Stream On: YouTube reactors keep TV, film history alive

By on July 27, 2023

Daniel and Samantha Schmitt have fun and make bank reacting to movies and TV on YouTube and Patreon. Here, they have a look at “True Detective.” (YouTube)

The Screen Actors Guild has joined the Writers Guild of America in a general strike against the film studios. If you haven’t noticed, it may be because you now stream your TV and films, like a growing number of consumers. (I’ve been off that grid for five years.) And that’s the good news.

The bad news might be for the strikers: There is so much content available online from since the advent of cinema and TV, that the writers and actors are probably going to have to settle on a new paradigm.

And that’s not even taking into account video-sharing platforms like YouTube and others, where ordinary people make short form videos and earn money from them. Reaction “channels” have caught on, where (usually) young people view old or recent TV series and movies and comment on them—producing more fun (for millions of their collective subscribers) than a barrel of writers and actors.

TBR SCHMITT/YouTube | True Detective episode 1 reaction (26 mins.)

When I say ordinary people, for the sake of this column I mean ordinary, personable people with an interest in film or TV, who are capable of making smart and/or funny remarks about something they’ve never seen; in a surprising number of cases something they never even knew existed. It was chilling the first time I saw a reactor watching the opening credits, say, of a film even as recent as Ghostbusters (1984), and hear them saying “Dan Aykroyd … Bill Murray … Sigourney Weaver … nope! Never heard of any of these people!” But I realized that these reactors are fixing that: they are becoming more knowledgeable about the films and TV shows than even the original audiences were, back in the day!

Daniel Schmitt and his wife Samantha operate two YouTube channels and a Patreon channel, where subscribers pay a small amount to watch full-length reactions (which are edited for time and copyright considerations to post on YouTube). They are knowledgeable, articulate and witty.

Daniel writes on his Patreon “about” page, “Before YouTube, one of my favorite things to do was watch a movie with someone who hasn’t seen it yet, so I could experience their first reaction with them, so naturally I love this reaction culture and community on YouTube.”

Daniel and Samantha have watched hundreds of movies and TV shows, and Samantha is even starting to exhibit one of my syndromes: she’ll notice an actor and begin recalling everything she’s ever seen him in. Daniel has studied film, but he’s an engineer. Now he dabbles in screenwriting—when he and Samantha are not rescuing films and TV shows from the memory hole. They currently have 110,000 followers on YouTube and 859 paid subscribers on Patreon.



JL Phillips watches “SE7EN” and cracks wise for thrills and laughs. (YouTube)

JL Phillips, who introduces himself as “The Murder Whistle” (perhaps for his propensity to shriek when startled) is an ordinary guy and an extraordinarily funny reactor who is usually accompanied by his “copilots,” two beautiful dogs, that wander around on the unmade bed visible behind him.

For a few thousand dollars, reactors can set up production (here’s the equipment used by TBR Schmitt) but they have to supply the personality themselves. The most successful collect thousands of followers on YouTube and Patreon, and JL is up there—he has 44,000 followers on YouTube and 529 paid subscribers on Patreon.

JL’s set is his bedroom, simply decorated by posters, action and Funko Pop figures. He once asked his audience if they had any suggestions for more: he already had a Betty White, saying “Don’t hate on Betty White!” (As if that were possible.) He’s nervous during suspense and thriller films, and especially vulnerable to jump scares, which do make him jump, after which he’ll glance at the camera and say, “Shut up!” Emotional scenes have made him tear up, and then he’ll show a humorous interstitial card that reads something like “Technical difficulties—Please stand by” while he pulls himself together.

Anyone would love to hang out with JL. Like many reactors, he has sponsors that bring in additional income to the money he collects from YouTube and Patreon for expenses, including the editing software that he wields expertly on his videos. The first reactors would point a camera at themselves with the movie they’re reacting to in an inset window, record a session and load it to YouTube. JL, like the most successful reactors, produces a polished half-hour or so video, better in quality than what some local news programs still put on network TV.

They don’t usually mention their off-camera lives, but many reactors make enough money to quit their day jobs—and even if they don’t, this “side hustle” contributes nicely to their bank accounts. And if you’re looking for a few minutes’ to an hour’s worth of entertainment, try searching on YouTube for “reaction videos movies.” You might get hooked.

(Pete Hummers is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to earn fees by linking Amazon.com and affiliate sites. This adds nothing to Amazon’s prices.)

Click here for more Stream On: What to watch on TV columns by Pete Hummers. Columns are archived and updated when necessary on Substack.


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