Outside the box: we pick 10 of the best from the booming web TV phenomenon
Some high-quality programmes may never be broadcast traditionally, so we've chosen 10 top series you can only find on the web.
H+ The Digital Series
In this stunning series by The Usual Suspects and X-Men director Bryan Singer, humans have had the internet uploaded directly into their brains. The story is told in five-minute episodes that happen in San Francisco the moment that a virus attacks the system, in Italy two years later, in Helsinki seven years before and at other points in time and space.
It’s thrilling, addictive and more than a little scary, with fantastic performances, particularly by Hannah Herzsprung as an impulsive, mysterious hacker.
The first 48-episode season ended this January; a second is in -production.
Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
“One of the things that the comedian mindset requires is laziness,” Jerry Seinfeld opines on this charmingly laid-back series in which he picks up famous friends such as Alec Baldwin, Ricky Gervais and Mel Brooks and takes them out for a coffee.
The conversations that unfold are unfiltered, rambling and always funny. The episode with Seinfeld’s co-creator Larry David is particularly charming, as the two friends laugh so hard about David’s neurotic eating habits they actually spit out their tea.
“You have finally done the show about nothing,” Larry congratulates Seinfeld afterward.
I Hate Being Single
Think of it as Girls for boys. The bed-headed, flannel shirt-wearing Williamsburger Rob Michael Hugel gives a pitch-perfect performance as a sweet but clueless dumpee in this comedy drama about navigating life in a big city in your 20s.
The first frame shows a Facebook profile being switched to single, and the episode goes on to describe love as baking two pumpkin pies with your girlfriend, and then eating them over the course of two days. (“Yeah, you know what, that sounds really nice,” a friend who’s meant to be consoling him agrees, gloomily.)
Hugel, formerly an improv comedian, also writes the series and is a star in the making.
There’s an art to an intimate interview, and the TV presenter -Amanda de Cadenet, the former wife of Duran Duran’s John Taylor, has nailed it. She talks to women such as Gwyneth Paltrow, Melissa McCarthy and Arianna Huffington as though they’re old friends, asking them straight-up questions about relationships, addiction, body image, money problems and life.
Lady Gaga opens up about how she feels lonely all the time, Portia de Rossi talks about her feelings of inadequacy and Sarah Silverman explains why her controversial stand-up routines are less offensive than The Bachelorette.
Big Country Blues
The sweet-voiced, be-stubbled Jeremy McComb stars as the small-town country music singer Grayson Ricker, who is persuaded to move to Nashville to chase his dreams of stardom after his father – a musician who never made it – commits suicide. So far, only five episodes have been made of this slower, more soulful version of ABC’s Nashville, which has plenty of excellent musical interludes.
Clueless Gamer with Conan O’Brien
“I don’t play them, I’m not very good at them and I kind of hate them,” Conan O’Brien says about video games, but he’s going to try them out and rate them anyway, using a variety of bizarre metrics.
Whether or not you’re a gamer, it’s fun to watch him get seduced by alien babes, blow stuff up and get his heart broken over the death of Lara Croft.
“Want a death cookie with some blow-up milk?” he asks the computer while playing Halo 4. “Want some flan made of … you’re dead?” His companion tells him: “You’re the worst trash talker I’ve ever heard.”
Chasing the Hill
The West Wing’s Richard Schiff -produces and acts in this fictional series about the re-election campaign of a Democratic representative, played by the Emmy-winning Deadwood actress Robin Weigert. There are no sponsors or ads and -although the show was intended to be pay-per-view, it’s possible to watch the first three episodes for free.
One of the internet’s longest -running comedy series, The Guild was created by the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Supernatural actress Felicia Day in 2007 and is now in its sixth season.
Day stars as Codex, who has spent years interacting with a group of gamers while playing a -fantasy role-playing game online. When one of them shows up at her door, they’re forced to get together in person for the first time.
While the first series was paid for by fan donations, subsequent seasons were distributed by Xbox Live and Microsoft.
Neil’s Puppet Dreams
“Hi, I’m Neil. I sleep a lot and when I dream, I dream in puppet.”
This is how each episode starts. It co-stars the actor, singer and -magician Neil Patrick Harris alongside puppets from the Jim Henson Company. The resulting action is frequently surreal and definitely not child-friendly. It’s new on The -Nerdist, a YouTube channel run by the comedian and podcast host Chris Hardwick, who also presents several of his own web shows.
Bonus: regional web series
Dating, Facebook and corny detergent ads are among the topics lampooned by Bath Bayakha, a Jordanian sketch show in unsubtitled Arabic that was developed for the web by the filmmakers Tamir Naber and Johnny Dabeet in 2010.
The show went on to be broadcast on TV in 2011, but you can watch episodes from its three seasons – some of which have been viewed half a million times – on YouTube and at www.bathbayakha.tv.
Meanwhile, BBC Media Action (formerly the World Service) has been winning awards for Shankaboot, the world’s first Arabic-language web drama. Now in its fifth season, it tells the story of Suleiman, a 15-year-old roof squatter and delivery boy living in Beirut.