Let’s face it. The web series hasn’t exactly become ubiquitous…yet. While some may argue that the web series is dying a slow death (a point I would definitely contend), there still are plenty of very popular web series out there. Here are a few of the more popular ones (those with episodes with more than 200,000 views) that I’ve come to like over the years.
Lenox Avenue – 302K Views for Episode #2
“Best described as Boomerang with a Love Jones vibe.” That’s not me saying that, but it’s also not far from the truth. Lenox Ave the Series is an excellent portrayal of the (dare I say) yuppy-like coming-up experience in New York, where successful dudes go through life dealing with the pros and cons of being young, dumb and full of… At the end of the day, it’s a web series that did pretty well, because it embraces a New York City lifestyle that is both grandiose and down to earth. That is to say, you see elements of the New York that everybody moves here for: beautiful people, intriguing social life and very talented people. But you also see some of the human side of New York with the series’ focus on Harlem and relationships. In fairness, I don’t know if the show would be all that appealing to women, as the female characters tend to take a backseat to the male protagonists in their lives throughout the series. Ultimately, Lenox Ave was a short-lived series (I could only find 8 episodes), but they were a great 8 episodes, and perhaps one of the pioneers in bringing drama to the black web series wheelhouse.
Unwritten Rules – 202K Views for the Pilot Episode
Here I go digging in the “Way Back Machine” again, but when you’re searching for the most popular web series, you might have to go back a few years to get the ones that have amassed the most views, just because of the time they have had to amass said views. Nonetheless, Unwritten Rules is an awesome web series, that despite having an initial audience of over 200K people still somehow managed to fly under the radar. The series is as funny as hell, and Asha Davis (the timeless wonder) is brilliant, just as she always is. It makes you wonder how Davis isn’t getting more prominent roles throughout Hollywood–but I digress. Anyway, the show is about a modern-day black woman working in the allegedly modern-day American workforce, in an office where there aren’t very many people who look like her–and they remind her of it everyday. I dare you to watch the trailer and not be intrigued. Once you do, I’m sure you’ll be flying through those episodes faster than a search for “Asha Davis age” autocompletes in your Google toolbar.
Roomieloverfriends – 366K Views for the Pilot Episode
I found out about Roomieloverfriends in the same fashion I’ve come to discover many other black web series…through the means of cross-promotion–but we’ll cover that issue elsewhere. Roomieloverfriends is actually the result of a collaboration between Issa Rae and Black&SexyTV, where the first season of Roomieloverfriends appeared on Issa Rae’s channel (to draw the attention of Rae’s audience), and the remaining episodes now rest with Black&SexyTV’s properties (to capture said audience). Much like other Black&SexyTV web series, this show puts us in the world of man v. woman, with the tension here being that two people start off as roommates, become lovers, and then–well, I’m sure you get the rest. The acting by Shayla Hale in the pilot is excellent and is surely to get you invested–if the whole, love-drama-cliffhanger genre is your cup of tea. But based on the success of Empire, I think it’s safe to say that a lot of people will like this very popular web series.
Money & Violence – 1.0 Million Views of the Pilot
If you haven’t heard of this web series, then you either just don’t watch web series in general, or don’t care for the once famed, now fading, gangster TV genre. Nowadays, you have to dress up your gangster TV. With Boardwalk Empire, HBO had to set the show in the 1920’s to make it acceptable. With Empire, FOX had to add some singing in dancing to take the edge of the show. And even in the The Wire–shit, who am I kidding–The Wire went hard. But that show ended almost 10 years ago, and today we’re in an era where straight up killing on behalf of the pursuit of money and bloodlust is not acceptable for television. But on the web, all is fair. And that’s where Money & Violence, the web series, comes into play. Again, if you haven’t seen it, think Empire, but without the songs, minus the women, and excluding Terrance Howard’s sexy, golden locks. Instead, this web series is purely about the rule of the streets, people trying to eat, and how sometimes those two things aren’t always in concert. Check it out, as the Season 2 trailer just dropped. They’re in the midst of a $100,000 fundraising campaign for which they’re already 65% of the way there.
Awkward Black Girl – 1.7 Million Views of the Pilot
Obviously, I’ve written about Issa Rae and her series many times, but when coming up with a list that involves being at the pinnacle of the web series game, it’s hard to leave the Queen out of the discussion. Issa Rae is like the Babe Ruth of web series: every top 10 list should include her. I say this with almost 0 evidence, but her web series is probably the most popular native web series on the internet…no? The only other web series I’ve personally taken a liking to with more plays on YouTube is Video Game High School, and I wouldn’t say it’s my cup of tea. But whether she’s technically at the top of the view count list or not, her web series is perhaps the show that was the tipping point for making this medium something that could launch actors, shows and careers.
When my then girlfriend, now wife, entered film school in 2009, neither she nor her classmates were thinking about making web series as a means of making a name for themselves. It was all about making a short film, taking it to festivals, praying someone optioned it, and hoping to get some type of financing to make the feature-length version of that short film–or one not unlike it. Today though, the game has changed to a world where making a web series may be a filmmaker’s best best, because in 2011, Issa Rae dropped episode #1 of Awkward Black Girl, and just 4 years later, Rae has launched several other series, has a pilot deal with HBO, and just finished climbing the New York Times’ Bestseller List. All of this was afforded to her on the heels of a web series that got a lot of people that weren’t watching web series before to watch web series. Rae changed the game, and for that, Awkward Black Girl has to go down as one of the most influential and popular web series of all-time.