Our top five original VoD shows
With this year seeing the first time the Emmys have gone to an online only show in House of Cards, and BAFTA announcing the eligibility of video on demand (VoD) shows for its 2014 awards, it's clear that original online only programming is a pretty big deal. Here are our top five VoD shows, available on a computer near you, anytime you want them...
1. HOUSE OF CARDS (Netflix)
In the words of house majority whip Frank Underwood (Kevin Spacey), “power is a lot like real estate, it’s all about location, location, location,” and currently there is no better location for online video content than Netflix. In the political drama House of Cards they gave us the first online only series with the financial clout to prove that an internet only release isn’t just for quirky little indie films.
But what makes House of Cards so compelling that its reported $100m of funding didn’t interfere with the creative freedom of director David Fincher. As a result we have an Emmy award-winning combination of high production values and big-name talent, with the kind of moral and intellectual complexity rarely found on the major TV networks.
Of course the problem with video on demand when it comes to something as suspense-filled as House of Cards is that ‘demand’ tends to be, “all at once, right now, thank you very much.” Leaving some of us bleary-eyed on a Sunday afternoon wondering what happened to the weekend and somewhat terrified of Kevin Spacey.
2. ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (Netflix)
While Arrested Development had its time on TV (Fox), it was brought back for a fourth season after seven long years of absence in a Netflix exclusive release. Much to the joy of the show’s diehard fans, the move showed how online only distribution has the power not only to give us exciting new shows, but also to resuscitate old favorites by alleviating the pressure of TV’s rating cycle.
The great thing about having all episodes stacked up online with a sitcom like Arrested Development was that it didn’t compel binge watching to the same extent as the suspense filled House of Cards. Instead it offered the ability to instantly call up an injection of comedy at any time, as opposed to having to wait until Sunday night to cheer yourself up.
3. ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK (Netflix)
In Orange is the New Black we’re introduced to the world of women’s prison through the eyes of college educated WASP Piper Chapman, who loves artisanal bath products and ends up in jail after the revelation of some drug dealing in her past. Not exactly a bold departure from the sort of people we’re used to seeing in the media.
But Piper’s role is to act as a conduit, taking us into a world rarely shown convincingly, populated with the sort of diverse and complex range of characters that suffer serious under-representation on the major networks. And somehow Orange is The New Black manages to mix this gritty portrayal of life in minimum security with some of the funniest programming we’ve seen all year.
4. BEHIND THE MASK (Hulu)
There’s been lots of talk recently about Netflix’s move into original documentaries with its acquisition of rights for The Square, a film about the Egyptian revolution, and The Short Game, a docu-series from director Josh Greenbaum, following eight competitive child golfers. This isn’t Greenbaum’s first venture into a major streaming-only documentary however.
Behind the Mask, which premiered on Hulu last month, explores the people we often forget exist underneath the mascot costumes at big sporting events, finding that they often have a character to rival the one they play on the field.
5. THE BOOTH AT THE END (Hulu)
With the action set entirely inside a diner, this show may not have the grand scope and dramatic set pieces of Netflix’s headline offerings, but it lacks nothing in intelligence. The Booth at the End is an engaging and subtly unsettling morality play tightly condensed into 30 minute chunks. It features Xander Berkeley as the unnamed ‘man’ who offers to grant a person’s any request, no matter how impossible, if they will only do a task for him first.
Unsurprisingly, these tasks are rather more difficult than picking up his ironing. We’ve seen him tell a girl who wants to be prettier that she must first commit a bank robbery, and a father has to kill a child to save his son’s life. Yet action packed as this sounds, we see none of it directly, only hearing it second hand through the various characters interactions with ‘the man.’
What do you think of our list? Any brilliant online shows that we missed? Let us know in the comments below, or on our Facebook page.