even something similar to the Neilsen ratings: Deadline.com reports how many people visited YouTube Channels. Geek and Sundry, for the record, is a steady top 20 performer out of more than a hundred.

Several actors in the Whedonverse have been involved in online TV.  Dr. Horrible had Felicia Day and Nathan Fillion, plus singing producers Marti Noxon and David Fury. Emma Caulfield, formerly Anya on Buffy, has had success with Bandwagon, where she plays a version of herself taking on a cause she cares deeply about. It was based on a movie where “Emma” befriends a mentally challenged actress named Tubie. Season two had “Emma” decide to help African-American performers with “Urban Glee.”

Goodnight Burbank, a sitcom about local news featuring Miracle Laurie and Camden Toy was shown only on Hulu.  Even Joss Whedon, who just conquered movies with The Avengers, is getting involved with a new online show with Warren Ellis called Wastelanders. Not much is known except it’s about what happens after the end of the world. It will be a five-part series. Doctor Horrible 2 is also in the works.

With entertainment now available literally at our fingertips, and the technology to produce it, it may not be too far off that we see someone make an online show that becomes a movie.  After all, Sanctuary (produced by and lead actress Amanda Tapping) started on the web and then was picked up by SyFy channel for three seasons.  And let’s not forget Lisa Kudrow turned her three-minute Web Therapy episodes into a weekly sitcom on Showtime.

Then again, maybe it’s not exactly new. Back in the 1950’s, TV was considered a curiosity as much as webisodes are today. Yet many live TV dramas wound up as movies a few years later, including Marty, 12 Angry Men, Requiem For a Heavyweight, and The Miracle Worker.

Is it just a matter of time?  What may be more important is not where the best entertainment comes from—movie theater, TV or iPads–but that it gets made…and we can all enjoy it.

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Post Author: David Mello

Worked nearly eleven years at a radio station as a board operator, news reader, and assistant producer for baseball broadcasts. Have been a staff writer for Whedonopolis since July 2008