Commentary

No One-Webisode Wonder: Goodnight Burbank Goes Long Form for Hulu

I admit to losing track of the great Web original series, Goodnight Burbank. These comedy shorts, set in a fictional local TV station workplace, had been among my video podcast favorites for years even as it went in and out of season breaks. That is saying something for the Web, where much more ambitious Web series from film and TV talent usually become one-Webisode wonders everyone forgets to watch. The show has not only survived for five years (with a long hiatus in the last year) but it is coming to Hulu this week as the first Web-only scripted comedy to expand to a full half-hour format. The first six episodes from production company Evil Global Corp will be distributed on Hulu. They star Laura Silverman of the "Sarah Silverman Show" and Dominic Monaghan of "Lost." Show creator, Evil Global Corp CEO and Goodnight Burbank star Hayden Black continues his role.

Within the four- and five-minute episodes I remember Goodnight Burbank hooked us with persistently obnoxious characters we loved to watch irritate one another on and off set. Black tells me, "The concept was such a fresh and original one, there was no way the fans could ever let it go away.  Plus, the early 5-10 minute episodes never really let us truly explore this world and there are so many places to go with it. It's the ultimate dream isn't it? Creating your own world to play in then getting people like Laura Silverman and Dominic Monaghan to come play in it. Madness!"

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Not so mad if you consider the seamlessness of similarly popular Onion News Network, which also delivers consistently good satire. But by expanding to full half hour, the show is also adopting a change of venue, Black reports. After the studio burns down the staff need to relocate to and broadcast from a garage.

Persistence also pays, Black characterizes the growth path since 2006 as "slow but steady." When Black keynoted OMMA Video a number of years ago he spoke about the importance of linking social media and interaction in with a video series. He says that even when production new releases ceased over the past year and they re-tooled for the longer formats, the fans kept asking about the show and signing up for newsletters and feeds. "When you have that energy behind you, it's incredibly inspiring."

The series was the first go get its own "channel" status at early video hubs like Veoh. And then it was the first comedy to get commissioned for Babelgum. And now it launches into half hour episodes that, when married to Hulu, clearly have the big TV screen in mind. The Hulu Plus service is proliferating across platforms, including PS3, iPhone, iPad and soon Xbox according to reports. As the requisite channels of Web video distribution expand into the living room, the producers will necessarily have to be there with revised formats.  

"Madness?" Hardly. Positioning oneself to turn the next corner of over the top video distribution? Certainly.
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