Monthly Archives: April 2018

The Death of Channel Awesome

Sexual harassment, unsafe working conditions, copyright infringement, physical threats and starvation pay are just some of the conditions  that have been rampant at Channel Awesome. This is all according to a 70 page memo issued on line by numerous people formerly associated with the upstart internet company. That’s right seventy pages documenting these abuses.

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

Michael Michaud CEO of Channel Awesome

This is disappointing and shocking to those of us who loved watching the shows on Channel Awesome. From the outside,  Channel Awesome appeared to be such a fun place to work, where everyone got along and everyone shared in whatever small profits were to be made. We even posted a story called 6 Reasons Why Channel Awesome Is Great.

Doug Walker - The "Nostalgia Critic" and "That Guy With Glasses"

Doug Walker – The “Nostalgia Critic” and “That Guy With Glasses”

In fact, Channel Awesome was started as an alternative to the internet giant YouTube (which is owned  by Google). Contributors to YouTube complain that it is almost impossible to make much money uploading videos, no matter how many hits they receive. As a near monopoly, Google gets almost all the money, and sets all the terms.  YouTube also takes down videos that receive even the slightest complaint of copyright  infringement, even if the complaint is totally ridiculous.  As a contributor to YouTube, you are basically considered guilty with no right to appeal other than a cumbersome and costly fight.

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

Holly Brown, former head of H.R. for Channel Awesome

However, behind the scenes, Channel Awesome was not the YouTube-alternative paradise  it appeared. Most of the criticism revolves around CEO Michael Michaud, who allegedly is a truly terrible person. Like all great scandals, the Michael Michaud scandal involves sex, violence and money. Michaud is accused of sexually harassing almost every woman who ever worked for Channel Awesome. He also has a violent temper and goes into rages against employees and contributors (those who upload videos to Channel Awesome).

Lindsay Ellis, the former "Nostalgia Chick"

Lindsay Ellis, the former “Nostalgia Chick”

Reportedly Michael Michaud fired the head of H.R. Holly Brown, since she was 15 minutes late for a Skype call. He then made physical threats against her to the point where she had to hide in a “safe house”.

Robert & Doug Walker

Robert & Doug Walker

The money controversy revolves around how much contributors get for their product. Contributors are the people who have their videos on Channel Awesome. Without them Channel Awesome cannot exist. They complain that Channel Awesome became every bit as bad as YouTube, with the contributors doing all the work and Channel Awesome taking almost all the money.  It is tempting to say that maybe this is just a few malcontents complaining. However, the statistics show otherwise.  Contributors to Channel Awesome have been leafing in droves. One year ago there were 41 regular contributors to Channel Awesome. Today there are 10.

Looking at the evolution of Channel Awesome, we are reminded of the George Orwell book Animal Farm. The animals take over the farm, but by the end the new farm is just as corrupt and evil as the old farm.  The Animal Farm line “some animals are more equal than  others” applies perfectly to Channel Awesome. There is a lot of money being made, however, it is being horded by a small few at the top.

There is a lot of debate as to how much blame to attribute to Doug Walker, whose brand names are The Nostalgia Critic and That Guy With Glasses. His show is great,and he seems like such a nice guy in the  videos.  So far, the has been completely silent surrounding the controversies at Channel Awesome.  However, that is the problem. He is too big a star at the station to not take sides. Many say he is committing what Roman Catholics would call Sins Of Omission.  Critics say Doug Walker is a defacto part of management and must take responsibility.

Doug Walker has a real money problem. He does not own the rights to the internet character The Nostalgia Critic. Somehow Michael Michaud was able to get control of that. If Doug Walker leaves Channel Awesome, he has to start over with a completely new character and rebuild followers from scratch. Does he have the courage to walk away from the money to do what is morally right?

However, others say Doug Walker is more directly involved in the problem, especially when it comes to the fun spoof “movies” that Channel Awesome makes. Most of the actors in these films got paid nothing other than airfare. However, Channel Awesome and Doug Walker made lots of money selling DVSs of these movies. The other people involved did not even get a free DVD of the film.

Lindsay Ellis, formerly known as the Nostalgia Chick on Channel Awesome has come out strongly on the side of those criticizing Channel Awesome. This make a difference, as Lindsay Ellis is one of the smartest and most respected people on the internet. Anything she posts or says is fact-based and well researched. If she says something at Channel smells, that you can believe it stinks.

Will Channel Awesome die? In effect, it already has. Even if the company does not go bankrupt, the dream of a place where creators of unique and fun videos would be treated with respect is already dead. The internet continues to be a place where the creators of content are the lowest people on the Totem Pole.  On the internet, budding writers, film makers, video producers and actors make pennies while huge profits go to the the corporations using their work. Maybe someday a new platform will come along to accomplish what Channel Awesome could not.

Barry – the assassin we love

HBO’s dark comedy Barry stars Bill Hader as a cold blooded assassin who suddenly decides he wants to be an actor. Somehow, we cheer for Barry, the same way we all cheered for the serial killer Dexter.

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Bill Hader & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

Barry’s life is a series of routine murders until he gets an assignment to kill a would-be actor in Los Angeles. Barry follows his target into an acting class, and suddenly falls in love with the craft of acting. Barry has an epiphany. He will give up assassinations and become an actor himself.

Bill Hader as the contract killer "Barry"

Bill Hader as the contract killer “Barry”

Of course, career changes are always difficult. The crazy and violent Chechens who hired Barry are angry at his lack of loyalty and decide to kill him instead. They soon find out that trying to murder a professional killer with the reflexes of a cat is probably a mistake.

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in "Barry"

Sarah Goldberg & Henry Winkler in “Barry”

The casting in Barry is Perfect.  Henry Winkler is the acting coach, whose love of money far surpasses his love of the theater. He spouts endless cliche’s about the acting craft, while always making sure that every student pays in cash in advance.

Stephen Root who arranges murders in "Barry"

Stephen Root who arranges murders in “Barry”

Sarah Goldberg is fellow acting student Sally, who immediately senses that there is something special about Barry.  Sally is the type of person Barry has never met before. She actually cares about other people and has real emotions, and that fascinates Barry.

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in "Barry"

Glen Fleshler as a Chechen killer in “Barry”

Stephen Root is Monroe Fuches, who negotiates assassinations and handles all the money. Despite being in the business of murder himself, Monroe is a coward. However, with all his flaws, he is the closest thing Barry has to an actual friend.

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in "Barry"

Anthony Carrigan as a Chechen mobster with family problems in “Barry”

Anthony Carrigan & Glen Fleshler play two of the crazy Chechens. Despite their violent occupations, they are still burdened with spoiled children and demanding wives. This role is a real switch for Glen Flechler, who plays a sophisticated Wall Street lawyer in the series Billions.

Barry is a fun series with an ensemble of terrific actors. We give it our highest rating.

Need To Know – the spy in the family

Need To Know by Karen Cleveland is spy novel about a CIA analyst caught between loyalty to family or country, when she discovers that her own husband is a long-time Russian sleeper agent. Vivian Miller , the CIA analyst, has created a sophisticated software program, theoretically allowing her to hack into the computers of suspected Russian control agents.  If the program works, the CIA will be able to see what spies Russia has working in America.

Need To Know

Need To Know

No one at the CIA really expects the computer program to work. Vivian has been tinkering with it for months with no success. Then one day during testing, Vivian is able to hack into the computer of a top level Russian spymaster. This will be the crowning  moment of her career and assure her a promotion.

Inside CIA headquarters

Inside CIA headquarters

Vivian finds a file on the spy master’s computer, with photographs of all the agents he is controlling in America. She is ecstatic until she sees that one of the photos is of her own husband Matt.  They have been married for years and have 3 children. He can’t possibly be a spy for the Russians. But the more she tries to convince herself that Matt is not a spy the more she realizes he is.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

Memorial honoring CIA agents who died serving The United States. No names are displayed as they lived and died in secret.

The correct course of action would be for Vivian to immediately notify her superiors. However, she knows that the second she does that, her life as she knows it will be over. Matt will go to jail, possible for life. Vivian will be suspected of being a traitor herself. Even if she is not arrested her career as a trusted CIA agent will be ruined. What will happen to her kids?

In a moment of panic, Vivian deletes Matt’s picture fro the Russian spymaster’s computer. In that one second she realizes that she moved from a woman with a dilemma, to an actual traitor to the United States.

The plot of Need To Know then follows the complex story of what to do next. Vivian realizes that she has dug herself a hole that may lead her to prison for life.   Can she save herself, her family and still be loyal to America? As a computer analyst herself, she understands that it is only a matter of time until both the Russians and the Americans will zero in on her tampering.

"Need To Know" author Karen Cleveland

“Need To Know” author Karen Cleveland

Karen Cleveland is an excellent writer and Need To Know is her first novel. Karen Cleveland herself is a former CIA analyst (whose husband is not a Russian spy). She has a Masters  degrees from Trinity College in Dublin in international peace studies, and a degree in public policy from Harvard University.

Like John  Le Carrie, Karen Cleveland zeros in on the emotional and personal aspects of spying, rather than political implications. Need To Know is a fast moving novel with an unexpected ending. We look forward to reading Karen Cleveland’s next book.