For many filmmakers of the black persuasion, traditional Hollywood success has alluded them. The typical route to Hollywood involves raising a ton of money for a feature film, and as we all pretty much know, the average black person’s access to capital isn’t the same as that of the average white person’s.
But I’ll save my diatribe on that particular issue for another post. The point here is that the web series has become an equalizer of sorts. For in this medium, success is not determined by how much money you can raise, but by how creative you are with the money that you already have. It is why a YouTube star can be 16 years old and filming from her bedroom, or why a series with a fairly decent backing may not live up to the hype. In the end, people just want to be entertained.
And while I don’t think YouTube should be the end all be all for the black filmmaker, with the changing of the guard as digital proves to be king, black filmmakers should be finding solace in the power of creative freedom and the control of distribution that they’ve never really experienced.
So for your reading (and viewing) pleasure, here are 10 of the top 10 black web series on YouTube as determined by me!
That Guy – https://youtu.be/zxkrKZqyitE
Views of Episode #1: 101k
This is probably my favorite web series of all-time. I’m not going to lie, I went into this series with very low expectations, so perhaps that has clouded my judgment, but the “realness” of this web series is amazing. Sure, the camera work may make you a little dizzy, the sound is off, and the dramatic turn of events can be a bit–well, dramatic. But if you follow the greatness of the actors, the comedic timing and the real-life situations they find themselves in, you can’t help but fall in love with the show and its two main characters, Mike & Judah.
The Couple – https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLE6989290834D7A6A
Views of Episode #1: 316k
This is the show that got Black & Sexy popping on the web, and it’s easy to see why. The series a couple (no shit) and really kind of follows the old “Seinfeld” motto of being a show about nothing. Well, nothing in the sense that any episode can go for any turn, and basically, it’s about what happens to you in life. In the case of our two main characters, it’s life as seen from the standpoint of a relationship, and for those of you who have been in one for a while, this is the series that’ll take you back to the very roots of your relationship and make you wonder how the hell you made it past all of that to get to where you are today.
Awkward Black Girl – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nIVa9lxkbus
Views of Episode #1: 1.7m
Issa Rae’s current claim to fame rest on the shoulders of this great web series. It took me a while to get around to watching this show about an awkward black girl who questions the behavior of those around her while pseudo-realizing that hers isn’t all that timely either. But as soon as I turned on episode 1, I realized not only that it was a tremendously well-written and funny series, but that all the hype saying that this was not only one of the best black web series, but one of the best web series period, was true.
Downtown Girls – https://youtu.be/B3GsZUIQbRs
Views of Episode #1: 2k
Downtown Girls is something I fell into as a result of attending this year’s American Black Film Festival (ABFF), where their series was on display as part of their New York Premiere. Needless to say, it’s an incredibly funny series, that takes a look at life post-college and what it takes to make it in New York City if you’re not one of the ones who ends up working on Wall Street, in consulting or at a tech start-up. It’s kind of like “Girls,” if “Girls” were based in the Lower East Side, had any featured black actresses whatsoever and was actually funny past season one.
American Koko – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MDNFYzUNhUg
Views of Episode #1: 8k
American Koko was also featured at ABFF, and it actually took home the main prize as “Best Web Original.” That really shouldn’t come as surprise given that the show is extremely well-shot, has a very talented lead actress, and has a storyline tackling race in setting full of white characters. I dare you to watch the first episode and not be intrigued.
Dormtainment – https://www.youtube.com/user/DormtainmentTV/featured
Dormtainment is not exactly a series, but instead it’s an entire web series channel, and it is perhaps one of the funniest things on the web. Howe these guys don’t a TV show, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because it’s sketch comedy, which is something I know Comedy Central doesn’t want to do too much of, and with Key & Peele and Amy Schumer already on deck, they can’t have but too many sketch comedy acts at once. Nevertheless, I like what they’re doing, and they’re taking being digital natives to the next level with their own app, so they’re not waiting on Hollywood to do what it is they do best–make me laugh.
Class: The Series – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QefsKy9LALk
Views of Episode #1: 51k (and climbing)
This series just hit world wide web a few weeks ago, and yet as you can see, it’s already topping some of these awesome series when it comes to view count. Of course, view count is by no means a measure of quality for black web series given the difficult some black creators have developing an audience on YouTube. Thus, it’s the quality of the content that makes a black web series, and “Class” is one of the better productions on the web–hands down. The series follows 5 freshmen and shows us the underbelly of going to college. The series is brought to you by Melvin Gregg, a renowned Vine star.
All About the McKenzies – https://youtu.be/ftPXkuRlSDM
Views of Episode #1: 2k
This series takes across the pond, where for the first time in my viewing life, I find myself with a look at a British, black family. That perspective alone makes it an interesting watch for any American, but even once you get past the cool English voices and the dull food selections, the show is pretty hilarious and worth a watch if you like doing something called laughing.
Money & Violence – https://youtu.be/yjRnDdAmGeQ
Views of Episode #1: 1m (and counting)
If you haven’t heard of “Money & Violence,” you must’ve been living under a rock. This is the straight-out-of-the-projects film about neighborhood, a need for survival and thirst for money. It has gotten all the play here in New York, with the creator being featured on almost every black radio station in the Tri-State area. But hype aside, it’s a really good watch, with great plot development and some interesting, downhome acting. Even if you can’t appreciate the violent aspect of the show, you can at least appreciate the struggle embodied within all of the series’ characters.
Brothers with No Game – https://youtu.be/kdq610XNhxs
Views of Episode #1: 135k
I’m stepping across the pond again for this one, as “Brothers with No Game,” is probably one of the better setup web series I’ve seen. It’s almost movie like in the exposition of its characters in Episode #1. From there though, the situational humor ensue, as the cast of guys that the series is based on find themselves in the unenviable position of being some of the biggest, black beta males on the internet.