A Look at NBC's Web Spinoffs Bonanza

By 01/06/2009
A Look at NBC's Web Spinoffs Bonanza

NBC logoNBC is throwing just about everything on the web and seeing what sticks. With the network’s blitz approach towards web spinoffs, we’re left a smattering of short one-joke bits, mixed with a few more complete storyline additions. They have two things in common- first is their medium budget look, by which I mean that they look professionally done, but you can tell that they aren’t the main event. The other is that they are heavy on the ad deals—from Target to Nissan to Sprint. I’m not the biggest fan of the current NBC shows (I’m more into House and Fringe), but these web series are important both for their entertainment value (of which they aren’t lacking) and for their significance as entries in the web series realm by one of the top networks on TV. A roundup of the web stepchildren of The Office, Psych, Chuck, Heroes, and Battlestar Galactica.

The Office: The Outburst

The cast of The Office are no strangers to web story arcs. During their off seasons, the show has released two other web spinoff series: Kevin’s Loan (see our review), and The Accountants. Both were excellent, and 4-part series The Outburst continues that tradition. The cast members all do their thing, bringing the comedy that has made the TV series such a huge success, but Office stars Steve Carell, John Krasinski, Rainn Wilson, and Jenna Fischer are all now 0-for-3 in web appearances. At least this time around the Dunder Mifflin office actually looks full, since most of the other coworkers are there (the previous two series only had three cast members). The Office is one of the simpler shows to make into a web series since it’s free of special effects and pricey sets. It’s also the only one of all the web series here that I thought was easily fit for broadcast on TV, but it still feels a little cheapened with the omission of the big names.

Psych web series

Psych (video only available on USANetwork.com)

The six Psych web bits are essentially sitcom one-liners; there’s no story, no drama, just small comedic bits. Notably, they contain the two main characters of the show (Dulé Hill and James Roday), which is rare for TV sitcom based web series. These one to three minute shorts are the kind of stuff that hardcore fans will love, since they give little bits of the comedy that make the full length show good. For non-fans, they’ll give you a chuckle, and intrigue you with the duo dynamic enough to interest you into checking the show out.


The Chuck webisodes are short bits based on an instructional video being filmed at the Buy More store. They don’t have Chuck himself, but they’re funny, they’re short, and they’re worth checking out for fans. Five two-minute episodes were released throughout October, finishing this series. As a non-fan it gave me no reason to watch the show on TV because of the non-appearance of title character Chuck (who I would imagine is an important part of the show), but I considered the time I used watching the show well spent.

Heroes: The Recruit

This five-part spinoff web series, which will finish on January 12th based on the hit show Heroes, is holding its own compared to its TV counterpart. At the same time, despite it’s higher pedigree, it seemed to get caught in the traps of other sci fi web series: dark, simplistic set design and cartoony effects. It had a graphic novel feel to it, but not in a good Sin City way as much as a cheap, low budget way. To say the least, I was somewhat disappointed, but I can guarantee that fans of the show will disagree with me (to be fair, I would probably rave about a House web series even if it didn’t feature any of the main characters and was all shot in one examining room). So as a story extension, as if the convoluted show needed one, it does the trick.

Battlestar Galactica: The Face of the Enemy [see our full review of this series.]

On my list, Battlestar Galactica is the only show I didn’t know what to do with. To be honest, I’m not the biggest sci-fi fan, although I do appreciate its brand of fiction, and Battlestar Galactica is one of those shows where I groan when a friend mentions it, even though I’ve never seen it on TV.

The 10-part series, however, gave me a new perspective on the show. The series is seven episodes in, with the eight coming out January 5th, the ninth on January 7th, and the finale on January 12th. The series looks really good for an online project, and looks like bits of Battlestar I’ve seen on TV. If you watch the show, I think you’ll love the web show. If you don’t, it’s hard to understand the story line, but it might give you an appreciate for Battlestar Galactica, and, dare I say it, convert you into a fan of the series.