You may pay for YouTube Premium because of its ad-free experience that lets you binge without break, but the service would be nothing without its best shows. From amazing video game documentaries to painful eating challenge contests to original narrative shows, YouTube has everything you could ask for. Here are our favorite shows, along with some of their must-watch episodes.
Credit: Adam Savage’s Tested
Helmed by games media veteran Danny O'Dwyer, Noclip is a documentary channel that chronicles how some of the biggest video games in the world got made. The channel offers enthralling deep dives on such major titles as Doom, Fallout 76 and Half-Life, while also delivering smaller clips that spotlight indie studios and gaming communities. If you want to know the stories behind your favorite games — and get to know the developers that made them possible — Noclip is a must-follow. — Mike Andronico
Food and TV are so universally beloved that it's shocking it took this long for a show like Binging with Babish to take off. In the series, amateur cook and pop culture connoisseur Andrew Rea re-creates dishes from his favorite shows and other projects, including the maple bacon pancakes from Adventure Time, the banana pudding pizza from Doug and the Teamsters' sandwich from 30 Rock.
And, yes, sometimes he features culinary abominations — such as the Every-Meat Burrito from Regular Show — that were never meant to be eaten by real people. So, in those cases, Rea attempts to use his cooking smarts to fix the dish, and make it actually great. Which the Rum French Toast from Mad Men and the Trifle from Friends really needed. — Henry T. Casey
It's time to play the games, as Up Up Down Down gives Austin Creed (better known as WWE Superstar Xavier Woods) and his fellow pro wrestlers a chance to show off their gaming chops. And, yes, even if you don't watch Monday Night Raw (it's not for everyone), I'm sure you'll find the over-the-top enthusiasm of Creed and his fellow gamers infectious. Whether you're laughing at how upset crossfit nerd Seth Rollins gets over sports games or geeking out with anime fan Sasha Banks while she talks Sailor Moon, you're going to laugh. And maybe, you'll see these athletes as multi-faceted human beings, and not the shallow, two-dimensional steroidal weirdos that you might find synonymous with pro wrestling. — Henry T. Casey
You may not know Sean Evans, but after watching a single episode of Hot Ones, you'll respect his iron stomach. Each episode is filled with "hot questions and even hotter wings," as guest after guest is asked a question after they eat a chicken wing (or tofu substitute) that's been cooked in a spicier sauce than the one they just ate. And by the end of the 10-wing gauntlet, guests such as Jeff Goldblum, Abbi and Ilana of Broad City, Chrissy Teigen and Michael B. Jordan have suffered more pain than any press junket they've ever handled.
Seriously, one of the hot sauces they use is called Da' Bomb: Beyond Insanity, which packs 119,700 Scoville Units of heat. So, if you want to watch as Gordon Ramsay curses his way through straight fire food, press play right now. — Henry T. Casey
Guy Sclanders' self-explanatory channel has relatively niche appeal, but if you're part of that niche, it's nearly perfect content. How to Be a Great Game Master teaches you how to run excellent tabletop role-playing games. And with a channel name like that, what else could you expect? But as any experienced GM knows, greatness is a moving target, as you and your players become more experienced and start craving deeper, more intricate stories with more complex rules. Sclanders, with his gentle demeanor, patient instruction and pleasant South African accent, makes even difficult concepts feel approachable and fun, from creating your own setting from scratch to crafting the perfect villain. — Marshall Honorof
There's no shortage of YouTube channels to deal with the minutiae of Star Trek. But where Trekspertise sets itself apart from the herd is that it's not really interested in nitpicking continuity, or creating fan films. Instead, Trekspertise sets out to analyze every "big idea" sci-fi trope in the series, from the rate at which the Borg assimilate sentient species, to the varying types of artificial intelligence portrayed on the show, from Data to the Emergency Medical Hologram, and beyond. In addition to creator Kyle Sullivan's measured delivery and solid video production, Trekspertise also simply captures the imaginative, inquisitive spirit of Star Trek better than any other show on YouTube. — Marshall Honorof
The world needs more black superheroes, even reluctant ones like Keloid. A seven-episode web series, the show centers around Keloid, a black teenager who recently discovered he has the power to teleport and control electricity. Seems pretty cool, right? Wrong. When a classmate goes missing, police are eager to finger the young boy, forcing him and his mother, who has her own secrets, to go on the run. It's a coming-of-age tale wrapped in a sci-fi superhero story cloaked in a story of isolation and otherness. The series' creators are currently crowdsourcing to fund the next season. — Sherri L. Smith