Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Literary Web Series: Episode One

I'm very much an all or nothing kind of person, so when I decide to do a thing--such as, say, try watching web adaptations of classic literature--my brain likes to take it up a notch. Like, it's not enough to watch a few and call it a day. No, I have to CATCH 'EM ALL. I'm nothing if not a completist. I like to conquer things.

So I've decided to watch as many of the web series (web serieseses? I hate plurals) listed on Shae's excellent compendium as I can and then tell you which ones you should also watch and which you should absolutely avoid. WOO. Because there are a miiiiillion-ish and nobody's got time for that. (Apparently I do? This is news to me.) Also quite a lot of them are probably no good, but then quite a lot of them are amazing and you need more amazing in your life, don't you? Nothing will compare to the life-changing awesomeness that was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, but just because you can't beat perfection doesn't mean you shouldn't try.

So without further ado, here are the literary web seriesi (totally a valid pluralization) I've watched so far:

Series: The Lizzie Bennet Diaries
Link:  Complete playlist with all bonus videos | Lizzie Bennet
Adaptation of: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
Number of episodes: 100 (not including bonus)
Completed?: YES

Okay, so, just in case you haven't watched this. It's the OG web adaptation, it's hilarious, it's swoony, you're lucky you don't have to watch it in real time because waiting for Darcy to show his beautiful face was TORTURE, honestly please just watch it okay bye

It's an adaptation of Pride and Prejudice where Lizzie is a modern day grad student with student debt and sister problems and hilarious video blog and look I don't care if you don't like Jane Austen, you will like LBD. So just do yourself a favor and start there and then come cry to me about the glory that is the Lydia Bennet/Dizzie/literally everything.

Series: Emma Approved
Link: Complete playlist | Pemberley Digital 
Adaptation of: Emma by Jane Austen
Number of episodes: 72
Completed?: YES

To me this is the second-best literary web series around, made by the same people who made LBD (Pemberley Digital). After floundering with Sanditon and oof, Frankenstein MD (seriously Pemberley Digital we're all here for ships how did you not realize that), PD adapted Jane Austen's Emma into a fabulous web series where Emma is a lifestyle coach and matchmaker and all around busybody.

Now, the set up is ridiculously far-fetched--like, wtf is a lifetime achievement award for lifestyle excellence or whatever it is? couldn't they have just said Emma was making a blog to promote her business?--and Emma herself takes a few episodes to get used to, but it's an EXCELLENT adaptation. It's a story that updates super well (hi, Clueless) and even if you don't know the original novel well, it's still an engaging story. And...well, SHIP. You know me. I'm here for the ship. SHIP SHIP SHIP SHIP OTP ALEX AND EMMA SHIP SHIP HELP SHIP SHIPPPPPPPPP

I didn't love all of the actors in this adaptation, unless the universally flawless cast of LBD, but Alex and Emma themselves are spectacular. Swooning, crying, laughing, the whole shebang. Definitely watch this one!

Series:Green Gables Fables
Link: Anne With an E
Adaptation of: Anne of Green Gables/Anne of Avonlea/Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery
Number of episodes: Season One: 45, Season Two: 35
Completed?: YES

AHHHHHHHHH SHIP!!!!! Okay, now that we've gotten that out of the way....this was the first web series I tried again after LBD and EA, many moons ago, and i stopped watching pretty quickly. Mostly because not that many episodes were out, and partially because i though the girl playing Anne would drive me nuts. But omg, Past Gillian was a fool (but also Past Gillian knew this was a series to be binged). I LOOOOVED THIS SERIES. Like, stayed up all night watching loved.

In this update, Anne is a teenage red-haired Canadian foster kid who's just moved in with brother and sister Marilla and Matthew, just like in the books, only unlike in the books, Anne has a video blog to update us on the many misadventures of her life complain about Gilbert Blythe. It took me a while, but I thought the actress made a fantastic Anne and also her hair is so hair goals it's a little unfair STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT YOUR GOD DAMN PINTEREST DISNEY PRINCESS HAIR, CARROTS. But I loooooved how well this updated!

I didn't love the girl playing Diana, but most of the rest of the actors were quite natural with only a few exceptions. I especially loved season 2 and Anne's college friends and GILBERT GOD DAMN BLYTHE IS FLAWLESS IN EVERY INCARNATION MY SUN MY STARS LIGHT OF MY LIFE JOY OF MY BEING LITERAL PERFECT BOY I CAN'T

precious b a b i e s

Ahem. I'm fine. Seriously stop looking at me I'm fine.

really super totally fine

The series has two seasons: the first wraps up the senior year of high school, condensing the plot of the first two AoGG novels. The second season, which is so shippy it's almost painful to watch at times, covers Anne's first year of college and the plot of Anne of the Island. Now, if you're familiar with the books, you know that though there are amusing times and raspberry cordial shenanigans and writing clubs, there's also tragedy and serious times, and this show does include that. Prepare to bawl your eyes out. And also to hold your hands up to the screen and mime shoving Anne and Gil's faces together.

Look, I'm a girl of simple pleasures. I KNOW WHAT I LIKE.

DEFINITELY watch the bonus episodes of this series! (Especially Josie's videos.) They really add dimension and also benefit the plot (especially that one video of Josie's). Ruby's will smash your heart into pieces but they're amazing. But obviously watch for the Sherbet

I promise there is more to be than ships there's just not that MUCH more

Series: The Autobiography of Jane Eyre
Link: Complete playlist | Jane Eyre
Adaptation of: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Number of episodes: 95
Completed?: YES

Oh, man, what a weird, occasionally wonderful show this was! This is the one I'm the most conflicted on. In some ways, it was fantastic, and in others, it didn't quite live up to the book. Now, I LOVE the book truly and sincerely, so I'm pretty critical of all adaptations. This one was a strange mix of very loyal to the book and occasionally wildly different. Some changes I applauded, some I thought totally missed the boat, especially since they altered some of the themes. I'm not sure I love the update to the whole "Bertha Mason" reveal stuff, though it definitely makes this Rochester less of a dick than OG Rochester.

In this one, Jane is hired as a live-in tutor (nanny? they never quite decide) to Adele Rochester, daughter of mysterious and mostly absolute millionaire something or other Edward Rochester. (In this, Adele is his daughter, not his ward, which I also don't love and also they totally change her personality but she's quite precious so it's okay). Of course, there are CREEPTASTIC THINGS about that totally creeped the shit out of me tbh but also omg is she falling for her VERY OFF LIMITS BOSS WHOOPS


My thoughts: IGNORE THE FIRST EPISODE. It's so weird. it's so stupid. Literally skip it. You're welcome. This one got better and better as it went along. I was dubious, but the woman who plays Jane completely stole my heart. In this adaptation, Rochester is far less grouchy and aloof and is actually smiley and flirty, which is DIFFERENT but also super duper cute. The few episodes we see of them being together-ish are beyond adorable.

Unlike the other three adaptations, this one has a few episodes that don't work at all. They feel awkward and staged, and I'm glad I had a chance to binge this so I could just hurry past them. There are a couple of Victorian whozits and plot/society whatsits that are very hard to translate to modern day. BUT THEN there are some episodes that are so raw and gorgeously acted (particularly from Jane, holy crapola) that they felt totally really. This isn't a happy and funny adaptation like the others in this post--it's dark and sad and heartfelt, but Jane is still an optimistic little bean despite her super sad life.

Jane, you warrior. She's the awkward tea-drinking introvert of my heart.

Like i said, this gets better and better as it goes. I mean, for the first time in the HISTORY of Jane Eyre adaptations, my favorite characters were the Rivers! Riverses. God, I hate plurals. I've always been hopelessly bored by them both in the book and in all version of JE, but they were adorable and hilarious and felt so real and omg i want to hang out with them! Definitely watch to the end for Diana and Mary. They're the best.

This show is definitely a bit too long, but the biggest con is...well, the actor playing Rochester QUIT, so we don't get to see him again. SUPER RUDE, DUDE. The show still ends how the book does (ish) but obviously they had to work around the fact that Rochester straight up couldn't be on camera, and while they do a good job, it's still not as emotionally satisfying. Especially considering their reunion is one of my fave scenes in all of literature.

I guess I'll just have to watch this for eternity

SO THERE YOU HAVE IT. My in depth reviews of four literary adaptation webserieseseseses! GO FORTH AND ENJOY, MY NERDS. And squee to me about my ships.

Also if you have any recs for what I should watch next, hit me with them!


  1. I've been watching one called Classically Alice, where a girl tries to live her life by classic novels. I'm only about halfway through, but I really enjoy it! I think you'd like it too :)

  2. I still haven't finished LBD bc I am the worst. I think I watched the first 25 eps. And I watched 2 or 3 of Emma... but they both look so cute! I've heard there's a Little Women web series and Peter Pan series as well, been curious about those! This is a fun post idea, thank you for weeding out the bad shows for us :D

  3. Yassss, here for this topic.

    LBD = best ever and I will probably watch it once a year for like all of my life because that's just what you do, right?

    So with you on EA casting, but SHIP SHIP SHIP SHIP. I may just skip any ep that's not Emma/Knightley when I rewatch but still so excellent.

    THE GREEN GABLES ONE IS FINISHED? You just said the magic words, Gillian. OH MY GOD. I WANT TO START THIS TONIGHT. But argh life stuff so probably tomorrow. YOU ARE MY FAVORITE FOR DOING THIS.

    ANOTHER COMPLETED ONE. Okay, I'm less sure about this one tbh, but maaaaaybe.

  4. I love the Lizzie Bennett Diaries! I remember watching them all one by one during finals week in my sophomore year... yeah, probably not the best choice. :D I didn't know about the Anne of Green Gables one! Looks like I know what I'll be doing tonight.

  5. OKAY.

    Excellent thoughts all around, I basically agree with you on everything, and also:

    I am HERE FOR YOU on what to watch next.

    1. Nothing Much to Do
    2. From Mansfield with Love
    3. Classic Alice
    4. The Writing Majors

    You're welcome! :-)

    (Are you going to write reviews for Welcome to Sanditon and Frankenstein MD? I'd love to hear your thoughts in more detail.)

  6. Ahhhhhhh!!!!

    No words other than thank you for finally bringing something to my attention that I can enjoy watching. I'm literally waving my hands around like a little schoolgirl.

  7. Yay! OK, so you missed From Mansfield with Love, which is an adaptation of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park that I ended up really liking. Fair warning: some of the actors just feel forced and awkward and false all the time. BUT the actors who play Edmund Bertram and Fanny Price are fantastic- you'd swear the whole thing was ad-libbed with now natural they are. It's all a UK production, and some of the plot adaptation is 'wha...?' but most of it is true to the book. The sound quality is amateur (occasionally a character will blow out the mic) but that adds to the handcam, unpolished feel it's supposed to have (as Fanny records her day to day for Will, who is off with the Navy).

  8. You need to check out Carmilla! It's probably the biggest webseries after Lizzie Bennet Diaries and it's so fun and has a mostly female cast! (^_^)

  9. I do like ships. LBD & Emma Approved were SO GOOD :D And I really need to watch Anne with an E because it sounds like so much fun!

  10. Nothing Much to Do. You must watch it. I just read your post on favorite tropes and you mention Beatrice and Benedict. Thus I feel the need not only to firmly recommend this well written and superbly acted show, but to link it as well. Story spans 3 channels, but this playlist should have it all in order.


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