Channel Awesome is a production company that puts out high-quality online videos and webseries. The shining star in Channel Awesome’s lineup is the review site known as That Guy With The Glasses, home to such Internet personalities as the Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker), the Cinema Snob (Brad Jones), the Nostalgia Chick (Lindsay Ellis), Linkara (Lewis Lovhaug), the Spoony One (Noah Antwiler), and Film Brain (Matthew Buck).
To celebrate the anniversary of its founding, the top reviewers of the site get together to put out one or more videos, usually involving a slapstick fight or parody storyline involving their reviewer alter egos. The first year anniversary gave us “TGWTG Team Brawl,” which played off the ongoing fake “feud” between the Nostalgia Critic and the Angry Video Game Nerd. The second year gave us “Kickassia,” a six-part series involving a fictional invasion of the real-life Republic of Molossia.
Then, at the end of June 2011, we got a seven-part series called “Suburban Knights,” an affectionate parody of fantasy tropes and live-action role-playing (or “LARPing”) that also does a pretty good job of making them work for the sake of the story.
The Story: Blurring The Lines Between Fantasy, Reality, And Comedy
The Nostalgia Critic attempts to recruit his fellow reviewers to partake in a bizarre quest for an ancient artifact known as Malachite’s Hand. Using clues left behind by a missing role-playing nerd, the Critic and his team hopes to find the gauntlet and try to make a fortune off it, dismissing all claims to it being magical.
Naturally, they’re wrong. On their journey, they encounter hooded swordsmen, witches and wizards, a disembodied voice of the Ancient World, and Ma-Ti from Captain Planet and the Planeteers (although he’s just a regularly recurring character on TGWTG). The line between reality and fantasy is blurred, although usually played for laughs in true Internet fashion, and the ending is one of the most uplifting yet bittersweet sequences I’ve certainly ever seen.
The Cast: They May Look Like Internet Reviewers, But Deep Down… They’re Still Internet Reviewers, But With More Heroic Moments!
Most of the characters in this series are about the same as they are on their respective review shows. For the most part, the Nostalgia Critic is a very cynical and oblivious person, although this series marks the start of some significant character development as he continues along his quest. The other cast range from enthusiastic to disillusioned, but all feature the same amount of snark and sarcasm that make their online reviews so worth watching.
The real surprise from this series comes from Orlando Belisle, who plays the dark magician known as Malachite. While the reviewers spend most of their time being silly and parodying the fantasy genre in general, Malachite is a genuinely serious and intimidating character for the storyline. Belisle brings some serious acting ability to the table, using a stony-faced expression, a hissing voice, and some very impressive gymnastics and martial arts moves that would make him a credible villain in any work of fiction.
All the main characters are also required to dress up as characters from a fantasy tale or quest-based narrative, so here’s a quick reference list for the costumes and roles they take on:
- The Nostalgia Critic as Link (The Legend of Zelda)
- Linkara as King Arthur (Camelot)
- AngryJoe as Inigo Montoya (The Princess Bride)
- The Spoony One as Gandalf (The Lord of the Rings)
- The Cinema Snob as Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones series)
- The Nostalgia Chick as Arwen (The Lord of the Rings)
- Phelous as Rock Biter (The Neverending Story)
- ToddInTheShadows as the Dread Pirate Roberts (The Princess Bride)
- Obscurus Lupa as Snow White (Snow White)
- Handsome Tom as Willow (Willow)
- 8 Bit Mickey as Peter Pan (Peter Pan)
- Film Brain as Harry Potter (Harry Potter series)
- Luke Mochrie as Harry Potter (Harry Potter series)
- Benzaie as Conan the Barbarian (Conan the Barbarian films)
- PawDugan as Profion (Dungeons & Dragons film)
- MarzGurl as San (Princess Mononoke)
- JewWario as Jareth (Labyrinth)
- Bennett The Sage as Aslan (The Chronicles of Narnia)
The Setting: Sure Looks Like A Chicago Suburb, But Oh So Mythical
The title is based on the setting and the comedy inherent to it, as the “heroes” seek their “quest” along the backwoods of a suburban neighborhood in Chicago, which includes such places as a bicycle path and a children’s playground (the latter being mistaken for “a worthy battlefield” by the reviewers). Of course, this also has the added advantage of keeping with the ultimate theme of the story, which is the conflict between magic and technology.
But beyond the cheap scenery, there’s still some good CGI and camera work, such as during the battle with the Good Witch of the Woods, the recurring parodies of the “Arwen montage” from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy, and anytime Malachite himself does or say anything. And of course, the original soundtrack is pretty awesome to boot.
Final Verdict: It’ll Make You Laugh Mostly, But You’ll Find Reasons To Cry And Cheer, Too
I’ll be honest. If you’re new to That Guy With The Glasses and Channel Awesome in general, you might have trouble getting a lot of the inside jokes and call-backs in this series… or you might just be tempted to look into the site for old reviews to watch. There’s also plenty of jokes and references to pop culture works like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Captain Planet, and most of the fantasy stories listed above.
But beyond all the great comedy and self-deprecation, these videos are also a pretty great fantasy story in and of themselves. It’s about a bunch of modern guys and girls taking a chance on an epic quest and going beyond old boundaries, ultimately getting the chance to prove just as heroic or charismatic as the characters they play.
Suburban Knights is available on TGWTG.com. I have provided a link to each episode below, along with the original trailers.
Bibliography: Suburban Knights. Directed by Doug Walker. Produced by Doug Walker, Rob Walker, Holly Brown, and Michael Michaud. Written by Doug and Rob Walker. Channel Awesome, 2011.