A Roku is a little device you hook up to your TV so you can stream internet content to your screen. You can use it to watch Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, and other major streaming services, but also channels made by smaller companies and individual people.
The most basic type of Roku channel is free, and a channel with commercials can be done for as little as $50 a month. As with movies and music and books, the gatekeepers have been removed, and entertainment has been democratized. Which is wonderful. Anyone and everyone can get their message to the eyes of the TV-viewing public.
Over the course of a few days, I devoted a bunch of hours to scrolling through Roku listings, trying to find the weirdest channels on the service. Roku has both public and private channels, the latter of which are not monitored by Roku and have to be accessed by a code. They’re apparently used for a lot of porn and copyrighted material. I decided to stick to public channels, rather than exploring the private ones. So the quality of private channels like the Bill O’Reilly Channel, the AR15 Channel, and GWAR TV will have to remain a mystery.
Here's what I found:
Relaxing Channel for Dogs
As the name suggests, Relaxing Channel for Dogs is a channel aimed at dogs for the purpose of relaxation. I guess you’re meant to put it on when you leave your dogs at home alone.
When I tuned in, the channel was showing a close-up of a dog’s snout with some new age-y music called “Lakeside Walkies” playing over the top. I watched for about five minutes and nothing really changed. The image of the dog’s face just kinda slowly panned by. I can’t speak for any dogs, but I was into it. Very relaxing.
Weirdness rating: 7/10
The Cornfield of Terror
The Cornfield of Terror channel, which describes itself as “perfect for parties or any get-togethers,” has just one piece of content, a film called The Cornfield.
The film opens with a POV shot of a guy whose car breaks down next to a cornfield. A small child emerges from the corn, and he follows him in. The next ten minutes or so is just POV footage of this guy walking through corn saying things like, "Hello?!" and, "What's going on here?!"
I got bored so I skipped forward ten minutes. It was still the guy walking through corn. I skipped another ten minutes. Still corn. I skipped right to the end. More corn, until a minute or so before the end, when a couple of people in store-bought monster masks jumped out of the corn, causing the film's main character to lay down and die of fright (I think?).
I'm not going to go back through and scrutinize every frame, but it looked like 95 percent of the content available on this channel is footage of a guy walking through corn.
Weirdness rating: 10/10
Only Animation TV
I misread the description and downloaded this channel because I thought it was a channel devoted to people who do voices in animation. It was actually the channel of a guy called Mat Brunet who reviews cartoons.
Brunet seems to be so into animation that he's turning himself into a cartoon character. He was wearing the same outfit in all of the videos I watched (one of those silky Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet shirts and an orange trilby) and spoke with the kind of chipper, inoffensive, Scrappy Doo-esque intonation that doesn’t really exist in the physical realm. The Rachel Dolezal of cartoons.
Weirdness rating: 7/10
The Fetish Channel
When I opened it, this channel was showing the feet of a woman in heels while she did her grocery shopping in some European country. Then she was using an ATM. Then walking around a used car lot. She was wearing a skintight black dress and you never saw her face.
Then a title card came up that said “Bupshi Girlfriends in Heels” and it was footage of two women speaking (I think in Russian), shot from the chest down, also wearing giant heels. Then it was a clip from Cougar Town of Courteney Cox chatting on the phone with no shoes on.
I think it’s safe to say the target audience of the channel is foot fetishists. Though why anyone would watch this when internet porn exists is beyond me. I’m not into feet, but it was kind of soothing to watch. The seemingly random abstract visuals had a nice rhythm to them. Kinda like the video from The Ring.
Weirdness rating: 9/10—horny people are extremely good at being weird.
This channel seems to just be several short clips of the same baby. From the channel name, I assume that baby is called Moni Garza. She was shown getting a haircut and eating spinach and a few other mundane things. I think I watched the channel’s entire lineup of content in under ten minutes. I have no idea why someone would make this and even less idea why anyone would watch it.
Weirdness rating: 8/10
This was exactly what you would imagine an NRA TV channel to be. The ten minutes I watched were of a man talking about concealed carry while sitting in front of an American flag, some cop/military paraphernalia, a set of Pez dispensers in the shape of the founding fathers, a Charlton Heston doll, and a bottle of hot sauce.
There was also an ad for NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch’s show, which is called The DL. Presumably, there wasn’t a queer person on staff to point out that that term already means something.
Weirdness level: 0/10 if you’re American, 10/10 if you’re from somewhere else.
The NRA also has a channel aimed specifically at women.
I watched some of a show called Armed and Fabulous , which profiles women who like guns (if they had a queer person on staff, they probably would’ve told them that this is the name of the second Miss Congeniality film).
The episode I watched was about a 13-year-old gun enthusiast named Katie. "[Katie’s] begun to catch the eye and interest of boys at school,” said the voiceover at one point, before adding, “but dad's not worried, Katie can handle her own." It then cut to footage of Katie using a pistol to shoot several targets. Which I guess were meant to represent the 13-year-old boys at her school that have crushes on her?
Weirdness rating: Again, probably 0/10 if you’re American.
The Anglophile Channel
The Anglophile channel is a channel devoted to anglophiles. Which, if my Greek is right, are people who are sexually attracted to British children. (Just kidding, it actually refers to people who are obsessed with British culture and/or people. Which, as a British person, I find only slightly less distressing.)
I watched all of the episodes of a show called Stories from the Anglophiles, which claims to be the first reality show about anglophiles, a claim I didn't fact-check but definitely believe.
The show is a talent contest to decide who will get a free trip to become the Anglophile Channel’s overseas correspondent in England. Each episode features an American explaining why they should be picked.
One of the episodes was devoted to a woman named Dawn who said she had lived in England in a past life and started crying when reminiscing on time she spent in London in her current life. She also cried when talking about being denied a UK work visa. And again while explaining how much she likes Westminster Abbey. She wanted to be in the UK more than I have ever wanted anything and it made for extremely uncomfortable viewing.
The episodes seem to have been made about five years ago, and there are no new ones showing the results of the talent search or featuring footage of the winner in the UK. Which makes me think they never actually followed through on their promise to send one of these people there, and poor Dawn did all that on camera for nothing. Heartbreaking.
Weirdness rating: 6/10
Depressing Prospects Films
Depressing Prospects Films is the production entity of a Seattle-based amateur filmmaker called Brian Labrecque. The channel’s description says it shows “Strange, pointless and slightly offensive films in the tradition of South Park and Beavis and Butthead.”
I started with a 2009 movie called Effing Brutal: The Full Motion Video Graphic Novel. It was a painfully unfunny “cartoon” that tells the story of some superheroes, including a “transvestite in denial” who believes they’re Tori Amos, and a “Manic depressive femme dyke” whose superpower is that she’s “a raving lesbian.”
I’ve put cartoon in quotes back there because I don’t think it’s actually animated. I’m not 100 percent sure but it seems to have been made by running photos through a filter on an online photo service that make images look like a comic book. Nothing actually moves.
I find few things to be unwatchable, but I literally couldn't bring myself to point my eyes in its direction for more than a couple of minutes. I’m almost certain I’m the first person to watch any of it who wasn’t directly involved in its production.
I skipped to the end, and it seems like I missed some pretty edgy stuff. Before the credits, there was a disclaimer that “words like transvestite, faggot, bitch, raving lesbian and whore and jokes about gay sex are fine in fiction, but its [sic] not how you should talk about people in real life.”
Next I clicked a film from 2004 called Josh/Tori Live which is about… a man who think he’s Tori Amos. This one was filmed out in the real world, with a guy dressed as Tori Amos hanging around outside a (real) Tori Amos concert, bugging people as they entered.
Next up was a film, also from 2004, called Far Too Gone, WHICH TOLD THE STORY OF A GUY WHO THINKS HE’S TORI AMOS. It was 47 minutes long. I made it about five in.
I guess that’s a problem with this type of zany, intentionally offensive art. If you created it, it’s easy to convince yourself that any criticism being leveled towards you is because the person giving the feedback doesn’t get it or is triggered by your use of terms like "raving lesbian." Before you know it, you’ve become so convinced of the greatness of your idea you’ve made multiple films and a Roku channel devoted to the character of “guy who thinks he's Tori Amos.”
Weirdness level: 10/10
Like NRA TV, this channel is exactly what you expect when you read the name: people in bad hats reading weird passages from the Bible and then looking at the camera like Jim from The Office and going, “Ohhhhhh kayyyyyeeee…”
The channel has a Christmas section, which features parody Christmas music (“Have yourself a merry little mythmas/come on don’t be shy/do your part to help us propagate a lie”) and an animated Christmas movie (pictured above) that quickly overtook Effing Brutal as the worst piece of animation I have ever seen. It feels like it would actually be difficult to make something look as shitty as it did. Like a Johny Johny Yes Papa parody made using a Tony Hawks level editor.
The plot of the film concerned Santa mistreating his reindeer because he’s unable to think for himself and has outsourced his morality to "the good book" (*sigh*) and also featured a subplot with Megyn Kelly and a character called White Jesus (*sighing so hard I deprive myself of oxygen and hallucinate myself heading towards the light, having what I believe is a religious experience that will be smugly picked apart by a guy in a flat cap on a Roku atheist TV channel*).
Weirdness rating: 9/10
House of Yahweh
I clicked on this one because the name sounded culty. A Google search I did while watching confirmed my suspicion.
House of Yahweh is a doomsday cult that's been plagued by accusations of bigamy and use of child labor. It also made headlines in 2007 when a seven-year-old girl died after being given home surgery by two people reported to be church members.
The channel itself was pretty dull. Just long, dry sermons delivered by people who weren’t massively charismatic. The outfits (pictured above) were pretty cool, though.
Weirdness rating: 2/10
I’m Inside Jew
The first show in this channel's listing was called Christmas message from Herbie and the May Pole of Doom. The description read: “Dick Cheney and Negrodamus celebrate in this family Christmas special.” It seemed like a promising start.
It opened with a title card explaining that Herbie Pearlman, the channel’s proprietor, is available for executive coaching and live performances. Then Herbie appeared: a kind of new-agey Buffalo Bill, sitting in front of a Christmas tree, wearing three button-up shirts and a Snuggie. He launched into an hour-long monologue that covered A LOT of territory. "Extinction 2112 is coming, that's my prediction,” he said at one point. “It's a Basian Bardot business as usual, capitalism is taking us down the drain, but that's OK, us 36, the Lumidvuvnichs, we're here with you, you can talk to us about what it's like to be in hospice for the planet. Think of it as the Buddhist Alzheimer’s home for the hospiceless.” (Some of those words might be spelled wrong because I’m not sure that they’re actual words, so I had to make my best guesses.)
After he’d touched on Fukushima, shoplifting, Coke, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, trans people, Zionists, Kwanzaa, Keystone XL, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and ebola, I checked to see how far in I was. He’d been talking for five minutes.
I googled Herbie, and his website says he’s a guru. But, in a weird coincidence, since there are literally thousands of channels on Roku, it also came up with videos of him being interviewed by Brian Labrecque, the man behind the Tori Amos drag channel. So maybe the whole thing is a really elaborate bit?
Weirdness rating: 10/10
I clicked on a show called French River Bears. It showed some people in Canada putting out bait to attract a bear, then killing it with a crossbow. Fuck these guys.
Weirdness rating: 5/10
Kids Comedy Hour
I watched a video of seven-year-old twins doing stand up. It went like this:
Kid 1: People think we’re exactly the same.
Kid 2: But we’re totally different! He doesn’t like broccoli, but I do.
Kid 1: That’s not true, I like broccoli. It’s pretty, but I just don’t like to eat it.
Kid 2: See what I mean? He doesn’t eat anything healthy.
Kid 1: Hey! I’m the healthy one. He has a big tummy because he eats too much ice cream.
Kid 2: I don’t have a big tummy! I have a six-pack.
Kid 1: Yeah, a six-pack of Häagen-Dazs.
Obviously the stand up skills of seven-year-olds have to be judged by different standards than adult ones, but it’s hard to imagine what type of person would want to watch this.
Also, I don’t think six-packs of Häagen-Dazs are a thing?
Weirdness rating: 7/10
The Jack Blood Show
Jack Blood, who I assume is the operator of this channel, is a standard Alex Jones-type conspiracy theorist who creates content about things like chemtrails and globalism. I was actually shocked I didn’t encounter more of this kind of content on my Roku quest.
I clicked on a documentary called Illusionati. It opened with a bunch of clips of like, the Ghost Whisperer, and André Leon Talley talking about Andy Warhol, and some movie where Don Cheadle is on a spaceship. While I was trying to figure out what tied the clips together, Jack Blood appeared and started talking about the Illuminati and said something about “control belief systems” that I found almost impossible to pay attention to.
A few minutes after I zoned out, I started to wonder about whether there’d been times where conspiracy theorists had stumbled upon actual real information and been ignored because of the medium. Like that guy who leaked government documents to 4chan that were dismissed as “fake and gay.”
So I zoned back in. It was an impenetrable wall of people saying things like “Israel is all about the Vatican” and stuff about the Knights Templar influence on the Iraq War and I decided I’d rather stay in the dark if it meant I got to change the channel.
Weirdness rating: 7/10
Holland TV is a channel that shows content about the town of Holland, Michigan. When I opened it, it was showing unbelievably lo-res footage from the town’s annual Loving Day Festival, which is thrown to celebrate the legacy of the Lovings, the interracial couple at the center of the Supreme Court Case that overthrew state laws banning interracial marriage.
“Hello my multicultural and inclusive city I love,” said the lead singer of a band called Beaver Xing, which was mostly made up of children, before launching into really-quite-terrible-but-adorable-all-the-same covers of “Havana” and “Shake it Off.”
The whole thing was extremely pleasant, and had me briefly Zillowing real estate prices in Holland (I definitely can’t afford to live there).
Weirdness rating: 2/10
I clicked on a video at random. It was cell phone footage of a woman filming herself for several minutes as she told the story of being messaged by a woman named Linda on Facebook. Linda had told her that she'd won a cash prize, but after exchanging a few messages with her, she determined it was bullshit. “Watch out for this chick,” the narrator said. “She’s bad news.”
The video that autoplayed after was a guy talking about a scammer that’s targeting people in the Facebook hot sauce enthusiast community. The one after that was a woman filming herself on the phone with a scammer pretending to be from the IRS. It didn't seem like an incredibly efficient way of learning about scams.
Weirdness rating: 9/10
I watched a show called Twerk and Bake, which was one minute long and consisted of several women twerking to a Rihanna song while in a kitchen.
Weirdness rating: 10/10. Horny people make some very odd creative decisions.
Follow Jamie Lee Curtis Taete on Instagram.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.