It’s easy enough to argue that there are more well-known television shows being filmed in Chicago—sets for Dick Wolf’s multiple shows on the city’s ins and outs alone are always popping up. But increasingly some of the most entertaining and creative series coming out of Chicago exist solely on the Internet. Just in time for bingeing when you need an escape from the holiday dinner table, here are some local webseries from the past year worth checking out.
The visual impact of the colorful, gorgeously framed shots in this VAM Studio production is in itself enough to enjoy. But the compelling, relatably flawed characters who fill out the stunning scenes are what make Damaged Goods required viewing. The series follows Marlo (Abena Boamah), an off-balanced yogi looking to Instagram for validation; Ezra (Nosakhere Cash O’Bannon), an aspiring artist who turns to dealing drugs to make ends meet; Sanavi (Aashvi Patel), a young professional dealing with blatant sexism and racism in the corporate world; and Caleb (Chufue Yang), a club kid trying to find his place in that world and maintain his mental health. Each episode shows the characters navigating their own very different careers, creative impulses, financial struggles, sex lives, and challenges as people of color in Chicago. Director-writer Vincent Martell and writers K.B. Woodson and Zak Payne create an authentic, nuanced world that feels like a very specific, familiar slice of the city. damagedgoodswebseries.com
Tending to a garden is not as easy as it seems. This mockumentary created by Laura Nelson and Evelyn Landow follows the pair as they try their very best to tend to the flora and fauna of a suburban garden, with plenty of lawn-goose outfit changes and crafting in between. The entire series clocks in at only 17 minutes—it’s a short, sweet, simple, and utterly charming look at friendship and a reminder that we should always find joy in overcoming even the smallest obstacles. Streaming on YouTube
We all have a waiting room story to tell—the anthology webseries Pre-Existing gives a group of local comedians the chance to share theirs. A different Chicago performer writes and directs each of the 17 episodes in the series, providing a welcome range of styles, talents, and waiting-room perspectives. “Lipstick” (written and directed by Dana Quercioli) depicts the painfully awkward experience of making small (or sometimes not-so-small) talk in the waiting room with your partner’s mother. “That McDonald’s Money” (written and directed by Robel Arega) shows a night in a hospital waiting room through the eyes of a fed-up nurse. “Best Bitches” (written and directed by Catharine Savage) is a dark fantasy of all the worst-case scenarios that can run through someone’s head while they’re waiting to get examined. The collection of writers and cast is a real who’s who of some of the best comics working in Chicago today. facebook.com/preexistingws
Tracie Roberson is the epitome of a she-should-have-her-own-show personality, so thank goodness she does. There are only two episodes currently streaming (and let’s hope more on the way!), but it takes only two seconds into the series to see her star power. In Uneverything, Roberson plays a version of herself dealing with dating, responsibility, and the uncertainty of the future. While her impressive confidence and hilarious quips make it seem like she’s got everything under control, she’s just trying to figure out the balance between being yourself and being a “real adult” like everyone else. weareo.tv/originals/uneverything v