I look forward to the day when reviewers stop using subtly (and not so subtle) dismissive comments when talking about Internet-distributed shows. (The descriptive term I am coming to prefer.) Still, it is heartening to see some coverage of these shows in the mainstream press.
I often wonder, though, if making shows designed to look more and more like traditional television is really an appropriate goal. Given the new tools and the new freedom of Internet Distribution, shouldn’t we seek to make some new, instead of relying entirely on the old models?
For the last year or so, amid the angsty teenagers talking into their webcams and the skateboarding dogs, you could find professionally made Web series scattered around if you knew where to look, and when. But this month and next, there’s a critical mass approaching: Hollywood is bringing out what you might call the first “new season” of spiffy, corporate-backed Web series designed to be watched on your computer.
There’s now a clear line between amateur “user-generated content” and the new wave. On one side, you have the YouTube revolution in all its rough-edged glory. On the other are slick, premium productions coming from Web teams at Warner Bros., Sony and HBO, and from hopped-up bands of writers and directors who were motivated by the writers’ strike to land corporate sponsorship and create their own shows. Many can boast celebrity names on camera, behind the scenes or both.