"Webisode" is one of those 21st century future words that I still have a bit of trouble wrapping my head around. The phrase "video podcast" doesn't serve much better. But they are certainly their own creatures. These videos aren't long enough to be TV shows or even short films, and yet it isn't right to just call them clips, either. Heck, quite often they are professionally made and even have good editing and production values - but still with that backyard homemade feel.
Well, whatever the word, these streaming (and often downloadable) videos usually focus on one of three topics: comedy, music, and science. Well, that is a wild generalization, but I don't have time to explore the infinite amount of video out there. These categories just happen to help define the three web series that have grabbed my attention recently. And so I share them with you.
Comedy: YACHT ROCK
Music: TAKE-AWAY SHOWS
Science: THE MANPOLLO PROJECT
It's been a couple years since this show (and sub-genre catch phrase) started, telling hilariously warped versions of the "real stories" behind the world's smoothest hits. I thought the humor was trying too hard in the beginning. But then, as I kept tuning in, characters began to develop over long arcs, the stories became more gleefully insane, and the dynamic between Kenny Loggins and Michael McDonald grew into something almost tender. Finally, they hit a pair of episodes - the Eagles/Steely Dan feud and the secret behind Van Halen's "Running with the Devil" - that really soft-rocked my socks. And then it was quiet...
After a year and a half hiatus, Yacht Rock is back, and their newest chapter may be the best one yet. Jimmy Buffet turns out to be responsible for the creation of the theme song to the Kevin Bacon film "The Boy Who Dances Away Oppression". With guest star Jason Lee guests as the bacon.
(Warning: Lots of soft rock and NSFW dirty talk)
Over in France, an exciting new idea is taking the music from indie bands even one step further into total cred. French weblog La Blogothèque invites a different band to perform in "an unusual urban environment" for a single take of spontaneous jam fun. It's like an awesome in-studio WFMU appearance, only filmed live on the street or in a bathtub. So far the line-up has included Grizzly Bear, Au Revoir Simone, The National, Damon & Naomi, Beirut, Vic Chesnutt, Vampire Weekend, and pretty much all the other bands that the kids are into these days.
One of my favorite shows so far has been this improvised street choir version of "Heart It Races" by Architecture in Helsinki. As the site describes: "Cameron Bird, shiny-eyed, asks me whether he can go up in one of the apartments, as he would like to sing from the window. Kelly goes in yet another flat and shows off the ice tea her hostess gave her...We brought the Take Away Show to their home, in between the living room and the kitchen, we got in the place just by asking politely, we are an accident to this family. Just as Take Away Shows are an accident to the artists we follow."
"Wonderingmind 42" tells us exactly how global climate change is going to cause the end of the world. Sure, An Inconvenient Truth did it pretty well, but this guy does it without being instantly polarizing (sorry, Al, the right hates you to pieces), and with way more charming dorkiness. But most importantly, he describes the science and facts behind it all in a way that even your stubborn conservative Christian uncle can relate to - and maybe he'll even pay attention to the facts when they are presented by this nice, clean-cut high school science teacher.
The original video, "The Most Terrifying Video You'll Ever See", hit in Spring of last year. It had such a great response, that there is now a newer version, "How It All Ends", and a 7 chapter, 45 part follow-up explaining each and every argument in detail.
Watch them all straight through here. It really is worth the time.