I’m staring at my TV, which shows a goat sitting on a table in its pen. The goat stares to the side, still as a statue. Seconds stretch into minutes, the goat remains motionless, and I start to think maybe the feed is buffering. But then, finally … the goat turns her head. It’s about at this point I start to wonder if I might have plunged too far into the depths of streaming video.
Let’s back up. I mostly use my Roku player to watch the major streaming video channels, like Netflix, Hulu, PBS, and Amazon. While Apple TV has a pretty finely curated channel selection, I chose Roku in no small part because it’s basically an open platform, letting almost anyone add a channel. Practically all you need to start your own is the capability to record video and a base level of computer skills.
It turns out that of Roku’s 2,000-plus channels, most are bizarre DIY efforts composing a crazy-ass long tail of streaming content. Search deep enough, and you can find video of sermons from a church in Alabama or the live feed of a public-access cable station in Michigan. There’s a channel for cruise ship enthusiasts and, of course, porn.1
All of the “adult” channels are private, meaning you can only find them elsewhere, not on Roku itself.
I took a deep dive into the streaming wilds, and here are the 10 weirdest channels I found.2
For a complete guide to public and private channels, Roku Guide is a great resource.
What is it? Performances by Tony Chapparo, the greatest magician in all of the greater Albuquerque, New Mexico, area. It’s a private channel, but you can add it here.
Weirdest moment: After a trick that involves turning a spoon into a fork, Chapparo makes a very earnest plea for local restaurants to hire him to be their house magician. Is that a thing?
Breakout performance: Chapparo is the star of the show here, conducting illusions with a dead-eyed seriousness that surely has gained him acclaim in the pages of Poof.
Should you watch? Only if you’re really, really, really into magic.
What is it? A collection of DIY videos showing you how to build and maintain your own AR-15 semiautomatic rifle, as well as a handful of random episodes of military-related shows and a “documentary” about “the real history and purposes of ‘gun control.’” No content is up on YouTube, but you can head to the channel’s site, download an “MS Media player,” and then download a video. Or add the private channel on Roku.
Weirdest moment: The gunsmith opens the first episode by declaring: “It’s important to state that I’m not a professional. I’ve never been a professional. I have no training whatsoever as a professional. So take it for what it’s worth. Just because something works for me in my shop doesn’t mean it’s the best way. I’m pretty sure it’s not.” Well, then.
Breakout performance: The homemade AR-15. Of course.
Should you watch? The channel refers to the AR-15 as “the ‘musket’ of our age — an indispensable implement for every American.” If you agree, then this is your huckleberry.
What is it? A private channel with a handful of old public-domain home movies from the Prelinger Archives, randomly thrown together such that the whole thing looks as if it were created on someone’s lunch break.
Weirdest moment: There’s a soundless Halloween party in the episode “Clips From Everyday Life in Fosston, Minnesota, Circa 1950” that’s pretty creepy.
Breakout performance: The car in “Wyoming Vacation 1978, Part 1” makes it all the way to Wyoming. That’s enough to qualify as a breakout here.
Should you watch? Only if you’ve been searching for long-lost family members who lived in Fosston, Minnesota, around 1950.
Detroit Reality TV
What is it? The brainchild of Ashei Khan, an impresario formerly known as the rapper Freeze. Imagine if an alien came to Earth and tried to create a series of interconnected reality TV shows without any cultural context. That’s what you have here, a smorgasbord of poorly shot and roughly edited episodes and raw cell-phone videos about money, strip clubs, women, partying, and drama. The episodes are inexplicably delightful, and just polished enough that you start to think James Franco might pop out at any second and reveal the whole thing as his latest master’s thesis.
Weirdest moment: Several of the shows build up to Khan appearing at the Ultimate White Party, an event hosted by Mike Epps. Only it turns out Khan isn’t invited, so he spends the night on the street outside the event, trying to pick up girls and handing out flyers. I lost count of the number of times he said “I’m a celebrity.” Say it enough times and surely it’ll come true.
Breakout performance: With apologies to Khan, the star here is “Nasty Girl,” one of the stars of Hood Chicks, a reality show about the making of a reality show. So meta. She introduces herself with this: “I’m Detroit’s Nasty Girl. I got a new single called ‘Nasty.’ I just did a movie with Spanky Ass called Trapped.”
Should you watch? Add the channel. Add it now.
What is it? An interview show with host Rick Scouler, asking probing questions of his guests, a collection of alien abductees and conspiracy theorists. (You can add it here.)
Weirdest moment: It’s a guy in a set made to look like the inside of a spaceship interviewing people about being abducted by aliens. It’s all weird.
Breakout performance: Scouler is a solid interviewer, asking good questions but giving his guests plenty of room to tell their stories. Which just happen to feature mothmen and reptilians.
Should you watch? Whether you’re a skeptic or a believer, it’s fascinating to listen to people who clearly have no doubt about the fantastical events they claim to have experienced.
What is it? The name says it all here. It’s a livestream from www.goatslive.com, a hobby farm with two mini Saanen goats, Molly and Joy-Joy.
Weirdest moment: The channel features night vision, so you can keep on watching, even when the goats are asleep. Which isn’t creepy at all.
Breakout performance: While I was watching, Joy-Joy moved once. Molly never did. So Joy-Joy earns the nod.
Should you watch? Depends on how much you love goats. If your answer is “more than life itself,” this is the channel for you.
What is it? Pretty much every bit of knowledge the human race has accumulated about firewood, all gathered in one place. There are how-to videos for felling trees and chopping up logs, as well as maintaining equipment, building stoves, and even cooking with wood-burning stoves.
Weirdest moment: An extended video of three firewood hoarders using felled trees as a seesaw, set to the dulcet tones of 1970s Canadian rock band Chilliwack, is pretty hard to top.
Breakout performance: His name isn’t listed, but in one video, a bro in a black T-shirt overhand throws a double-bladed ax end over end some 70-plus feet, where the ax blade sticks in a log. It’s really quite a toss.
Should you watch? Only if you could use an infusion of manliness.
What is it? Billed as a streaming home for bird-watchers, it’s really just a few videos a dude named Nate shot of random birds near his house, all put to a shredding heavy metal soundtrack. It’s a private channel, but you can add it here.
Weirdest moment: Nate moves to a new house and discovers a nest of “either eagles or hawks” nearby. Ornithology? To hell with that science shit. We’re just rocking out, looking at birds here, man.
Breakout performance: This is all Nate. “There’s the duck, or at least it was in that vicinity,” he says, panning around an empty retaining pond in his backyard.
Should you watch? Only if your heart belongs to birds … and unintentional comedy.
The Platoon of Power Squadron
What is it? I’m totally cheating by including this on the list, as it’s actually a pretty solid series of episodes about a group of friends with superpowers. It starts out as an incredibly low-budget, tongue-in-cheek effort that grows in both production and story quality as it progresses. All the usual tropes of superhero comics are here: time travel, evil spirits, superpowers, etc. You can add the channel here.
Weirdest moment: A long arc spins into crazy directions about a fated danger, only for the big threat to finally be revealed as a rug that’s a serious tripping hazard. It makes sense in context.
Breakout performance: Series creator Jake Jarvi has great comedic timing as Jonas. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him pop up as a peripheral character on a “real” TV show, but I hope he keeps making his own stuff.
Should you watch? Though it starts out pretty rough, this one is fun to watch just to see it progress into a genuinely entertaining show. That said, they break up each episode into incredibly short increments, which makes for a jarring viewing experience.
War Games With Historic Miniatures
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What is it? Tips, tricks, and pulse-pounding live battle action with historic miniatures, mostly focusing on 1/72 scale models. You can add the channel here.
Weirdest moment: Watching a grown man play out a World War II battle with tiny plastic figures and tanks is just one of those things you can’t unsee.
Breakout performance: You might see only the host’s hands, but what hands they are. He wields glue and scalpel with a delicate touch, punctuating his work with a well-timed “Just like-a that!”
Should you watch? Only if you have a tiny re-creation of the Battle of Hürtgen Forest set up on a table in your basement.
Van Jensen (@van_jensen) is a journalist and comic book writer. He writes The Flash for DC Comics and is the author of The Leg: The Remarkable Return of Santa Anna’s Disembodied Limb and Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer.