It seems that Hollywood has finally realized how popular this online video thing is, and they've started digging further and further into sites like YouTube and Vimeo to find their next big hit. Not too long ago, I wrote about Epic Meal Time, and how they were shopping their own extreme cooking show to the networks and getting some interest. Those guys aren't the first, and they won't be the last. But the latest YouTube-to-television success story actually belongs to one of my favorite acts: Rhett & Link.
Rhet and Link have been entertaining me for over a year now. Of course, they don't entertain only me, but their entire huge audience of fans (they have over 700,000 subscribers). They've had several viral hits, with T-Shirt War being maybe their most famous. They're clever and quick-witted and all-around charming guys. My favorite clip of theirs is a more recent one, where they have some fun with speech-to-text software. Here, check it out:
In addition to silly songs and comedy clips, the duo has also started a little cottage industry creating local commercials (with an intentionally local feel) for small businesses around the country. Here's a sample of one they did in 2009:
And now they've made enough, and gotten so good at it, that they're getting their own show on IFC. It'll be called Commercial Kings, and will document their artistic process as they travel from small town to small town to make local commercials for local businesses.
The pair thanked their fans in a blog post about the new TV show, saying:
As we said in the video, there is absolutely no way we'd be here without you. Thank you to all of you Mythical Beasts who have watched our videos, shared our videos, downloaded our songs, bought our shoes, or told your friends and family about these two weird dudes from North Carolina. We'd send you all cans with hugs in them if such a thing existed. But in lieu of that, we'll make this promise: we will continue to do our absolute best to entertain you and bring a little humor into your life whenever we can. All we ask is that you keep watching, listening, and sharing.
How serious is this? Serious enough for the two to pack up their families and leave their homes in North Carolina to move to L.A. So... pretty serious. You can watch the video they made to share the announcement with friends and fans:
What does all this mean? Not much, except that truly talented people can break into the entertainment industry via YouTube stardom. Which I guess we already knew. But it's always good to see quality video creators get rewarded for great work. I would rather watch a Rhett & Link reality show than another one about housewives or the logging industry. Hopefully, the rest of America will agree.
This is the power of YouTube: it puts all talented people on a level playing field, so that known stars and unknown nobody's can vie for fans and let the best rise to the top. YouTube didn't land Rhett & Link a TV show, it just gave them a wide enough audience that the networks would have an interest.