What the hell happened to the ABC Comedy YouTube channel, wondered probably just us the other day. What is this “Sarah’s Channel”?
Sarah’s Channel is a new web series available on iView, which has also taken over the ABC Comedy YouTube channel (except they’re still uploading Sammy J to “Sarah’s Channel”, and there’s still a bunch of old sketches from Tonightly with Tom Ballard available if you really look for them).
Set in a post-apocalypse world, Sarah’s Channel imagines what life would be like for a beauty vlogger (played by Claudia O’Doherty) if she was reanimated and had to live in a world populated by strange “mole people” who live underground, in fear of an evil monster called Quahmork.
What would happen, it seems, is that beauty vlogger Sarah would carry as she had in the early 21st Century, creating videos about makeup looks you can try at home. Except instead of makeup she has mould she scraped from the ceiling, and instead of an internet to upload her videos to, she’s presumably just talking to the wall.
The mole people, who reanimated her in the hope that she would help them, indulge her in her vlogging and even help her recreate social media by offering he likes or loves in the form of cardboard thumbs and hearts. The really enthusiastic ones even offer to re-tweet her, by repeating the content of the “status update” she just uttered to the person next to them. The sheer madness of it is kind of funny.
Problem is, though, unless you’re really familiar with makeup YouTube, this is quite a specific parody. It’s a bit like watching one of Chris Lilley’s parodies of a teenager. You know the performer’s spent a lot of hours observing these kinds of people, and the writer’s spent a lot of time getting the script to sound authentic, but ultimately, there just aren’t enough bits of characterisation or dialogue that are funny without an in-depth knowledge of makeup influencers.
What does work, comically, is the “mole people”. They’re not onscreen often but they are funny – and no specialist knowledge is needed.
Another problem with Sarah’s Channel, is that there’s clearly some satirical intent here, at least, if you believe what O’Doherty says in this article on Junkee, but it doesn’t really come across in the show. Here’s what she had to say:
“I think that’s the funny thing about Sarah’s Channel,” O’Doherty muses. “It reflects two really true things about what’s going on right now. There is this huge culture of beauty bloggers and influencers on YouTube, that’s huge, and millions and millions of people are very embedded in that world and watching it. But then also climate change and climate catastrophe is looming at every moment.”
There’s also the question of what beauty blogging says about our culture’s fixation with consumption.
O’Doherty brings up the ‘haul’ videos vloggers produce, where they are either gifted with or buy stacks and stacks of cheap stuff at places like Kmart or Primark in the UK. In Sarah’s Channel, Sarah makes her own ‘haul’ video, of remnants of human civilisation she scavenged from the surface.
“There’s this sort of amplified consumption that comes with all these easily watchable social media things,” O’Doherty explains. “They do tend to ignore the climate emergency that we live in right now.
“Lots of [beauty vloggers] are really likeable young women who seem to be fairly nice, ethical, sweet women, but they’re also consuming at such a crazy rate. Like when they do these ‘haul’ videos and they come back from Primark and they have like 50 items of clothing and you’re like, these are definitely all bought in a sweatshop, these are made under horrible conditions, you’ll never wear this stuff again.”
Fair enough. Except this absolutely does not come across in Sarah’s Channel, partly because we have no idea what caused the apocalypse and partly because Sarah can’t exactly pop out to Kmart in her post-apocalypse cave world. Also, makeup YouTube NEVER EVER thinks about the impact of what it does. And, therefore, neither does Sarah. And as Sarah’s pretty much the only person to ever speak, this is never going to come up.
Still, it’s there if you imagine it. And personally, we’d rather imagine – or better yet, actually, see – some laughs.