As blizzard Juno approaches, those of you with a Roku streaming device have a clear advantage in staving off stir-craziness: You have instant access to hundreds of excellent, bizarre, occasionally indescribable channels.
Sure, Roku has Netflix and Hulu Plus, but alongside those mainstays are swaths of independently run programming from the isolated corners of America. Not only can these indie Roku channels entertain you when there is literally nothing else to watch during a snowstorm, they also provide an opportunity to understand and observe this country’s more … unusual inhabitants.
Below, I survey 15 of the most compelling Roku channels, ranging from a 24/7 feed of blind cats to a man re-enacting old war battles with hand-painted figurines.
It takes a special, disturbing kind of person to identify as a cruise addict. But this is the channel where these freaks convene. Here you can find discussion of the merits and drawbacks of various ports and cruises, in addition to promotional video footage from lines such as Royal Caribbean and Carnival Cruise. Nary a word is uttered about the storied Carnival Poop Cruise of 2013. I’m guessing those on that cruise would have had their addiction cured.
2. Topic UFO
Hosted by dedicated UFO enthusiast Rick Scouler, this Roku/YouTube channel is a no-nonsense discussion of unidentified flying objects and celestial beings. Guests on the show tend to be white dudes over 40, and small talk topics include the weather, enjoyable History Channel programming, and — you know — possible alien sightings. Unless you’re somewhat plugged in to the UFO conspiracy theorist community, expect to be lost in a sea of UFO tracker name-dropping. Snobs.
Regular cute cat live feeds are so last year. It’s all about adorable furry felines with disabilities! This around-the-clock stream features the lovely rescue cats of a facility in St. Pauls, N.C. You can see live tours at noon ET Monday through Saturday (more like Caturday, am I right???).
Go to Detroit with a camera, start filming, and hey, you’ve got yourself a reality TV show! This channel, which is very much intended for adult users only, highlights the rougher activities of Detroit residents. Those include unregulated cage fighting, a day in the life of a “Bo$$” named “Freeze,” and afternoon trips to the strip club. Needless to say, you will not be bored.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this were the inspiration for a future Saturday Night Live skit featuring Zach Galifianakis. This channel features some bro dudes from Queens who joke about eventually being old and crapping themselves. Recurring features include “Mat Men Pro Wrestling,” Spencer Kobren’s “The Bald Truth” (on sex, life, and hair loss), and “What the Tech.” (Get it??)
Here is a podcast run by a panel of gun enthusiasts. They are named Rich, Savage One, Zak Taylor, Nick, Rhody, Shawn Herrin, Aaron Krieger, Jeremy Pozderac, and Lil Chantilly. They talk about gear, guns, and strategy, and they interview some of the great gun lords of our time. Sometimes the conversation gets passionate and therefore explicit, but it never gets antigun. That would be unconstitutional.
All sexually suggestive channel names aside, this program is meant to enlighten you with “astro-spiritual advice and wisdom.” The result is a sort of beat poet nonsense that even the most patchouli-oiled hippie might have trouble understanding. In other words, it’s highly entertaining.
Individual programs, all hosted by guru Herbie Pearlman, include “Herbie Noir” (a meditation on judgment), “Breakfast With Herbie” (climate change and Buddhism discussion featuring “avant guarde” director Brian Labrecque), “Sports Wisdom” (“sports and NFL wisdom from outer space”), and — my favorite — “Ram Dass Is a Terrible Dishwasher.” Ram Dass is also the kind of dude on whom you could base an entire Portlandia episode.
A male adult human dedicates an astounding number of hours to arranging green army men and hand-painted miniature historical figures to reflect old war battles. Sometimes his wife accidentally steps into the frame but doesn’t stay long. She’s “camera shy.”
Think of this one as the poor man’s Man vs. Wild. You may not get to see Bear Grylls drink his own pee, but you’ll be greeted by like-minded souls who are unfazed by a lack of electricity, Internet, or standard plumbing. Visit this channel for tips on how to live as miserably as they do!
Some people in this world are very passionate about the wood they use to make fires. I’m guessing maybe a little more than 100. Roku has brought together this community in a channel dedicated entirely to wood. Discussion topics include, but are not limited to: saws and equipment, splitting and bucking, wood stoves, fireplaces, cooking over the fire, storing wood, seasoning wood, and using firewood. Also something called “pellet pigs” that I did not Google because I am literally asleep after writing about firewood so much.
11. Magic Live
Watch performances by Albuquerque professional magician Tony Chapparo, whose talents include card tricks, making things disappear, and “decapitation illusions” (see above). No, he is not a character actor on HBO.
The self-described Harvard of Pro Wrestling might not have the “pageantry” of organizations like the World Wrestling Entertainment network, but it does have steel cage matches, ladder matches, and something terrifying called first blood matches. Watch only if you want to see sweaty dudes bleed and/or hit each other with ladders.
Just in case you’re wondering what the former 2008 vice presidential candidate has been up to since her time waving at Russia from across the pond, this channel has compiled every one of her video appearances. Above, she cooks chocolate cookies with a friend and her son. Perfect if you need to catch up before her supposed 2016 run!
With board shorts and bleached tips that rival Guy Fieri’s, Capt. Blair Wiggins shares his extreme fishing adventures across the states. The leathery-skinned fishing addict baits ‘em, sinks ‘em, and then sticks their terrified faces into his camera like it’s nobody’s business.
15. BBQ Pit Lords
Passionate men handling smoked meat. Enough said.