By Liz Shannon Miller
The channel Geek and Sundry, founded by Felicia Day and one of the original beneficiaries of the YouTube original content initiative, has hosted a wide range of content over the last few years, from scripted series to pure reality. There’s a sense of experimentation that comes with each show’s launch, as the channel sees what works and what doesn’t — a sense communicated with two of the channel’s most recent series.
Hosted by Ashly Burch (if you haven’t seen her in the long-running video game parody series “Hey Ash, Whatcha Playing?”, you are missing out), “Unplugged” pits YouTube celebrities and gamer personalities against each other in both virtual contests and real-world contests. The premise lends itself to a variety of fun challenges: So far in the first three episodes, contestants have LARPed, flown in airplanes, and tested their farming skills.
Sponsored by Microsoft Surface, “Unplugged” contains the necessary brand placement, but isn’t too overloaded. Episodes tend to be a bit low-energy, which is surprising given their length (less than 10 minutes), but there’s perhaps a little too much set-up of the real life challenges, which weighs things down.
However, the contestants in general seem game for the day’s adventures, and unafraid of trash-talking each other, which makes for fun viewing. The more excited the participants are, the better “Unplugged” works.
“Talkin’ Comics Weekly”
Meanwhile, if you’re looking for pure enthusiasm in human form, there’s Amy Dallen, the host of “Talkin’ Comics Weekly.” “Talkin’ Comics Weekly” also takes the virtual world/real world approach to highlighting its niche content of choice — each week, Dallen spotlights a new and/or exciting comic to be checked out, then enlists other YouTubers to help her with some fun activity.
Dallen has clear comics expertise and a wealth of nerdy t-shirts, and the comics she selects serve as a real jumping off point for the real-world activities that follow. This leads to a number of fun results — for example, for an episode focusing on the latest installment of “Daredevil,” Dallen and former “Amazing Race” contestant and YouTube creator Meghan Camarena commemorate the blind superhero by visiting the Guide Dogs of America training school.
“Talkin’” is noticeably tighter and higher energy than “Unplugged,” and the range of activities explored is a bit broader as well. But what’s interesting is how the format works well for both shows in creating an active celebration of nerdy content — which, given how static nerds can be when observed from the outside, is something to be admired. For it turns out that getting people off the couch and having fun on camera is a great way to pay tribute to all things geek (and sundry).