If you grew up between the 1950s-2000s, television is such an influential and long-standing source of entertainment buried deep in your nostalgic psyche. Today, broadcast, and even basic and premium cable are starting to lose their influence in terms of home viewing habits for entertainment. YouTube, with its endless array of channels and independent creators far and wide, is a one-stop, on demand paradise of entertainment offerings that knows no bounds. Well, maybe it does know some bounds since YouTube is nothing at all like it was when it launched in 2005. Additionally, more and more Generation Z entertainment consumers and beyond find their free time being dedicated to apps like TikTok, and to a lesser extent, YouTube–so even YouTube is starting to fall into it’s own demographic in the age of endless viewing choices. But for those nostalgic for the halcyon days of appointment television and channel surfing, there are many quality YouTube channels by independent creators that could easily be found on broadcast, basic or premium cable. Here are 5 YT channels that could easily have been on television of yesteryear.
Scary Mysteries is a channel that popped up in 2016 by the independent creators at New Dawn Films. In the vein of 80s and 90s, Robert Stack-hosted Unsolved Mysteries, this prolific channel produces between 3-5 videos every week exploring the most chilling true crime cases, bizarre missing persons cases, a wide variety of paranormal, cryptid, and supernatural stories, as well as UFO-related true stories. This type of show is saturated everywhere now in the “content” age, but there is something chilling and unique in the way that the creators edit, narrate, and present these stories that is not found in other similar channels. The editing and production is so great in fact, that it would not be far off to imagine this on something like the Syfy channel or Investigation Discovery. “Every Town Has a Dark Side” even plays like a weekly, 30-minute episode.
One thing you are bound to notice once you go down the YouTube rabbit hole is that for each and every search topic, there are hundreds of channels out there–and only a handful of those are decent quality. Like true crime and the paranormal, this is also true of music commentary channels–to say nothing of the God awful music “reaction” channels. Professor of Rock cuts through all of this by combining his sincere passion for rock music through the decades with a superb presentation and narrative style. He even gains access to interviews with famous rock stars from time to time, and his interviewing skills and engagement with quality questioning is something that was even lacking in the glory days of MTV and VH1. Anything and everything music from the 1950s to today is covered, and its all quality with no filler.
By this point in time, practically everyone has heard of Hot Ones–that YouTube series where random celebrities feast on increasingly spicy wings while fielding cerebral questions from series host Sean Evans. I must confess that I consistently avoided clicking on one of these videos for the longest time; that was until I finally clicked into the now classic Gordon Ramsey episode from 2019. I laughed so hard that I had to catch my breath, but that can easily be explained by understanding the unique rage humor of Chef Gordon Ramsey. But there was also something oddly intriguing about the format of the show-perhaps because there is something undeniably funny when watching people fight off the burning agony of eating insanely large amounts of Scoville units. It is easy to imagine Hot Ones being within the lineup of Comedy Central. Outside of this show, there is a lot more to the channel revolving around food from all over the world. A lot of these shows are also tinged with humor, but there are also many that celebrate cuisine in equal measure.
I have never been a PewDiePie die hard–and this is certainly a channel that would have been on HBO or maybe late-night MTV with a lot of bleeping of words–but his videos have a certain I cannot turn away if I wanted to quality. Rooted in absurdity and a fair dose of nihilism in his world view, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg began his channel back in 2010 and followed the traditional YouTube tropes at that time–namely let’s play content and comedy skits that eventually led him to amass millions of subscribers and billions of views. Controversy started to follow in the mid-2010s, and a lot of it for good reason. Even with his controversies and incitement of a wide range of polarizing reactions, Kjellberg’s style of unique, bitingly-dark humor is like a mix between early-2000s Jackass and Da Ali G Show. When a creator becomes as massive as Kjellberg, especially online exclusively, the whining and edge lording seems to multiply to staggering levels of eyerolling exhaustion, and this is a lot of what follows PewDiePie. He has done nothing worse than the likes of Bill Maher…and he is on HBO.
Of all the educational channels that litter YouTube, there are a few that stand out in terms of pure narrative storytelling without the theatrics of some creators feeling the need to insert themselves into the material no matter what. Fire of Learning avoids all this nonsense and presents episodes explaining virtually everything under the sun. More specifically, history, mythology, traditions, and the history of languages comprise a large majority of the creator’s videos. Everything found on this channel is History Channel quality, and to be honest as of late, it exceeds even the History Channel in terms of the variety and uniqueness of some of the more obscure historical topics discussed. There are numerous history channels on YouTube, but Fire of Learning manages to make the lessons engaging and thought-provoking without the need to resort to host monologues or unnecessary fluff to pad out the running time.watching people fight off
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