9 web series worth watching

The internet is practically heaving with top-quality “webisodes”. As such, selecting the best from a seemingly infinite bunch could be something of a Herculean task. Luckily, we have done the hard work for you and mined the funniest, weirdest and most uplifting web episodes from across the digital highway.

Ask a Ninja

Ask a Ninja launched in 2005 with its first episode Ninja Mart-Store. Since its debut, the series has released 117 episodes. The star of the show — the Ninja — was named one of the top online celebrities by Forbes magazine in 2007.

Just two years after it first aired TelevisionWeek reported that creators, improvisational comedians, Kent Nichols and Doug Sarine were making US$100 000 a month in licensing and merchandising revenues.

The episodes are short skits featuring the Ninja who answers email questions from viewers. The original plan for the show was for it to be an animation of two ninjas living in Orange County, but the final product turned out to be a bigger success. Some of the episodes have reached views well into the millions.

Will It Blend?

Hosted by a man with a perfectly combed side parting called Tom Dickson, Will It Blend is a show dedicated to blending the hell out of everything from iPads to laptops. While these short episodes might seem pointless, behind the confusion is a very clever viral marketing campaign.

The concept is a series of infomercials advertising the line of blenders from Blendtec. Each episode shows Tom Dickson, the company’s founder blending all sorts of things to demonstrate his blenders’ power.

Blendtec now sells Will It Blend? merchandise such as t-shirts with “Tom Dickson is my Homeboy” written on them. The infomercials have become a viral phenomenon and Tom Dickens a well-known name with numerous television appearances under his belt.

With 117-million views to date Will It Blend is proof that viral campaigns continue to work.

Dr. Horrible’s sing-along blog

This fantastic low-budget production (costing approximately US$200 000) was created during the infamous writers’ strike with the talents of Joss Whedon and Neil Patrick Harris. Over the course of three episodes, the titular Dr. Horrible, a stereotypical mad scientist attempts to woo Penny, a girl he met at the laundromat.

Each of the three acts was shot in and around Joss Whedon’s neighbourhood. It is a terrific low-budget musical which had everyone involved working for free. When the production eventually recouped its money in DVD and Blu-ray sales, Whedon was able to pay all staff and actors involved.

Catchy songs, honest acting and an off-the-wall plot turned Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long blog into a cult hit overnight.

Homestar runner

Word-of-mouth was the only method of advertising which Homestar Runner employed. It began in 2000 during the heyday of Flash video and practically took on a life of its own as its myriad characters leapt off the website, drilling their way into your brain.

Insanely surreal humour combines with a truckload of cultural references to produce each unique episode. The main characters are Homestar runner, a pure white life form who mutters insanities and Strong Bad, a Mexican wrestler who became famous for answering the emails which fans sent in.

The site does so well that it refuses to accept advertising revenue, instead making its money purely from merchandise.

Mortal Kombat: Legacy

When a low-budget online version of a popular videogame series is better reviewed than the million-dollar blockbuster movies, then trouble is most definitely brewing.

Mortal Kombat: Legacy was hosted by Machinima and looks at the early lives of Midway’s violent combatants. Without many special effects, big-budget actors or Hollywood budgets, the series manages to capture the violent and gory nature of Mortal Kombat.

Nine episodes were filmed on a tight budget, with each individual story leading up to the first Mortal Kombat tournament. The director of the episodes, Kevin Tancharoen has now been green-lighted to direct the new Mortal Kombat film, expected March 2012.

Orange Juice in Bishops garden

As a group of teens navigate the perilous pathways of the nineties, the internet looks on in rapt wonder. In the realm of Melrose Place meets Beverly Hills 90210, Orange Juice in Bishops garden took the formula and turned it on its head, offering characters with well-rounded personalities and a script seemingly written by human beings, instead of an endless row of monkeys on typewriters.

The show has been viewed in over 136 countries, with creator Otessa Ghadar winning a number of awards during its short two-year run. The show even garnered a strong lesbian and gay following thanks to its open-minded characters.

Red vs. Blue

From the same stable as Machinima comes the endless tales of Red vs. Blue, a surreal collection of stories which uses characters from the Halo universe. The action takes place through prerecorded settings in a fictional canyon called Blood Gulch. The series became so popular that it eventually made its way onto DVD.

Red vs. Blue began in 2003 and continues to this day. With hundreds of episodes available on YouTube or on its official website, the war between the Red Team and the Blue Team may never come to an end (for the faithful fan). The creators of the show have gone on record to say that they wish to distance themselves from the canonical Halo universe. Burnie Burns, an independent filmmaker from Texas provides many of the voices for the show.

Salad Fingers

The tales of a possible (earless) serial killer became a smash viral hit in the world of online TV shows. Only nine episodes were made, but were viewed well over a hundred million times.

One man, David Firth provides the voice, direction and artistic influence of Salad Fingers. It was described in 2005 as one of the “top ten” pop culture icons of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle.

Zero punctuation

A fantastical view into the world of rapid-mouth video game reviews defines Zero Punctuation. Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw is your host, a journalist with a cynical view on basically everything and everyone. All games are “shit” as Yahtzee himself says, “No-one likes it when I’m being nice to a game”.

No game is safe from Yahtzee. Halo 3, Deus Ex, Super Mario, — all titles are ripped to shreds. The style of his episodes is also unique, a yellow background with minimal animation is used to convey a sense of urgency and a constant barrage of speech, interspersed with unique jibes marks each segment of the review.

Online magazine, the Escapist, first released episodes of Zero Punctuation and while it still hosts them, the episodes have taken on a life of their own.

Image: tchuntfr



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