Sunday, September 1, 2013

Webseries Review: Welcome to Sanditon

So a few months back I gushed about The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a take on Pride and Prejudice in the 21st century using video blogs (and it got an Emmy guys, hurray!). Well the creators decided that they wanted to do a little more in that universe (possibly because their kickstarter did so great that they also had the money for it) and took one of the characters, Georgina "Gigi" Darcy and had her star in an unfinished novel of Jane Austen, Welcome to Sanditon. I didn't follow it as it was coming out but when I saw that the last episode was out, and started hearing a bit about the next series (Emma Approved, which shouldn't make it hard to figure out which book that one is based on) and heard that unless they have to reuse any of the cast that it'll be in the same universe I grabbed my computer, grabbed my mom again (whose read two author's interpretations of the book before, not sure of the titles but she liked one and didn't like the other) and sat down to marathon it in an evening.

Welcome to Sanditon

Summary: It's summer vacation and after having an interesting year Georgina "Gigi" Darcy is continuing to experiment with the new software created by Pemberly Digital, named Domino that she used a bit in LBD, in a town in California called Sanditon which is going through a bit of upheaval. Her goal is to see how well the technology works with the town and use that in her graduate school applications, but as usual things don't play out quite as expected.

The Good: Easily the bit of LBD that required the most suspension of disbelief was that 60% of the interesting/plot relevant parts happened "live", on camera and the story here takes a bit of a different approach which works a little better. Here Gigi is actively engaging people most of the time or playing recordings and it makes sense that she would have access to them considering she's the project instigator. That plus the overall smaller scale of the story (fewer people, less episodes, shorter plot threads) I think worked in the story's favor.

The Bad: Two big things here, number one is that my mom and I ended up watching only a third of the episodes. What the show did, to keep updating regularly enough to keep people interested I suspect, was have one "plot" episode a week, one that was sort of a cooking episode with one of the characters each week, and then an episode which was mostly a collection of video clips sent in by "citizens of Sanditon" (aka viewers). If there was any plot in the cooking episodes then it obviously wasn't enough to keep us from getting the story (if it had been interesting I would have watched it, I like cooking youtube channels, but the first episode was "let's make candy ice-cream! You do it by folding in candy into ice-cream!" which felt really boring, uninteresting, and like they were stretching the concept) and for the viewer submitted parts, ehhhhhhhhh let's face it, most people do not have super great cameras (and when you watch the videos enlarged in HD you notice that immediately) and most people do not have enough experience with acting or even public speaking to be interesting on camera, a lot of it is just experience they don't have. And since I am watching this to be entertained I don't feel like sitting through tons of episodes where people are just a bit unintentionally awkward, it's like reading other people role-play when they don't quite get the characters. The second major problem is a bit of a carry-over from LBD, Gigi is simply written as the least interesting of all the characters who had a spin-off series. I'm not sure if it's just the writing or if the actress just acts a bit more wooden as well (since whenever she was appearing in the main series everything felt just fine) and the way this story is told, that Gigi does have a small character arc of her own but the series focus first and foremost is on the town of Sanditon, does not help out this problem. 

The Production Values: Much like the first series this show makes no bones about the fact that the characters are sitting in front of sationary cameras whenever they're on-screen and while that's limiting I'm okay with that. This show also used more sets which was good and everything looked fine, this connected with the format I think was a bit of an improvement on LBD and I'm interested to see what EA will do differently if anything.

It's a bit hard to assign a rating to this since it's a spin-off series that only fans of LBD would be interested in seeing. If you really liked that show then sure go watch this, if you're hesitating then I say wait and see if Gigi and/or Domino appear in the new series (and if they do then go back and watch it, there are only about 27 "plot" episodes so you can get through all of this in an evening easily so it's not a large time commitment either way). And now I must remember to steal my mom's DVDs (when they come in from the kickstarter that is) and re-marathon LBD as soon as I can. 

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