Several of fall's best shows are seen online

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NEW YORK - The Internet knows no seasons.

Paul Rudd (left) and Michael Showalter tape an episode of The Michael Showalter Showalter, an online-only show where Mr. Showalter mock-interviews guests.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Paul Rudd (left) and Michael Showalter tape an episode of The Michael Showalter Showalter, an online-only show where Mr. Showalter mock-interviews guests.

Unlike television, there's not a flood of new shows to match our humble retreat to the indoors after the summer doldrums. That doesn't mean the many worthy Web shows should miss out on all the fun of fall previews, though.

Though complex action dramas such as 24 and Heroes aren't being made successfully on the Web, comedies (which are much less expensive) are thriving.

Here is a handful of the most interesting series now playing online:

THE MICHAEL SHOWALTER SHOWALTER: Many might know this comedian from sketch comedy TV shows The State and Stella, or the cult 2001 film Wet Hot American Summer.

Mr. Showalter is now the host for this show on www.collegehumor.com and www.michaelshowalter.net. In each episode, Mr. Showalter calmly and absurdly interviews a guest (among them Paul Rudd, Andy Samberg and David Cross) in a dark studio across a round table. The result looks something like the program Charlie Rose would make if he were bonked on the head right before going on air.

"That's what it's supposed to look like," Mr. Showalter said. "Without any ambiguity, I'm trying to make it look like Charlie Rose."

Mr. Showalter shows both an on-camera and off-camera persona, the latter of whom is pathetic to the point of asking comedian Zach Galifianakis to repay him for gas money from a two-mile ride. He keeps a straight face even while Mr. Rudd mixes Gandhi and Yoda impressions into one.

"I'm definitely one of those people that has really taken the comedy as serious to heart," he said. "There's just something very funny about foible and imperfection."

Mr. Showalter is planning an episode around the release of his comedy album Sandwiches & Cats on Nov. 13, and hopes to eventually bring The Michael Showalter Showalter to television.

WAINY DAYS: Mr. Showalter's friend and Stella co-star David Wain also has an unmissable Web series. Seven episodes of Wainy Days have aired on www.MyDamnChannel.com, a site Mr. Wain had a hand in founding with comedian Harry Shearer and music producer Don Was. The episodes, which premiere weekly, follow Mr. Wain through conventional sitcom plots, handled unconventionally. In one episode, Mr. Wain's date leaves dinner with both an ex-boyfriend and the waiter. It's not all heartbreak for Mr. Wain, though; he exits with the wife of another patron.

DEREK & SIMON: THE SHOW: This series stars Simon Helberg and Derek Waters and can be found on www.superdeluxe.com, where the duo have put out 13 videos, each about 5 minutes long. Mr. Helberg (Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip) and Mr. Waters are both young comedic actors with some experience in Hollywood, but it's Bob Odenkirk's name that tops Derek & Simon. Mr. Odenkirk, best known for the late-'90s HBO sketch comedy show Mr. Show, directs the series and plays Derek and Simon's acting teacher. In one episode, Mr. Waters attempts to cover up an accidental "I love you" confession to his girlfriend by saying he loves everything ("I love bowling shoes!"). Some videos that contain R-rated material are for those 18 and older.

LIVIN' 'NEATH THE LAW WITH JACK MCBRAYER: Mr. McBrayer introduces himself in his first video as "The Hollywood Entertainment's Jack McBrayer. You may recognize me from such things as the Grammys, the United States Army or my role as Diane Keaton in the film Something's Gotta Give." Mr. McBrayer's best-known (real) role is as the network page Kenneth Parcell on NBC's 30 Rock. He recently began airing Livin' 'Neath the Law at www.FunnyOrDie.com, the video site founded by Will Ferrell and comedy director Adam McKay. Mr. McBrayer's innocent charm is still the gag here, but this time his persona is dedicated to cheerfully explaining the ways of the street.

In the first episode, How to Rip Off a Drug Dealer, Mr. McBrayer dispenses such advice as: "You're in the game now. It's play or be played."


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