Reporter’s note: This is part of a series featuring each new original show or movie debuting on YouTube Red. The subscription streaming service’s first slate of originals launched in February.
LOS ANGELES — Imagine a future where YouTubers fight to their deaths, “good old fashioned conversations” means two people silently texting each other and a person’s place in society is determined by a Buzzfeed quiz.
That’s the dystopian backdrop of CollegeHumor’s hilarious but dark new YouTube red series, Bad Internet, which launches on Wednesday.
The goal of the new 10-episode weekly series is to parody technological innovations and Internet phenomenons that dominate people’s daily lives.
“It really is a series built for the Internet,” Sam Reich, CollegeHumor’s Head of Video, told Mashable. “We know the Internet loves the Internet. This kind of meta self-referential thing really works. Something we love to do at CollegeHumor is take those little things and blow them up to the most unreasonable, high production value, epic proportions.”
The first episode “Which of the Friends Are You?” — available for free on YouTube — follows a dystopic future society, divided into groups dictated by a Buzzfeed quiz. Then, a la Divergent, one young female heroine has the courage to overturn the whole system.
Image: buzzfeed screenshot
Each of the episodes feature a rotating ensemble cast of CollegeHumor talent and YouTube stars, including iJustine, Smosh (Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox), Will Arnett, Jack McBrayer, Jean Smart and Oscar Nunez.
Other technology topics made fun of in the series include Uber, Amazon, Hulu and even YouTube.
iJustine, aka Justine Ezarik, stars in the YouTube episode, where she finds herself in the Hunger Games, but for YouTube stars.
“It’s not like I want to be murdering my fellow YouTubers — the exposure is amazing,” her character says in the show.
The YouTube episode is especially meta, given that the series is for YouTube Red viewers. But CollegeHumor and participating cast members made sure to approach the topic cautiously, making sure to poke fun at but still not offend.
“You have to be able to make fun of yourself,” Ezarik told Mashable. “My character was a combination of myself making fun of the sort of things I already say but as if I were a beauty guru on YouTube… it was a fun experience. I hope people enjoy it as much as I did.”
The series was inspired by popular anthologies such as Twilight Zone, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and even Black Mirror on Netflix.
“Doing an anthology series has always been a kind of something in between a high priority and a dream for us,” Reich said.
The CollegeHumor team already meets on a regular basis to come up with sketch comedy ideas. This happened to be one of them.
Each episode idea has its own origin, however, with some being pitched over the course of the year and others coming from group brainstorms.
The creative process for the series began in October of last year, when the CollegeHumor team started writing. They shot half of the series before the holidays, and the other half after in January.
But why launch the series on YouTube Red?
For this type of project, the digital comedy platform knew it wanted to go big. Each episode is 10 to 11 minutes, a surge from the standard CollegeHumor video length of 3 to 4 minutes. Plus, production costs were also scaled up, given the bigger cast and wide variety of visual effects per episode.
“YouTube Red enables us to spend like a whole bunch more money that we’d probably not spend on our own,” Reich said. “It lets us do something really ambitious.”
Plus, it made sense given that YouTube is already a “huge part of CollegeHumor’s business model,” Reich said.
CollegeHumor has a whopping 10.8 million subscribers to its YouTube channel, which launched in 2006.
“Years ago, we saw that our audience was picking up on YouTube in a way that made us stand out from our competitive set,” Reich said. “We decided to double down on that and make YouTube really the primary means which we distribute video content. It paid off, YouTube has been really encouraging and supportive. This series represents one of our biggest partnerships with them.”
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