Steven Suptic’s “Sugar Pine 7” videos are like nothing else on YouTube. Featuring a seamless blend of scripted comedy bits and improvisation, “Sugar Pine 7” has experienced an extreme amount of popularity on the internet, catapulting Suptic to nearly one million subscribers in three months.
Suptic himself dubs the video format as “alternative lifestyle,” acknowledging that the videos are not the result of organic effort, but a more calculated risk that has begun to pay off. The series has recently been picked up by Rooster Teeth, a company with multiple successful YouTube channels under their belt, such as Fun Haus, Cow Chop and Achievement Hunter.
The “Sugar Pine 7” cast consists of four main characters: Steven Suptic, Cib, ParkerGames and James DeAngelis, with a few others in recurring roles. Each member has a distinct role and there are multiple storylines that take several episodes to come to a conclusion, such as NASA drafts, evil spirit possession and a disconcerting tendency for murder. However, the videos can also be watched with no prior knowledge of existing storylines, as Suptic includes relevant flashbacks when necessary.
Referred to as “chicken boi” (lovingly? mockingly? An unholy combination of both?) by his viewers, Suptic is a former host at SourceFed. The channel was sold to Discovery by Philip DeFranco in 2013 and unexpectedly cancelled in March 2017, despite being on an upward trend. As a result, the whole production company, including Suptic and DeAngelis, was suddenly unemployed. Making the best of a terrible situation, Suptic utilized his now abundant free time to create more of his alternative lifestyle vlogs.
Prior to the vlogs, Suptic’s channel played host to “Minecraft” videos and “Try Not To Laugh” challenges, from which his current content is a clear departure. After a short-lived but well-produced series called “Anti-Social,” the first vlog to embrace the alternative lifestyle focused on Suptic’s trip to Iceland with his girlfriend, in which the video builds up to a marriage proposal in its last moments. (She said yes.)
Rebranding. It’s a thing.
Suptic himself pinpoints the change in his channel content to a “Draw My Life” video in which his unique style of narration begins to take shape. However, it was a few months (and a lay-off) later that the YouTuber uploaded a video that was to ultimately solidify his new legacy. Appropriately titled “Sugar Pine 7,” the video features the ensemble during a trip to a small town called Idyllwild. “Sugar Pine 7” refers to the name of the cabin the group stayed in, and has evidently stuck. Other happenings in the video include the kick-off for several prominent storylines, most notably Parker’s demon possession at the hands of a psychic.
The alternative lifestyle videos have a distinct structure drawn from no single place of inspiration. Ranging from five to fifteen minutes, the vlogs follow Suptic and his friends during different hilarious escapades. There are three distinct components to the videos: the freeze-frame narration, the characters and the delicate balance between humor and sincerity.
Suptic best demonstrates this balance while documenting the end of SourceFed. Beginning in a typical, humorous fashion, Suptic’s narration appears to be in denial of the reality of the situation, as he goes about his day in a building full of people who have just been fired. At the end, however, the video takes on a sobering tone as Suptic reflects on the good times he’s had and the sense of community and family he’s felt while part of the company. A more recent video, titled “Love is all you need,” features Cib with new girlfriend, Sami Jo. Despite being a ridiculous video straight from the get-go, the end splices romantic footage of the couple with the other characters saying three words about Cib’s relationship. The frequently victimized Parker, in a moment of awkward honesty, says “Must be nice.”
The best jokes reach their conclusions when they’re not funny anymore.
Suptic and the “Sugar Pine 7” crew have been praised by multiple prominent YouTubers for their innovative content, as well as the quality and quantity of videos released (a new video almost every day!). Hank Green, of Vlogbrothers fame, included Suptic in a video about cool internet things he loved and wanted to recommend to others.
So it only makes sense that when IGN, a channel dedicated primarily to gaming, blatantly ripped off “Sugar Pine 7,” people were upset. IGN’s Rory Powers released a series of videos depicting his first time at E3, a video game conference, with striking similarities to “Sugar Pine 7” content. Individually, the components of Suptic’s videos aren’t particularly unique. Together, they form a distinct intellectual property recognizable to anyone familiar with the source material. Specific aspects, such as the cadence of the narration, comedic bits and character personalities, were too on the nose to be written off as mere inspiration on Powers’ behalf—especially considering that Powers followed Suptic on social media and was therefore well aware of “Sugar Pine 7.”
In an interesting turn of events, rather than just asking for a public apology or video removal amidst the public backlash against IGN, Suptic challenged Powers to an obstacle course. Ultimately, Powers did not accept and IGN released a statement that chalked up to the similarities to a mutual rip-off of “Arrested Development.” The controversy has called into question the tenets of intellectual property and what it means if you don’t defend what is rightfully yours, even during its fledgling stage.
On the “Boys Only Club” podcast that Suptic co-hosts with former SourceFed host Reina Scully, Suptic said that, although he was not upset in the end, he and the “Sugar Pine 7” boys put too much work into making the videos for a huge company to rip them off like IGN did. Plus, Suptic lost a $400 deposit on a warehouse for the obstacle course. It’s the small things in life.
Despite the success of his content, Suptic has said in several videos that he intends to slow down production to a more manageable level. In order to maintain an output of one video nearly every day, the YouTuber has been working 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. workdays for over three months. This includes bringing on more editors, acquiring an office, delegating more work, hiring interns and partnering with the larger company Rooster Teeth. Avoiding burnout in a passion project such as this one will be a determining factor in the future of “Sugar Pine 7.” As a long-time fan of the “Sugar Pine 7” boys and Steven Suptic, I hope for only the best.