Before Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer were frolicking around New York on Comedy Central’s Broad City, they were frolicking around New York on their YouTube series of the same name. The two launched the web series in 2009; within a few years it morphed into a critically acclaimed television show that’s often heralded for its successful web-to-TV transition. And it’s not alone.
Turning a web series into a TV series isn’t easy: As Amy Poehler said at a Paley Center talk for Broad City, “web series to television is sort of like organ transplant. You just have to make sure that the heart doesn’t die on the way to the patient.”
So on the occasion of Broad City’s season 2 premiere, here’s a list of those web series that didn’t suffer heart failure during their transition to TV:
A web series needs fans to make the jump from internet to TV, and Broad City had a very powerful one: Amy Poehler. The Parks and Recreation star liked the series so much that she signed on to executive produce the television version—which is such a hit that Comedy Central renewed it for a third season before its second even premiered.
Funny or Die launched Drunk History, a web series that featured an increasingly drunk narrator retelling important moments in history as actors like Jack Black and Zooey Deschanel played out the narration, in 2007. By 2013, Comedy Central was adapting it for TV. The show was renewed for a third season in July, and finished airing its second this past September.
Before The Comeback came back, Lisa Kudrow kept herself busy hosting Web Therapy, a web series where she played a self-involved therapist who conducted her sessions over video chat. After just a few years on the web, Showtime picked up Web Therapy in 2011. The show’s now in its fourth season, which has featured guest stars including Christina Applegate and Jon Hamm and ends Jan. 28.
Rob Corddry’s Childrens Hospital began as a web series mocking medical dramas, and eventually made its way to television where it still maintains a short format (episodes are just 15 minutes instead of the typical 30) on Adult Swim. Besides making it to TV and staying there, Childrens Hospital has nabbed some love in the awards circuit: It’s won two Emmys and been nominated for three total.
These success stories tend to be comedies, but Sanctuary is all science fiction—and one of the longest running TV shows born out of a web series: The show, focused on scientists who study abnormal creatures, premiered on Syfy in 2008 and ran for four seasons until it was canceled in 2011.
This animated comedy was canceled after two seasons. Still, the fact that such an offbeat cartoon—one that’s set in a Manhattan filled with a population of humans and non-humans—survived for 31 episodes on Comedy Central is impressive. Ugly Americans began as a web series titled 5 On with Alan Whiter, then was developed by Simpsons writer David M. Stern for TV, where it was praised by critics for its silly humor and visual oddities.
Broad City returns to Comedy Central Wednesday at 10:30 p.m.