10 TV Shows That Started Their Life On YouTube

There’s a great legacy behind TV shows, despite their small presence these days. This legacy has become entirely on-demand thanks to digital archives. Combining this legacy with streaming services has somehow transformed television into YouTube. Since their current forms are so similar, YouTube itself has actually led to some good TV shows.

YouTube’s influence on entertainment is gargantuan, having led to untold influence on movies and television. Pilots will sometimes be put on YouTube to gauge reception. Sometimes YouTube-based programs will be broadcast or adapted for television. Either way, these TV shows owe their existence to YouTube.


ten Fred: the show

Promotional image for Fred: The Show

Fred Figglehorn, a character created by Luis Cruikshank, had one of the first YouTube channels to come to prominence. The character was a high-pitched child who occupied an unsettling, dark world. In many ways, it was Cruikshank who had the early fun of creating online content. Despite humble origins, Nickelodeon would take on the character for films and a television series.

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The Fred films are widely known for featuring John Cena, but the series featured much of the same cast. It was very similar to other Nickelodeon sitcoms of the time, with wacky humor. Notably, Fred’s dark world has been toned down heavily from the YouTube original. Despite being poorly reviewed, it remains perhaps the most famous transition from YouTube to television.

9 adventure time

Finn and Jake kiss in Adventure Time

adventure time ended up becoming one of Cartoon Network’s biggest shows of the 2010s. However, its origins lie in a pilot from several years earlier. This pilot was submitted to Nickelodeon, who ultimately elected to pass it on. As such, it was placed on YouTube instead.

Internet video sites like YouTube and others of the time proved to be the best place for it as the pilot reached viral status. Combined with the success of Pendleton Ward’s other Flapjack project, the idea was revisited. Finn and Jake would never go on an adventure without the help of YouTube.

8 The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange

Characters from The High Fructose Adventures of Boring Orange

Another Cartoon Network initiative was the Boring Orange High Fructose Adventures. This took the YouTube channel’s approach of imposing actors’ mouths on fruits for animation. Launched in 2012, it featured popular YouTubers of the time like Tobuscus and iJustine. Unfortunately, it didn’t receive very good reviews.

The series mainly focuses on fruit mishaps on a stand in a local supermarket. It’s a departure from the web series, where they were in a kitchen. However, the series mainly revolves around the misadventures of Orange, Pear and Apple. Despite poor reviews, it lasted two seasons.

seven Discovering David Dobrik

Title Card for Discovering David Dobrik

Sometimes, rather than a specific show, a YouTuber’s personality is enough to land them a show. Discovering David Dobrik is a natural extension of the creator’s vlog content. His videos (and before that, Vines) typically featured him and his friends reacting to the world around them. It was called The Vlog Squad, and the premise is kept for the Discovery+ show.

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The series follows David and his friends traveling around the world. As a subplot, it also includes David getting his US citizenship. The series received modest praise from fans, but critics weren’t as impressed. The release of episodes of the series has been suspended for the past few months.

6 Adam ruins everything

While they technically started as a web series on CollegeHumor before television, the first episodes of Adam ruins everything were also posted on YouTube. YouTube clips for the original series and TV format have a high number of views. It’s easy to see why, as the series is an educational comedy with clever writing. Although they often touch on deep or uncomfortable subject matter, the episodes generally end with a positive twist.

Each episode begins with a character expressing interest in a broad topic, such as medicine or Christmas. Adam will then appear and debunk many of the misconceptions about this topic, usually in a socially conscious way. This will lead to exasperation, then to the final act and positive spin. The show has been praised for its nuanced and easy-to-follow approach to complex subjects.

5 Letterkenny

Andrew Herr and Dylan Playfair in Letterkenny Season 10

Letterkenny won the 2017 Canadian Screen Award for Best Comedy Series and is generally considered one of the best Canadian shows in recent memory. This is justified, as Letterkenny has tons of fun moments. All that prestige belies its origins as a YouTube series. It was originally created under the name of Letterkenny issues in 2013, and the acclaim led to it being picked up as a show.

The show centers on the fictional Canadian town of Letterkenny, which has a population of 5,000. The main characters, Wayne and Katy, have their hands full with a stand of produce. Other episodes rack up additional conflicts with the many groups in town. Unusually for a small town, the series piled on the laughs with tons of clever, fast-paced puns.

4 Insecure

Issa and Kelli outside

Not all web series make it to TV without at least a few changes. In the case of Issa Rae’s 2011 hit YouTube show Awkward black girladaptation changed it to Insecure. That’s by no means a problem, as this series about the awkward experiences of contemporary African-American women excelled. It ran for five critically acclaimed seasons.

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The series is set in South Los Angeles and deals with the struggles of its two female leads. Issa works for a nonprofit that seeks to help middle schoolers of color and tries to make things work with her boyfriend Lawrence. Molly is a corporate lawyer who struggles with dating. The show has been praised for the expert manner in which it has dealt with social and racial issues.

3 Oddballs

Oddballs by YouTube creator Odd1sout.

This show has yet to debut, but it is one of the most anticipated anime shows for Netflix. Oddballs is created by the mind behind it and should have similar content to the Odd1sOut YouTube channel. James, a bubble-shaped boy, fumes and illustrates his experiences. It is an adaptation of the popular YouTube animation genre “Storytime” with more of a framing device plot.

As such, James now has a supporting cast to bounce back from. This includes a talking crocodile named Max and a girl from the future named Echo. According to press releases, James’ interactions with these new characters will result in larger storylines. The series is set to debut later this year after being in development throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

2 vast city

Split image of Ilana and Abbi in Broad City

vast city was one of the more low-key hits of the 2010s. This Comedy Central series ran for five critically acclaimed seasons, ending in 2019. It was created by Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson based on their web series of the same name. The original YouTube series also had a successful two-season run and its finale starred Amy Poehler.

Poehler’s involvement ultimately led to the creation of the series. Like the web show, it focuses on Ilana and Abbi’s real-life friendship as they try to make it in New York. The show’s New York setting and emphasis on incidental humor has led to comparisons with Seinfeld but it was also praised for its well-executed feminist themes.

1 Cobra Kai


Cobra Kai had a major success in revitalizing 80s sports cinema, but most know it as Netflix Karate Kid after. People seem to have forgotten that it debuted on YouTube’s streaming service, YouTube Red. Before Season 3 hit Netflix, this hard-hitting series could be found exclusively on YouTube. The original season’s smaller litter is perhaps indicative of her roots.

Cobra Kai features Johnny Lawrence, the bully of the first Karate Kid film, attempting to resume his life by restarting his old dojo. As the series continues, Daniel LaRusso and other characters from the original series appear. The real draw of the series, however, is the relationship between Johnny and his apprentice Miguel. With Season 5 on the way, fans are excited to see more of this former YouTube sensation.

NEXT: Cobra Kai’s 10 Most Important Fights

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