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No. 1 Web Series Annoying Orange is Annoying for Many Reasons

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[show=annoyingorange size=large]I don’t get it. I really don’t get it. I really really really don’t get why Annoying Orange, a quasi-animated series that debuted on YouTube (s GOOG) in October 2009, is currently, according to Visible Measures, the most popular web series online, with approximately 580,000 subscribers and 82 million total upload views on its main account. I just know that it makes me sad.

Annoying Orange uses the Syncro-Vox animation technique popularized by Conan O’Brien during the 1990s to give life to the titular Orange and his friends, who are mostly other fruit and vegetables animated in the same fashion. The formula is simple: Orange meets someone new and pesters them until their untimely demise (most often at the hands of an unseen knife-wielding human, who seems unaware of the anthropomorphication of his/her produce).

To be fair, you get warned going in that Orange is annoying, and wow this series delivers on that promise. If I were to draw a guess at the target audience for this show, it’d be the kind of 10-year-old kid who likes to follow you around repeating the same knock-knock joke over and over again. Why? Because I think that same kid is the one who writes this.

Okay, that’s not true — series creator Dane Boedigheimer of Gagfilms, known as Daneboe on YouTube, does not appear to be an annoying 10-year-old. In fact, he has a long list of credits to his name, mostly in the short animation department, and first gained YouTube notoriety with the short film Screaming Eggs in 2006.

The production is fine, though on a directing level the pacing never really manages to get a momentum going, and if I were to say I liked anything about this series, I would say that the slightly macabre tone keeps it from being a completely infantile exercise. But that’s not enough to make up for the deliberately grating voice work and the weak jokes. Just take one example: In an episode where Orange encounters Mario from the video game Super Mario Brothers, he fires the retort: “Super Mario? More like Stupid Mario, am I right guys?” The bulk of the writing is on this level.

Maybe it is because I am old, maybe it is because I have read books and seen plays and experienced the richness of life, maybe it is because I am a snobby snob who likes to hold web video to a higher standard, but not only do I find Annoying Orange deeply unfunny, I find its success to be unsettling. All the great interactivity and unique storytelling web video has made possible, and this is what is getting watched?

Boedigheimer has collaborated with a wide range of well-known YouTube creators, including iJustine, Bobjenz, Shaycarl, The Fine Bros, and Charles Trippy, and has definitely succeeded in building an audience for his show and engaging with the community. I don’t mean to detract from that success, because it is so difficult to penetrate this world and get noticed. I just hope that as Annoying Orange‘s audience grows up, the show does too.

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10 Responses to “No. 1 Web Series Annoying Orange is Annoying for Many Reasons”

  1. Annoying Orange fan

    You are just jealous of Daneboe, because you can’t make your own show, original and funny enough to become as popular as him. And I’m not a 10 y.o. child, I’m almost 20 years old and I love Annoying Orange! Daneboe is the most creative, most funny and most awesome Youtuber in the world!

  2. Although Annoying Orange has a predictable formula and humor seemingly aimed at the lowest common denominator, these are only surface observations. You’ve already addressed the black humor as a redeeming quality. But there are so many exceptional examples of irreverence, irony, repartee, slapstick, anti-humor, and parody. When I watch Annoying Orange, I see a wide gamut of comedy played out before my eyes. Some of it feels timeless, but some of it feels fresh and exciting. I think the average viewer is smarter than you think and is rewarded on many deeper levels than you imply.

    Art often has the purpose of making its audience feel a certain way. So do subversive comedians. Both also aim to engage people and make them think. I can tell Annoying Orange and Dane have succeeded at both. You’ve obviously watched enough episodes to formulate a thoughtful yet critical review. But this review reminds me of people thinking Schindler’s List is a horrible movie because it made them feel sad. Or that Hannibal Lecter is a poor character because he’s evil and doesn’t seem like the type of guy to have a beer with.

    I’ve lived life. I’ve had rich experiences. I’ve read great novels. I’ve delved into the depths of reality to discover what I believe about the way the world works. I might even be old. But Annoying Orange sits well with me. There is nothing unsettling to me about its success. In fact, I enjoy it.

    P.S. I’m Wasabi and Pineapple. Can you edit the last paragraph to include my name?

    • Hey, Zach, really appreciate this comment. I definitely understand your point about finding layers beyond the surface, and it’s a smart analysis you provide here — however, this is definitely a case where I watched many episodes and found the variation in and experimentation with comedy you describe to be lacking, or if not lacking then too well concealed by an abrasive demeanor. This simply wasn’t to my taste — I couldn’t see past what was aimed at the “lowest common denominator,” as you put it. Maybe it was the amount of puns? I don’t know. It’s a very subjective thing, this comedy thing. :)

      My reference to books and plays and “the richness of life” wasn’t meant as an attack on those who do enjoy “Annoying Orange,” for the record, and I’d like to apologize to anyone who took it personally as that was not its intention.

      I have heard from both passionate fans and passionate haters of “Annoying Orange” as a result of this review, and I think as the show continues its incredible success, the conversation we have about it and its impact on the space will continue.

      The important thing is this: Thank you for the thoughtful and fair comment. I’ll make sure we credit you in our show database.

  3. I’ve met Dane, and he’s an extremely-driven young guy, who has an obvious gift for grabbing an audience. I see him as the Leno of YouTube, appealing to a wide audience with some jokes that the minority see as too corny or broad. He’s never going to please everyone, and it’s easy to dismiss what he’s doing, but Dane and the Two and Half Men producers are laughing all the way to the bank.

    One of the secret formula’s to Dane’s success is speed and volume. He cranks out shows, and delivers them weekly. Not an easy task, and it takes immense dedication, even if the quality of his material isn’t TV-ready.

    This rant above sounds similar to Andy Rooney’s recent tirade about Lady Gaga. Who are these young artists I’ve never heard of? I just don’t get it! Where’s my Seinfeld!

  4. I know several adults who love it (including myself). It’s clever in that it really mocks idiots. That’s how I see it anyway. It’s so ridiculous & stupid, that it’s perfect.

  5. Logan

    This is going to be a long-term issue with web.

    On television, each channel has its niche, or even with networks which are much more broad, advertisers and subscribers have expectations. Things like the Annoying Orange may end up on Adult Swim, but you go into that expecting such things.

    Unfortunately, YouTube has the vast majority of web series and just web videos centralized. There are no “channels” to flip from. So that “race to the bottom” is all in one location. We hear about Jersey Shore on MTV, and laugh at its popularity, but maybe we don’t watch MTV, so it’s out of sight. People looking for comedy on TV may end up going to Comedy Central, or NBC on certain nights.

    The signal-to-noise ratio on YouTube is weighed heavily in the noise category before you even throw in web series. YouTube wants to be everything to everyone with web video – and guess what? They succeeded. It’s going to be very, very difficult for deeper web series to gain traction to the broader market in general, much less via a distribution channel where it’s utter chaos.

    KoldCast TV is attempting to do this, and while they’re doing a good job, people still have to be seeking out web series to really get to it. They’re not a household name offline. YouTube, however, is as ubiquitous to the average person as NBC, or Showtime. We’re not going to be getting a lot of channel surfers on YouTube.

    Annoying Orange, however, has a title and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get noticed, because it’s already built for the lowest common denominator, so it’s not like they’re going to somehow lose face over cheap tricks. From a business model standpoint, it’s, well, solid.

  6. “All the great interactivity and unique storytelling web video has made possible, and this is what is getting watched?”

    You’ve just summed up how I feel about 90% of who and what’s popular on YouTube. It’s just one big race to the bottom since that’s the easiest way to make money.