The 2007 Viral Videos of the Year Lists are out...and they are 99% predictable. Most are comprised of current event bozos like the "Leave Britney Alone" freak, the Don't Tase Me Bro guy and Miss Teen South Carolina, a few web phenoms like Tay Zonday and the prison Thriller dance, and a handful of web gems such as Will Ferrell's Landlord sketch.
However, nestled in Time's 2007 Top 10 List I found a brilliance of which I had not been aware - Clark and Michael - a web series created by Michael Cera (of Arrested Development and SuperBad fame) and his friend Clark Duke. The 10 episode series, which went live last summer, was filmed in a mockumentary format and chronicled "Clark" and "Michael" as they tried to write and sell their own television show. Behold the trailer for the series, and keep an eye out for some of the guest stars...
Side bar, this trailer is hilarious. As are the episodes I've watched thus far.
So, the point of this post is to not only call your attention to this amazing online web series which you all should watch and enjoy - but also to note that series such as these are indeed, as Cera put it to Wired, "the Web's great hope." Clark and Michael was underwritten by CBS' Innertube, and starred some of the hottest up and coming comediens around. Produced on a small budget, Cera and Duke were able to use friends to film and provide lighting, and even did the editing on a college campus instead of at CBS studios - so the network wasn't "hanging over our shoulders," as Cera noted to NPR. People have been predicting the rise of web-based series for awhile now, but I think this is going to be the year it really takes off. Not only are networks getting into it, but the ongoing writers' strike may pour some serious fuel on the fire and get the stars to align (literally and figuratively).
The X Factor in all this web series goodness is clearly promotion and revenue generation. I'm a huge fan of Cera's, and work in the online/social media space and didn't hear about Clark and Michael until Time noted it in their year-end Top 10 viral videos list. I believe these series are appealing, but there needs to be some oomph behind them to reach a broader audience and increase visibility to these viable projects. Additionally, it's not clear how Clark and Michael fared for CBS revenue-wise. There is not advertising within the videos or on the site, which is not overtly CBS branded. For web series to get serious game time, networks have to figure out how to make money off these endeavors without turning off viewers with intrusive ads.
So everyone is making their 2008 prediction - and I think mine is that 2008 will be the year of the web series. You can quote me on this. (Unless I'm wrong, then I'm going to delete this post and call you a liar.)