Down the Rabbit Hole: YouTube Red
I remember when I first discovered YouTube. I was ten and helping with a school event. One of my friends showed me a Charlie the Unicorn video, and instantly I learned of a new world. While I was in high school, before I discovered Netflix, I found that people would upload episodes of entire TV shows. I rewatched the whole series of Friends on YouTube. Later when I was in college, I discovered YouTube stars like Jenna Marbles and Sam Tsui and started following their work. Currently, YouTube became a source for late night show clips, Buzzfeed videos, and music videos and left television streaming to sites like Netflix and Hulu. I have so many subscriptions that when I heard about YouTube Red, I waited to throw my money at another streaming subscription. I started to hear more about the original content on YouTube Red and decide to go down the rabbit hole.
I had seen ads for YouTube Red but didn’t look into it until I heard about a BuzzFeed Video series Broke. I have watched Quinta Brunson in several BuzzFeed video including the You Do You series, so I was interested in her new show. The pilot was free to the public, so I watched and loved it, but it wasn’t enough for me to subscribe. As I stuck to the free video universe, I kept seeing advertisements for other YouTube Red shows like Foursome and Single By 30. Finally, I decided I need to check it out. Watching Broke was such a joy for me. It’s about three twenty-somethings played by Quinta Brunson, Maurice Williams and Paul Dupree being broke and trying to make it in L.A. The idea of “being broke” comes up a lot in the show mostly in its tone. The issue of money is always in the background. The three characters are always battling with the cost of living, are grateful for money from parents and stressing about employment. This tone rises in the second to last episode of the season when Quinta goes to a bank, and they charge her with a fee just because she has less money in her amount than other clients. Quinta points out that their policy is unfair, and the show crosses over from jokes about being young and broke to making a statement about the social class structure in our country. This delightful show, of course, has more to it than the “broke” premise. It explores the struggles of living away from family and presents the process of creating a family out of the friends and people close to you. Long story short, I had all the warm fuzzy feelings and all the “this show understands my life” laughs while watching this show.
I then moved onto Foursome, an AwesomeTV production starring Jenn McAllister, Ricky Thompson, Brooke Markham, Meghan Falcone and Logan Paul. Jenn McAllister who has a YouTube following, plays Andie Fixler, a sophomore trying to survive high school will her older brother Alec, Logan Paul, a frequent vlogger, always ruining any possibility of romance. But with her group of friends Dakota, Imogen, and Courtney, Andie tackles her teen problems with grace. I have to say; my high school experience was nothing like the one these characters have. But it is nice to relax into a school where the biggest problems are high school problems. It is one of those shows where parents are not present, and teachers are clueless. However, the show portrays Alec, the protective older brother as an antagonist and an obstacle to Andie creating tension that moves the plot along. The show is very open about discussing topics like sex and drugs not in a preachy way, but in a realistic way where teens can think of their experiences alongside the character’s experience.
While exploring YouTube Red, I discovered the show Sing It, starring Mircea Monroe and Mark Jude Sullivan, actors that looked familiar. Monroe was in an episode of How I Met Your Mother, as the wedding planner with the redonculous body. Mark Jude Sullivan has been in nothing I saw except for maybe one episode of Pam Am, so maybe he just has one of those faces. Monroe plays Stacey who is in line to be executive producer of a singing competition show when Drew, (Sullivan) a young filmmaker gets the job after making a documentary exposing everything that is wrong with the show. The actors that play the judges are familiar to me. Debby Ryan, a former Disney Channel star, plays Holli Holiday, the stereotypical hot mess celeb that shows up either hungover or an emotional wreck. Then Alex Desert, who I know from Boy Meets World as teacher Eli Williams, plays the other judge who is a producer himself and acts way too cool for this show. The contestants are YouTube stars like Sam Tsui as well as some former singing contestants like Diamond White who was on The X factor and Lean Lewis who was on The Voice. Of course, the talented Missy Pyle plays the network executive. After taking in all the incredible talent, I loved the parody of a singing competition show from a behind the scenes perspective. I had so much fun binge watching this comedy, and I found it refreshing to watch because it felt like something I hadn’t seen before yet seemed like something that is supposed to exist. I would never have known about this gem if I hadn’t gotten YouTube Red.
I had seen advertisements for Single By 30 and knew it was something I needed to experience. The show stars, Harry Shum Jr as Peter and Kina Grannis as Joanna, two high school best friends that make a packed that if neither of them is married by the time they are thirty, they will marry each other. This show is a delightful romantic comedy that captures unique relationship storylines in a beautiful and natural way. I don’t know what it is like to be thirty. But I know what it is like to be single, and I know what it is like to be in a relationship, and I think this show represents those states very well. Kina also sings a beautifully in the show and other videos. The two leads did a cover of The Chainsmokers’ Closer where Kina sang, and Peter danced which was cute and amazing. Kina also did a duet with Sam Tsui called Keep You Warm which I also love. This show is a lot heavier than the other shows I watched, but the quality of this show is so amazing that I didn’t mind the show having a more serious tone on a platform like YouTube Red. I think people sometimes think of YouTube video being silly, humorous, Facebook clickbait. While the other well executed, well-produced shows I watched had more of a humorous, goofy tone, this show opened my eyes to the variety and talent YouTube Red has to offer.
At this point, I had watched everything on YouTube Red that I intentionally wanted to watch. However, since I am down in this rabbit hole, I figure what is the harm of going down deeper. So I decided to watch one more show, Rhett & Link’s Buddy System. I didn’t realize I was stumbling onto an empire. The creators have a channel called Good Mythical Morning that has over one thousand episodes, and Buddy System tells a story about Rhett and Link beyond Good Mythical Morning that takes place over a couple of days. It seems like a typical buddy comedy with random musical numbers, but as the series goes on, the show tests the realm of reality experimenting with the concept of magic and imagination being real. The show is something different and something I feel like I could only find on YouTube. I enjoyed going out of my comfort zone and experiencing something fresh.
This experience of going down the YouTube Red rabbit hole was overwhelming and exciting. I feel like I have only scratched the surface on what is out there. There have been more releases of shows since I started, and I can’t wait to watch them. There are also movies that I didn’t even touch during this that are available. YouTube Red has become a part of my regular streaming routine, and I feel better about giving me time to YouTube Red. The people and the companies working on these projects are more underrated than the people and companies apart of bigger network productions. To me, it’s like buying things from a small business versus a Walmart. The quality is just as good, and I feel better about my choice.