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Crafting drama, humor online

Online TV -- it's not just dancing cats anymore.

More and more honest-to-goodness pros are starting to craft work specifically for the Web.

Many are doing it for YouTube, the video site that created the whole funny-falls-and-antic-animals genre beloved of bored office drones.

Seeking to be more "sticky" than two-minute grins, YouTube now tries to hold our attention with a host of "channels" offering daily and weekly series using -- gosh! -- actual scripts. And actors. Even decent production values.

These "episodes" still tend to be short (5 to 15 minutes), the actors often less than famous, the plots not always deep or challenging. But even baby steps get a body moving toward -- well, somewhere.

Take a look at some of the YouTube outings trying to make "Web TV" less random diversion and more serious viewing option.


Big names and slick production have vaulted this channel to prominence in just three months. Aiming more adult than most, director-producers Jon Avnet ("Boomtown") and Rodrigo Garcia ("Six Feet Under") focus on female leads playing complex characters. Today marks the premiere of "Rochelle," with Rosanna Arquette in author Scott Turow's tale of a woman who hires an escort. It joins such other provocative originals as Garcia's own "Serena," with Jennifer Garner as a parishioner obsessed with Alfred Molina's priest, and "Lauren," about sexual assault in the military, with Troian Bellisario and Jennifer Beals, directed by Lesli Linka Glatter ("Mad Men").

Lighthearted fare is represented, too. Mitch Albom directs "Leslie," with Catherine O'Hara as an actress trying to channel a legendary nun. America Ferrera stars in "Christine," speed-dating through guys including Eric Balfour and Gary Dourdan.

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"Eureka" co-star and geek icon Felicia Day brings her established Web series "The Guild" to her new YouTube platform. She and other familiar co-conspirators add such genre-tied gems as "Save the Supers," an earnest peek inside superheroes' daily lives.

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"CSI" creator Anthony Zuiker finds a new creative playground here by spotlighting sci-fi and spookery. The anthology series "Silverwood" presents creepy twist-tales taking place in a remote California mountain town.

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Broadway Video, the folks behind "Saturday Night Live," now hit the Web with daily doses of short-form comedy. "Cool Kids' Table" flashes back to high school with celeb cameos from the likes of Dylan McDermott, Chris Colfer and Rachel Dratch. "Rejected Pitches" wonders how proposals for classic flicks from "E.T." to "Citizen Kane" would be received by studios today. And then there's "Puppet High."

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Trying to lure teens with something other than their own "awesome" behavior, this YouTuber graduates Friday to its first scripted series. The bloody suspenser "Runaways," created by Brian Robbins and Joe Davola ("Smallville"), unreels seven daily-streamed episodes tracking a private school couple that disappears the day cops find a murdered student.

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Rainn Wilson of "The Office" wonders what you'd do if you won the lottery or went back in time -- or watched such scripted shorts from his channel's series "The FlipSide," designed to open your mind to life's big questions.

(Many Web channels can also be viewed on TV sets. Try watching YouTube via app or browser on web-connected "smart" HDTV sets, Blu-ray players, and streaming boxes like Roku.)

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