If you aren’t watching or paying attention to at least one web series, you’re doing it wrong. As show producers opt for more Netflix programming and less traditional television formats, web series have been quietly chilling on YouTube killing the scripted television game. There are some web series that are so awesome that you should probably start watching them over “real” television (even though, in my mind, TV will always be cool). Some series have been so good that they’ve managed to make the jump – for example, Broad City was a web series before it got placement on TV. The bar has been raised for Internet content, and the creators driving it have matched, if not exceeded, that expectation. Some of the best quality production, performances, and stories I’ve seen this year have been web series.
Don’t believe me? There are even Emmy categories for web series now. Channels like the CW and ABC now have original programming on their apps and other digital streaming services. Amazon and Netflix are even buying short form content to put on their roster. It’s hard to admit or conceptualize everybody moving away from traditional television as we know it, but the revolution is coming, and it’s already here on your computer. Independent filmmakers being able to create content where they’re the creative controller gives them the exact freedom you’re picturing and the results are just as awesome: worlds as complex, diverse, clever, and hilarious as you would expect – and we get to be lucky enough to watch it. Don’t know where to start? I have a few suggestions. These are the top 10 web series you should be watching right now.
The SkinnyIt's a feminist comedy about bulimia. Yes, really. The series starts with our hero, Jessie, relapsing from her eating disorder with the pilot episode ending in a ravenous binge montage of epic proportions. I know, I get it - eating disorders are serious, recovery is a real thing, and this would seem pithy if the creator/writer/director/star, Jessie Kahnweiler didn't have disordered eating as well, but here we are: telling stories people feel uneasy about in a new, funny, revolutionary way that might (um, def will) make you laugh, because you know what? Being a girl is hard. Recovery is hard. Being the right kind of feminist is exhausting. So, what happens when you want to gain control of your life when everything feels out of control while also maintaining a feminist sense of self while still managing to be... desirable? You see how this can get exhausting, right? It's also funny in equal measure, if not more so. Definitely check this one out. Watch the complete series on Refinery29
Her StoryEnough with making transgender women the punchlines in romantic narratives. This intersectional af, funny, and full on romantic series also kicks you in the feelings when the realities of dating while trans come to the forefront. In the meantime, Violet and Paige find love unexpectedly and independently of each other and potentially find happiness, but not without dealing with abusive boyfriends and being outed without consent. Yikes. This wonderful series was just nominated for an Emmy (not kidding) and for good reason. There's stunning performances and authentic representation featuring trans and queer actresses and co-written by two of the series leads: Jen Richards and Laura Zak. It's a clear standout from #TeamInternet and it's worth bingeing in one sitting.Watch the complete first season on their website.
The Gay And Wondrous Life Of Caleb GalloYou might recognize a few of the series leads from viral videos you've definitely seen come up on your Facebook. This series centers around the hero Caleb Gallo, obviously, his group of friends, and their magical lives together. And by magical, I mean that everybody's hooking up with everybody else (sexuality is a spectrum!), they go on strange adventures all over Los Angeles, and love each other unconditionally because who are any of us to judge? There's something in this for everybody and it's hard not to fall in love with these charming characters and their fast paced dialogue. Don't we all wish we spoke like this IRL?Watch the complete series on YouTube
Edgar Allan Poe's Murder Mystery Dinner PartyWhat's up nerds? This one's for you! Edgar Allan Poe, everyone's favorite Dude They Read In Middle School, invites all of his author friends (Emily Dickinson, Mary Shelley, Oscar Wilde, and Ernest Hemingway to name a few #SquadGoals) to his house along with his ghost roommate Lenore and muse, Annabel Lee to have a pot luck dinner and play a fun role-playing murder mystery game... except for people keep getting killed for real. So, now there's a killer on the loose and it's probably one of your faves. This is what happens when fanfic gets scripted, gets good, and makes you feel happy all at the same time because don't you want to know what would happen if all of these people got in a room together and were forced to play Clue with very real stakes? I do. And it's so good, too. Watch the complete series on YouTube
Send MeIt's a time travel series about sending black people back to slavery. Literally. Sounds crazy? The characters think so, too. Gwen, a professor of African American studies, inherited this ability to send people back in time via her family. She wants to send willing, modern-day black participants back in time to the days of slavery. Each of these characters and would-be time travelers have their own reasons behind why they want to do this, and you truly have to watch the series yourself to find out. Her husband, Peter, however, thinks this is insane. They've already sent two people back and one person's ever returned. Yikes. The series has over a million views total and a star studded cast. You really need to check this out. Watch the complete series on YouTube
I Ship ItNerd rock! Based on the short film of the same name, nerd queen of the internet, Yulin Kuang, brings you this series that will make you dance and swoon at the same time. Literally - it's about nerd rock, so naturally, there are some killer musical numbers. It just won a Streamy for Best Drama, which is basically the Emmys of the internet, this incredibly clever six part series clocks in at about an hour total in screen time, which is about as long as a romantic comedy, which is what this feels like. This series feels very apropos of how modern romance functions and does nerdy without being trope-y and full tilt dance numbers of your wildest dreams. Definitely check it out.Watch the full series on CW Seed
BrothersThe daily lives of four trans-masculine friends in Brooklyn are every bit as nuanced and complicated as every good slice of life series should be (ex: Parenthood, RIP my tear ducts), which makes their successes that much more triumphant and their struggles that much more heartbreaking, yet none of it is overtly "too sentimental to be real" and the whole thing feels like you're getting an intimate peek at what your friends are dealing with. From filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor Emmett Lundberg, this series gives you the trans masculine perspective that's been lacking in mainstream media so that we all can finally hear from transgender men themselves what their story is and how they'd like to be seen. Watch the complete series on AmazonPrime
Quirky Female ProtagonistTotally biased here, since this is my series (yes, that's me on the left #nevernude), but if you like female-centric comedy, you're going to dig this meta series where the genre is turned on it's head by using script math as dialogue. If you're a nerdy feminist avid TV watcher like me, you're going to see a ton of tropes you're used to exploded and lampooned for all their worth within two minute episodes. That awkward first date with the unattainable hot guy? Got it right here.Never mean, always a love letter to romantic comedies, Quirky Female Protagonist and her friends, Straight Laced Bestie, Kooky Neighbor, and Hot Guy From Work are just familiar enough to be uncomfortably weird and hilarious.Watch the complete series on YouTube
Shugs And FatsYAS REPRESENTATION! Two modern hijabis in Brooklyn attempt to be trendy and westernized and find themselves while engaging in a healthy amount of slapstick and getting tangled up in some shenanigans along the way. You have to love having two fully formed Muslim female characters. When's the last time you saw that? Furthermore, when's the last time you saw two hijabis cat call men? Or at least try to. They're cultural outsiders and authentically insiders(?), being American, so this unique double sided view of our culture is truly something excellent and hilarious.Watch all three seasons on YouTube
Every Single Word Spoken By A Person Of Color In [Mainstream Film Title]Unscripted and on point, Every Single Word is what it says it is. Filmmaker and artist of many trades, Dylan Marron splices together every single word spoken by a person of color in different mainstream movies so you can see for yourselves how much screen time people of color get in our culture's most popular films, and when they do get to be on screen, what kind of quality is that time exactly. Is it well spent? Or do these actors get sidelined to saying lines of exposition? Are they fully thought out characters? Or worse yet, do they exist at all? The films Marron chooses are deliberately films that do not feature race as a primary plot point. That is to say, these movies are not exclusively and specifically about whitness, so why the lack of diversity? See for yourself and watch this series. Watch the complete series on Tumblr
What’s your favorite web series? Were you already watching these ones? Let us know in the comments!
You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.