In light of recent and recent-ish events, it feels weird looking at this write up I did from
four five years ago. For one thing, all the reviewers I've listed as examples of TGWTG content have quit or have been fired by the site. The other thing is that the website hasn't been called That Guy With The Glasses for years.
Who wants to read about some internet drama?
What is Channel Awesome, and who runs it?
Channel Awesome Inc. is a "online media production company" started by Mike Michaud, Bhargav Dronamraju, and Mike Ellis in 2008. The idea was to create a content aggregate site where multiple reviewers of different topics could host their work. The producers would not be paid employees, but rather it would be a symbiotic relationship wherein the producers would receive exposure and ad revenue from their videos while the website would receive traffic and ad revenue from the page views.
Some of the first people brought on to the site were Doug and Rob Walker; Doug Walker already had a small following on youtube for his Nostalgia Critic, and the website of the time the group came up with was called That guy With The Glasses, and was built around Doug and his characters (including the Nostalgia Critic, as well as his other series 5 Second Reviews and Ask That Guy. As time passed, other content producers were brought on as well, including Noah "TheSpoonyOne" Antwiler, Lewis "Linkara" Lovhaug, Lindsay "The Nostalgia Chick" Ellis, Kaylin "marzgirl" Saucedo, Brad "the Cinema Snob" Jones, Benjamin "Benzaie" Daniel, Larry "Guru Larry" Bundy Jr., and several others. Those are the "early" producers and some of them are the longer-lasting ones, some staying on the site for upwards of eight or nine years before being let go or leaving voluntarily. Also of note is their human resources/site administrator Holly Brown, who is important to recent developments.
Part of the long-term plan for Channel Awesome was to create subdivisions of their site to be dedicated to different kinds of media reviews, the most notable of which was "Blistered Thumbs", a videogame site, and "Inked Reality" a proposed comic/manga site. There was also the short lived "Barfiesta" wherein people would sample different bars or home brew alcohols. All three of those subdivisions were failures on some level; Inked Reality, which Lewis Lovhaug was meant to head, never manifested in anything other than as a section on the site's "Shows" dropdown menu. Barfiesta never manifested at all, and Blistered Thumbs, headed by Joe "AngryJoe" Vargas, was shut down after four years with no warning to the content producers under that branch.
Over the years, there was the occasional spat of drama, such as Spoony's leaving the site, and there were some small exoduses of producers (such as when Kyle "Oancitizen" Kalgren, Lindsay Ellis, and several others left all at the same time), and situations where producers were unfairly let go without warning or excuse, etc. But until March, 2018, there wasn't so much in the public eye that the average casual viewer would notice.
First Very Public Incident: Noah "Spoony" Antwiler
Noah Antwiler is his own bucket of problems. Most notoriously, he started a Patreon campaign promising oodles of content and a movie, successfully funded it to an astounding 5000$ a month, and then proceeded to stop making videos entirely with no explanation, apology, or refund.
But that's later, and unrelated to his Channel Awesome debacle.
On May 11, 2012, he made several rape jokes to/about Hope "jesuotaku" Chapman, who didn't find it funny. However, things were otherwise quiet after that for a time. A few weeks later, Allison "Obscurus Lupa" Pregler called him out on it during an unrelated argument, which led to him gracelessly and vitriolically responding to her and to anyone else who tried to talk to him on Twitter, including fans of his, fans of Lupa's, and fans of other content creators (which upset some other producers at the time).
After his extended tantrum, the CA management announced his temporary suspension, which then escalated into Noah leaving the website. He was given an ultimatum: either stop talking like that while he was affiliated with and represented Channel Awesome, or to leave. He chose to walk, later explaining that he had been considering leaving anyways as the page views from his website were still greater than his views from Channel Awesome, and that they had a number of organization issues he was tired of putting up with. It is also worth noting that at this time he had as-of-yet undiagnosed bipolar disorder and depression, which he would later get treatment for.
Unfortunately for Lupa, Jesuotaku, and other women of the site, there began a conspiracy theory among a small but vocal set of male fans that the women of Channel Awesome had collaborated in order to get Spoony fired. Lupa and JesuOtaku, especially, started to get hate mail and personal threats, as well as physical threats including people showing up to at least one of their homes, even after Spoony publicly announced that they were not the reason he left, and that he had been lashing out inappropriately.
The Channel Awesome management did not speak up about the issue one way or another, and left matters to sort themselves out.
Second very Public Incident: The Disastrous IndieGogo
In August of 2013, Channel Awesome started an Indiegogo campaign with a goal of 50,000$ to update their cameras and lighting, build some sets, and start three shows: a videogame challenge-based show tentatively called "The Gaming Gauntlet", a comic book based show, and the main goal: 40 episodes of a reality quiz show initially called "Pop Culture Challenge" and later dubbed "Pop Quiz Hotshot". The current remnants IndieGoGo page doesn't do justice to how hard this quiz show was advertised.
However, after successfully raising almost double the amount asked at a whopping $89,757, the video and audio quality of the current shows stayed the same, and the new shows didn't happen. It took two years, and it was only after people started complaining to Indiegogo, and when Indiegogo began threatening to look into the matter that they finally produced and released 12 out of the 40 episodes of the show.This constituted as them attempting to fulfill their campaign obligations, satisfying Indiegogo (but not the fans).
The quiz show itself, rather than just being a quiz show, was intended to have a storyline of sorts, and the premise is that the host, Bradigan (played by Brad Jones, a popular reviewer on the site), is a psychotic sadist who has kidnapped people to relive his nostalgia for the 80s, and that the entire game show is some kind of hallucinogenic torture. With him are Miss Stockholm, and General Anesthetic: his prisoner/announcer, and his enforcer respectively.
The show was not well received.
Behind the scenes, filming was a mess, and the pilot episode had to be reshot 17 times because the studio they rented wasn't sound dampened. The pilot (linked here) is regarded as one of the better episodes due to Brad Jones's charisma (though it's clear part way through that he hates being there). Later episodes replace Brad with Doug Walker, who's new schtick is that he desperately craves friendship, and that kidnapping people and forcing them to be in a game show is his way of showing affection. Or something. The entire playlist can be seen here if you're a masochist.
As for the other shows promised, the gaming gauntlet never happened, and the comic show, "Awesome Comics" (which was several people in a room, sitting at a conference table and talking about comics) was cancelled after one year.
Recent-ish Events: "Not So Awesome"
On March 13, Obscurus Lupa responded irately to a fan asking her questions about Doug.
Obscurus Lupa and CA have some bad blood between them as they infamously fired her for not responding to a Skype message after she'd told them she would be away after she questioned their use of midroll advertisements while simultaneously banning certain producers from using them. When she left, her boyfriend (a fellow producer and CA's then digital-effects-video-editor-tech-guy) Phelan "Phelous" Porteous also left, as well as several others.
The March 13 tweet attracted the attention of other producers as well as curious or confused fans, and it, and others in the thread, led to a massive influx of responses as both current and former CA producers and staff came forward talking about their time at CA and any troubles they had, or (in the case of other producers who hadn't shared those experiences) answering questions about what went on.
Joining this thread was Holly Brown, who had been let go of Channel Awesome several years prior after they fired her the day after her surgery and then made her sign a contract forbidding her from working with another company in the industry for three years so she wouldn't work with any competitors. Holly gave a lot of information regarding the management of Channel Awesome that other producers were not privy to, and she verified or discredited different claims being made.
On April 2, 2018, former long-time contributor Kaylin "MarzGirl" Saucedo compiled the producers' experiences into a Google Doc, found here. The google Doc, titled "Not So Awesome" goes into more detail than the twitter feed could and it shed light on specific bad practices at Channel Awesome.
The document initially started out with 60 pages but has since grown to 73 pages as more former producers have come forward to tell their experiences with the site. The complaints and concerns range from run of the mill mismanagement and miscommunication, to withholding pay from new contributors, to failing to respond to sexual harassment, to actively engaging in sexual harassment. Each participating contributor to the document is given their own section, so while specific experiences vary, the accounts all point towards CEO Mike Michaud simultaneously trying to avoid his managerial duties while also becoming an obsessive micro-manager once his dander is up.
A great reading and analysis of the doc can be found here by Fred Knudsen of the "Down the Rabbit Hole" series.
Bigger Issues in the Doc
One of the complaints held by the older producers (Saucedo especially) is that Channel Awesome withheld funds from its earliest producers. While the content producers were never paid employees, they were and are expected to get revenue from their videos' ad views. Again: CA embeds the videos into the site and gets money from the traffic, and the individual creators get money from their videos being watched.
However, Channel Awesome in its early days had new producers send their videos directly to Michaud or other admins to be uploaded to the site, rather than having producers uploading onto their own YouTube/Blip accounts and sending Michaud the link to be embedded in the site (as became the practice later). These videos would be put onto the Channel Awesome Blip account, and Channel Awesome would collect revenue from ads and the usual website traffic revenue.
Channel Awesome was supposed to give the producers the ad revenue from those manually uploaded videos, and never did. Kayla Saucedo specifically suffered from this until she, with the advice of fellow contributor Lewis "Linkara" Louvhog, uploaded videos to her own account and sent Michaud the link to be put on the site. She was then reprimanded by Michaud for doing so without permission, and in her own words, she "humiliated herself" apologizing profusely for having the audacity to try and make money off her own content.
Other incidents include not paying artists or sound developers for their work, or (in the case of Benzaie's girlfriend), paying an artist for the initial work, not the reproduction rights, and then selling merchandise of the art without alerting the artist, acquiring permission, or paying for the right.
General Mismanagement and Failure to Communicate
A continuing theme in the Not So Awesome Document is management's inability to communicate with producers. All official communications with CEO Mike Michaud are done via Skype chat. In one instance, a contributor named Leigh CC'd Michaud in an email and Michaud lambasted Lindsay "Nostalgia Chick" Ellis, a producer who had nothing to do with the email or its contents. Lindsay had been the one to recommend Leigh to the site, and so Michaud held her responsible for Leigh daring to CC his boss in an email.
Testimonies of other producers say that Michaud, 99% of the time, was impossible to contact both inside or outside of Skype and that Holly Christie, the entirety of HR and one of the web admin, was the only person who would dependably respond to questions and concerns. Several times producers were let go from the site or given responsibilities they did not ask for without being told. The Blistered Thumbs portion of the website was closed down without any of the contributors being notified.
The most telling indicator of this lack of communication and mismanagement manifested in the fact that there was no official Company Policy given to producers, nor was there any kind of established rule documentation. They were told to provide at least two videos a month, and not to contact Michaud, but aside from that they were only notified of a rule after hey had broken it. The only person who did receive a rules list was Allison Pregler, and other producers who came after her were surprised to see that the list existed, as they hadn't received one.
Sexual Abuse, Sexual Harassment, and Failure to Respond to Sexual Harassment
Mike Ellis, Holly Christine, and Sean Fausz
Holly Christine, as previously mentioned, had been the HR and the general "get shit done" person accessible to the producers (as Michaud was notoriously evasive and hard to contact).
Holly's story is mentioned in passing in the document, as she gives more focus on the mismanagement of the site and the poor treatment she received, but essentially CEO Mike Ellis wanted to pursue a romantic relationship with her-- despite his being married. He grew violent and was eventually let go from the site for other reasons, but his continued threats against Holly were severe enough for the crew to take Holly to a "safe house" for a few days, accompanied by some men who worked on the site (including the Walker brothers) who escorted her around with baseball bats and some fuckin' weeb-grade Nihon steel.
Despite this being one of the more ludicrous situations (a group of men with bats and at least one fuckin' weeb sword), this information has not been contended by Channel Awesome, nor any of the people stated to be involved, so it's one of the things that nobody is arguing actually happened.
The other known incident involving Mike Ellis is his dealings with site contributor Sean Fausz.
Sean Fausz tells of a time when Ellis drunkenly sent him increasingly inappropriate and increasingly desperate messages of a sexual nature continuously over the span of two hours, despite Fausz's lack of reciprocation or response. Fausz contacted Michaud, who said "Dammit, I told him he couldn't be doing this shit. I'll take care of it," after which it was never spoken of again.
As with the Holly situation above, this is one of the things that Channel Awesome isn't arguing about, including the statement by Michaud, implying that Ellis was up to more harassment that was not documented. In their response letter later, Channel Awesome casually states that Ellis left of his own volition, to the upset of people involved.
Justin "Jewario" Carmical - The Sexual Predator - Jane Doe's Account and the Cover Up
The most dubious part of the original document was a testimony from an anonymous Jane Doe who claimed that an unnamed producer on ChannelAwesome had groomed her when she was young and engaged in sexual relations with her once older. While technically not illegal, as she was 18 at the time, she was (and is) still emotionally distraught and feels the producer took advantage of her. In her part of the document, she says how she reached out to other CA members, and was dismissed.
Upon reporting what had happened to CA staff, the Jane Doe recalls that the producer was still kept on the CA team for possibly a year after (though she admits she is hazy on the details, as this event is something she has tried to forget).
Out of all the complaints and concerns outlined in the document, Jane Doe's seemed to be both the most serious as well as the least founded, what with the victim and the perpetrator both remaining anonymous. Both were kept anonymous at the Jane Doe's request as she feared retaliation; it was enough for her peace of mind to just have the information out there in the public consciousness that this was something Channel Awesome had turned a blind eye to. Out of all the stories in he document, this seemed like the one most easily discounted.
Until the Channel Awesome team, most likely Mike Michaud, opened their fucking mouths and inadvertently confirmed it in their haphazard attempts to alleviate blame.
After the Not So Awesome doc was released, Channel Awesome gave two responses, one immediate short one and one longer one addressing some points of the Doc. The original post is here, and here's a screencap in case they ever delete it.
Putting aside the fact that they don't successfully exonerate themselves from any of the accusations thrown at them (and in fact admit guilt while trying to appear guiltless in some cases, such as their response to the Mike Ellis shenanigans), they attempt to address the accusations of harboring a sexual predator.
Not only did they confirm that a Jane Doe had in fact come to them in the past regarding sexual assault, but they also expose that this had been enough of a problem that they were ready and willing to let go of the producer in question.
In their response, they show timestamped chatlogs of the conversation to remove the producer and when to do it. In the beginning of their post, they explain that they have kept the victim and producer anonymous in order to protect the victim from retaliation as well as for legal reasons (libel, most likely). However, by releasing timestamped chatlogs and explicitly saying it took only three weeks to resolve the issue and release the producer, they inadvertently gave fans the direction to which producer it was: Justin "JewWario" Carmichael. In fact, in one part of the screenshot they posted, you can still see part of a J for Justin.
This fucked a lot of people up.
Justin Carmichael was a very popular, very beloved producer who was let go of Channel Awesome on February 15, 2013, and roughly one year later committed suicide. He shot himself in the head while his wife was outside the bathroom door begging him to stop.
Suddenly it became very clear why the Jane Doe in the document and the others that followed wanted to remain anonymous; it's hard enough for young women to go up against abusers who have a fan following, it would be significantly more difficult when said abuser has been dead and martyred by fans.
In their clumsy attempts to protect themselves from criticism, CA has accidentally outed an abuser whom they had more or less covered for, verified the story of a woman they had been trying to disregard, and have revealed that they either are too shortsighted to realize outing the dates would out the producer, or they're selfish enough not to care.
Soon after, another Jane Doe came forward on Reddit, this time speaking of actual rape wherein the victim was assaulted in her sleep and not just "grooming," as did another elsewhere on Twitter, the former of which was confirmed by Holly. The first Jane Doe from the Document came forward for the second time and said that the dates of the Channel Awesome Response do not align with hers, meaning that in the response document, Michaud and the Walkers are referring to an entirely different Jane Doe that is not the one from Reddit, the Document, or Twitter.
Channel Awesome's Initial and Second Responses
Shortly after the Not So Awesome document began gaining traction, Channel Awesome published a non-apology apology in which they expressed how sorry they were that people "felt that way" about their actions. A week later, they published the aforementioned an afore-linked longer response in which they took several points made in the document and attempted to refute them one by one.
As can be discerned by the tone of this very write-up, the Response Document was astoundingly hamfisted and refuted very little; rather it attempted to paint the producers in a poor light, cherry-picked only some of the issues discussed, and more than once admitted guilt (as with Mike Ellis's sexual harassment, and the poor communication.) In some cases, as with the refute against withheld earnings, they outright lied.
Where It Stands Now
The debacle has calmed down in the past few months. Currently, Channel Awesome has three producers still on the site: Doug Walker, Brad Jones, and Larry "Guru Larry" Bundy Jr. Brad Jones appears to still be on due to his friendship with the Walker brothers, though he's maintained amiable relations with the fled producers to the point of having appeared in their shows, and having them appear in his.
Guru Larry has professed to staying on for the sheer trollish joy of it; he was one of the earlier producers and was essentially neglected for the several years he was on the site. Now that everyone else has left, he's finally getting notice simply because the competition has thinned out. He has claimed on twitter that he will never leave unless they make him, and that he has the goal of being the last person on the site at all. He has also declared himself the winner of the Channel Awesome Hunger Games.
There was talk of Holly getting a lawyer over the legally-dubious contract they had her sign, but as of now, there's been no further developments regarding it.
The site still soldiers on with Doug and the Chicago crew at the center. The 10th anniversary movie has been scrapped for obvious reasons, and there's no sign of CA bringing in any new talent. One of the common complaints among producers was that the site focused too much on Doug's single show and didn't highlight any of the other creators. Now, it looks like the site has finally become what it had only been implied to be before: the Doug Show.