The Return of Homestar Runner: How It’s Changed and My Hopes For The Future

Digital denizens of the 90’s, I come bearing great news; Homestar Runner is back!

For those familiar with the name, Mike and Matt Chapman – more commonly known as ‘The Brothers Chaps’ – have been slowly rebuilding and reworking their earliest project for years in-between other business; most notably Matt’s writing, directing, and producing of the Nickelodeon children’s show Yo Gabba Gabba and voicing the character of  Alfonzo in the Disney XD series Star vs. The Forces of Evil. However, over the last few weeks, the amount of new content coming from their YouTube channel has sky rocketed.

For those unfamiliar, Homestar Runner is one of the most enduring artifacts from the days of the pre-YouTube internet when your options for getting visual media on the web were limited and less than ideal. The Chaps, like many early pre-YouTubers, found Flash animation to be a simple way to get seen.

But it didn’t start with animation, the original Homestar Runner started life as a children’s book. However, as time has gone on, the comedy has matured for older audiences and, occasionally, finds itself poking fun at its child-like origins. This turned out to be the right move for the series as the original website is still operating off of merchandise sales to this day.

I’ve naturally been going back through the back catalog of old episodes and almost all of them still hold up. In fact, some of the jokes actually got better and more relevant (remember when resident shopkeeper Bubs refused to violate net neutrality by “throttling down” download speeds… unlike Verizon?).

Still, there are problems with being a web series that has existed for so long that it may as well be the internet’s Stonehenge. Technology and how we use the ‘net has changed so much that many of the techniques the show uses are horribly obsolete. Even the cast recognized the danger in flash not being the universal animation standard anymore. It seems that they’ve finally caved and have gone fully to YouTube in light of the situation.

Part of me wishes they could continue with the format they have now because it means the loss of one of my favorite aspects of the original animations: easter eggs. Occasionally, you could click on things in the animation as it played and you could uncover hidden content. Some of these are preserved in ending stingers, but there’s something rewarding about finding a secret ending that makes the experience special and encourages viewership.

There’s also the issue with the flagship sub-series Strong Bad Emails (SBmails for short); namely that no one uses email as their primary communications medium on the web anymore. This wasn’t as big of an issue thanks to SB getting an official Twitter account, but it does feel uncanny to someone that grew up with the classic. Plus Strong Bad Tweets (SBeets?) doesn’t have the same ring to it.

Still, I remain hopeful. I want to see this great piece of internet comedy history rise like the Phoenix again. Also, I’d like to see them do more joint works with other artists like when they made music videos for They Might Be Giants. Hell, I’d REALLY like to see them continue their series of episodic point-and-click adventure games with Telltale Games.

At any rate, here’s to the return of yet another of my fond memories from long ago.

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The New Face Of Entertainment: Independent Online Shows And Why You Should Support Them

Source: grabworthy.com

You may be trading in that remote for a mouse and keyboard after this.
Source: grabworthy.com

You’d be surprised how often my friends will be talking to me about some great show on television that’s apparently compulsory to watch and then I feel stupid for not following it. Then I have to explain how I just don’t have time for regular television.

Instead, I prefer to follow independent shows that circulate on the internet. There’s a fantastic trove of quality entertainment to be found if you dig just a little.

What Makes Independent Online Broadcasting Better?

The internet is doing what television, radio, and film did when they were first introduced. It’s changing the way that we consume information and how we entertain ourselves and others. Polls show that internet usage has exceeded that of T.V. and that it’s starting to gain on T.V. as a preferred news source .

This makes sense. As we become busier, people are becoming less flexible in terms of their schedules. Television forces it’s viewers around its schedule and people just can’t find time for it anymore. DVR’s and “on-demand” services attempt to correct this, but few people are willing to pay the price tag for what amounts to a glorified bandage.

As for the independent sector of broadcasting, the kind that you regularly find on sites like YouTube, these producers and their viewers benefit from the lack of strict oversight that comes from a studio environment. Whether due to content, running time, or marketability, many of these shows would never see the light of day if a major station were given the choice to air them.

Independent online shows don’t impose a strict schedule on viewers and instead eschew demographics and ratings statistics in favor of offering a variety of content and presentation styles to choose from. In short, if the producer has a good idea, he or she won’t have to fight with channel executives to get it aired; the audience just naturally gravitates to it.

So we know why this new generation of entertainers is superior, but which ones should we follow?

VlogBrothers

What started on January of 2007 as the “Brotherhood 2.0 Project” to see if brothers Hank and John Green could replace all text based communication with video blogs on a shared YouTube channel for one year is now regarded as one the greatest (and geekiest) expressions of brotherly love recorded.

The Greens each post a new four minute episode regularly to share updates on their lives, interesting discoveries, or just things they thought were amusing. Whether it’s John doing a “critical analysis” of sports games being interrupted by animals or Hank temporarily turning off his cheery demeanor to go on 17 rants in a row, these brothers are dedicated to giving each other and their viewers their daily dose of nerd.

Hank And John have also branched out into other projects as a result of VlogBrothers success. For example, John is a successful young adult fiction writer and a regular host on Mental Floss magazines YouTube channel while Hank is a talented musician and hosts SciShow; all projects that you should look into.

Game Grumps

One of the massive changes to entertainment brought on by the internet is the “Let’s Play” culture where video game lovers chronicle their own experience of a game as they play it. Arguably, there is no one who entertains as much doing this as these guys.

Originally consisting of the duo of Arin “Egoraptor” Hanson and “JonTron” Jon Jafari (who left the show and was replaced by Danny “Sexbang” Avidan from the band NinjaSexParty, but Jon still works on his own show), The Game Grumps play through a combination of iconic and obscure games with commentary ranging from scathing to hilarious. All of this is made even more amusing when their invisible editor Barry Kramer throws in a few graphics to make his own two cents heard (or rather, seen.)

In addition to spinning off into a new series called Steam Train, this show has done more for the fan community than any other thanks to the fan-made Game Grumps Animated sequences that depict the hosts as the characters they are playing as making snide comments from actual episodes of the show and messing with the other characters.

Man At Arms

Tony Swatton is probably one of the hardest working men in Hollywood. He has brought his 30+ years of expertise in the lost art of blacksmith armoring to over 200 feature films and television series. The only problem: those weapons were all harmless aluminum props. These, however, are the real deal.

Man At Arms has Swatton recreating the most iconic weapons of film, television, and video games as real and fully functional blades. The formula draws from shows like American Chopper, but cuts out the unnecessary and annoying drama in favor of focusing on the steps to making these fine pieces of art while still maintaining a heavy metal edge (no pun intended).

Making weapons ranging from simple builds like Jamie Lannister’s sword from Game of Thrones to the absolutely “redonkalous” Buster Sword from Final Fantasy 7, Tony Swatton proves his skill and shows the beauty in this under-appreciated and often overlooked craft.

Game Exchange

The problem with geeks is that we tend to focus on a very limited field of expertise. Fortunately, we have shows like Game Exchange to broaden our horizons.

After spending two and a half years living in Japan, the host known lovingly as “Gaijin Goombah” decided to use his love of video games as a means of teaching others about significant cultural influences in the medium. While he primarily focuses on Japanese culture, his goal is to eventually cover all of the cultures of the world.

The novelty of the show comes from the presentation. In the show, Gaijin Goombah plays an actual Goomba who adopts the way of the samurai (“Gaijin” translates from Japanese meaning “Foreigner”) to stop a clan of ninja from spreading cultural ignorance and hatred.

Goombah works very closely with other producers as a member of The Game Theorists, a group of video game aficionados who analyze gaming culture. They include “MatPat” Mathew Patrick who hosts the group’s namesake series that forms theories about the strangeness of games and Ronnie Edwards who runs Digressing and Sidequesting – a show that deals with a more general analysis of games. So it would be worthwhile to check them out as well.

There is SO much more…

I could go on forever about other great shows and producers that deserve support, but this is already the longest article I’ve ever written, so let’s end this by saying that the web is where good ideas can run free and unhindered by stuff-shirt television executives that can’t understand good taste without statistics and charts. If you have an indie show you want others to see, please share it with us in the comments and let us all be entertained and informed.