15 best web series: free programmes to watch online - from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries to Fantasy High

Home entertainment isn’t limited to Disney+ and Netflix – there are hundreds of brilliant web series available to watch for free online if you know where to look

Over the past year, as we’ve been spending the majority of our time indoors, demand for at-home streaming services has never been higher, but there are only so many films and TV shows available to watch.

If you’ve officially exhausted the Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Disney+ catalogues, all is not lost - you just need to turn to a different avenue of online entertainment: the humble web series.

Sign up to our NationalWorld Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

There are loads of shows you may never have heard of, that are made specifically for online viewing. From comedies to thrillers, reality TV, and talk shows, there’s something for everyone, and the best part is that they’re all available to watch for free!

Have you watched any of these shows? (Photo: YouTube)

Here are 15 web series you should check out to get started.

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an award-winning series based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, but adapted for the modern age through the lens of a YouTube vlogger.

The story largely takes place in Lizzie’s bedroom, with most of the major events happening off screen, and told to the audience by Lizzie.

All the iconic characters from Austen’s novel have been updated for a present-day retelling, including Lizzie’s sisters, Jane Bennet and Lydia Britney Bennet, Charlotte Lu (Charlotte Lucas), Bing Lee (Charles Bingley), Caroline Lee (Caroline Bingley) and, of course, William Darcy.

In 2013, the show became the first web series to win an Emmy, for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media - Original Interactive Programme.

Each episode is between two and eight minutes long, which was normal for vlog-style videos in 2013, versus the longer form videos we are used to today.

You can watch all episodes of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries on the official YouTube channel, plus all bonus content as well.

The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo

The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo is a comedy web series which focuses on the lives and relationships of a group of friends living in LA - Caleb, Karen, Billy, Freckle, Benicio and Lenjamin.

The real scene-stealer of the show though is Freckle (played by Jason Greene), who is the genderfluid friend of the titular Caleb Gallo.

One of their most iconic phrases that fans of the show love to quote is: “Sometimes things that are expensive… are worse.”

You might recognise show creator, writer, director and star of The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo, Brian Jordan Alvarez, from his roles in shows such as the rebooted Will & Grace, Get Shorty and Jane the Virgin.

The web series is five episodes long, with each episode ranging between 10 and 20 minutes.

You can watch The Gay and Wondrous Life of Caleb Gallo on YouTube on Brian Jordan Alvarez’s channel.

Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party

From producers Shipwrecked Comedy, Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party follows as Edgar Allan Poe invites a host of famous authors from history over for a dinner party - however things go terribly wrong when one by one, his guests mysteriously start dying.

Famous literary names included in the guest list include Charlotte Bronte, Oscar Wilde, Ernest Hemingway, HG Wells, Emily Dickinson, Agatha Christie and Mary Shelley.

The series was written and created by Sean and Sinead Persaud, and directed by William J Stribling.

You can watch Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party on the Shipwrecked Comedy YouTube channel.

UNHhhh

UNHhhh is a comedy web series hosted by RuPaul’s Drag Race alumni Trixie Mattel and Katya Zamolodchikova, where the two talk about absolutely anything they feel like, because, as they say at the beginning of every episode, “It’s our show - not yours.”

The two share a bizarre and dark sense of humour and getting to see them go all out in their efforts to make the other laugh is truly magical - especially when Katya lets loose one of her famous scream-laughs.

The show first premiered in 2016, a year after they had appeared on season seven of Drag Race, and it’s still running today. It has been nominated for four Streamy Awards and in 2020 it finally won an award in the Unscripted Series category.

You can watch all episodes of UNHhhh on the World of Wonder YouTube channel.

Carmilla

Another literary-inspired show, Carmilla is loosely based on the 1872 novella of the same name by Sheridan Le Fanu, which was one of the earliest works of vampire fiction.

The web series is shot in a vlog-style format, as Laura Hollis documents her experience as a student starting her journalism degree at Silas University.

After Laura’s roommate goes missing, she decides to investigate, and is assigned a new roommate - Carmilla.

The series stars Elise Bauman (Good Witch, Mary Brown Kills People), Natasha Negovanlis (Almost Adults, ClaireVoyant), Annie Briggs (Wharf Rats, Murdoch Mysteries) and Kaitlyn Alexander (Couple-ish, The Bold Type).

You can watch all seasons of Carmilla on the KindaTV YouTube channel.

Hot Ones

Hot Ones is an interview-style web series featuring some of the biggest names in entertainment - but with a twist.

Host Sean Evans interviews his guests with genuinely insightful and interesting questions as they make their way along a platter of increasingly spicy chicken wings (or alternatives for vegetarian and vegan guests).

The tagline of the show even states: “Hot Ones, the show with hot questions and even hotter wings.”

Guests who have appeared on the show include the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Billie Eilish, Steve-O, Paris Hilton, Matthew McConaughey, Naomi Campbell and many, many more. The show has recently just concluded its 14th season.

You can watch all seasons for free on YouTube on the First We Feast channel.

Single by 30

Single by 30 is a romantic comedy series which follows Peter and Joanna, who made a pact in high school agreeing that they would get married if they were both still single by the age of 30.

While the two lose touch after high school, they find themselves back in each other's lives after 12 years, just before they both turn 30.

The show stars Harry Shum Jr (Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments, Crazy Rich Asians) as Peter, and Kina Grannis as Joanna, who is better known for her work as a musician.

You can watch all episodes of Single by 30 on the WongFu YouTube channel.

Escape the Night

Escape the Night is a reality series, hosted by YouTuber Joey Graceffa. It was the longest-running series on YouTube Premium until it was cancelled last year, after having run from 2016 to 2020.

The show sees a number of YouTube personalities invited back in time to an estate that has them cut off from the modern world and challenged with surviving the night and escaping the estate.

To do this, they must participate in a number of challenges and escape room puzzles, competing against one another. At the end of each episode, two guests are voted into a challenge where they must face off against each other, with the loser eliminated and the winner able to survive another day.

Across the four seasons of the show, internet figures like Shane Dawson, Lele Pons, Liza Koshy, Tyler Oakley, Manny Mua, Gabbie Hanna and Tana Mongeau have all starred on the series.

You can watch all four seasons of Escape the Night on Joey Graceffa’s YouTube channel.

H+

H+ is a sci-fi series set in a dystopian future, where one third of the world’s population has been implanted with a neural chip named H+, which connects the human brain to the internet 24 hours a day. The story follows the effects of a virus which affects the H+ implant.

The series was produced by Bryan Singer, who is best known for directing a number of films in the X-Men franchise, including X-Men: Days of Future Past and X-Men: Apocalypse.

H+ also stars Caitriona Balfe (Outlander, Ford v Ferrari), Alexis Denisof (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Grimm) and Hannah Simone (New Girl, Single Parents).

You can watch all episodes of H+, plus all bonus content, on the official H+ YouTube channel.

Awkward Black Girl

Awkward Black Girl is a comedy series created by and starring Issa Rae, who you might recognise as the star, writer and producer of the award-winning HBO comedy/drama TV series, Insecure.

Insecure is partially based on Awkward Black Girl, and the web series follows J (played by Rae) as she deals with co-workers, love interests and friends, and generally tries to live her life while being placed in some - as the title suggests - awkward situations.

In 2012, Rae was featured in the Forbes 30 under 30 Entertainment List for her work on Awkward Black Girl, and the show was what first started to garner attention for Rae from the entertainment industry.

You can watch all episodes of Awkward Black Girl on the iamOTHER YouTube channel.

Mr Student Body President

Mr Student Body President follows Tyler Prendergast, the student body president of Berenger High, and his cabinet members as they do everything and anything they can to maintain their power over the students and staff of their high school - this is high school politics like you’ve never seen before.

Jeremy Shada stars as the titular Tylder Prendergast, and you may recognise his voice as Finn from the animated TV series, Adventure Time. Also in the cast is Arden Rose (Guidance, Everybody is Doing Great), Jackie Linn (Smiley, Boys Before Friends) and Gabriel Conte (Guilty Party, Spies in Disguise).

You can watch all seasons of Mr Student Body President on the New Form YouTube channel.

Fantasy High

Fantasy High is a dungeons and dragons campaign, which follows the story of six intrepid heroes as they embark on their first day of adventuring school, where they tackle monsters, exams, bullies and detention.

The campaign aims to answer the question: “What if John Hughes ran a tabletop RPG game?”

The series was created by Brennan Lee Mulligan and he stars as the DM (dungeon master). The rest of the cast includes Emily Axford, Zac Oyama, Siobhan Thompson, Lou Wilson, Ally Beardsley and Brain Murphy.

You can watch Fantasy High, and other campaigns, on the Dimension 20 YouTube channel.

The Retreat

The Retreat is a thriller which follows a group of friends attending an all black women’s artist retreat. When a damning secret is revealed during one of the events, Pamela, Dana and Bea are given a large chunk of money in exchange for signing a non-disclosure agreement that forbids any discussion of the events.

A year later, when a book of memoirs written by Pamela threatens to expose what really happened at the retreat, it’s every woman for herself in a struggle to survive.

The series was created by Ashley Denise and Ricki Lynèe, who both also star in the show. While only one episode of The Retreat has been released so far, a promising first episode makes this a must-watch of 2021.

You can watch the first episode of The Retreat on the BlackOakTV YouTube channel.

The Formal

The Formal is a comedy mockumentary-style series, which follows Australian high school students Hannah and Monique as they are tasked with planning the biggest night of their lives so far - the Year 12 formal.

Monique is very invested in the outcome of the formal - the popular girl who is desperate to see the plan come off without a hitch. Hannah on the other hand, couldn’t really care less about the whole affair, but the two have been stuck together to plan the event by their teachers.

You can catch all the episodes of The Formal on TikTok on @TheFormalSeries channel.

The Guild

The Guild is an American comedy web series created and written by Felicia Day, who you might recognise for her roles as Charlie in Supernatural, Holly in A Town Called Eureka and Vi in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

The show revolves around the lives of a gamers’ online guild, called The Knights of Good, who play hours and hours of a fantasy roleplaying video game, referred to as The Game. The story focuses on a character called Codex (played by Day) after one of her guild members shows up on her front door in real life.

The Guild has featured guest stars including Nathan Fillion (Castle, Firefly), Brent Spiner (Star Trek: First Contact, Warehouse 13) and comic book icon Stan Lee best known for the creation of superhero characters like Spider-Man, Iron Man, the Hulk and many more.

You can watch all seasons of The Guild on the official The Guild YouTube channel.