By Riley Dauber
On Friday night, you decide you need a break after a busy week of studying. The dorm is quiet, so you decide to pull up YouTube and search for the perfect video to watch. Instead of settling on shorter content, you land on a video essay about a niche topic. Then, for almost two hours, you are entertained and deeply engrossed in the video’s content and the charismatic content creator.
Thanks to the recent quantity and popularity of the video essay genre, many different creators dipped their toes into the format.
According to Refinery29, “This new art form is one that is so distinctly Gen Z…as these creators know their audiences and how to appeal to their niche interests.”
One such creator named Michael Messineo is well-known on YouTube for his “unhinged recaps” of popular television shows, including “Pretty Little Liars,” “Glee,” “Gossip Girl,” and most recently, “Lost.”
According to Vulture, Messineo started posting videos to his channel, Mike’s Mic, in 2015. He played around with different video styles before finally landing on a popular series called “Essential Viewing,” where he compiled the best and most meme-worthy moments from a reality television show.
He touched on many different shows, from “Dance Moms” to “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” The videos grew in popularity and put Messineo on the map; even though he since abandoned this format, they were a precursor to his longer recaps.
Then, on Nov. 20, 2021, Messineo released “An appropriately unhinged recap of ‘Pretty Little Liars’ (Part 1).”
In the almost two-hour video, Messineo details the events of the first two-and-a-half seasons of the ABC show “Pretty Little Liars,” which follows a group of girls in a small fictional town in Pennsylvania after their friend disappears. The girls then start receiving text messages from a person known as “A.”
This video skyrocketed in popularity and is currently sitting at over seven million views.
After releasing the first part in the series, Messineo continued to cover “Pretty Little Liars” in two other videos before moving on to other shows.
Apart from recapping the episodes, Messineo’s creativity shines through thanks to a variety of visual displays. For “Pretty Little Liars,” he made a character wall in his apartment with colored lines representing different plotlines and interactions. “Glee” had a whiteboard of characters and their best and worst moments, while “Gossip Girl” had magazine covers highlighting scenes from each episode.
Most recently, on June 23, Messineo released the first video in his recap series for “Lost,” a critically and commercially successful television show from 2004 that follows the survivors of a plane crash stuck on a deserted island.
The video is arguably one of Messineo’s best, as he carefully constructed poster boards for each episode. The boards include character photos and colored lines representing different interactions.
Although he created the series as a “love letter” to “Lost,” the first video can also introduce viewers to the show.
According to Vulture, “Many, many people are now discovering old shows through other people’s recaps…this alternative approach to television has YouTubers presenting their audiences with elaborate, meticulous autopsies of shows that once defined generations.”
The videos also help viewers understand the intricate storylines, meaning they can watch a season of the show and then come back to Messineo’s videos to better understand the details.
“The binging format makes this show far more digestible and [an] understandable experience than being forced to wait weeks or months to see the next episode,” YouTube user @Bliscambridge33 commented on the video.
Messineo also brings a specific charm to his content.
His videos heavily rely on a way of speaking that is directly influenced by pop culture and Twitter phrases. He makes the recap videos understandable and entertaining for viewers by referencing pop songs or popular memes.
According to Vulture, “To watch him in his videos is to watch something uniquely 2020s: the combination of a witty character, endlessly affected by YouTuber and influencer culture, with a vocabulary cluttered with meme-y tics.”
Currently, Messineo is working tirelessly on future “Gossip Girl” and “Lost” recaps, so even though fans have to wait — the last video was released in June — at least they know the end result will be worth it.
Photo by Riley Dauber.
Photo Caption: Content creator Michael Messineo experiments with different video formats when discussing different movies and TV shows.