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Summary:

It was a great year for online video, thanks to the vast and varied quantities of serialized content available: shows, memes and experiences that went beyond the single-serving to engage audiences and change how we saw advertising, parenting, dancing and live-streaming.

lxd halloween

I’ve already covered the best in stand-alone web content for 2010 — the single-serving story, the one-off video. Today, though, we dig into the much more expansive world of serialized content: shows, memes and experiences that went beyond the single-serving.

Old Spice: The Man Your Man Could Smell Like

What could have been a few well produced and charming television ads became a phenomenon in July, when, over the course of 24 hours and 180 personalized YouTube videos, the Man Your Man Could Smell Like became a living force. No character in a commercial has felt as real and connected to its audience; no advertising agency has ever demonstrated such a profound understanding of what works online. I’m looking forward to 2011, and seeing if Wieden+Kennedy can clear the bar they set so high.

The LXD

I’m going to be blunt about this: The LXD, created by Step Up 2 director Jon M. Chu, could have easily been one of the best web series of the year. Unfortunately, weak plotting and stiff, unnatural dialogue kept me from really connecting with it (and I have a really high tolerance for bad writing when it comes to dance; I own and love the film Center Stage.) However, the dancing, the cinematography, the production value, oh, and the dancing… Visually, The LXD at times approaches the level of art.

Stiller and Meara

Watching your parents fight? Never fun. Watching Ben Stiller’s parents fight? Always fun. Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller are two of comedy’s greats, and the two minutes a week they spend bickering about today’s pop culture are pure pleasure.

Urban Wolf

From Crackle: Forces

This intriguing thriller’s first season ends on a dramatic cliffhanger, but even if we never see that ending resolved, and never learn more about the mysterious man being pursued by the surveillance cameras of Paris, the experience will remain satisfying. Largely dialogue-free, intimate in scale but international in scope — Urban Wolf was fresh, unique and impressive.

Vag Magazine

Vag Magazine Episode 1: “Fumbling Toward Ecstasy” from Vag Magazine on Vimeo.

I said when I reviewed it that this would probably make my end-of-year list, and here it is. Through the final episode, Vag was an addictively funny satire of third-wave feminism — one of the rare comedies, ever, to find truly funny material in menstruation. I dearly hope we get a season two from Leila Cohan-Miccioand and Caitlin Tegart in 2011.

Honorable mention, by the way, for another female-led scripted comedy: We Are With the Band was a real charmer this year.

Dan Savage: It Gets Better

One of the most moving dramas in web video this year was a real-life one, as thousands of people turned on their webcams to tell young people not to give up on life, because life after high school “gets better.” What initially started out as an opportunity for gay adults to reach out to gay kids contemplating suicide was eventually diluted to a more generalized anti-bullying message, one that even President Obama contributed to. Despite the drift away from the campaign’s original intent, though, this was the perfect example of a meme for social progress.

Stupid for Movies

There’s something decidedly familiar about watching two 40-something white guys argue about films in front of a velvet curtain. But as conceived and directed by Mike Rotman, Stupid for Movies was a smart, web-savvy update to the ol’ Siskel and Ebert, thanks to a fanatical devotion to live-streaming — a format which became a big deal in 2010 and will likely grow into a phenomenon over the next year. Stupid for Movies is now the flagship series of a live streaming empire, one that has big plans for 2011.

Ark

If I wasn’t a big sci-fi fan, there’s a chance this wouldn’t have made the list, but even for non-geeks, Ark (financed by defunct 60 Frames) was a clever, well-made thriller that made excellent use of limited resources and decent visual effects to tell the story of a spaceship filled with mystery. The mystery is so engaging that over five months since watching it, I’m still anxious to know what happens next . This is a series that desperately deserves a season two.

Fanboy FunhouseNerdy t-shirts. Nerdy references. Great writing. Puppets. A guilty pleasure, but a well-made one; I loved it then, I love it now.

Honorable mention: Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’? was a 2010 discovery for me, despite several years of life online, and was another nerdy favorite.

Black Box TV

Tony Valenzuela’s thriller anthology series is an inspiring hybrid of high-quality production value and YouTube interactivity, unafraid to experiment with live-streaming and other forms of audience engagement. On a creative level, the series may have taken some knocks due to casting YouTubers over more experienced actors, but on a whole, it was incredibly innovative. This may well be what the future of web content looks like.

Of course, it really was, overall, an outstanding year for web video. Plenty of great shows got left off this list (I deliberately focused on stuff new to 2010, which sadly omitted great shows like The Guild and Know Your Meme). What would you have included?

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  1. I like this piece. The web series is still a very young medium so there is a great need for informed commentary on what’s going on in the field. As a new artist this gives me a snapshot of what’s out there…and the desire to be on the 2011 list. Guess I better start producing some great content!

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