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11 February 2016updated 01 Jul 2021 12:13pm

PewDiePie kicks off YouTube’s first premium web series

Scare PewDiePie is the first series on YouTube Red, Google's attempt to generate revenue for original web programming.

By Emad Ahmed

It’s finally here. Felix Kjellberg, known by his digital moniker PewDiePie, has started to show up in his long-awaited original YouTube show.

Scare PewDiePie tries to recreate the jump-scares Pewds experiences in his usual videos which involve playing intense horror games and reacting to the storyline and experiences. It’s a new reality/gaming series hybrid, where a character – in this case, Pewds – is placed in different scenarios without complete knowledge of his surroundings and shit goes down. This can be seen in the first episode (pay-restricted) and the free episode (titled Level 7) which were simultaneously released yesterday.

This seventh episode sees our beloved protagonist make his way to a faux mental hospital filled with colourful patients and overly-enthusiastic medical staff, similar to the horror game Outlast. The first task sees Pewds needing to unlock the handcuffs where he’s tied to the bed, with important information and tasks popping up on screen as cheesy graphical overlays simulating old gaming visuals. It’s very interesting to see the use of an action cam strapped to Pewds’ body, which is the only major sign of the shows internet roots.

The show does feel somewhat awkward, by placing our friend in a new setting which is completely different from the intimate space of his gaming set-up, into the throws of high-production Hollywood sets. It’s the YouTube equivalent of seeing Beyonce shift musical styles or Adam McKay being the director of both Anchorman and the Big Short.

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Pewds (and everyone else involved) know this is just a silly prank show. Compare this with his usual setting of playing a game: neither party knows what will happen next in the video, as the games being played are usually being completed for the first time, giving an authentic sense of surprise and delight. These reactions are much harder to translate into a structured, episodic series of some kind.

The show has been produced with Skybound Entertainment, the folks behind the hugely successful Walking Dead series. There aren’t many other production companies better equipped to scare a TV audience any better.

The series is part of the new YouTube Red initiative, which offers Google’s premium music subscription as well as features such as ad-free video on YouTube, the ability to save videos for offline viewing and enjoy only the audio (using the mobile app). This is currently available only in the US. Google is trying to create a true competitor which can challenge Netflix and Amazon to rival the traditional TV subscription. Other productions include the documentary a Trip to Unicorn Island by fellow YouTube native Lilly “Superwoman” Singh. It’s interesting to note Google is choosing not to release all episodes of Scare PewDiePie simultaneously akin to a series on Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Is this going to be what the rest of the series will involve? Probably, given the show’s premise is in its name. But we have to keep in mind YouTube escapism is very different to escapism we usually indulge in with our book and TV choices. It’s ultimately a silly 20-minute hit of amusing internet-crack that will keep Pewds’ Bro Army happy. As for whether this will be a one-hit venture will all depend on Google being able to successfully sell YouTube Red as a digital product comparable to Netflix and Amazon. The tech giant will need to venture further into its deep pockets for that to happen.

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