This Year’s Web Series You Watched: 2011 In Review

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

1. Tiny Apartment

Best element: Top-notch dialogue

Writing punchlines is hard. Writing funny, nuanced dialogue is harder.

2. Stay At Home Dad

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.

3. Noah and Dru’s Novel

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.

4. Be a Celebutante

Best element: High production value

Just because it’s on the web doesn’t mean it has to look amateur.

5. Ronna and Bev

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.

6. Easy to Assemble

Best element: Star power

Nothing draws eyeballs to a show (or, in most cases, ensures acting quality) like bringing out the Hollywood big guns.

7. Very Mary-Kate

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.

8. The Mid-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl

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.

9. Delusional Downtown Divas

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.

10. Shutterbugs

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.

11. Starf*ckers

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?).

14. Clark Kent Has a Dream

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.

15. Lonny

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.

16. The Maurizio Show

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.

18. The Trivial Pursuits of Arthur Banks

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.

This Year’s Web Series You Watched: 2011 In Review