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Last year, I broke my end-of-annum list-making into two categories — overlooked and obvious favorites. But in 2009, the divide in content seemed to be between the independents (those who self-produced and distributed their series and shorts) and the professionals (those who had some sort of official support network backing them up). So I’ve tried to come up with two lists that honor some of the best of both worlds; today, we have 10 series that represented some of the best in by-their-bootstraps web production over the last 12 months.
- Garfunkel and Oates
Sure, there’s not a lot of competition in the girl comedy folk music scene, but that’s because actor/musicians Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci dominate it. Politically incorrect, profane and utterly adorable, they’re a duo to be reckoned with.
- Acting School Academy
My No. 1 piece of advice for people thinking about making a web series used to be, “Don’t make a web series about actors trying to make it in Hollywood, because there are too many already and they’re never good.” And then Acting School Academy had to go and be hilarious, well-made and creative, with some impressive social media work and ancillary material. I hate being proven wrong, but in this case I’ll get over it. (Technically, Acting School Academy has a distribution deal with Koldkast, but the series began as an independent.)
- If I Made A Commercial for Trader Joe’s
A heartfelt love letter from a happy customer to his favorite store was the greatest viral ad of the year.
- Nostalgia Critic
Doug Walker brings a nerdy glee to every slightly overlong episode of this series, which breaks down the best and worst of our childhood favorites.
- The Vetala
Aside from one disappointing final reveal, Vetala was a tight and intriguing mystery that pulled off some incredible stunts with a low budget. It was also one of two excellent web series to come out of Vancouver this year, the other being the much higher-budgeted Riese.
- Project Rant
Polished cinematography, editing and acting (including Easy to Assemble star Justine Bateman) bring to life the rants of real people — making for a great series that reveals how strange people are when they’re angry.
- Duffy and the Crab
These short, erratically released vignettes featuring former Step by Step star Patrick Duffy and a giant crab puppet, created by Duffy’s son and daughter-in-law, are some of the funniest bits of deadpan web comedy out there. Don’t believe me? Listen to them talking about losing their virginity.
- Oz Girl
I had a hard time getting into this Australian import initially, but when it took home Best Acting and Best Overall Web Content at this fall’s Independent TV Fest, I started paying attention. A tenderly-crafted documentary-style portrait of a small-town girl in way over her head.
- Man Vs. Thing
A criminally underwatched absurdist sports satire. Every detail, from the commentators’ insights to the on-screen graphics, is honed to comedic perfection.
- Zerks Log
A charming sci-fi series about a lost starship, told via its bumbling captain’s video diary.
Taste is personal, but whether you agree with these picks, or think I’m a moron for overlooking something obvious, the comments are a fine place to say so.