Great Web TV series

My last Now Streaming column focused exclusively on Netflix’s new House of Cards series but, as I mentioned briefly there, Cards isn’t the first or best online-exclusive series. This week O take a look at some shows that are made just for the Web and that don’t even require a Netflix subscription to start watching.

Bravest Warriors

★★★½

Youtube, First 9 episodes available

Bravest Warriors (Cartoon Hangover 2012-Present) is an animated kids show from Pendleton Ward, who also created Cartoon Network phenomenon Adventure Time (a great show that’s infuriatingly difficult to stream online, though rumor has it Netflix will finally be adding the show in the next few months). Bravest Warriors shares a lot of Adventure Time’s sensibilities, but shifts to a Sci-Fi setting and slightly older teenage protagonists, which gives it a very different feel while still focusing on the same basic themes of growing up and learning to deal with your emotions. Unfortunately, Bravest Warriors isn’t quite as good as its Cartoon Network counterpart just yet. The setting and emotional beats are fantastic, but with just five minutes to tell a complete story, Bravest Warriors episodes often feel rushed. The show’s best installments, like Memory Donk, prove Bravest Warriors has a capacity to tell great stories in that timeframe, but it seems like the show’s writers are still adjusting to the time pressure.

Speakeasy with Paul F. Tompkins

★★★★½

Made Man, New episodes each Monday

If you don’t know the name Paul F. Tompkins, you may dimly recognize him from his time on Best Week Ever. While he’s famous in comedy circles, Tompkins hasn’t really found a mainstream outlet for the kind of hilarious energy he brings to podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang or The Thrilling Adventure Hour. With Made Man’s quasi-talk show Speakeasy (Made Man, 2012-present) Tompkins has found a format that really plays to his considerable strengths, and shows what an entertaining host he can be. Each week Tompkins and a different guest (usually but not always from the comedy world) share a drink and talk about their lives. The second season has expanded the interview length to 20 or so minutes from the first season’s 5–10 minute chats, and the show’s really taking advantage of the extended time to go in depth for really interesting discussions. A recent in-depth chat with Tom Arnold, for instance, expands into a surprisingly interesting discussion of Arnold’s lesser known and lesser loved roles, where he paints a very candid picture of what it was like being the comedic sidekick in a lot of 1990s action films.

Burning Love

★★★★

Yahoo, new episodes every Thursday and Friday

Burning Love (Yahoo, 2012-present) is the latest Web series from Abominable Pictures, who also produced the first, online only season of Children’s Hospital. Like Children’s Hospital, the show (at top) is a parody program that shares a lot of DNA with both sitcoms and sketch shows without fitting neatly into either category. But unlike Children’s Hospital’s hospital drama parody, Burning Love takes aim at dating reality shows, most directly The Bachelorette. It’s also a who’s who of the comedy world with potential suitors played by (takes a deep breath) Adam Scott, Michael Cera, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, Martin Starr, Nick Kroll, Colin Hanks, and about a half dozen others. The show’s first season, a Bachelor parody starring Ken Marino of Party Down and Children’s Hospital has been taken offline, but if you want to catch up the Web series will be re-airing on E! starting this Sunday, February 24. The new season’s first five installments, which see first season contestant Julie (played by June Diane Raphael) looking for love, are now available online.

Table Top

★★★

Geek & Sundry, New episodes every Friday

Wil Wheaton knows how to turn lemons into lemonade, shifting a role as one of Star Trek’s most despised characters (TNG’s Wesley Crusher) into a career as one of the world’s most beloved geeks. So it makes sense that Wheaton is able to turn the normally boring task of watching other people play board games into a compelling Web series. Each week on Table Top (Geek & Sundry, 2012-Present) Wheaton and a rotating cast of friends and geek celebrities get together to play a different table top game. Since you’re watching funny people enjoy themselves the shows tend to be entertaining. but Table Top also spends enough time on the game itself to give you a surprisingly good picture of what it’s like to play each of the games in question. Of course, this means that if you’re not a big fan of the game the episode suffers (I’m a fan of neither the game of Alhambra nor the Table Top episode about it.) But if there’s a game you’re unfamiliar with, Table Top can serve as both an entertaining half hour and a recommendation for a fun new game like Fiasco for you to play with your friends.

Neil’s Puppet Dreams

★★★★

Nerdist, Seven episodes so far

Have we declared Neil Patrick Harris a national treasure yet? We should probably get around to that if we haven’t. He’s great on How I Met Your Mother, his guest musical numbers on shows like Glee and Adventure Time are always delightful, and he helped usher in the modern age of Web series with Doctor Horrible. Now Harris is returning to Web series with Neil’s Puppet Dreams (Nerdist, 2012-Present) a high-concept show about how Neil Patrick Harris suffers from a rare form of narcolepsy that causes him to only dream about puppets. Puppets that really love musical numbers. Sure it’s a bit of a one joke premise, but with Harris as the lead it’s one joke executed extremely well every time. Probably my favorite episode so far was the Dr. Horrible reunion featuring Nathan Fillion as Neil’s new doctor, but they’re all short and well worth your time.

Put This On

★★★

Vimeo, 2 seasons available

Put This On is more of a documentary/educational series than anything else on the list, but it’s still got its fair share of entertainment value. Billing itself as “A show about dressing like a grownup,” Put This On explains the basics of men’s clothing in entertaining and informative 10-minute chunks. The show is from podcaster Jessie Thorn, responsible for shows like Bullseye and Judge John Hodgman, but it has a very different sensibility than his audio works. The first season focused more on specific items of clothing while the second looks at broad concepts, but every episode makes menswear seem like more than a collection of boring ties.

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