A wide shot of LA as seen in It Ends Today
Much like in the world of conventional television, not every web series makes it to the end of its first season. Some projects are so ambitious that they blow through their entire budget in the first few episodes. Others, particularly those that are produced piece meal, call it a day due to the cast and crew moving on to other projects. Some web series seem to quietly vanish into the ether of the internet, leaving stale youtube videos as the only proof of their unrealized potential. For your viewing pleasure, I give you four web series, two original and two fan series, that never quite, or have yet to, come to fruition.
It Ends Today
Written and directed by Aleem Hossain
Date of Release: September 2009
Number of episodes: 1
Status: Unknown, presumed dead.
Out of the four series mentioned in this post, It Ends Today is probably the one that scores the highest for unrealized excellence. In less than five minutes the story manages to frame the characters, a recovering drug addict and her boyfriend, establish a conflict, Zoë’s memory lapse which Eric interprets as her falling off the wagon, and hint at a supernatural power akin to the good parts of Lost. There’s a feeling of genuine history between the two characters, but it’s handled in a way that shows rather than tells. Though there’s some inconsistency in the sound levels, the visual quality of the production is excellent. It’s really quite a shame that It Ends Today was left as an unfinished production. I know that I would pay if it meant I could see a full season of this story.
Update: I managed to get in touch with Aleem Hossain and he informed me of a few interesting details about this series. The pilot episode’s positive critical reception led to serious talks with major financial backers for a complete first season. Unfortunately talks fell through, partly due to their timing with the meltdown of the global economy, and subsequent deals offered too little money to maintain the pilot’s production values. To quote Mr. Hossain, “I think I could have found a distributor if I had the whole series shot – but finding the money to make more?”
The only silver lining is that Aleem has not been idle since It Ends Today hit the internet – head over to his website and check out some of his other work.
Star Trek: Phoenix
Directed by Sam Akina, Gale Benning, and Leo Roberts
Number of episodes: 3
Status: Currently fundraising to make more.
Date of Release: November 2010
Star Trek: Phoenix is a very ambitious project. Set after the destruction of the Romulus, as described in the recent Star Trek reboot, Phoenix attempts to tell a rather unique story within the Trek universe. Where the Federation has always been a model of efficiency, this series shows Star Fleet as a bureaucratic agency subject to the whims of politicians. Phoenix runs into trouble when it attempts to shape that framework to suit a visual effects heavy story more in line with traditional Trek. The cerebral elements of the story end up as little more than narrative info dumps meant to bring an average Trek fan up to speed on the events of this series.
While the acting and dialogue occasionally border on cheese, the costuming, location shots, and special effects are quite impressive. If the production team does manage to make more, I’ll certainly watch them. However, I fear that they will never manage huge crowd sourcing goals telling a Trek story that is so far removed from the established canon.
Director/Series Creator: Jason Tisch
Number of episodes: 3
Status: Either dead or shambling through a one episode per year production schedule
Date of release: Feb 2008
If this series teaches would-be producers anything, it’s that there is a difference between real darkness and television darkness. Television darkness is mood lighting paired with the strategic use of shadow. Actual darkness is what happens when a person turns off all the lights, and unfortunately too much of this series is shot in said condition.
The concept, however, is great: a zombie apocalypse story where the military isn’t out to rape and pillage at the expense of the survivors. It’s the execution that really does this series in. Well, that and the painful continuity mistakes. I suppose I was also a bit put off by the shameless attempt to convince the audience that the surviving soldiers are driving a Lamborghini, rather than a Ford Focus that has been (badly) CG’d to look like a Lamborghini.
Halo: Hell Jumper
Written and Directed by Dan Wang
Number of episodes: 2
Status: Recently failed to meet a $65,000 fundraising goal for future episodes. Future unknown.
Date of release: January 2012
The props are amazing. The special effects are impressive. The costumes appear to be made by professionals. The story is maudlin, bordering on silly.
Hell Jumper literally tells the tale of an Orbital Shock Drop Trooper from the Halo-verse. I say literally because Gage, the series’ protagonist, tells the events of the series as a sequence of flashbacks while he is bleeding out on the battlefield. I say maudlin bordering on silly because at one point during his narration, Gage says that he “…can’t remember what he’s fighting for.” Forgive me for being blunt, but it’s Halo. You’re fighting to save humanity from the aliens. The concepts that drive this franchise aren’t known for being subtle.
The series’ two episodes show why Gage joins the UNSC military, how he gets tapped for the elite ODST detail, and chronicle his first taste of action against the Covenant. Yet, there’s nothing that really made me care about this character or the story. Perhaps because Halo is ten years old and I’ve filled in game’s narrative gaps on my own.
Make no mistake, the mood is convincing enough to make me want to like the story. Similarly, I want to care about Gage and his cohorts. Instead I find myself paying more attention things like run-and-gun military tactics that even a video game warrior like myself would never use in combat. The lesson here: if you’re going to go to the trouble of making a FX heavy war story, get somebody who knows a little bit about infantry tactics to consult. Or at least watch a few classic war movies.