Thumbs Up!

After creating the first serialized “micronovela” on Instagram, artist David Choe follows up his pioneering use of short-form media and adapts it to one of his most popular properties, Thumbs Up!, whose fourth season was announced to be released this year through Instagram Stories and Snapchat via an innovative new format of specially edited short-form videos.

From its inception as one of the first web series devoted to both travel and art, to its period of availability on Netflix, the show itself has always been an internet based property, garnering a large and loyal following with its first three seasons being released online through millennial media giant VICE. And while the new season was initially shot to be released in a traditional 22-minute format, the idea to update the season and its content for the era of “peak TV” was a challenge that Choe took upon himself.

Cutting up the show and eschewing its previous format proved to be a revelation, highlighting Choe’s natural on camera acumen, while culling the hubris of his hosting down into deft, concise, and highly entertaining snippets; not only did the engagement with the show’s characters grow, but the core elements of its entertainment as well as the ability to follow along were immediately enhanced- simply put, the new short-form edit made everything about the show better, from its gonzo style shooting to its updated cinéma vérité form. 

With the content truncated, distribution through both Instagram Stories and Snapchat became the ideal venue, targeting viewers who have grown away from traditional television and long form media but who thirst for new, free and above all, easily digestible content. By making the show accessible to them in the outlets they’re already familiar with and engage on the most, social media, Choe brilliantly pivoted one of his most popular properties from being one of the first internet travels shows into an updated and modernized version of what media and content consumption can look like both today and in the future.

Starting in the Castro District of San Francisco, the season runs through the arteries of the United States, showing the country’s smaller roads and highways coupled with the grandeur of the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, running across the continental divide, beyond herds of buffalo in the South Dakota Badlands, eventually reaching the other side of the country, with the group scaling skyscrapers to look out on a city as fireworks fire off in the distance. 

With a simultaneously endearing bravado and enduring self-deprecation, Choe travels across America with the élan of a showman recognizing the simple profundity that marks each celebration of life- freedom. Dubbing himself both a hopeless romantic and a homeless millionaire, Choe walks a tricky line and succeeds in being all at once inspiring, infuriating, invigorating, and, most of all, entertaining. 

To view the current season, follow @davidchoe on Instagram or @davechoe on Snapchat.