We have done Movies, Music, TV, and even books but one thing we have not dipped into is other pop-culture medium. There is social media, video sharing sites, podcasts and even other blogs. We thought it would be a great idea to look into some of the video content on YouTube. There are a lot of people out there making a living and doing great work on this site, and we owe it to them to give them a little coverage as well.
I watch way too much YouTube: news clips, movie sites, true crime videos, lots of concert footage and music videos and interviews from days long past. It’s a great place to learn about all kinds of pop culture, and I am also a history guy, so I am often looking for info. I wanted to highlight three of my favorite creative minds out there and although these three don’t need my support they do keep me entertained and isn’t that what we all need right now?
1. Popcorned Planet
I used to be a huge Screen Junkies fan, in fact I was a previous member of their “plus” account that gave the “premium” services. Honest Trailers was its Holy Grail and Movie Fights was also a watched event, sometimes even live. Then, creator Andy Signore got accused of some pretty heinous things and was fired. From what I heard from all these personalities that I enjoyed watching was that he was a bad dude and during the #metoo movement they weren’t going to support him. What emerged was proof that he was a bad husband and sketchy with woman of his fandom but that he did not do the acts he was accused of. So like so much that is going on today he had been cancelled unfairly. When I heard that he had a new channel I decided to give him a second chance. Outside his creativity I gave him this chance because he was brutally honest about his flaws, he went through a couple of years of atoning and I believe from what I see is that he has changed and learned. He left the LA market for Florida and started Popcorned Planet. Granted the early launch was a little rough and I still think Nerd Wars is an obvious poorer version of the old Movie Fights, the channel is still pretty fun. He gives you some live streams with some of his new friends, some taped Pop Culture updates and many other videos. I think my favorites were the ones where he shows “receipts” of his past dealings with some of his old colleagues, most whom do not support him currently. The site is getting some steam which should allow him to be able to do more. He is very approachable to his viewers and will answer questions and often looks for content to talk about from his viewers. My only wish is that Fandom would give him the rights to his properties again, but I know they will never let go of Honest Trailers.
MG: I checked out a few of his posts, and he definitely has plenty of pop culture knowledge. I saw some of his take on how he got a raw deal, and he makes a good case. I hate cancel culture as well, but it seems like this has become a bit of a crusade for him. Do we really need someone to defend millionaire Chris Pratt against the “evil tweets” of Ellen Page? Maybe if the world returns to a normal newscycle someday, that stuff will seem less trite.
2. Stephanie Harlowe
I have said it before in my writings and I will say it again, I am a huge True Crime follower. I watch way too many YouTube videos about famous crimes, serial killers, cults, you name it. The one that does the best at going through some of these cases is Stephanie Harlowe. She will break down these cases in a way much more in-depth than Wikipedia. Harlowe does it because it interests her, not just for a quickie YouTube hit. She will break these down into multiple parts often 90-minute segments. Harlowe will often go back into a case if there is new information, most famously Chris Watts or if there is a new documentary or special that came out – see Netflix’s Disappearance of Madeleine McCann. She has a great series on cults, including a long one about Jonestown. For her some of these can very personal and emotional, she has kids so crimes like the Watts case where kids and a pregnant mother are butchered you can see that it affects her. Sometimes her shows are titled Mystery Monday or Coffee and Crime Time. During the Halloween season, she calls it Harloween, she does videos on more spooky themed topics and crimes. She also is very good with her community often having discussions on YouTube or meeting fans at True Crime Conventions pre-COVID-19. What I like about her compared to a lot of other YouTubers is her knowledge, she actually reads books, watches documentaries and can talk intelligently about her subjects, there are a lot of YouTubers, pod casters and writers who do not.
MG: I know you love true crime. I can certainly get hooked by it as well. although I have to be in the right mood for it. Consuming too much makes me feel like I’m being entertained by other people’s horrific tragedies, so I keep a measured dose of this type of stuff. I have heard good stuff about Harlowe, however, so I will check it out at some point.
3. Joe Rogan Podcast
So I know this is a Podcast but it’s viewed on YouTube and now on Spotify. I remember Joe Rogan as the custodial help on News Radio back in the 90s on NBC. He was part of that funny ensemble. After that he did the reality show Fear Factor as it’s host for many years before vanishing. What I didn’t know is that he is a stand up comic and a big fan of the UFC. A few years back, he started this podcast and I watch parts of it quite often. He has great guests lots of them are his comedian pals. He is also able to get guests like Oliver Stone, Elon Musk and Tulsi Gabbard. Rogan brings in pretty smart people, for often a 2-3 hour discussion, that aren’t as well known except within their field. I don’t always agree with Rogan’s opinions, but he can be brutally honest. He says what he feels with little sense of blow back. He has a fascination with conspiracies and I love when he talks UFOs, JFK, 9/11 or other wild conspiracies. Rogan will often get into politics often criticizing both sides. I like hearing some inside stories, for instance an encounter that one of his fellow comedians had with Bill Cosby. He also talks cancel culture, and he too has had campaigns against him for cancellation. Rogan doesn’t try to be smarter than his guests and is really strong at listening and spurring good conversation. He is a good host making it worth watching or listening to.
MG: I forgot about News Radio – wasn’t a super fan, but definitely watched quite a few shows. What is good about Rogan is that he does not appear to come into his interviews with a set of agreed-upon questions. Rather, he lets the conversation meander organically, which helps the guests loosen up and be themselves. I listened to an interview with Tool lead singer Maynard James Keenan, and one hour into it he hadn’t even mentioned Tool yet. I did get a pretty engrossing account of Keenan’s bout with Covid, which was quite compelling. A lot of people won’t devote the time to the long-format interview, but that’s where you really learn things, vs. the talking points from the typical celebrity promotional tour.
I was excited to write about a different source of pop culture, even if I am nowhere near the consumer of YouTube content that DJ is. For my kids, they watch YouTube content like I used to watch TV when I was their age. At this point, I could cancel our TV streaming service and they wouldn’t even notice. I don’t subscribe to many YouTubers/channels, but there are several I check out regularly and enjoy when I have to fill a short amount of time or wind down at night. Here are three that have entertained me:
To be “honest” I hadn’t been very aware of the Screen Junkies drama that DJ referred to above, until we started working on this post. If Andy was the true original mastermind of this concept, then kudos to him for creating it. I almost always make a point to check out the newest weekly Honest Trailer offering, usually put out on Tuesdays now. They started out as a skewering of the Hollywood hype machines that would promise such amazing movies in their trailers, only to then fail to deliver when the actual movies came out. Over the years, the writers have branched out to more of a widespread commentary on film making and sprinkling in current events/pop culture trends. While they can be comedically brutal, it’s not just a mean-spirited attack on low-hanging fruit, as these guys really know movies (and TV) and are able regularly drop in great references – some obvious and some obscure and only for die-hard fans. Some of their work basically writes themselves (i.e. Batman and Robin or The Room), but others feature some great research and editing that must take hours, like when they put together mini-montages of aspects of the film – such as the blood squib count in Robocop, or phrases said repeatedly across multiple episodes/seasons of shows. I’ve definitely had some good laughs watching these and I appreciate the intelligence and overall work that goes into making these clips.
DJ: I have been viewing these for a long time and love them. Not every one is perfect but still very entertaining. With Andy Signore and Dan Murrell not being part of them, they don’t always have quite the same zing but as long as Spencer is involved they should still be worth a watch. My favorite part is always the “Starring…”. This was a fantastic idea and to me a good companion to Cinemasins another fantastic YouTube channel that has some great movie criticisms.
So I grew up as a movie review junkie – reading or listening to a variety of film critics, from the banal (Gene Shalit) to the esoteric (Siskel and Ebert). Movie criticism is an art form that began to fade as newspapers and magazines started to die out. Even 10 years ago I was reading interesting reviews in Entertainment Weekly or The Boston Globe, but now I don’t even bother (and that was long before the pandemic). Nevertheless, I discovered Chris Stuckmann on YouTube and have enjoyed watching his 10-12 minute reviews on both current releases and classics (70s-90s). He’s very accessible, far from the film-school intensity of Roger Ebert, but still well-versed in cinema and the components of good filmmaking. He’s also not afraid to show his fanboy side, which is nice to see, because there are a lot of “what sucks about..” posts on YouTube. It’s easy to rip on the flaws in films, but much harder to sift out the good from the bad and provide a nuanced critique. Recently he delved into franchises from the past, like Indiana Jones, James Bond and Die Hard, and it was enjoyable to revisit the evolution of these films. As with any critic, I don’t always agree with him, but I do agree with his approach and it’s been nice to see him get sharper at movie criticism after having a few years of experience to hone his craft.
DJ: I’m a big fan of Chris Stuckmann, I really enjoy his reviews especially when he does older films. His Hilarocity reviews are fantastic and funny. As Mike said, he knows his stuff and is a true film fan. I was a Sneak Previews and At the Movies guy so I miss that kind of TV review show and there is so much movie criticism online now. Stuckmann does it right, he is not just some other critic. So go get Stuckmannized!
To be honest, I can’t keep track of YouTube’s free vs. premium versions, but I believe Cobra Kai was their first major scripted content and it was shown on the defunct YouTube Red. It has now found increased popularity after landing on Netflix. Anyway, it was wise to create a show that referenced back to a beloved 80s film, since many people, including myself, go to YouTube for the nostalgic videos, TV clips and commercials of long ago. I watched both seasons of Cobra Kai with the family, and we are eagerly awaiting the upcoming third season in January. What makes this show likable is that it extracts what we loved about the 80s – the simplicity, innocence and cheesy fun, and adds in some modern sensibility, without it feeling like a “those were the days” affair. William Zabka and Ralph Macchio won’t be winning Emmys, but their performances win you over and form the backdrop for the story of the younger generation of karate enthusiasts. It takes on some serious themes at times, but avoids getting too dark – except for one occasion, which would be a spoiler to describe. Still, compared to the predominantly dark fare on Netflix, HBO and Amazon, this is fun and refreshing and good for family viewing.
DJ: I am about halfway through Season 2 and I really enjoy Cobra Kai. I loved Karate Kid at the time and it’s done really well, unlike some of the other reboots. It took me awhile to watch because I was skeptical but it has a great feel, enough nostalgia with a fun vibe. I actually like Billy Zabka in it, where has he been? Macchio is ok but his acting is definitely the weaker of the two. Looking forward to finishing.