Are you sick of the typical Hollywood movies and tv shows, dominated by the money market and rife with unoriginal scenarios & characters? Independent web series may be the solution for you. Not only do they provide refreshing storylines and concepts, but they also often rely directly on fan support that enables them to go on, so creating a more interactive experience than most forms of entertainment. Big money concerns are thrown out the window; all that matters is the fan-creator dynamic, the freedom to create while exploring themes on the fringe of the market.
While lower budgets don’t allow for high-scale editing or production, this adds to the charm of web series and makes them more inclusive. Accessibility is in fact a big plus characteristic of the medium; with most movies or television shows, you’re expected to contribute financially, whether through ticket booths or monthly subscriptions. But web series are almost always freely available online, only sometimes involving a voluntary donation. As this is the standard, you won’t have to compromise on quality or legality to view something for free!
So without further ado – here is a range of web series to binge on during your next stretch of free time. No matter what genre you’re usually a fan of, you are guaranteed to find something to procrastinate endless afternoons on! (Easter holiday plans, anyone?).
1. Anyone But Me
This successful online series aired three seasons between 2008 and 2011. Its premise is based around the lives of teenagers in New York City and in Westchester County, NY. The main characters are a group of people growing up in the post-911 era, dealing with issues such as race, relationships and friendship. The main character – 16 year old Vivian McMillan – moves from Manhattan to Westchester due to her father’s illness. There, she has to establish a new social circle and deal with this transition as best she can. “Anyone But Me” was first launched on Strike TV, but it can also be found on other platforms like Hulu and YouTube. Its widespread popularity, according to Gillian Reagan of the New York Observer, “succeeds in showing us the potential of the [web-original] medium”.
2. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
This modern, multiplatform adaptation of “Pride and Prejudice” – developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su – is definitely not to be missed. Austen’s classic novel is reimagined in the form of a vlog filmed by a 24 year old woman, facing student debt and living with her parents. It became the first YouTube series to win a Primetime Emmy in 2013, for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media-Original Interactive Programs. There is also a book, “The Secret Diary of Lizzie”, based on the series. Today it’s also available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google Play!
3. Chop Socky Boom
“Chop Socky Boom” centres around a group of misfit actors based in Seattle. These actors audition for a fictional kung-fu web series, “Final Zodiac Warrior”. The series recounts the challenges of indie film productions, as well as the individual life problems of each character. It premiered on YouTube in 2012, and was picked up by Frostbite Pictures in 2014. “Chop Socky Boom” has won Indie Fest Awards, Accolade Awards, and LA Web Fest Awards, among others. The Seattle True Independent Film Festival named it its 2014 “Best Web Series”.
4. Walking in Circles
This series describes itself as the “greatest medieval fantasy comedy adventure of all time”. It tells the story of Krag, a barbarian king, and his fellow adventurers as they set out on a quest to avenge his Krag’s father’s death at the hands of the powerful dragon Slithalazalamazar. “Walking in Circles” was largely funded through Indiegogo and fan contributions on its website, making it a particularly interactive experience. It has also hosted famous guest stars such as Jolene Kay of Star Trek and Franc Ross of Breaking Bad.
5. Justice Woman
This comedy-drama follows the life of Sofia Escala, an Assistant District Attorney who wants fight legal injustices in any way possible. This leads her and her co-worker, Robert Gallion, into chaotic adventures involving superheroes, questionable practices in city cases, and debates on the real definition of justice. “Justice Woman” is a great homage to older superior series but also engages with modern themes of morality. Along its three seasons, it has won several Rome Web Awards and LA Web Series Festival Awards.
As an animated web series, RWBY differentiates itself from others in this list. It was created in 2012 by Monty Oum for Rooster Teeth Productions, a famous American production company. The series i set in fictional world, “Remnant”, infested by creatures known as Grimm fighting against mankind. Four girls with special powers form the RWBY team and fight the Grimm. Creator & writer Monty Oum unfortunately died in 2015 during a medical procedure; the future of RWBY was uncertain but ultimately it was decided there would be new episodes released.
7. S.O.S. Save our Skins
“S.O.S. Save our Skins” is centred around a pair of British geeks who find themselves in New York City, the entire human race having mysteriously disappeared. They explore an empty world searching for answers but soon realise they are not alone after all. This series mixes sci-fi, comedy, and horror, following two relatable characters’ journey in search of their loved ones and of answers as to why they are part of the few left behind.
“H+” is a new web series produced by Bryan Singer, of X-Men and The Usual Suspects. It is set in a future where 33% of world’s population has been injected injected with the H+ gene, connecting their nervous systems to internet 24/7. This new technology is replacing phones, tablets, and other communication devices – however, it turns out to be darker than expected when a virus starts contaminating people with H+. The episodes are not necessarily chronological and all include flashbacks and time-jumps, so you can watch in any order you like. “H+” is very meta, and its special effects are probably worthy of any feature film.
9. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
“The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl” tells the story of J, who is incidentally portrayed by the creator of series, Issa Rae. J, a self-described “awkward black girl”, frequently finds herself in uncomfortable situations as she connects with people around her. These vary widely, from troubles at her workplace or her first interracial dating experience. J’s story in narrated in the first-person, and the show often uses voiceovers and dream sequences to enhance this. Although it aired only for two seasons between 2011 2013, it’s still very worth watching for tons of cringe-worthy humour and a very relatable main character. Thanks to its popularity there is a book version out there with same title, along with plenty of merchandise to purchase on the official website.
Each episode of “Sidetrack” tells the life of a different queer woman in New York City, showing the unique experiences of each as well as the shared troubles that characterise anyone’s twenties. Its focus on a particular minority makes it an educational experience but still doesn’t detract from its relateability. It was first released in November and has already gained significant popularity. This means there are also blooper reels and behind-the-scenes videos also available online!