In a special edition, four YouTube series are this week's selections.
There's going to be plenty of time for normal Binge Blogs in the coming months, what with *gestures wildly* going on. Today, I'm changing the formula a bit. I'm going to write about some of my favorite YouTube series. I've mentioned some YouTube shows before (I won't write about those ones), but this will be the first all-YouTube edition of the blog.
Why? I don't know, I'm bored. And YouTube is free, meaning everyone has equal access to these things. Honestly, it stresses me out sometimes when I write about a show that is only on Kanopy or Showtime Anytime or whatever. I don't want to hype a show and then leave some people fending for themselves. So this is a way to make sure everyone can enjoy this week's picks. Plus, they're all incredibly bingeable, if not my usual heady fare. Sometimes you just need to watch something stupid, you know? So here's some of that.
First We Feast, not rated, 244 episodes and counting, 15-25 minutes
I will be forever jealous of Sean Evans for thinking of the idea for "Hot Ones" before me. It is genius and sets the standard for interview shows (of any kind, but especially more irreverent ones).
If you aren't familiar, each "Hot Ones" episode features Evans and a celebrity guest eating 10 chicken wings doused in hot sauce. The sauces get hotter with each wing, and between bites, Evans will ask the celebrity probing questions. Like the sauces, Evans' questions get hotter as the show goes along, starting by asking the guest about their latest project or a picture on their Instagram feed, and ending by asking them about a personal transformation or what they think of the industry at-large or some other deep topic.
This is where the brilliance of the show makes itself known. As the celebs are struggling to control themselves — these sauces are incredibly spicy, reaching the upper edges of the Scoville scale — they're likely to blurt out the truth to the deep questions, unable to think of a way to spin them (or unable to care about spinning them).
The "Hot Ones" research team is also brilliant, pulling questions the celebs have clearly never been asked before. (It's common to hear the celebs themselves compliment the research done during the interview.) Not only are the interviews insightful, they're funny too. Evans is a great interviewer, but the hot sauces do a lot of the heavy lifting in the comedy department. It's always entertaining to see a celeb start hooting and hollering from the heat, sometimes even shedding a few tears. The best interviews are the ones where the celebs lean into the skid and embrace the ridiculousness of the whole situation. The show's interview with actress Margot Robbie is a great example of this. It shows off Robbie's real personality and is engaging all the way through.
Polygon, not rated, 26 episodes and counting, various episode lengths
Polygon's Brian David Gilbert, much like SB Nation's Jon Bois, is one of the most creative video people on the planet. He's always funny, but he takes it to the next level in his "Unraveled" series.
Each episode of the series takes an obtuse aspect of a video game franchise and tries to explain it or bring it into the real world, often taking an (overly) scientific approach. Like when he tried to determine which Mortal Kombat character would be the best cuddler. Or when he made all 78 (!) recipes from "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild," in a single day (!!), and judged how viable an option they would be for someone living in the wilderness. Or when, most recently, he read all of the "Halo" novelizations to try to understand that universe's sprawling story. That's 29 books, if you don't know. It took him a full year. Talk about committing to a bit.
Gilbert is an insane person. I mean that in the best way. Not only are the initial ideas for these videos ridiculous, but they all have a narrative. Throughout each video, "Brian" learns something about himself or how the world works. The work often leaves him shattered, a broken husk of a human being. I'll often watch his work asking myself why I'm getting emotional over a dude trying to figure out when Mario might be able to retire from his work as a plumber. Then he'll make a joke or pull out a dance move, and I'm laughing again. He's able to pull a wide range of emotions out of you. I always appreciate that.
There's a decent chance you don't understand anything I just wrote if you don't like video games. That's OK! The best thing about these videos is that they are, at least ostensibly, explainers. I didn't know anything about "Halo" before his latest video. Now I know everything. You, too, can know everything, and also watch a man lose and then find himself again. I think you should, if for no other reason than to watch something unlike anything you have seen before.
I am sorry this one is not more specific, but both outlets' videos are so good I can't choose between the two. Basically, the title says it all. They bring on accent experts — Variety typically uses Amy Walker, Wired typically uses Erik Singer — and have them break down something: British accents in movies, Language pet peeves, tongue twisters, American accents in movies, telling different accents apart, etc.
I cannot explain how calm these videos make me feel. For some reason, listening to them switch between different styles on the fly makes me feel so good. This is my version of ASMR. And learning how the different sounds are made with the tongue/mouth is interesting, too. The breadth of knowledge these people have astounds me.
I honestly don't have much more to say about these. They are the best genre of video and you should watch them.
45 minutes you will not regret
Now that you've made it this far, I feel like I can be honest with you: I only decided to do an all-YouTube edition because I wanted to talk about this video.
"The Chris Gethard Show" was a live variety (?) show hosted by comedian Chris Gethard. It began as a public access show and it maintained that "anything could happen" energy through its entire run. Season two, episode nine of this show featured actors/podcasters Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas as guests, old friends of Gethard's. The episode is called "One Man's Trash" because, for the show's 45-minute run time, Gethard had viewers call in and try to guess what was hidden in a quite large dumpster Gethard's team had wheeled into the studio.
Gethard gives no hints to start, and promised that if no one guessed what was inside, he would roll he dumpster out of the studio and not reveal its contents. Alternatively, he tells everyone, if someone guesses it right away, he has no backup ideas. This is the whole episode, no matter what happens.
"One Man's Trash" is the most compelling 45 minutes of television I have ever seen. I know I have a tendency to use hyperbole in this column. I am not using it here. This is the best 45 minutes of TV you will watch, if not in your lifetime then at least in 2020.
It starts innocuously enough. Scheer and Mantzoukas make some jokes about how stupid this idea is — again, this show was aired live — and attempt to take over the show. It's funny. Then a few callers make guesses. Some of them are funny but none of them are correct. Because of course they aren't. How are you supposed to guess what is in a dumpster with no hints? It could literally be anything. Gethard says some of the guesses have been weirdly close, though. Of course, at this point there have been so many guesses, it's impossible to know to which ones he's referring. And it's all in good fun anyway. The appeal, up to now, is watching three friends rib each other (and the audience) on live TV.
Then something happens. Gethard makes the decision to show Scheer what is in the dumpster. And this, friends, is the tipping point. Immediately, Scheer's facial expression changes. He's not laughing anymore. In fact, he looks like he's seen a ghost:
"Game changer, or no?" Gethard asks him.
"Literally a gigantic game changer," Scheer responds. He stands in the middle of the stage for a few seconds, unable to sit down from the wave of excitement that just hit him. "I have to say that I'm almost speechless."
From this moment on, the episode becomes a race against time as the hosts and the audience work together to try to help someone guess what's in the dumpster. Eventually, Mantzoukas is also shown the mystery contents, and his expression matches Scheer's. At this point on my first watch, I would have severed my left arm if it meant I could have known what was in the dumpster. There was nothing I needed more in the world than to know this secret. What could have possibly made Scheer and Mantzoukas react like that?
The energy of this episode is a chaos I have previously only read about in books. There's a punk band playing the intro and outro. There's a guy dressed as a "human fish" in the background. Watching it all work in cohesion made my soul feel like it was dancing a beautiful tango with the dark arts.
"I should not be watching this," I thought. "None of this should work. And yet I'd rather die than look away, even for a second, lest I miss the guess that unlocks the mystery of the dumpster."
Now, I rewatch the episode once, maybe twice a year. I will not reveal here whether the audience succeeds in its task. If that is important to you before you begin watching, tweet me and I'll tell you if they do or not. But nowhere will I reveal what is in the dumpster (if I even know that information at all). The YouTube video even has comments disabled, so one one can go spoiling the episode for anyone. It understands how precious this material is. It's still entertaining on rewatches, but you can only watch it for that first thrilling time once.
"One Man's Trash" is skiing down a mountain with no way to stop. It is the song of the siren, willing men to their shores from their boats, which they will never see again. It is the mystery story Agatha Christie wishes she wrote. Watch five minutes and you will be unable to look away until the journey is complete, whatever that ends up meaning. It is something you will never forget. This, I promise you.