For web original content, 2012 was a year of important growth, as more high-end shows found their way to audiences and the business of making web video grew closer and closer to sustainability. It was an exciting year in many respects, and here are a few of the notable stories and series that might have gone overlooked.
Part of the Geek and Sundry YouTube network (along with Felicia Day’s Flog and the whimsical Written by a Kid), Tabletop was one of this year’s case models for the concept that web video audiences are ready for longer content.
The Wil Wheaton-hosted series sat down geek celebs like Alex Albrecht, Morgan Webb, Jane Espenson, Amber Benson and Ryan Higa to play a wide range of dice, card and board games, consistently reaching six-figure viewcounts (impressive for a half-hour long show). But what I find especially cool about Tabletop is the gaming community that’s come out of it, showcased primarily via the Tumblr blog Seen on Tabletop, where viewers are encouraged to submit their experiences playing the games featured on the show.
The last new episode of Tabletop was posted November 1st, but “Seen on Tabletop” is still updating regularly: Right now, it’s flooded with posts featuring the post-Christmas gaming adventures of its fans.
The Onion Digital Studios
Some of the best unrecognized serial content this year came from an entity not necessarily known for narrative: The Onion turned out some original scripted shows this year, especially Sex House and Porkin’ Across America, that built on the brand’s reputation for comedy, but in a long-form format.
Both shows begin as your standard reality TV show parody — Sex House riffing on The Real World, while Porkin’ Across America took on Guy Fieri-esque food travel series. But head writer Sam West and the creative team at the Onion take those premises down the darkest and strangest roads you can imagine, drawing funny out of the least-likely subjects, such as crack-addicted nieces, food poisoning and deadly mold. The tone is consistent with The Onion’s predilection towards pitch-black comedy, but while the sicker your sense of humor, the more rewarding these shows are, both shows proved to be smarter and more ambitious than what came before.
The Onion has continued putting out more stand-alone content, such as its TED Talks parody series Onion Talks. But YouTube viewcounts for Sex House and Porkin’ Across America are on par or even better with those videos, so hopefully 2013 contains more of the same.
Founded by Fast and the Furious director Justin Lin, YOMYOMF (a very-fun-to-say acronym for You Offend Me, You Offend My Family, the pop culture blog from which the channel was born) used its YouTube funding for some impressively well-produced series, ranging from the very funny 21 Jump Street parody Squad 85 to the award-nominated sci-fi adventure DR0NE.
This Slate piece goes into detail about the network’s approach to content creation with an emphasis on diversity — I also enjoy YOMYOMF’s epic introduction to its unique POV and impressive talent roster, which includes Ryan Higa, Kevjumba, Chester See, Jamie Chung, Rick Fox, Jessica Alba, Amy Okuda, Harry Shum Jr., Gillian Jacobs, Masi Oka and many many more.
Daily Grace and My Drunk Kitchen
“Daily” Grace Helbig and Hannah “My Drunk Kitchen” Hart aren’t just two of the funniest women on the web — they’re two of the funniest women in comedy, flat out. Both bring their unique voices to their individual shows (the Daily Grace vlog appears — surprise — daily on My Damn Channel, while Hart posts weekly on YouTube) while also spreading the love to numerous other series: Helbig co-stars in the Fine Brothers’s MyMusic, for example, while Hart was just interviewed by Rainn Wilson’s SoulPancake.
And when the two appear together, the results are almost painfully hilarious. As just one recent example, here are Helbig and Hart attempting to make egg nog live on What’s Trending‘s #Tubeathon. Note the word “attempt” in that sentence. Both Hart and Helbig broke onto the online scene prior to 2012, but it was this year that they became iconic members of the web video scene.
What’s the lesson I take from all this? That this is an era that rewards collaboration and multiplatform engagement. And the people having success in the space right now are those who aren’t afraid to experiment, and perceive the brand as bigger than the individual show or shows that make it up.