Post-Newfronts: Best Bets for Breakout Hits from Content Lineup

/ May 8, 2013


More than 100 shows were announced or showcased at last week’s upfronts in New York City – but the majority of them don’t matter as many will fade into the archives alongside the other long-forgotten web series of years past.

With Netflix’s “House of Cards” (or Yahoo!’s “Burning Love”) in mind as the new standard for rating digital original programming, the following shows have a shot at making it mainstream. Microsoft and AOL are absent from this list, as none of their upcoming shows appeared to have breakout hit appeal. Without further ado, in order of NewFront presentations the five potential big hits:

“Virus Hunters,” by the Weather Company

Besides meteors and global nuclear war, super viruses are the only real threat to humanity, which is why this show, which airs this fall, has mass appeal beyond weather-heads or those obsessively checking the temperature. The fact that this content is coming from the Weather Company is mind-blowing, but shows how important original digital programming has become as an advertising strategy. Given Weather Company’s status as a weather website, half a million hits total would constitute a breakout success.

Their press release:

“Virus Hunters” (WT, launches November 2013) takes viewers inside the work of the scientists who protect us against nature’s most deadly killers. From an outbreak of H1N1 that spreads across the globe in weeks to a stolen vial of smallpox that decimates a population, the number of nightmare scenarios involving deadly pathogens is almost endless.”

“Tiny Commando,” by Yahoo!

This show looks irrelevant and wacky, but the cast and writing looks phenomenal and funny. Some movies and series put all their best moments in the trailer, but that doesn’t seem the case with “Tiny Commando.”  Ed Helms plays the tiny villain in this comedy, with Zachary Levi as the dreamy, but also tiny, hero. Has mass demographic appeal, on a platform gaining popularity.

Their press release:

“Ed Helms created and stars, along with Zachary Levi, Gillian Jacobs, and some of the biggest names in comedy, in the Principato-Young Entertainment production, “Tiny Commando,” an action-packed series following a four-inch-tall private investigator who uses his awesome fleet of vehicles to fight crime.”

“The Wrong Mans,” by Hulu

This BBC joint venture looks absolutely hilarious: Two British average Joes are in the wrong place at the wrong time, and the resulting hijinx  – of them trying to survive after accidentally answering a phone, looks deliciously entertaining. Has appeal beyond the anglophiles, to teen girls all the way up to retired men looking to laugh at British blokes.

Their press release:

“From Tony Award-winning actor and writer James Corden (“Doctor Who,” “Gulliver’s Travels,” “Gavin & Stacey”) and Mathew Baynton (“Peep Show,” “Spy,” “Gavin & Stacey”), the series centers on Sam (Baynton), and Phil (Corden), two lowly office workers who become caught up in a deadly criminal conspiracy after Sam discovers a ringing phone at the scene of a horrific car crash. Answering this phone turns his world upside down, as he and Phil soon realize it’s up to them to step up and save the day. They are in the wrong place at the wrong time, with the wrong skills.”

“Dropping the Soap,” by Alloy Digital

Who doesn’t love Jane Lynch? She’s the saving grace of Glee, and the star of this comedy about a hard-hitting and at times very mean executive at a TV network trying to increase ratings for a soap opera run past its prime. True, celebrities alone don’t make a popular web show, but the banter we saw Lynch engage in from the trailer indicates some stellar writing and the potential for a multi-generational fanbase.

From their press release:

“Dropping the Soap goes behind-the-scenes of a daytime soap opera struggling to survive in the new era of television. When Olivia Vanderstein, the new Head of the Network played by Jane Lynch, wants to shake things up on the long-running soap opera Colliding Lives, she tries every gimmick in the book. The result is a no-holds barred, every-hack-for-himself, fight for survival led by Julian Drake, the soap’s leading star of questionable talent and moral compass, played by Paul Witten.”

“The Great S Cape,” by Blip

Part of Blip’s total transformation into original content creators is epitomized in this 12-part movie serial by Batman producer Michael Uslan. The Great S Cape is as slick, production-wise, as they come, and looks more HBO than “web TV.”  The most obvious demographic is the male between 18 – 34, but Cape might charm the ladies of all age groups.

From their press release:

“the cliff-hanging movie serial is a live-action, film noire adventure series featuring original superhero Stephan Cape. Unable to support himself in today’s world as a great magician and illusionist, Cape applies his amazing skills (and refusal to use a gun) to his newfound mission as a private detective. When he stumbles across the most insidious murder plot in today’s Hollywood, secret and powerful forces set out to stop him at all costs! Can he out-fox the foxes and solve one of the deadliest mysteries in Los Angeles history? Newcomer Ian Duncan stars as escape artist extraordinaire, Stephan Cape.”


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