Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Webseries Review: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

I'm not sure how I forgot to talk about this one, ah it ended late March so I was dealing with webcomics, considering how it captivated me for an entire year. You see, back either in early 2012 or late 2011 I had discovered the vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green) youtube videos and got hooked on them, even though I still had no idea what a nerdfighter was, and was bored one night so I tried out this new show that Hank Green was co-producing/co-writing, an updated take on Pride and Prejudice. Aaaaand I fell for it, thought "hmm, maybe mom would like this," showed it to her and that's how there was a chunk of time in all of our weekly conversations devoted to LDB for the following year. That was actually a good thing, while I've never read P&P my mom has and liked it so I was able to double check with her how accurate the story was, although after seeing this series I'll probably read it myself...

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

Summary: Lizzie is the middle of the three Bennet sisters who loves her family dearly, although her mother's insistence on her sisters all marrying as soon as they can is bothersome considering she just wants to finish up her grad school degree. And it seems like her mother's schemes are about to get into full swing when a new, eligible young man moves into town and this seemingly small even triggers a whole year's worth of change and adventure and Lizzie is going to accidentally capture it all on her vlog.

The Good: To start this off, this is a remarkably faithful adaptation in just about every respect, even if some people are already foaming at the idea that they've gone from five Bennet sisters to three (the reasoning there was that while five was normal for the time three would be much more normal today and the other two do appear in other forms). And even if you haven't read the original story, like me, it was pretty easy to grow attached to the characters and I think I would have an easier time understanding the original novel now that I know the motivations of all the characters and their goals, for a show where each episode is under six minutes and it has to convince it's audience that 90% of the important events for an entire year happen on someone's camera it succeeds impressively well there. The pacing felt mostly alright, apparently in the book it picks up and races towards the end which is what the story did here as well, and as someone watching it while it came out it was fun to see how the story seemed to be told in real time with the episodes lining up with real holidays. And for one quick last detail, I was surprised by the first episode that this show was not afraid to cast non-white actors for what were originally white characters (admittedly Lizzie and Darcy is still white and they're the most important characters in the end) and it's sad that this is a bit unusual. I suspect this might not have happened if the other co-writer/producer, Bernie Stu, was not Asian (-American I'm assuming) but regardless, yes I like this and it's a show dominated by female characters as well, take that executives who say that neither of these things will attract audiences!

The Bad: Not exactly a bad thing per say but you do need to watch the side videos (Lydia's, Marina's, and Gigi's*), especially in the later part of the story because not everything happens in front of Lizzie's camera. What is bad is that weirdly enough this is where the weakest writing of the season comes, not early on as you would expect, with Lydia's troubles and with some things that Gigi is doing simultaneously. I thought that parts were clunky and could have been done better, and the ending seems to be where the story diverges the most from the original tonally, which I do completely approve of and think was heavily foreshadowed from the beginning. I'm honestly wondering if Gigi's videos were a last minute idea since the writing does feel so much worse there and, considering that they do have a big impact on the main videos and Gigi is the point of view protagonist for the next series, well it's not a huge problem but one that left a bit of a nagging feeling right at the story was reaching it's climax which is a pretty terrible place to have a problem of any size.

The Audio/Visuals: As a note, I'm going to start combining these two areas together on all my reviews since I usually have a lot to say on one thing and not the other. For a show that involves no music, other than the opening 15 second tune, there's not much to say here except yep, they sure placed all the mics well. Honestly there's not a lot to say about how the show looks either, I knew that it didn't start out with a large budget so I wasn't surprised to hear (in outside interviews) that a lot of the settings were in the offices they had, although it was interesting that almost all the cast had to provide their own costumes since the clothes matched their characters very well. Video quality was fine, everything seemed technically sufficient, although I do think that the Domino tech idea that pops up towards the end is silly which makes me less than thrilled it's supposed to be playing a big role in the new series. Oh and one final thing, I'm rather terrible with faces but I checked with a few other people and we all agree that the show did a terrific job at casting three (four including cousin Mary) girls who all look like they really could be sisters with pretty similar faces. Yes I know, that's what you're supposed to do but I can always be impressed when people do a good job right?

So, 3.5 or 4 out of 5 stars for this one and a hearty recommendation to watch, although I'm not sure how people are going to handle bouncing back and forth between two channels at a time at points (when it was airing we just subscribed to different ones and they uploaded different days, now you'll just have to keep links and dates straight). And as noted they have started their second series, Welcome to Sanditon which is based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel and it's being hosted on Gigi's channel. Obviously watch this one first, and I guess since it's done there's no point in following the characters on twitter (which had some interesting convos although that didn't quite work later) and the show has already had an enormously successful kickstarter, I think it was the fifth most successful tv/movie related kickstarter of all time, so in the next few months everyone should be able to buy DVDs if you so desire.

*to recap, Lydia is Lizzie's younger sister, the third Bennet sister, Marina is Charlotte's, Lizzie's friend, sister, and Gigi is Georgian Darcy which hopefully rang some kind of bell.  

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