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Top 10 Independent Favorites From 2009

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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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.)

  2. 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.

  3. 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.
  4. 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.

  5. 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.
  6. 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.

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

20 Responses to “Top 10 Independent Favorites From 2009”

  1. Ann Marie,

    I do honestly wish you luck in your project. As for only giving it two minutes, I was trying to give it a chance. I would have ended it a lot sooner if it was just one I came across on the net.

    And as web-series are already short, two minutes of a web-series is usually more than enough to see if its my cup of tea. Even broadcast shows know that they got to hook the audience before the opening credits/theme plays. That’s a good strategy for most entertainment properties. It is why authors spend a lot of time on their novel’s first sentence, first paragraph and first page. They know they either hook them right away or their book gets put back on the shelf.

    I guess what turned me off on your show is that it takes an already degrading TV show format (elimination contest reality show) and tries to go even lower. I don’t watch reality shows (nope, not even American Idol) and the only reason I watched an episode of “Total Drama Island” was because my nephew recommended it and I gave it a shot. It got me in the first few seconds and never let me go.

    Again, good luck!

    • Thanks for the well wishes and the discourse Scott.

      Just wanted to clarify that we’re actually taking the piss out of the reality genre and how trashy these shows are. That’s why it’s called “Whorified.” We wanted to implicate the producers, the viewing public and even some of the contestants who’ll do anything to take part in this type of train-wreck TV.

      There are good reality shows but much of the genre is “horrifying” and, as myself and my co-creator agree, a show about pitting women against each other as they complete for the title of top prostitute is just outside the realm of possibility in 2010. It’s crazy out there in TV land. Just today, courtesy of The Onion News, I found out a VH1 Reality Show bus has crashed and “spilled a thousand pounds of slut” onto the highway:

      Yikes. Stay safe and keep on truckin!

      Ann Marie

      • Mark Collen

        Perhaps you didn’t hear what was actually being said, Ann Marie: your show simply isn’t funny.

        And you can NOT expect people to watch three episodes of something that doesn’t hook them right away. If you’re not hungry for more after thirty seconds, you’ve lost your window.

        Repeat: your show is simply not, not, NOT funny. When you have to start trying to explain your premise, etc., the show itself is not doing its job.


    • Good luck with it. I tried watching it but could only force myself to watch the first two minutes. But that’s just me. It just seems to be trying too hard to be fun … without being funny. But, again, that’s just me. It didn’t hit my funny bone but I might be the odd one out.

      For me, the best parody on reality shows is the cartoon series “Total Drama Island” (called “Total Drama Action” this season).

      • Hi Scott – Thanks for giving it a go.

        It’s unfortunate, because if you only got through 2 minutes you didn’t even get to meet the contestants or the judges (they’re hilarious) or experience some of the story parallels. Most every episode of “Whorified!” begins with a real prostitution factoid that applies to the world of production. In episode one, the crew and the contestants are both learning the respective rules of their respective “games”.

        I always watch at least 3 episodes of new series – new and old media alike – when I’m deciding whether it’s for me or not. New shows take time to get their footing as they introduce characters and plot and work to establish tone. Since web shows are a shorter time investment I’m hoping most people give shows more than a 120 second chance.

        Alas, humor is very subjective. You might watch 3 episodes and still think it’s poo poo. That’s why it’s nice there are a lot of shows.

        I’m going to check out “Total Drama Island.” Thanks for the recommendation.

        Ann Marie

  2. Rainbow Bridge would be a great addition to this list. I’m waiting hopefully for a winter mini-series that a certain Loki mentioned may be in the works.

    Another new favorite of mine is 0-Cast.

    Incidently, both these series come out of New York and have a mythology-in-the-present motiff (one is Norse, the other Greek).

    As always Ms. Miller has excellent taste. :)

  3. I was introduced to Garfunkle & Oates through a friend, who was Riki’s former roommate, and had the chance to see them live. I was pleasantly surprised to see them here. Great that they’re receiving some recognition!

  4. Actually it’s a very good list. Well done Liz and glad you gave a chance to some shows who deserve a spotlight but lack the big company push.

    I am relieved to now have season one of our show in the can and certainly applaud all of these shows for the work it takes to come into existence.

    Here’s to what the new year brings!

    Tom Konkle
    Safety Geeks: SVI
    Invention with Brian Forbes