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TV on the Web: The Net's Best Serial Shows

Joss Whedon's taking Web serials primetime with his hit, "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog." Here are five others – including some Whedon-approved - worth clicking

February 19, 2009 7:30 AM ET
Star Trek: Phase II
Joss Whedon name-checks this cult fave fan-made Trek series, originally titled New Voyages, when asked about the Web serials that turned him on to the medium. Now five years and running (with new installments coming this spring), the 50-minute episodes continue the adventures of the Enterprise crew — but portrayed by loyal Trekkies instead. Yeah, it's geeky — but the success is no joke. CBS lets the show run as long as they don't make money, and veteran Star Trek cast and crew (including creator Gene Rodenberry's son) have pitched in. "I'm not a Trekker, and I was riveted," says Whedon.

Black20
A talking Empire State building, a Dig-Dug videogame hero brought to life, and a gun-toting murderous computer mouse ... it's all there at the hilariously trippy hub of Web shows at Black20.com. Created by a trio of former NBC lackies in Queens, New York, B20 churns out a steady and reliably gut-busting stream of shorts. Star Wars Public Service Announcements — including Darth Vader busting his son with a bong-like saber — got the geek buzz going. These days, net_work, a kooky and surreal comedy about two viral video makers is the one to watch. When one slacker steals his friend's pizza, he takes to the air like Superman much to his surprise. "Hey, my slice!" his friend yelps from below. "Fuck you," says his buddy in the clouds, "I can fly!"

The Guild
This short comedy about a group of hapless role-playing gamers is the sleeper hit online — racking up last year's run of best Web series awards from YouTube and Yahoo. The series follows their hapless lives on and offline. One zealous geek shoves computer memory down his pants to seduce his crush. A balding middle-aged pawn gets fragged by a junk food queen. Guild's creator is Felicia Day, a frequent Whedon actress who has appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Dr. Horrible. The Joss approves. "It was small, it was delightful," says Whedon, who was impressed by Day's just-do-it tenacity. "Here was another really great example from a different mold of just somebody who got tired of not getting the gig, creating the gig."

Clark and Michael
In case you missed it, this brilliant run of 10 Webisodes still reigns as the closest thing to The Office or Freaks and Geeks online. The show follows the ubiquitously awkward nerd boy/man, Michael Cera, playing himself, as he and his buddy, Clark Duke, try to get a crappy TV show on the air. Along the way, there's binge drinking, Putt-Putt golf, and a misguided attempt to get Kenny Loggins to sing their theme song. There's also plenty of Cera-inspired cameos from his Arrested Development family, including a memorable turn by Tony "Buster" Hale as a short-sighted TV exec.

Seth McFarlane's Cavalcade of Comedy
The creator of Family Guy and American Dad made a splash with this site — not just for the hilarious animated shorts, but for his mega-bucks deal with a fast food sponsor. So yeah, you gotta put up with the plugs, but the inspired riffs are worth it: Jeff Goldblum pawning talking crackers in his likeness, Barry Gibb high-pitch yelping on a roller coaster, and a couple ducks watching Meet the Parents. "I'm finding myself really put off by Ben Stiller," says one bird. "Really put off," says the other, "he's doing nothing for me." But this is.

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