Last week I reviewed Cobra Kai, the single best show on YouTube Red. So, just for the heck of it, I decided to watch some other shows and see how they stack up.
Spoiler Alert: You’re not missing much.
The first show I watched was an original movie, The Thinning. Set in the stereotypical environmentally devastated future, the UN has taken control of the world, and to SAVE HUMANITY, mandated that countries reduce their population by 5% each year. In the US they hold tests every school year, and kill off the kids who can’t compete—the ultimate high stakes test.
The Thinning was okay. Not notable, not great, but mediocre. In a lot of ways it was like a late 1970’s dystopia film, down to the bearded main goon bad guy and deep red lighting in many scenes. It’s probably one of the best things on Red. It stars Logan Paul, which should tell you how tepid a recommendation that is. When Logan Paul is the premiere star of your for-profit paid streaming service, you’ve got problems.
Fight of the Living Dead is a Reality TV show starring, apparently, YouTube Stars. (None of whom I’d ever heard of, which shows you just how far outside Red’s target audience I am.) They dumped a bunch of YouTubers in an abandoned hospital—the Robert F Kennedy Medical Center, which is just delicious—and gave them challenges and missions. Some 300 people made up as zombies wandered around the halls of the hospital, chasing after, and occasionally “eating”, the YouTubers. The second season was pretty much the same thing, but in a sorta-Coachella situation.
As a Reality Show, it wasn’t a bad concept—instead of being voted off, you get devoured by the living dead—but something about it was just off. It was okay entertainment, I suppose, but I feel like the target audience would be more invested since they’d know who the stars were, and would care a bit more. Also, the second season was dominated by Jake Paul, Logan Paul’s brother, and there you have it.
Lazer Team is by Rooster Teeth, the people who brought you Red vs. Blue. The main star is Burnie Burns, the voice of Leonard Church, which was kinda weird, to be honest. It’s about an alien invasion, and another group of aliens send a 4-piece armor set which is intended for a genetically engineered super-earthman who’s trained for the combat since birth (Alan Ritchson, Smallville’s Aquaman, if you can believe it) but four loser rednecks get ahold of different pieces instead and have three days to train before they have to save all life on the planet. Picture Power Rangers by way of Pixels, and you won’t be far off. I watched both films, and they were awful. Unfunny comedy is the worst, and these movies weren’t funny.
Lifeline, another SF movie, had the only original premise of anything I saw. An insurance company insures people against death itself, and manages to achieve this by sending people 33 days into the future whenever one of their clients dies, so they can prevent the death. Produced by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who makes a cameo in the first episode, it completely squanders a somewhat intriguing premise on a nonsensical plot and bland characters. It could have been much better, but just wasn’t. Not worth the time to watch. (Also, it has one of those oh-so-popular “man is a psycho because Christian” characters, which is both odious and lazy.)
Finally we get to the only enjoyable series I managed to find: MatPat’s Game Lab. Made by the goofy geek behind the incredibly popular Game Theory and Film Theory YouTube channels, GameLab is about putting gamers into the real life situations they faced in their games. The episode on Mirror’s Edge had them learning some basic real-world free running, then using those skills in a series of parkour challenges. Watch Dogs 2 taught them how to run scripts and do other “hacking”, then set up a scenario where they had to sneak into a business and retrieve information from a password-protected laptop. The Five Nights at Freddy’s episode recreated the situation of the famed indie game, and challenged the gamers to survive the murderous animatronic animals. (Plus ostrich racing, bomb defusing, soccer played with real cars, and more.) Game Lab was a lot of fun: interesting, funny, and genuinely informative in many places. It was just about the only thing worth watching on YouTube Red.
No one can say I didn’t give YouTube Red a fair chance. I mean, just look at all that: I subjected myself to show after show, desperately hoping to find something worthwhile, and other than Game Lab, I didn’t. This doesn’t bode well for Red.
For a streaming service, content is king and Red’s content is thin and mediocre. Moreover, some of the most popular channels are going their own way, like Screen Junkies (the “Honest Trailers” guys) who have their own subscription service entirely separate from Red. It seems like Red was banking on big-name YouTube stars making all their content, then reaping $10 a month from the millions of millennials who’d no doubt pay to watch them. (Game Theory has over 10 million “subscribers”, and PewDiePie, who also has a Red show, has over 62 million.) This business plan just plain failed: even with the other benefits of the service, like no ads on YouTube and some kind of music thing I didn’t bother checking out, it has very little to offer.
Folks, don’t subscribe to this mess. There is nothing on YouTube Red worth the money, and paying $10 a month to eliminate adds on YouTube just isn’t worth it.
Save your sanity. Save your money. You’ll be glad you did.