YouTube’s attempt at a subscription model, YouTube Red, takes its tentative first steps today with the launch of three new feature-length films, as well as a reality series starring the most popular YouTuber of all-time, PewDiePie. Unlike the prestige projects of Netflix and Amazon, these are all designed to feed off of the popularity of current YouTubers — which means while most teenagers have heard of at least one of the four stars or production companies involved, most people over the age of 25 haven’t. Here’s our guide.
Who is this? PewDiePie, a manic, 26-year-old Swedish gamer who’s made a fortune broadcasting himself getting very scared while playing horror video games.
What is this? The premise of the show, which is called Scare PewDiePie, is to force PewDiePie to live out horror video games, in the hopes of scaring him.
Why is this? Kids love PewDiePie: His fan base, which he calls “the Bro Army,” sends millions of views to his videos; among teenagers he is, one survey claims, more popular than “mainstream celebrities” like Jennifer Lawrence.
How is this? The first episode is all right. He has a very conspicuous camera rig harnessed to his chest the entire time that breaks some of the immersion but I am 1,000 years old and probably the only one who cares.
A Trip to Unicorn Island
Who is this? Lilly Singh, a 27-year-old Indian-Canadian comedian, rapper, and motivational speaker known for videos like “Girls On Their Periods” and “How Girls Get Ready.”
What is this? A documentary follows Singh around the world on her 27-city world tour, where she dances and raps and inspires teens to believe.
Why is this? Singh’s YouTube channel, home of her trademark astute cultural commentary, has millions of subscribers; she’s been on The Daily Show and The Tonight Show.
How is this? “Unicorn Island is that state I reach when I decide everything’s going to be okay,” she tells us. Sorry to spoil the movie for you but that’s the movie. Also, Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson appears in it for a few minutes, so that’s worth something.
Who is this? Rooster Teeth, a production company best known for making movies out of the multiplayer mode in video games, a genre known as machinima to the cognoscenti.
Why is this? Rooster Teeth’s series Red vs. Blue, a narrative made by adding voice-overs to clips from Halo, is among YouTube’s oldest and best-known.
What is this? Four guys each get trapped in a different piece of an alien suit of armor and have to fight off an invader. But get this: The guys aren’t fighters, they’re schlubs! Will they succeed? Almost certainly, yes.
How is this? “There’s not a big demand for laugh-free comedies,” observes the Times’ Neil Genzlinger.
Okay, this is just Step Up but it’s at camp. That’s it, I think. That’s fine though because the last Step Up movie came out two years ago, which might as well be 14 bazillion years ago in YouTube Time.