9 TV Shows That Began on the Internet

Why are we so into Peer Production, Indie Video, Web Series, Digital Content, or whatever you – and we – want to call it?

This is why:

videocamby Michelle Regalado

There are many potential paths to network television, and one of the more popular methods these days is to earn an online following first. Here are 9 shows that began on the web and then transitioned to the (other) small screen.

1. Broad City

The Comedy Central series, created by and starring Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, follows two young best friends navigating their way through everyday life in New York City. The show first gained popularity online, with Glazer and Jacobson producing two seasons of the then-web series from 2009 to 2011. The series transitioned to the small screen after Amy Poehler caught wind of it and decided to executive produce a TV version of the show, helping it find a network.

Broad City first made its small screen debut early last year and has since become enough of a hit to earn both a second and third season renewal, the former of which only just premiered in mid-January.

2. Web Therapy

The improvisational comedy series, starring Lisa Kudrow as therapist Fiona Wallace, debuted in 2008, winning a Webby Award for Special Achievement: Outstanding Comedic Performance in 2009. In 2010, Showtime announced plans to adapt the online episodes for broadcast on television, with extra scenes being shot and added to each installment.

Despite earning mixed reviews during its first season, the show was renewed. The second season earned a far more positive critical reception, as did the third. The show is now wrapping its fourth season, which included celebrity guest stars like Jon Hamm, Billy Crystal, and Alison Janney.

3. Ugly Americans

The animated sitcom follows the life of Mark Lilly, a social worker employed by the Department of Integration in an alternate reality version of New York City that’s inhabited by monsters and other creatures. The show began as a web series by Devin Clark, entitled 5 On with Alan Whiter. Writer David M. Stern (The Simpsons) then helped convert it into a television show, with Comedy Central premiering the first season in 2010.

The show ran for two seasons from 2010 to 2012, before getting canceled.

4. Drunk History

The series, created by Derek Waters and Jeremy Konner and featuring an inebriated narrator struggling to recount an event from American history, first launched on Funny or Die in 2008. Comedy Central then picked up the series, with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay as the show’s executive producers.

The series made its television premiere in July 2013, with a second season the following year. Last summer, the channel announced the show had been picked up for a third season, set to air at some point this year.

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What can we say except that we love this?

Talk about feeling real.

And the music ain’t bad either:

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We minions at TVWriter™ are really looking forward to this show’s debut!

How Do TV Writers Develop Episode Plots?

The following is a more pragmatic take on the whole coming up with TV ideas thing. What do you think?

Kate Powers' coolest credit - writing RECTIFY

Kate Powers’ coolest credit – writing RECTIFY

by Kate Powers

It’s not uncommon for a writing staff to use a visual reference tool to track the breaking of one or more episodes. I’ve pretty much only worked in rooms where we favored 3-by-5 index cards on 3-by-4 cork boards, but many shows prefer white boards, or in some cases magnetized white boards and dry erase “tiles” that function like cork boards. A lot of the time, this is in addition to the near-constant note-taking of writers’ assistants.

It’s nearly impossible to hold all the ideas under discussion in your head for the week or two (or three) it takes to break an episode. When an idea lands, adding it to an external, physical list of known beats means that’s one less thing for writers to remember as they continue to discuss variation iterations. (Typically the most senior person—the showrunner, if she’s in the room, or her second in command if she’s not—decides if an idea has “landed,” but it’s usually pretty consensual. There’s a sense that the whole room likes that version and wants to see where it leads.)

Shows vary wildly in what they consider to be a “fully broken” story. Some rooms won’t send an episode to outline unless the scenes are broken almost down to the level of line-by-line dialogue. (Faithfully recorded by the assistant, of course, and then referred to by the assigned writer when he or she sits down to write.) Other rooms—usually those where time is at a premium and room time is limited to a few hours a day, or possibly just a week or two at the start of pre-production—content themselves with a day or two of discussion per episode, landing on act breaks and major character reveals, but leaving the rest to writers’ ingenuity.

Many writers, particularly those who come from features or don’t have a lot of TV experience, prefer the latter style of breaking, because it gives them more freedom to explore the stories they want to tell. But since every episode of a show has to both “feel like the show” and fit into the established season arcs, scripts tend to get more rewritten when they’re based on underbroken stories. Television is a deeply collaborative medium, and although I readily understand why writers want to put their own stamps on the material, at the end of the day, our job is to serve the show and the audience. For that reason, I tend to prefer breaking a story in the room down to the nobs on the cabinet, so I can deliver something that doesn’t generate more work for my boss—but that’s just how I’m wired.

Shows also differ in their approaches to breaking stories. I have assistant friends who pitched and sold stories on their shows—and became writers in the bargain—because they worked on shows where magicians using their skills to pull off high-stakes heists was an entirely viable starting point. In my own career, the almost universal jumping-off point has been: “Where is X’s head at?” and then working backward from a character or characters’ internal emotional or psychological states to thrust them into the worst possible situations. Once in a while, you’ll come in with an image or a dream about the characters, and those pitches are always welcome, but the next sentence is always: “OK, so how do we build a bridge to that?” And then we start from “Where is X’s head at?”

It’s a very tentative, brainstorm-y process, where you say things like “Well, what if … ” and “Yeah, or a maybe just a slightly different version, like … ”  A lot of ideas get thrown out. And sometimes you pitch a line of dialogue: “Dave’s like, ‘No, that’s not my job!’ ” and someone else turns to you says, in character: “Who’s job is it, then, Dave?” and before you know it, the two of you are having a conversation in the voices of those two characters. At those moments, I’m always very grateful for the writers’ assistant, because God knows I am incapable of actually hearing what I’m saying—I’m too busy pretending to be someone else.

Found on Quora

Where Do Your Story Ideas Come From?

And now, a day devoted to continuing Peggy Bechko’s discusson of where ideas come from…cuz let’s face it, for most of us getting great ideas sounds a lot easier than it is.

stories.indiewireby Tambay A. Obenson

Recalling my recent interview with Ernest Dickerson, and the part of the conversation about black filmmakers dipping into a broader pool of stories as well as genres, taking risks, tackling material that’s off the beaten path, instead of following to the so-called path of least resistance when it comes to what Hollywood expects of black cinema (assuming Hollywood is your eventual goal)…

It all got me thinking about how we (black filmmakers) settle on the stories that we want to tell; what inspires them; where we look to find them, etc…

It’s been about 10 years since I last directed a film, and I plan to finally get behind the camera again this year, and make another film after so long. I have an idea of what I want to do that I’m working on currently.

So, speaking for myself, in answering the question about how I come up with stories that I’d like to tell, this is how it usually goes for me…

What happens most often is that I have a theme or a specific subject that I’d like to tackle on film. That’s usually where it starts. For example, I’d tell myself that I’d like to tell a story about greed (which is central to one of the scripts I’m working on right now). And then I’d build a story around that, which I think is where the fun really begins for me, because the story you come up with can be as imaginative as you allow your imagination to run.

Why be restricting – especially at the very start? When I sit and begin to think up the story that I want to tell based on the theme/subject that I initially choose, I let my imagination run wild, and, no matter how crazy, absurd or fantastical an idea might seem, I write it down anyway.

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TVWriter™’s Most Popular Posts of the Week Ending 3/27/15


Here they are, the most viewed TVWriter™ posts during the past week:

Peggy Bechko: More Online Writing Resources

Cara Winter sees Broadchurch & Finds It (OMG!) Wanting

Kelly Jo Brick: The Write Path With EMPIRE’s Wendy Calhoun

Peggy Bechko Blogs: Where Do All Those Writers’ Ideas Come From?

Looking for TV Pilot Scripts?

And our most viewed resource pages were:

Writing the Dreaded Outline


The Teleplay

The Logline


Big thanks to everyone for making this such a great week, and don’t forget to read what you missed, re-read what you loved, and, most importantly, come back for more soon!

Hank Isaac: Will Lightning Ever Strike Your Digital Series?

hankandlilacUnderfunded Overachievers #8
by Hank Isaac

I was going to write to the question: “Is it even worth it?” but, you know, it’s Spring (or Autumn if you’re down under) and, either way, it’s a time of change. So…

I’m a sailor. I’ve been one for well over half a century. And the fact I can boast that is frankly a bit disturbing. I was also a pilot. So weather is something that is not only interesting, knowledge of it is essential. In fact, ignoring the weather can quickly put lives in jeopardy.

So here’s where I pass on my little bit of knowledge – as a metaphor, because I’m supposed to be a writer.

Especially on spring & autumn days, when the air is cool and the Sun heats the ground, bubbles of moist air are released and stretch skyward. If conditions are right, when the air in the bubble gets high enough, where it’s cool enough, the water vapor condenses on stuff and we can see it. We call it a cloud. The cloud is actually the top of that rising column of air. Sometimes there aren’t any clouds visible. But the column of rising air is still there.

The up-moving air can come from a just-plowed farmer’s field, a hot shopping mall parking lot, or even an entire town. It can also come from a breeze running into hills or mountains which shove it skyward. A cold front, which is like a plow made out of air, can also do that. It’s like a moving hill.

Once the air cools, it stops rising and the cloud eventually evaporates back into vapor and disappears.

But sometimes, when everything is almost just right, the cloud will continue building. It won’t need the field or the hills anymore. It begins to pull in more moist air from around and beneath it. On days like that, the puffy clouds can get pretty tall. They’re often called “towering cumulus.” They’ve become little heat and water engines, producing giant castles in the sky.

But more often than not, those guys poop out eventually.

That’s why I said, “…almost right.”

Totally right is when the cloud’s engine keeps drawing in fuel from further and further away. It pulls air from what might have become their own clouds, sucks it up, then adds it to its growing resources. It even consumes its own “waste air” – air that rolls down the outside of the cloud.

We’ll never see the little clouds who gave themselves up to the ever-growing behemoth.

Inside this engine, water is cycling through various stages. There’s condensing and evaporating going on at a frenetic pace. Thousands of relatively tiny columns of air are racing every which way inside.

As the cloud grows and grows and gets taller and taller, its upper reaches start to tickle the bottom of the Stratosphere. Up there, it’s really cold. Damn icy, actually. So now snow begins to form. And when snow crystals form under these very unique circumstances, tiny electrical charges are generated and stored.

You already know where this is going.

So now, in addition to massive exchanges of heat energy and tons and tons of water changing from one state to another and back again, all this mess is storing more and more electrical charges.

Until… BLAM! A spark jumps. Sometimes from one part of the cloud to another. Sometimes to the ground if the charge is strong enough.

But this thing is just beginning to cook.

Keep in mind, it’s original source of energy is long gone. It probably can’t even remember where it first came from or even how it got started – as that little bubble of rising air. Drawing in more fuel from distances than can span many, many miles now, the top of the cloud wanders into a place of very little air pressure and temperatures colder than any place on the planet.

And even though we’re often afraid of such power, we’re still drawn to that very same power and marvel at the display of this incredible energy. A sort of majesty that we really can’t duplicate. We can only wonder.

Sure, all that marvelous power eventually dissipates. Maybe the storm soaked that farmer’s field as a thank you. Who knows.

So now, if you’ve read this far, are you wondering what the heck this has to do with creating a TV series?

If you got the metaphor, then I have an answer for you:

Not every little rising bubble of air will become a thunderstorm, but every thunderstorm began as a little rising bubble of air.

Lilac is HERE

Next time: Who knows, maybe something interesting…