Life after TV: 5 celebrities crossing over from television to the Web

Jerry Seinfeld and Ricky Gervais appear in an episode of Comedians in Cars getting Coffee

While many aspiring actors and actresses flock to YouTube in the hopes of one day landing a TV gig, sometimes talent moves the other way, too. A number of notable stars have recently begun cropping up in original programming for the Web — no TV contracts in sight. While their celebrity status doesn’t guarantee an audience, it’s an important stepping stone for Web-based original programming. We’ve seen the likes of Zach Galafianakis, Lisa Kudrow, Felicia Day, and even Tom Hanks cross over to prove that original programming is a viable competitor to terrestrial television.

We’ve kept an eye on the following actors and celebrity media personalities who are among the latest to shed their television personal for a piece of the growing original programming pie.

Wilmer Valderrama

Unfortunately, Valderrama will forever typecast as “Fez” from That 70’s Show, but he also emerged with another persona when he hosted Yo Momma, a trash-talking, freestyle rap series on MTV in 2006 and 2007. Surprisingly that show ran for three seasons before getting the axe. But an interest in the urban lifestyle hasn’t escaped Valderrama. He’s the host and creator of underground reality break-dancing competition, King of The Floor, which airs on NuevOn, a Latino-focused YouTube channel developed by Electus (responsible for Mob Wives and Fashion Star). The series showcases sixteen dancers battling against each another, leaving the last dancer standing with title of “King of The Floor.” The series began on July 12, but the videos have only garnered between 5,000 and 6,000 views.

Larry King

It isn’t the last that we’ve seen of the legendary Larry King, who recently handed over his CNN slot to Pierce Morgan Tonight. Larry King brings back his interview-style series in a half-hour talk show on Hulu titled Larry King Now, set in what appears to be King’s home. The show features heavyweight celebrities including Seth McFarlane, Betty White, Matthew McConaughey and even Judge Judy, but much like on his old show, King has his sights set on situating politicians and global leaders in the hot seat, in addition to the celebrity crowd. The show began on July 16, and airs every Monday to Thursday. If you were a fan of Larry King Live, Larry King Now is much like a continuation of King’s old routine.

Jerry Seinfeld

We haven’t seen much of Jerry Seinfeld since Seinfeld, Bee Movie and his guest appearances on Curb Your Enthusiasm. But with his new web series, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Seinfeld’s lifelong dream of creating a show about nothing has been finally realized, although it’s highly reminiscent (if not a direct copy) of Robert Llewellyn’s Web series, Carpool. With Jerry Seinfeld at the wheel of a 1952 Volkswagen bug, he and a guest comedian take a sojourn to a coffee shop where they reminisce, crack jokes, and keep each other company in a way that comedians would know how, while the audiences sits back and enjoys the witty exchange. The series aired on July 19 through Sony’s and and has released two episodes. The first features none other than Larry David, and the second, British comedian Ricky Gervais.

Ricky Gervais

On that note, Ricky Gervais gave his Twitter followers a sneak peek at the trailer to his own Web series, although little is known about the show other than the fact that it’s simply about learning English with Ricky Gervais. What that means of course (if you’re Ricky Gervais) is that the show will have nothing to with learning English, or will be an attempt to teach English while humorously veering off tangent.

Katie Couric

Katie Couric is debuting her new eponymous talk show, Katie, this fall in the wake of Oprah’s absence from the talk show scene. Prior to the launch of the show Katie’s Take, a weekly Web series on health and wellness was launched on Yahoo beginning May 1. The distribution for the show through Yahoo is simply disorganized. The shows are bundled into a Yahoo-based blog, leading us to believe that Katie’s Take is merely a test bed of sorts for Katie producers, but on a smaller manageable scale. Although, we could see extra takes, clips and auxiliary content making its way into Katie’s Take in a manner similar to the Jimmy Kimmel Live YouTube channel.

Of course these celebrities and personalities aren’t the first to be involved with a Web series, but the prejudice surrounding original programming has evidently disappeared with the success of a few. The cult Web series classic, Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog, featuring Patrick Neil Harris, Felicia Day and Nathon Fillion will be making its television debut on the CW on October 9, 2012. Lisa Kudrow’s improvisational Web series, which first aired in 2008, was picked up and aired on Showtime in July 2011. And The Annoying Orange, which has been one of only a few series to transition from Web to TV without celebrity backing, premiered on the Cartoon Network in June with The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange. With a low barrier to entry, we’re soon going to be witnessing an influx of celebrities looking to dabble in original programming.