Sites to watch in 2008

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WHETHER we’re talking online entertainment, commerce, technology or the Web in general, digital culture is so protean and chaotic, so subject to overnight zeitgeist, that, as far as its future goes, the less said, the better.

That said, there are a few “spaces” to watch as the Gregorian calendar clicks off another year and the end of the first Internet decade comes into focus.

Striking for dollars

WATCHING the squirmings of still-working late-night talk show hosts like Carson Daly makes for a sublime kind of voyeurism, certainly. And “Seinfeld” reruns are still amusing thanks to their heavy use of early ‘90s fashion. But for most of us, reality gets old. Exhibit A: “Clash of the Choirs”? It’s no wonder the fiction-starved populace is beginning to look elsewhere.

Never fear: As the savvier Writers Guild of America members catch the scent of viewer defection, we are sure to see websites crop up with scripted content from Tinseltown’s finest. This is no more a guarantor of quality than anything else associated with Hollywood, but it’s bound to be better than talking cats.

Speaking of, “Air Bud” writer Aaron Mendelsohn is at work on a start-up entity he’s calling Virtual Artists -- a place for writers to produce online programming sans studio meddling. The WGA itself is tooling with a Web-content idea called StrikeTV, which is still too nascent, one participant told me, to fully announce.

Perhaps closest to launch is Hollywood Disrupted, the brainchild of a group of striking writers headed by “Waterworld” scribe Peter Rader, who has been active in chronicling the strike on YouTube. Rader said Hollywood Disrupted already has several shows in various stages of production. “Almost Ray” is what Rader called a “hybrid reality-scripted show,” starring Ray Oldhafer, 44, a luckless actor friend of Adam Carolla, who owes $500,000 to the IRS, dates twentysomethings and refuses to grow up. When things get slow, Rader said, they just insert a fictional character to help.

With “Ghost Whisperer” executive producer P.K. Simonds, Rader is also working on a quirky series called “Baaad Kamra,” about a demonically possessed camcorder. The show is filmed from the point of view of the camera, discovered at the beginning of every episode by a different unsuspecting character.

Here they come

AN array of other small production companies, many with ties to Hollywood, will be letting loose a broadside of new Web programming in coming months.

60Frames Entertainment, a Web production company formed by United Talent Agency and the online ad agency Spot Runner, will be releasing six new Web series, and it says that number could increase to more than 50 by the end of 2008.

The first salvo will include “Erik the Librarian Mysteries,” from writer-creator Brent Forrester (“The Office,” “The Simpsons,” “King of the Hill”) that chronicles the romantic adventures of a dorky librarian.

Michael Eisner’s new media studio, Vuguru, which earlier this year put out “Prom Queen,” will offer a second original series called “The All-For-Nots,” a scripted “docucomedy” that tracks an underfunded indie-rock band as it tours the U.S.

Disney’s Stage 9 Digital Media, another production house assembling a Web lineup, will premiere “Trenches,” a fancy-looking sci-fi show that will have a lot of space wars and probably aliens.

Keep your eye out for “The Super Rumble Mixshow” too, a multi-genre variety program from Aaron McGruder, the creator of Adult Swim’s biting cartoon series “The Boondocks.” The show will debut in January on

The celebrity factor

WEB-WISE, if a few high-profile stars dipped their toes in the water in 2007, then 2008 may be the year a whole crowd of them jumps in the lake.

Dina Kaplan, a co-founder of the online television network, said Net watchers should expect a huge increase in the number of boldface names creating or supporting online TV shows. “We are overwhelmed with calls from agencies and talent” interested in the possibility of making online content, Kaplan said.

One of blip’s most popular shows is Rosie O’Donnell’s R Blog, started earlier this year, a series of home movies, video blogs and photo essays featuring O’Donnell and her family. O’Donnell, through her TV shows and her website,, has taken interacting with her public to new levels, frequently answering reader e-mails, appearing without makeup and posting footage from her home life that, while not always deeply revealing, is more personal than most celebrities are willing to get.

Earlier this year, the green-conscious Daryl Hannah hosted the Web series “Love Life” in which she tackled a variety of eco-friendly topics. One episode features Hannah being flirted with by Bill O’Reilly, who agreed with her that biodiesel was a good way to get the nation off foreign oil.

Then there’s the queen of England. On the British monarchy’s new YouTube channel, the queen has posted her 2007 yuletide greeting to her subjects. Her first television greeting, from 1957, is posted there too. “I very much hope that this new medium will make my Christmas message more personal and direct,” she said back then.

Plenty of politics

IN the Department of the Obvious department, this year should be an endless spring for political video. Not only does every major candidate have his or her own YouTube channel or video site, but the parodists, armchair critics and video activists also are more active than ever.

Director Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Films has been churning out dozens of videos that “challenge corporate media with the truth,” Fox News being a frequent target.

Michelle Malkin’s Hot Air continues to be a clearinghouse for conservative Web content. Hot Air recently spoofed Hillary Rodham Clinton’s holiday campaign video, wherein the candidate prepares her Christmas gifts for the American people. But instead of universal healthcare and alternative energy, the Malkin version has universal cattle futures and lumps of coal.

“Swift Kids for Truth” is an inspired series of campaign ad spoofs produced by “23/6,” the Huffington Post’s comedy website. A recent faux-attack ad on Rudy Giuliani has a group of young children commenting on Giuliani’s frequent evocations of Sept. 11. “Rudy Giuliani says ‘9/11' a lot,” says one child. “A real lot.” Another Swift Kid continues, “No Democrat has the guts to stand up and say ‘9/11' . . . a lot.”

On, Mindsplinter Films will premiere the “reality comedy” series “Ms. President,” which follows the titular character, Sen. Darlene Drake, on the campaign trail. The catch is that Sen. Drake used to be a man.