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On the Net: Webisodes, from ESPN to 'The Office'

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[November 14, 2008]  CLEVELAND (AP) -- A handful of quirky new webisodes transplant TV success to the Web. Here's how well they manage the transition.


The ESPN "Sportscenter" host Kenny Mayne has always blurred the line between broadcaster and entertainer. Mayne is known for his humorous segments on ESPN programs like "NFL Sunday Countdown," and for his foray into reality TV on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars."

Now, Mayne has re-scaled his comedy for the Web in "Mayne Street," a series that debuted Tuesday on ESPN.com. In the first episode, Mayne and his co-host Scott Van Pelt are recording the close of an episode of "Sportscenter," only Mayne is suddenly unable to pronounce "Rafael Nadal" correctly.

The clip is a little less than five minutes long and feels a lot like an extended "Sportscenter" commercial. (One of the more popular ads for the show featured Mayne combing through video while he searched for a new catch-phrase, eventually exclaiming "Yahtzee!")

15 episodes in total are planned. In a blog by Mayne that accompanies the series, he says the show is "like a poor man's Larry David episode."

"I wanted to call it `Kenny Mayne has a TV show, but it is only on the Internet,'" writes Mayne.

Mayne's comic segments on TV didn't always fit in smoothly on ESPN, but he seems a good fit online.


NBC's "The Office" has always had one of the best online presences of any TV show.

The "Office" site on NBC.com includes not only full-length episodes, but all kinds of features: quizzes, a mini-putt game, "Schrute-Space," "Meredith's Sex and the Electric City Blog" and even a mock monthly newsletter sent from the show's fictional company, Dunder Mifflin.

On Nov. 20, a first in a new batch of webisodes will debut as a serial titled "The Outburst." The four videos -- each about two minutes long -- follows the reaction of the Dunder Mifflin employees after Oscar (Oscar Nunez) has a tirade on the telephone.

Everyone conspires to find out what he's so upset about. Well, everyone except the characters the show focuses on: Michael Scott (Steve Carell), Jim Halpert (John Krasinski), Dwight Schrute (Rainn Wilson) and Pam Beesly (Jenna Fischer).

But you'd be surprised how little you notice their absence. "The Office" is a show with a very deep bench of supporting players like Mindy Kaling (as Kelly), Ed Helms (as Andy) and Creed Bratton (as Creed).

There's really not enough screen time to go around for the talent of "The Office," so they certainly deserve the spotlight on the Web.

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As the creator of Fox's "Family Guy," Seth MacFarlane has created a comic sensibility all his own, which has expanded to the show "American Dad" and the planned series for 2009, "Cleveland."

But MacFarlane has also farmed himself out to the Internet, where he earlier this fall launched "Seth MacFarlane's Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy" (http://www.sethcomedy.com/) an animated variety show.

The site is unusual in that it was created in total partnership with Burger King; MacFarlane even made the Burger King ads that run before the videos. It's also being syndicated by Google Inc., so its videos appear across many sites, including Google's YouTube.

In a way, MacFarlane's sense of humor was tailor-made for the Web. "Family Guy" is densely populated with random references to pop culture, clips of which have often turned into viral videos online.

In his "Cavalcade," MacFarlane has stripped away all plot for just those asides. In one, Jeff Goldblum advertises crackers that speak just like him, even as you're eating them. In another, Super Mario finally saves the princess of "Super Mario Bros." only to find she isn't quite the catch he expected.

Nearly eight million have watched that clip on YouTube alone, a total that must translate into at least a few burgers sold.


[Associated Press; By JAKE COYLE]

What's your favorite webisode? E-mail AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle at jcoyle@ap.org.

Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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