After a nine-month hiatus, on March 2 the undergrads of Dorm Life are set to return from the longest Winter break ever.

The mockumentary, produced by LA-based Attention Span Media (Sock Tube, Lakeman), premiered in February of 2008 and documents the lives of the inhabitants of dormitory 5-South through the lenses of a documentary camera crew and the students’ webcams.

Old fans of the series will not be disappointed with the new season – er, semester. The gang returns with the confidence and maturity (though that may not be the best adjective) you’d expect from a web series that’s become the all-time most popular web show on Hulu (yes, they even beat out Joss Whedon’s Dr. Horrible).

While the first season rarely brought in characters outside the core group, the new episodes bring a few unfamiliar faces, which is always akin to new underpants – kinda funny feelin’ until they become a part of the regular rotation.

One particularly tough adjustment comes in the form of campus b-ball star Derrick (Sidney Brown), who gets in the middle of a potential relationship that I’m rooting for (and you should be too): between the completely cute Brit (Hannah Pearl Utt) and her charmingly awkward suitor, Mike (Chris W. Smith). The new characters quickly prove their worth, providing even more flavor and a reminder that the show takes place at a college attended by more than ten people.

The new season also brings a degree of self-awareness that was only hinted at before. In the first episode, the residents are reminded of the dorm rules, including “respect our documentary camera crew.” It even goes as far as two characters, roommates Gopher Reed (Jim Brandon) and the big-haired Shane (Jack De Sena of All That and Avatar fame) doing a fictional product placement deal with SexZ Boiz Body Spray, which may or may not be a real thing.

One thing that won’t change, says Josh McHugh, president of Attention Span Media, is Dorm Life‘s dedication to unparalleled interaction with their fans. “We love our audience more than anybody else doing this,” Josh says. And it shows. In addition to publishing bonus video and maintaining characters’ twitter accounts like we’ve seen before, the Dorm Life crew strives to make their viewers feel like they’re actually friends with the residents of 5-South. Actors have even surprised fans with personalized in-character video birthday greetings.

“We use every platform in existence, from Twitter on down to the telephone, to respond to any audience input and to thank them for sharing the show with their friends.” Josh explained, “We work hard to identify and reward superfans.”

And it’s paid off for them. In addition to characters receiving prom invitations from fans (which they were sad to have to decline), Josh says Dorm Life enjoys an audience retention rate 170% higher than the average amongst the 50 best-known web series. And Attention Span announced today that they’ve scored a sponsorship from Carl’s Jr.

The success of the series has also benefited to the cast’s careers. Nora Kirkpatrick (Courtney) is set to appear in three films later this year, including the new Transformers IMAX movie.This season’s episodes are longer than the first’s–about ten minutes, a change made in response to viewer feedback. This makes it one of the longer shows on the web, but the aptly-named producers pull it off effortlessly, without exceeding our attention spans. If you’re a long-time fan, get excited. If you’re a newcomer, get caught up. Dorm Life is the finest example of a made-for-the-web sitcom done right. It’s ten minutes I will look forward to every week. 

New episodes come out on MySpace Video every Saturday and are available on Hulu and YouTube the following Monday, starting March 2nd.

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