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Fall TV: The Undefeated Guide

11 web series you shouldn’t miss

Including a couple that are worth a re-watch

The important thing to know about a web series is they typically don’t follow the traditional television format. And, from ‘hood dramas to satirical looks at white workplaces to stories of gay friendship — many of today’s web series cater to such niche fan bases (relative to network or cable) that you’re not likely to overhear spoilers. “Seasons” can be just four episodes long, and episodes can last only a few minutes. There’s also a cool cloud of uncertainty that tends to loom over web series. The people who bring these shows to life don’t have the comforts of say, full- or even part-time paid staff. A series can end without warning and, sometimes, tragically, even without a conclusion. All this being said, the good outweighs the bad. Here are 11 series to watch this fall — some new, and some that you might have missed.

1. Clench & Release

A series about a young woman trying to make a name for herself in standup comedy, Clench & Release also deals with topics such as unrequited love and workplace and romantic awkwardness. Created by Charla Lauriston — who stars as herself — with Saturday Night Live’s Sasheer Zamata as Charla’s best friend, there are two four-episode seasons at YouTube — here’s hoping there’s a third.

2. The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl

Issa Rae’s hit web series pushed her to stardom — so much so, she has a new series coming to HBO this fall called Insecure. But you should start from the beginning and get familiar with Insecure’s precursor, Awkward Black Girl. In it, Rae stars as herself and the show documents, with a heavy dose of humor, her hookup regrets, workplace competitiveness, workplace racism, you name it. Each episode in the two seasons (12 episodes each) deals with a singular mis/adventure.

3. Ackee & Saltfish

Set in London, Michelle Tiwo and Vanessa Babirye are Rachel and Olivia, best friends whose antics writer and director Cecile Emeke captures beautifully. Ackee & Saltfish is light on plot, and each episode can stand alone. The shows rely instead on the women and their laugh-out-loud banter to carry the story.

4. The Unwritten Rules

Aasha Davis stars as “Racy,” the new girl in the office in The Unwritten Rules. Sure to be relatable to every black person who has ever held a job, this Kim Williams-created series brings levity to the realities of being the only black person in the office.

5. Everything I Did Wrong in My 2os

The line “I’m not depressed” opens another introspective Kim Williams creation. Everything I Did Wrong in My 20s explores mental illness, mental health, and one woman’s journey to happiness. Tiffany Snow portrays Stephanie Rogers, a woman in her late 30s who recently lost her job and her dog. Malika Williams is Leslie, Stephanie’s upbeat, life coach and best friend who is trying to get her out of her funk. Each show recalls a mistake Stephanie made in her 20s that led to her current depressive state.

6. No Shade

No Shade is an authentic, brilliant dramedy about four gay black friends in New York City just trying to make it work. David Brandyn is Noel, a tormented artist trying to become comfortable in his sexuality. Tamara Williams, who plays Danielle, the sole woman of the group, and is a transgender actress who plays a transgender woman, a rarity. Terry Torro as Eric and Donnie DuRight as Kori round out the cast.

7. Strolling

Created by Cecile Emeke, Strolling is an unscripted series that follows people from all over the world as they discuss everything from respectability politics to rape culture to generational pain to Hoteps — basically conundrums occupying the psyches of young black people, and young people in general, the world over.

8. Branding U

Comedian Chris Redd plays Nicky G., a sports marketing coach who “helps” real-life NFL players build their brands on Branding U with Nicky G. Cardale Jones and Carson Wentz start off the series as Nicky G.’s first victims. It’s not quite scripted, not quite documentary, but definitely hilarious.

9. First

If you’re a sucker for love stories like I am (don’t tell anyone), watch First, created by Jahmela Biggs, who also stars opposite Will Catlett. They play Robin and Charles, two childhood friends who finally decide to take a romantic plunge and go on a date when they’re both in their 20s. Things quickly escalate, in all the right ways. The soundtrack is fire, too.

10. Love Handles

What happens when your man dumps you after you gain weight? Love Handles is a comedy about three women — two of whom try to help the newly single third woman get her life back on track by joining a “man magnet” yoga class. Unfortunately Love Handles falls into that all-too-often web series trap of an uncertain future. Even still, it’s hilariously written and worth a watch.

11. Money & Violence

Personally I’m not a fan, but this Brooklyn-based series, Money and Violence, was popular enough to be bought by Amazon and feature series extras on Tidal. This show is about — you guessed it — money and violence.

Tierra R. Wilkins is an associate editor for The Undefeated. She likes to eat fries with her ketchup.