I’ve gone back and forth about whether or not I was going to comment on the recent fallout involving Channel Awesome. On the one hand, there really isn’t much more I can add to the discussion that the outrage of millions of fans and the “Not So Awesome” document doesn’t already cover. Being just some nerd blogger fan with no connection to the site professionally, all I can reasonably do is look at the situation in utter awe and disgust while waiting to see just how much crazier this story gets from here. On the other hand… that “apology” the site used to try and weasel their way out of serious allegations was so bafflingly horrible and stupifyingly idiotic that if I don’t take the opportunity to rip it apart, I’d regret it later. Plus, it allows me to answer a very interesting query I believe very few are talking about: Is Channel Awesome dead and is it possible for the people involved to recover?
A Brief Background
Let’s start with some background for those who haven’t encountered this shitstorm yet. I’ll make it as brief as possible, because Lord knows most of you reading have probably heard this story to death by now. However, for those who haven’t and want to know more, I’ll be providing several resources for you to use to get caught up on the situation, including the aforementioned Google doc and “apology” at the center of it all.
In the middle of March, seasoned Internet personality and film reviewer Allison Pregler (Obsurus Lupa) was asked on Twitter about her thoughts on a video posted on a website she was formerly a part of. This site was Channel Awesome (formerly ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com), a video hosting site which focuses on comedic reviews of movies, games, anime, music, and TV shows by an ever-expanding team of chosen producers. It’s credited for making popular several prolific reviewers, such as Spoony, Angry Joe, the Nostalgia Chick, Linkara, Bennett the Sage, and the Cinema Snob among others; not to mention the site co-founder and main attraction himself, Doug Walker (Nostalgia Critic).
Anyway, this question prompted her to reflect on her unceremonious dropping from the site, and long story short, this created a snowball effect of former producers and staff associated with the site recounting their negative experiences with Channel Awesome, all of which were compiled into a 70+ page manifesto titled “Not So Awesome”. In it are several allegations and examples of mismanagement, incompetence, deception, and even abuse (both verbal and sexual) by CA management — namely CEO Mike Michaud, former CEO Mike Ellis, and site co-founders Doug and Rob Walker among others. Additionally, the accusations were also manifested with the hashtag #ChangetheChannel — a movement dedicated to exposing managerial mistakes and calling for change in how the company treats its employees.
The outrage became so great that Channel Awesome was forced to give a response last week. The roughly three paragraph statement (notice I say “statement” and not “apology”) says that they are aware of the former producers’ grievances and that CA staff “sincerely regret[s] you felt that way”. They go on to mention how they have at various points in time “distanced [themselves] from people who were particularly callous” and that while they’re allegedly working on ways to “better improve communication with [their] producers” and do accept constructive criticism on workplace practices (which after reading the document that statement seems more like sarcasm now), they say the following:
“But criticism that isn’t a means to a productive end does little for the party criticizing or those in the line of fire.”
…Just…wow! That’s neither a denial nor an apology. I’m honestly impressed with how blunt and arrogant that statement was. But that’s my quick summation of the situation so far. For those who want more details and specifics, I’ll refer you to following links, all of which I highly recommend (especially the “Not So Awesome” document and “apology”):
- Video summaries by SwizzlyBubbles and Soft Lavendar
- (Note: refer to their channels for updated information)
- Know Your Memes summary (updated regularly)
- The “Not So Awesome” Google Doc
- Or for my fellow slow readers: Live video reading by Fredrik Knudsen (known for Down the Rabbit Hole)
- Channel Awesome’s “Apology“
- Channel Awesome’s “Response” (See below)
Why This Pisses Me Off
Keep in mind that Channel Awesome and its affiliates have always held a special place in my heart. I’m a fan of several former and current Channel Awesome members like Cinema Snob, Guru Larry, Ashens, Chris Stuckman and Spoony (before the breakdown); and this especially goes for my love for the Nostalgia Critic. I remember when I first discovered his content when I was 13. I just got an iPod Touch for my birthday several months prior, and after getting into the Angry Video Game Nerd I became aware of another YouTuber who the Nerd apparently “fought”. Curious, I looked the guy up and found the Critic’s video game review of Bebe’s Kids. It was the funniest thing I ever saw at the time, which led me to his Pokemon: the First Movie review and the rest was history.
The Nostalgia Critic (and by extension Doug Walker) means so much to me. I’ve been quoted before as saying that it was one of my Top 5 favorite Internet shows, and the NC editorials he started making back in 2013 were a major influence on what I do here on this blog. Sure I haven’t watched his content regularly in a couple years, but the nostalgia, fondness, and respect I had for Doug’s content have all remained since then.
And it’s for these reasons why making a post like this where I am in the position to condemn him is so heartbreaking. Sure, the accusations aren’t all on him (in fact one can argue he has the least amount of fault of all the accused parties), but unfortunately he’s a major player in this fucked up story.
Let’s discuss some of the highlights of this document that just keeps growing by the week. Yes, I have read the whole thing over the course of a few days and let me tell ya. It’s a doozy. Admittedly a lot of the grievances posed in the document do border on minor. For instance, the site’s policy of paying their talent in exposure has been something well known for years, so that’s a minor grievance. Competing for the top slot on the sidebar along with Doug? Sure it’s a bit bullshit, but pretty minor stuff, especially when compared to YouTube’s Trending page practices. Using clips from another creator’s video in a rebuttal video without their permission? I can see how that would be annoying, but given that it was credited I’d call it minor as well.
But then you get to the stuff that isn’t so minor (most of it involving Mike Michaud). The mismanagement and unprofessionalism for starters is abhorrent. The verbal abuse, particularly from Michaud) is unacceptable. The complacency of the Walker brothers is at the very least concerning. Their standards for who gets kicked off the site (i.e. not being at the computer for 15 minutes; being one day late on a video for emergency reasons) is all screwed up with constantly changing rules. The incompetency over basic business sense (i.e. not making anniversary movies you can’t afford to make with people who don’t know what their doing and expecting the creators to be happy about giving rights to their crossover videos to “recoup costs”) is baffling. And don’t even get me started on Mike Ellis’ two accusations of sexual misconduct, of which he was let go a year after the fact. And then there’s one producer who an anonymous account claims took advantage of her only to be let go a year after the fact.
It’s situations like these that make the situation so aggravating, especially as a fan who is now connecting dots between certain videos produced by the site over the past 10 years and the deplorable events mentioned throughout this document. Through these accusations, a good chunk of the content from the site, some of which I’ve consider the most enjoyable content on the Internet, is now muddied forever. I can’t ever watch one of the anniversary movies again with a smile knowing most of the people involved underwent terrible conditions. I can’t enjoy some of the crossover videos anymore, because I know those producers weren’t properly compensated for it. I honestly can’t watch anything Channel Awesome has made anymore, including the Nostalgia Critic, because I don’t want to support complacency, idiocy, mismanagement, and abuse. Those years of entertainment I enjoyed? That’s dead for me now.
How They Can/May Recover
Of course, where there is disaster there is fallout, and where there is fallout there is always the aftermath. So what exactly is the aftermath and where do I think things will go from here?
Well, so far Channel Awesome’s YouTube page has been bleeding subscribers at a pretty constant rate. Since last week when both the infamous document and non-apology were posted, they’ve lost a total of 36,384 subscribers and counting leaving them with 1.43 million subs as of me posting this. Nowhere near a critical level, but in terms of controversy’s effect on a YouTube channel’s analytics they are proving to be much more like the Fine Bros than a Logan Paul, which isn’t a good thing. (Hell, the fact that I’m discussing Channel Awesome in the same vain as I do Logan Paul sickens me like you wouldn’t believe). However, Channel Awesome will be less hurt by their subscriber numbers than their number of producers. Since mid-March, they’ve went from approximately 40 producers to a mere 5 (including the NC). Allow me to show you how sad this looks:
3 Movie/TV shows creators, 2 video game creators, and a whopping 0 creators for comics and music respectively. What Brad and Larry are still doing on the site I have no fucking idea, but compare this to what the site had once upon a time with big names like Linkara, Chris Stuckman, FilmBrain, and Nash in their corner. Yeah, this is pretty bad. Ironically, one of the accusations made by, I believe, Dr. Gonzo was that the site valued Doug’s content way more than anyone else’s, so now provides Michaud the opportunity to see just how well the Nostalgia Critic can carry the site on his own.
Also, to make matters worse, there was supposed to be a 10th anniversary movie which was supposed to start filming soon and releasing sometime this year. But due to the mass exodus of creators who were supposed to make up the cast of the film, the project has been cancelled. Granted, given what we know about the filming of those anniversary movies I don’t think that much was lost. Probably saved one or two of those reviewers an unnecessary injury and possible dehydration.
Clearly, Channel Awesome is in a critical situation, but is there hope that the brand and/or those involved can salvage the sinking ship?
I’m honestly not sure if Channel Awesome as a website can necessarily be saved. Not only is it heavily mismanaged and lacking the amount of talent necessary to sustain them moving forward, but as a YouTuber by the name of Gamer From Mars said regarding this situation, Channel Awesome has for years been the relic of a bygone era. The age of alternative video streaming websites is pretty much over with posting content to YouTube becoming slightly more lenient to Channel Awesome’s kind of content. It’s not without roadblocks, but just the idea of Doug having a presence on YouTube at all speaks volumes of any video maker’s need for a service like Channel Awesome. At least YouTube pays them directly.
If Channel Awesome goes down, that won’t be pretty, because now you’re entering a difficult subject when it comes to the Walkers’ relationship with Mike Michaud. Actually, regardless of whether Channel Awesome survives or not, the Walkers should be considering ways to separate themselves from Michaud, but let’s explore that for a second.
See, the thing is that while Channel Awesome may be used goods now, the Nostalgia Critic name actually can be saved. Again, Doug has substantially less dirt on his hands than Michaud does, so in theory Doug as a video creator can make it out of this situation fine. Same with Rob Walker to a slightly lesser degree. Although, whether that statement remains true or not depends greatly on their next move. They have 3 options:
- Do what they apparently always did and appear as neutral and silent as possible in order for them to make a comeback Logan Paul style down the road.
- Part ways from Mike Michaud. They may lose their rights to the Nostalgia Critic IP (more on that in a second), but just making that decision will garner them much more respect than otherwise. This will only work if, when they do part with Channel Awesome and Michaud, they humble themselves big time. Apologize and admit fault wherever you can, and continue making straightforward reviews similar to Sibling Rivalry while you consider what you’ll do next.
- Stick to your guns and destroy all chances of sympathy and support in the process.
In my opinion, the only way these two make it out of this situation relatively unscathed is if they get rid of Mike Michaud. As CEO of Channel Awesome and the subject of around 80% of the accusations made, he is beyond saving. Not only does he look like an unfriendly Rob Man, he’s also an unapologetic douche bag who lacks as much couth as he does business savvy. Therefore, Channel Awesome will have to die along with his career in online entertainment. The only problem is that along with being majority stakeholder of the company, he also owns the Nostalgia Critic IP. This means that Doug’s most popular series is under ownership of “That Dick With the Hair-Loss”, and that’s a huge problem. Say the Walkers decides to leave, Mike would own the Critic character and their whole back catalog of over 300 episodes of the Nostalgia Critic show. All their work belongs to Mike for him to make profit on, use as he wishes, and post wherever he wishes.
I can imagine that this very fact is why you’re seeing Doug praise his boss at cons and dodging questions about this situation. Sure, it’s most likely because he’s partially guilty and doesn’t want to admit it, but it may also be an incredibly scary thought to remove himself from under Mike Michaud’s thumb. Need I remind you about the last time Doug tried to distance himself from Nostalgia Critic character.
What I will say to that fear, on the off chance that Doug sees this and my theory is correct, is that while Demo Reel didn’t exactly work it shouldn’t restrict him from continuing to try new things if he so chooses. Remember, for every Demo Reel he made, there was Bum Reviews, for every Melvin he made, there was Ask That Guy with the Glasses, and for every Pop Quiz Hotshot there was 5 Second Movies. Doug and Rob are actually much better at creating new shows than many give them credit for. I mean, I personally believe Doug is at his best when he’s not outright trying to be comedic. The NC Editorials, Top 10’s, Disneycembers, and TVLogs are far more appealing to me than the Nostalgia Critic nowadays. Hell, Ask TGWTG alone is probably Doug’s best non-NC work ever made. I remember being so bummed when he got rid of that series, too. Do something similar to that on a channel of his own, and I’d say he’s set.
My point is that Doug is a funny guy, and I have no doubt that if he took steps to distance himself from Channel Awesome he’ll be fine. I personally would give him props for risking his breadwinner series for the sake of redemption and taking the high road. Besides, without the Walkers Channel Awesome is basically a patient without life support and will collapse anyway. Michaud may try to find another person to play the Nostalgia Critic and try to make things work that way, but that would be a terrible idea. Everyone knows that Doug is the only NC, so it’ll fail outright. At that point the only smart thing to do would be to sell the IP back to Doug and Rob in order to “recoup costs” and then Doug plays the Critic again anyway. Granted, I wouldn’t put it past Michaud to hold onto the NC IP anyway out of spite, but that would only solidify his downfall even more.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is the sooner Mike Michaud is gone from the Internet entertainment landscape the better. Sorry, bro, but you done fucked everything up. You gotta go!
I don’t know where this scandal will lead us next, but with Michaud at the helm I’m pretty sure this controversy will only get worse from here. So grab some popcorn and a jumbo-sized soda, because all that’s left to do now is watch.
(Update: As I was about to post this, I became aware of a “Response” post found on Channel Awesome’s home page. The reason I’m not mentioning it much here is because that response changes nothing I just said. All it does is solidify the despicable image I have of the management behind the site. Feel free to check it out yourself, though).
What do you think about the #ChangetheChannel controversy? Are you on the creators’ side or is this all a big nothing burger? Also, while we’re all here, were you a fan of Channel Awesome and its affiliates, and how does this situation make you feel? Let me know in the comments so I can hear your thoughts!
I’m SBox180. (I remember it so you don’t have to). Thanks for reading!