2013 was a big year for web TV. Netflix and Amazon released
great (and good) shows, and the indie space has never been more exciting and
Why should you care about indie TV? For one, because cable
TV is getting more expensive after channels like FX and AMC started using
original shows to argue for higher fees from providers like Dish and Comcast.
Even if you cut the cord, that too is getting pricier, because providers, eager
to raise cash, are starting
to charge you more money for watching too much Netflix.
In a world where you can’t watch every season of “Scandal” on Netflix without getting
charged for clogging up the network, indie TV matters more than ever. There are
still a lot of great stories to be told outside of major networks, and it’s our
job to show media corporations and legislators how much innovation happens on
the web, so we can keep it neutral and open.
The Year’s Best Drama Web Series You Missed:
“Whatever this is.”: Work Is Hard, Life
I’ve written a lot about “Whatever this is.” the most important
web drama of the year. Sure, “House of
Cards” can afford to be luxurious and operatic, and “Orange Is the New Black” revived diverse, character-driven
storytelling, but “Whatever this is.” tries
for both, mostly succeeds, and it’s
Following “The Outs,” writer Adam Goldman and
cinematographer Jay Gillespie brought back the team for this affecting look at
twenty-something Brooklynites trying to make it in entertainment. I know. That
sounds like a lot of web series. It
But “Whatever this is.”
is different. Not only because of its scale – each episode is just under 30
minutes, which gives the story time to breathe. It’s not only that it’s
beautifully shot, featuring strong writing and acting. It’s because it addresses
the reality of our media today, and, in turn, or our economy.
“Whatever this is.”
follows Sam (Hunter Canning) and Ari (Dylan Marron) as they slave away making
reality TV for cable, the web and global corporations with fellow crew member,
Dana (Sasha Winters). With Sam’s girlfriend, they all struggle to make rent.
They’re damaged, in different ways, keeping secrets from
either other and drifting apart. The finale, “Broke,” released this week, finds
the characters at their most broken, in spirit and finances. Sam, Ari and Lisa
(Sam’s girlfriend) have been so focused on work, they’ve drifted apart, stopped
trusting and confiding in each other. The roommates also can’t make rent.
Lisa’s job as a teacher is in serious jeopardy. A cable channel picked up Sam
and Ari’s show but the network’s representative is ruthless (deliciously so).
Watching these characters navigate the ludicrous New York media
market lightens up the mood. In “Broke” the producers shoot housewife Donna’s
art opening – titled, as far as I could tell, “Tomorrow I’ll Be Famous.” It
goes without saying Donna (Lusia Strus) is neither a professional actress nor a
sensitive human being, so she wreaks havoc on the crew and their boss, Oscar
(Ross Hamman). A stressed-out producer with no time for quality storytelling and
even less patience for treating his workers with much respect, Oscar is not
good at his job, but he’s also working with some pretty terrible folk. The people
he’s contracted to shoot – Donna’s drunk socialite, douchebag CEOs, spoiled
teenagers – are charismatic but demeaning.
“One day at a time,” Donna tells Sam, presuming he’d tried
to commit suicide. “It gets better. I heard that on a YouTube.”
“Whatever this is.” weaves
its characters’ struggles over work, love, friendship and identity into one of
the strongest series I’ve seen about being young and insecure. It accomplishes
this by pushing fantasy aside, particularly of New York. Indeed the show’s most
fantastical episode, “Nature,” leaves the city for the forest. For a lot of
people, life in New York isn’t all (or just) warehouse raves and surprise
weddings. Each character on “Whatever this
is.,” on the job and in life, faces racism, homophobia, misogyny, but no one
has enough power to change any of it. How many shows are this honest?
giving Logo the kind of soap opera they should have on-air;
Colored Boys,” for a timely, well-acted drama about the consequences of
mass incarceration and aggressive policing;
Juliet,” for the classiest drama of the year for the lesbian market;
for artfully and humorously depicting the emotional battles of young adulthood.