The world of television is changing – by bringing series to various online platforms. At the forefront of this movement are companies like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, with YouTube, of course, serving as the means by which average people can create and upload their own original content. This all began a while ago, of course, but with big name actors and studios beginning to utilize these alternatives, a new precedent is being set, and gathering in front of the small screen in the living room may become a thing of the past.
The holidays are a busy time, and not necessarily conducive to long periods of binge-watching. And yet, with the ability to go mobile and essentially pull any show from your pocket, it seems prudent to provide for readers a comprehensive end-of-the-year list of the best programs to check out. So here are the top 10 best webseries of 2015.
10. SOS: Save Our Skins
A darkly humorous take on the typical post-apocalyptic story, two hapless sci-fi fans wake up in New York City to find that the entire human race has vanished. However, as creatures from the annals of sci-fi and horror begin to emerge, they realize they’re not exactly alone. Featuring an interesting plot that tells us more as the show goes on, it’s the “show for geeks from the perspective of geeks” formula that’s really appealing.
9. Between Two Ferns
It seems like Zach Galifianakis should really stick to Internet-based comedy skits, which are much funnier than anything I’ve seen him do on the big screen. In this series that originated on Funny or Die, Galifianakis conducts awkward celebrity interviews while sitting between two potted ferns. He maintains an antagonistic demeanor toward his guests, asking inappropriate questions mixed with offhand non-sequiturs. Some of the best episodes have included guests like Michael Cera and Steve Carell, but even President Obama has been a guest on the show, in which he plugged Obamacare, and made a few jokes himself. When asked, if presidents could serve for three terms, whether he would do so, Obama cracked, “No. It would be kind of like The Hangover Part III. Didn’t really work out so good, did it?”
It’s sort of ironic when a series using the Internet as its lifeblood goes ahead and critiques our extreme dependency on social media and technology. But H+ makes a strong point, nonetheless. It’s set in a future where most people have computer implants that connect them to the Internet 24/7. Things go awry when a virus begins to infect the implants, causing people’s brains to go haywire. Composed of about 48 micro-episodes (so far), the series is rather unique in that it continuously time jumps to before, during, and after the viral outbreak, and tells the story through multiple character viewpoints. H+ is a great example of how to be truly innovative with a webseries.
7. Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462
A spinoff of a spinoff, Flight 462 could be seen as yet another shameless cash-in on The Walking Dead franchise, and to some extent, it is. Reactions to Fear the Walking Dead have been mixed, and Flight 462 has been both criticized and ignored by many viewers. However, in depicting an outbreak of the undead on an airplane flight (let the “Zombies on a Plane” jokes commence . . . ), it plays upon real American fears of flying (for various reasons) while doing something different with the Walking Dead backstory. It’s a 16-part series composed of micro-episodes, so it can be watched without eating up (no pun intended) too much of your time.
6. Elders React
This is one of numerous “react” series on YouTube by online producers the Fine Bros., who also do other webseries (one of which is also on this list). In the “react” videos, people (kids, teens, adults, elders, or YouTube celebrities, depending on the series) are shown a particular video or group of videos, whether something viral, strange, funny, or a film trailer, and the audience watches their reactions. Elders React is particularly hilarious, often because of their unfamiliarity with modern pop culture or trends, or else their confusion in the face of modern Internet humor. Some of the best entries have shown elders reacting to heavy metal music videos, Vine compilations, Mortal Kombat fatalities, Grand Theft Auto, and Epic Rap Battles of History.
Another Fine Bros. production, MyMusic is a YouTube-based mockumentary sitcom following the daily lives of a group of coworkers employed by a music production company. Rather than using real names, the staff members go by the various music genres with which they associate, essentially becoming walking stereotypes of their music. Members include Indie (a hipster), Metal (a metalhead), Scene (a scene girl), Dubstep (a raver), and Country (self-explanatory). If you’re really into music, no matter which genre, this proves to be a laugh riot. I’m particularly fond of the webisode that guest-starred Felicia Day (Supernatural, The Guild), who played a grim, face-painted Norwegian black metaller named Gorgol.
After dominating movie theaters with films like Iron Man, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel Studios went over to television with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. But the success of that show has been debatable, leading fans to question whether the comics giant could pull off a truly compelling episodic story. It turns out Netflix is the perfect platform for Marvel, as demonstrated in their – so far – powerful lineup of online series. One of these is Daredevil, a reboot of the failed 2003 film and the second onscreen adaptation of the 1964 comic series. They finally got it right, and while there is still another Marvel show that is better than this one, the intriguing characters, snark, and grit of this one has left fans clamoring for Season 2, which is coming very soon.
3. The Man in the High Castle
Prior to this year, Amazon (yes, the anti-labor online store) has done rather poorly with original online content. In particular, a flop of an embarrassing attempt to turn the Zombieland film into a webseries comes to mind. But this adaptation of the Philip K. Dick novel of the same name has changed that. Based on an alternate history story in which the Axis powers won World War II, The Man in the High Castle shows us an America that has become a Nazi puppet state. It follows the resistance movements as they try and change things, and to collect newsreels, for reasons not yet known, that depict events that happened in multiple timelines, introducing a science fiction element into the show. The series has received critical acclaim, and, frighteningly enough, draws some bold allusions to the current political climate in America.
2. Black Mirror
Though it began on television, this British sci-fi anthology series has since been moved to Netflix, where it has more room to breathe and to flourish. And don’t let its removal from the small screen worry you; it’s been critically praised, including by Stephen King, and Robert Downey Jr. has optioned one of its episodes to be made into a film. The series features dark and satirical themes that examine society and especially obsessions with modern technology, along with their unintended consequences. Unfortunately, an American remake is in the works, but I highly recommend checking out the original.
1. Jessica Jones
This is Marvel’s other Netflix series, based on the comic series AKA Jessica Jones. It focuses on a former female superhero who now works as a private investigator, and it’s brilliant. It has a fast-paced, multi-faceted, intelligent story that takes the right cues from the right detective fiction, and uses a noir tone that feels natural and organic. The acting, in particular David Tennant as antagonist Kilgrave, is fantastic and award-worthy, and the series has been praised for its depictions of LGBT characters and its conscientious handling of topics like rape and post-traumatic stress disorder. The 13-episode first season debuted this year, and after the highly positive reaction, Marvel would be foolish not to greenlight a second.
Photo: Jessica Jones Facebook page