Pls Like on BBC iPlayer
The way in which I tend to watch content now has changed from the standard format of sitting down and watching a programme at a set time on TV, to spending a lot more time online, watching content on demand. Watching TV series then usually consists of ‘binge watching’ content over a number of days, although I distinctly remember back in either my 1st or 2nd year of University that I had treated myself to buying several series of Scrubs on DVD, and managing to watch a full season in a day before. I like Scrubs, and I think for many of our students, it’s a show you catch on re-runs in passing, so this could be a retrospective post.
However, I tend to find myself watching more short clips of things on YouTube now, of an evening. I think this is possibly still a form of hang-over from finishing my PhD when I started at Strathclyde – if you are getting back home late, you don’t really want to have to think. You find some channels/videos that you like, YouTube’s algorithm does the searching for you (although occasionally, you really wish it wouldn’t).
Over time, you find channels that you stick to, and become accustomed as to how they shape their content for YouTube. For example, I watch quite a lot of food/cooking videos online, which would focus on a particular trend, or making food which is social media friendly. Equally, though, these channels/creators are making content to earn a living through YouTube’s advertising revenue.
The rise in popularity of YouTube/personalities on YouTube lends itself to satire. Enter ‘Pls Like’, a short-form comedy programme, which can be found on BBC iPlayer. Originally broadcasted on BBC Three, it is a programme which I think I first caught wind of when it was on after an episode of Match of the Day (you know, after they’ve had all the rubbish games shown, it’s late, and you’re wondering what to watch next).
The setup of the programme is that a competition is set up to win a cash prize, which requires contestants to upload a video to YouTube. The contest is won by someone who really wasn’t intended to win the contest. The agency which set the contest decides to set the winner a series of challenges to learn more about the platform, in order to win the money. This is filmed/presented in a mockumentary style, which leads to a series of parodies and satire.
There are two series of 6 episodes, with each episode only lasting about 15 minutes each. It is something that can easily be watched in an afternoon, without having a dream later on that you work in a hospital. It is very clever in the way in which it presents and challenges different tropes, whether that is the impact of social media influencers, representation of ‘lad culture’, self-care and beauty regimes, or the mass production of animation content for children (in which an ‘algorithm whisperer’ is required to resolve it). Series 1 focuses on the content. Series 2, however, focuses on revisiting the characters, and addresses issues, such as freedom of speech and hate content online.
There are some very well-observed and presented moments in the series, and it’s something which I have ended up watching a couple of times in full now, in part because of the length of the episodes. A lot of the actors have appeared in, and produced other content too (for example, Liam Williams’ ‘Ladhood’, also on iPlayer), so there are recognisable faces. It doesn’t require too much thought. It’s clever in the way it presents itself. And it’s worth your time to watch it and reflect on how much of an influence YouTube has on our day to day lives.