As we look forward to 2009, it’s important to acknowledge what worked, creatively and otherwise, over the last 12 months. So here’s a list encapsulating what I thought were the obvious successes, the stuff that defined the online video zeitgeist as a whole in 2008.
- Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog: Whether or not it’s truly changed the game remains to be seen. But Joss Whedon’s first foray into the web video world was a clear sign that with the right talent and promotion, a web series of any genre — including a darkly comedic supervillain musical — could become a pop culture phenomenon. And it certainly didn’t hurt that with killer songs, high-quality production values and hilarious dialogue, Dr. Horrible was a damn good time.
- Yes We Can: Openly embraced by the campaign, this video captured the idealism that made the president-elect so popular with younger voters; will.i.am’s ode to Barack Obama not only proved the power of the catchphrase in the online video zeitgeist, but gave Obama’s supporters a soundtrack.
- I’m F—ing Matt Damon/Ben Affleck: The only offspring of Sarah Silverman and Jimmy Kimmel’s relationship was a one-two punch of celebrity cameo gold.
- Where the Hell is Matt: The latest installment in Matt Harding’s world travels spread even more viral than before, a triumph of sponsorship that also legitimately spread goodwill throughout the world.
- Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy: By never exceeding two minutes, partnering with Google Ads, and keeping things on the crass side, Seth McFarlane’s series of comedy shorts embraced the web format better than anyone from the OldTeeVee world had done before.
- Tina Fey as Sarah Palin on SNL: The people demanded it from Day 1, and the 30 Rock star didn’t let them down — Fey’s dead-on impersonation of the vice-presidential candidate lead to an increase in the ratings not just for the late-night icon, but for her own sitcom. Oh, and the SNL parodies maaaaay have directly contributed to Palin’s plummeting approval ratings and the resulting November defeat of the Republican presidential ticket. Just maybe.
- Single Ladies: The Beyonce single, repetitive and poppy, became a viral smash that launched a hundred imitators thanks to its bare-bones music video concept, requiring only a simple background and fierce dance moves.
- Laker Kobe Bryant Jumps Over Car: A viral ad for Nike, this (pretty clearly faked) stunt nonetheless garnered hundreds of imitators.
- Bill O’Reilly Flips Out: A bit of found footage from Bill O’Reilly’s Inside Edition days, the profanity-laced rant inspired dance remixes, parodies, and this summer’s catchphrase: “F— it, we’ll do it live.”
- Pork And Beans: It’s been a while since Weezer was musically relevant, but they took a stab at being culturally relevant with this music video, which sends up pretty much every online video meme to date.
Coming soon, my top 10 overlooked favorites from 2008: the stuff I wished belonged on this list as well.