We’ve all seen and been through a lot this past year. Some good. Some bad. Thankfully, we’ve had web video to get us through the rough patches and on to happier times. 2012 will likely bring more trials, joys, and, Adam Frucci willing, more of the This Week’s Web Series You Need To Watch column. For now, let’s take a look at the best parts of the shows we checked out in 2011 and celebrate the things that made them great.
Ladies and gentleman, I give you the This Week’s Web Series You Need To Watch wrap up, This Year’s Web Series You Watched
Best element: Top-notch dialogue
Writing punchlines is hard. Writing funny, nuanced dialogue is harder.
Best element: Strong premise
Without an airtight premise, good writing and acting can only go so far. Not always the case in film or TV where characters and plot have the chance to evolve and overpower weak premises, shorter form web series can be made or broken on concept alone.
Best element: Familiar character archetypes
Clear character motivations are an important foundation for laughs. Often times the best way to be clear is to be familiar.
Best element: High production value
Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it has to look amateur.
Best element: Believable characters
The more believable a series’ characters are — in terms of appearance, dialect, motivations, and reference points—the more powerfully the series’ dialog is conveyed.
Best element: Star power
Nothing draws eyeballs to a show (or, in most cases, ensures acting quality) like bringing out the Hollywood big guns.
Best element: Joke heightening
Web series are usually built upon punchiness and drawing in audiences fast. Nothing helps keep things moving like rapid-fire jokes that become progressively more extreme in tenor.
Best element: Supporting cast
Unless a series is based solely on one character and no guest is ever featured on or off camera, supporting members of a show’s ensemble have to do more than just carry their own weight. They have to make a contribution that adds to the series in an appreciable and positive way.
Best element: Authenticity
Especially in cases of cultural commentary, it’s important to be really familiar with what’s being made fun of, down to the very last detail.
Best element: Freakouts
Though the technique shouldn’t be overused, some well-timed yelling and screaming is a reliable way to take an already funny scene over the top.
Best element: Guy/Girl team
We live in a post-Bridesmaids era and that means: get past the guy-centric casting. Make funny females lead characters and appreciate the comic rewards.
12. Bestie by Bestie
Best element: Format
Web series are all about packaging—conveying something creative in well-conceived bursts. Strong re-usable show format helps achieve this.
13. Explosion Bus
Best element: Smart ensemble
Smarter is always funnier and I’m not just talking about the overtly highbrow (can I get a Dumb and Dumber people?).
Best element: Subtle absurdity
Over-the-top absurdity works too, but you can pack more crazy into a project and garner a wider audience if some of the lunacy flies below the radar. In terms of appeal, quirkiness usually outlasts insanity.
Best element: Visual humor
Creating strong dialog is an art. So is knowing when to abandon banter for the perfectly placed montage or sight gag. Never forget: if a picture is worth a thousand words, a skinny white guy with an iced out grill is worth, like, a billion.
Best element: One-man (woman, in this case) show
Relying on one character to carry the project is both the simplest and hardest way to make a hit web series. It’s simple because it makes everything, from casting to character development, a lot less complicated. It’s hard because, it necessitates finding an actor capable of pulling off a compelling solo act time after time.
17. The Actress
Best element: Unbridled characters
What’s funny shouldn’t just be about the jokes a character’s telling, but about the way a character looks, moves, and reacts to their surroundings. Showing all these things makes series feel more authentic and, if the characters are worthwhile, usually makes them more entertaining.
Best element: Genre fusion
Parody’s beloved because it references another genre in a clever way. Genre fusion is about blending two genres together in manner that allows each to feed off the other to heightening the impact of the piece’s message. No single genre is being made fun of. Both come together to form an organic comedic whole. Yes, it’s a little artsy fartsy, but I think the Arthur Banks implementation deserves some recognition.