It's time to take a look at another four YouTube Red originals! Let's dive right in.
BuzzFeed's other YouTube Red show, Broke, follows three broke friends who move to L.A. to follow their dreams. Sound familiar? I have to give credit to this series—while the idea for the show isn't exactly creative, it's not a direct ripoff of some other piece of media like most things on YouTube Red.
So what's the show like? Well, it's a strange combination of a reality show and an after school Nickelodeon kids show. In some scenes, it's badly acted exaggerated interactions that would only work were it for kids—or if it was "ironically" that way, à la Neil Cicierega's Computer Fighters, but I don't think that's the case. Other times, it seems more like a reality TV show where a bunch of vapid people pretend to fight with each other for ratings, like it was an episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It's not just any single thing—it's like it was a conscious decision. It's as if they decided that certain scenes would be written, acted, and shot like a kids show, and certain scenes would be written, acted, and shot like a reality show.
For the record, I would've liked it better if they stuck with the kids show angle. A fake kids show about twenty somethings in L.A. could've been O.K., but as-is it feels like there's two different shows here conflicting with each other.
Every comment on the first episode—which is free—is something along the lines of "It's ironic that the show is called Broke but you need to pay to watch it," which feels like something people wouldn't need to keep commenting after the first few times.
BlackBoxTV's Fight of the Living Dead: Experiment 88
There's two trends I'm noticing among these YouTube Red original series: first, that there's a lot of reality shows starring YouTube celebrities; second, that they're all copying piece of media. Both of these things are true about Fight of the Living Dead.
In 2009, there was a Discovery TV show called The Colony. In the first season, which was the only one I watched, a group of ten people were sent into a warehouse in L.A. to pretend to be in the middle of an apocalypse for two months. They had to gather food and water, secure their compound, generate electricity, and find a way to escape. It was incredibly fake, but it was interesting to watch, if for no other reason than it's cool to see the solutions they come up with.
In 2016, there was a YouTube Red show called Fight of the Living Dead: Experiment 88. In the first season, which is the only one that's released so far, a ground of ten YouTube celebrities are sent into an "abandoned hospital" in L.A. to "participate in a groundbreaking social experiment" a.k.a. pretend to be in a zombie apocalypse for three days. They have to look like they're angry at each other, create fake drama, manufacture tension, and attempt to overact themselves out of a fake zombie apocalypse. It's incredibly fake, and it's not interesting to watch.
There's a difference in the level of fakeness between The Colony and Fight of the Living Dead. In The Colony, at least they look like people who would be in a survival situation: a bunch of average people from various backgrounds, of various ages (from 23 to 62!), and without makeup. They weren't actors, and each of their backgrounds was their real background (the nurse was really a nurse, the handyman was really a handyman, and so on). They weren't actually in a survival situation, and they obviously knew that, but their reactions felt real. The tension between the group members, while probably in part manufactured, is tension that could conceivably be created while spending two months with a bunch of people you don't know.
Fight of the Living Dead, on the other hand, stars YouTube celebrities. It's not really a sampling of the population; it's more like a bunch of twenty somethings (average age between them is 26) trying to look the coolest to their YouTube subscribers. All of them are actors, and none of them seem to have any useful skills. Add on to that the fact that the situation is entirely manufactured (it would never, ever happen in real life) and the rules of it feel like a bad zombie video game, and you've got an unbelievable "reality" show staring a bunch of unlikeable YouTube celebs.
Rooster Teeth's Lazer Team
Lazer Team is a YouTube Red original film created by Rooster Teeth which follows four pretty average guys who each receive a part of an alien suit of power. The four guys who pretty much hate each other must work together to save the earth. Pretty standard stuff.
Unlike most of YouTube Red's content, Lazer Team wasn't made for the platform. It was created independently by Rooster Teeth themselves, financed by a $2.4 million Indiegogo campaign. The film was released theatrically in early 2016, before finally making it onto YouTube Red. This separation between YouTube and the film's production probably did it some favors; rather than almost every other YouTube Red original, Lazer Team doesn't seem to suffer at all from being on the platform. Absent are the annoying YouTubers and gigantic egos of most other YouTube Red shows, much to the film's benefit.
There are, of course, problems. Most of the visual effects are pretty good, but the CGI aliens look awful. The biggest problem I have with the movie would be its sound editing—a strange complaint, I know, but the way the dialog was edited in many of the shots makes it sound like a voiceover rather than something the character actually said. It's internet comedy sketch levels of sound editing, and that doesn't cut it for this film. But I can get over that.
I wouldn't say Lazer Team is great. Most aspects of it are pretty standard for what you'd expect from the plot summary. So no, this film doesn't have any substantial artistic merit, nor do I think it's an award winning production. But it's got a good enough mix of fun and stupid that I think it's enjoyable to watch. It's not one of my favorites, and I wouldn't rank it alongside other dumb-but-enjoyable films like ConAir and Hackers, but it's worth watching if you already have YouTube Red.
I appreciate that Ed Robertson of the Barenaked Ladies reprises his role as anchor of BNL News from the "Odds Are" music video.
BuzzFeed's Squad Wars
BuzzFeed's other piece of YouTube Red original content is Squad Wars, starring people who are apparently called The Try Guys. The idea of the show, as far as I can tell, is that two "squads" (groups of people who share a certain qualification) team up with one of the "try guys" to compete in several rounds of challenges. For example, the first episode pits competitors from Project Runway against competitors from American Ninja Warrior in pirate-themed challenges.
The show is basically what you'd expect. Annoying millenials who are somehow famous star in a reality TV show about their egos. As far as reality TV shows go on YouTube Red, this is probably the best so far—it's competently made and isn't directly ripping off some other piece of content. It's probably thanks to BuzzFeed's video production credentials that this show isn't a trainwreck like MatPat's GAME LAB. It's also not very good, but it's more than I expected.
I have to admit, I'm not going into this looking for gold. I'm pretty much expecting that everything's going to be terrible. So when it does turn out that there's something good, it's a pleasant surprise. Let's hope we get more surprises like that.
What's our hit rate so far? Two good ones out of twelve reviewed so far? A solid 16.6666% repeating. Well, I guess the percentage did go up, if only by a little.