You know that one weird bench/table/study carrel at your high school that was so tucked out of the way it took you ages to even find? The place that, even though the candy wrappers/scratched initials/orphaned pens you found every time you ended up using it indicated there were definitely other people who knew about it and maybe didn’t all use it the same way you did, was always, almost magically, free? The place that wasn’t even all that awesome, but somehow, just for its weird, magical out-of-the-way-ness, still felt special and surprising every time you came back to it?
go90, Verizon’s teen-oriented niche streamer, is that—but for the internet.
I want to be able to describe go90 in a more straightforward way, but it truly defies all attempts. Launched in October 2015, it’s both a web- and app-based streaming service that is completely free for everyone to use, and data-free, as a bonus, for Verizon subscribers. Like YouTube, it lets you (a.k.a. teens) like and comment on any of its content; like the Big 3 streamers, it offers a mix of in-house, exclusive, and licensed classic series; like a Roku or Chromecast or Firestick, it lets you build your own shelf of favorites. It claims to be ad-supported, but not even a quarter of the videos I watched for this review had any ads attached, and of those that did, more than half were for other go90 content. Even without big-name (and -budget) series, networks or talent attached to most of the content, it seems entirely unsustainable.
And yet, it exists. And is vast. And is wildly diverse. And has some really weird, magical, compulsively watchable things. Like its signature ScreammeetsPretty Little Liars thriller, t@gged. Or like Gym Class Science, a part Mythbusters, part Crash Course sports science comedy series which opens with a three-minute video somehow about both fencing and why things glow in the dark. Or like GloZell’s three-season-long journey through having a baby via surrogacy. Or like, absolutely incomprehensibly, this collection of how-to videos literally called Hot Guys Build Stuff.
If you like sports, you can stream the NFL (including the playoffs and Super Bowl) and La Liga soccer, and can watch any NBA game, anywhere, anytime, for a steeply discounted League Pass price of $50 (a fact I, a newly minted Spurs fan watching an NBA season for the first time, wish I had known months ago). If you prefer doing the sweating yourself, go90 offers a robust selection of (mostly Gaiam) fitness channels. If you prefer watching other people sweat, there is Life of a Fitness Pop Star, whose official blurb reads, “Take a look inside the life of The Fitness Marshall, aka the king of cardio dance, as he moves from his hometown of Marion, Indiana to Los Angeles in pursuit of fame with his boyfriend and fellow Midwestern dancers by his side.”
Do you like science-fiction series from more traditional alphabet networks? go90’s Saga channel’s got you. Do you like anime? go90’s Geek channel is in your corner. I have no idea what ephemeral qualities link VICE News, Art School Confidential, Mandela, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, and Awkwafina’s Tawk, but whatever it is, go90’s Sessions channel is ON IT.
It is, in the words of Verizon’s promotional website for the service, SO MUCH EVERYTHING. NO SUBSCRIPTION FEE.
That said, I’ve spent enough time scrolling through the go90 wilderness that I’ve been able to come up with a manageable starter list of solid, go90-exclusive gems, including both original series and licensed classics. If you have always wanted to give this hidden-study-bench of a streaming channel a shot but didn’t know where to start—well, I’ve got you.
go90 signed a deal with Warner Bros. Entertainment in early 2017 that gave them rights to a bunch of iconic, mostly sci-fi television properties. Your mileage may vary, but as far as I’m concerned, the best bets here are: Almost Human, Babylon 5, Fringe, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and, of course, the late, great, ever inimitable Veronica Mars.
I don’t need to sell you Marshmallows on that one. Run, don’t walk: a (free) Veronica Mars binge is the best way to spend any weekend.
Also available: the first season of Schitt’s Creek, in case Matt Brennan’s love letter to its recent sweetening has piqued your curiosity.
Kobe Bryant’s Dear Basketball
Produced by: Kobe Bryant/Granity Studios
If you watch none of the other originals on go90 after reading this list, watch this astounding 5-minute animated short, which was just nominated for an Academy Award. Rendered in sketchy, constantly-morphing pencil, this love letter to basketball, written by Kobe Bryant, follows his infatuation with the game from childhood to body-bashed almost-retirement. It is gorgeous, and moving, and so incredibly satisfying to look at. The animated shorts category is always universally incredible and innovative, but this one, animated by Glen Keane and scored by John Williams, feels especially so. If you don’t have a showing of the whole category playing at a theater near you, here, at least, is your chance to watch the best of the bunch.
Betch! and Hacking High School
Produced by: AwesomenessTV
One of the most surprising strengths in go90’s programming is its collection of mostly woman-led sketch comedy. Betch! and Hacking High School, both produced by AwesomenessTV (there is a crossover in the first episode of HHS’ second season), are just two of a handful of sketch series to feature all- or majority-female casts (rounded out by a few male social media stars, including Jay Versace), and whose sharp, smart, punchy comedy is specifically female-centric—think period chaos, the many traps of being basic, “me time” as something to strive for even in the face of the Apocalypse, and the BFD of BFFs not liking each other’s BFs, the FBs. The thing that might feel groundbreaking watching any of these sketch series is seeing exactly how gross and weird and full-tilt extra girls—especially teen girls—can be.
As a bonus, Hacking High School is hosted by a remarkably funny and timing-savvy Rebecca Black. Yes, that Rebecca Black. She’s in the social influencer comedy game, and girl knows what she is doing.
Liberty Crossing and Now We’re Talking
Produced by: Insurrection Media and Uninterrupted/Blue Ribbon Content
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Most of go90’s original series run less than 12 minutes per episode, but a few comedies follow that traditional half-hour format. Liberty Crossing and Now We’re Talking—the first starring Teen Wolf’s Shelley Hennig and Austin & Ally’s Calum Worthy as agents navigating the petty incompetence inside a fictional DC intelligence agency, the second produced by LeBron James and starring Casual’s Tommy Dewey and dozens of pro athletes as sports commentators in training—are two such series aimed more at adult audiences.
Liberty Crossing, which dropped just last month, will be especially appealing to fans of Hulu’s Spy and The Wrong Mans, whose bone-dry takes on buffoons with ultra-high clearance it most closely mirrors. Hennig, whose turn as feral werecoyote Malia Tate in Teen Wolf was a genius use of her blunt deadpan, is especially good as boss Carly, who might as well be a humanity-challenged werecoyote, for all her willingness to charm a single person in the office or out. Whether it will make you feel better or worse about the state of modern American spycraft is an entirely moot point.
Versus and Play by Play
Produced by: AwesomenessTV and Rated Red
Following the half-hour format but aimed instead at teen audiences are the very diverse girls lacrosse drama, Versus, and the very white sportscaster-who-grew-up-in-the-1990s version of The Goldbergs, Play by Play. Both are populated by more believable teens than most non-niche network teen dramas, and both do a respectable job of imitating what it actually is like to be a teenager—as in, full of real awkward silences punctuated by language neither neutered nor heightened, and just a lot of awkwardness in general. Plus angst. Plus sports. Plus deep friendships that replace parents.
They are both solid; give them a shot.
Miss 2059, Mr. Student Body President, and Snatchers
Produced by: New Form Digital and Stage 12 (Snatchers)
Teens are very clearly the target audience for go90, especially on the original series front. But where other networks/studios have aimed to woo teens with deeply complicated—or at least convoluted—melodrama, even in the comedy and genre realm, go90 has opted for punchy unsubtlety. Miss 2059 (YouTuber Anna Akana’s passion project about a beauty queen who becomes a galactic revolutionary), Mr. Student Body President (think Veep meets West Wing meets Faking It), and Snatchers (Alien meets Mean Girls meets teen pregnancy, which is somehow the weirdest example of independent intervention ever, as the pilot mirrors almost exactly the plot of the YA Ever-Expanding Universe series, down to both dumb-alien-impregnated teen girls being invented by adult dudes) are three of the site’s best, with Anna Akana’s badass, lady-forward, nuance-free, galaxy-saving space romp being the standout.
Its acting and jokes are both broad as space barns, and its sets and makeup look like they collectively cost a couple hundred dollars, but watching Akana battle her alien-infected twin sister and mourn the death of her cuddly bear ally and make out with a lavender, golden-horned game show host is a lot like watching Xena, Warrior Princess, do any number of equally goofy things in Ancient Greece back in the day. That is: utterly delightful.
Complex Live, Vice Autobiographies, and Why We Fight
Produced by: Complex, Vice, and Ronda Rousey
go90’s documentary and news offerings are really fascinating and satisfying—diverse, passionate, and mostly short enough to watch while brewing your morning coffee. VICE, for example, offers a flagship channel original reporting and documentaries in addition to its dedicated Autobiographies, Sports, and News channels. Complex, too, offers several more channels in addition to its Live show, which wrapped its most recent season this week with an episode featuring Bow Wow discussing growing up in hip hop, Justine Skye discussing the growth of her career and her decision to take a knee while singing the national anthem at a Nets game, the Black-Eyed Peas’ VR Marvel Comics project, Masters of the Sun, and a woman introducing teens to cryptocurrency.
The most ambitious of go90’s documentary offerings right now, though, is the Ronda Rousey-produced Why We Fight, which consists of eight 45-minute episodes following L.A. boxer Zac Wohlman as he travels the world meeting fighters who live in ways entirely different from his own and having incredibly earnest breakthroughs about how people fall apart and why they fight to get back up. It is emotional and not subtle in the least, but then again, all the boxers I know are emotional and not subtle in the least. In that light, Zac’s journey is very honestly felt and told, and worth giving a shot.
I know. This is a lot. It is, in fact, SO MUCH EVERYTHING!!! But it is free, and it is out there, and what’s time for these days anyway, if not to cram full of content in every available moment? I mean, what else are we going to do? Get tattoos
go90 is free and streaming one million things at go90.com and on the go90 app.
Alexis Gunderson is a TV critic whose writing has appeared on Forever Young Adult, Screener, and Birth.Movies.Death. She’ll go ten rounds fighting for teens and intelligently executed genre fare to be taken seriously by pop culture. She can be found @AlexisKG.