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As You(Tube) Like It: 5 Must-See Literary Web Series

April marked the five-year anniversary of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a vlog version of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. In the years since, other YouTubers copied LBD’s formula, adapting famous novels into bite-sized episodes that went online once or twice a week. In some cases, a bunch of friends with no budget banded together; other projects required a full crew. Thankfully for English nerds, we now have a bevy of literary-based web series!

These retellings take tales we’ve adored for centuries and apply them to twenty-first century scenarios. Featuring characters of various backgrounds and identities, the updated stories feel both fresh and familiar. Check out our favorites below.

 

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (2012-2014)

The one that started it all! Grad student Lizzie Bennet creates a vlog for her communications degree, consisting of a hundred episodes that chronicle the everyday turmoil of her and her sisters, “perfect” Jane and party girl Lydia. With wit and flair, Lizzie rants about anyone that annoys her, especially her marriage-obsessed mother and—yep, you guessed it—that insufferable snob, William Darcy (who doesn’t appear until episode 60!). Lizzie’s relationship with her sisters comprises the heart of the story, which reaches its darkest, most gut-wrenching twist when Wickham turns on Lydia and the internet slut-shames her for it. (Try to watch Lizzie comfort her without crying.) An addictive tale that modernizes every beat from the original. Seriously, if you haven’t watched it, do it now.

 

Nothing Much to Do (2014)

Why is this trailer so charming? Why is the music so beautiful? Why do I want to be best friends with these kiwi teenagers? Based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado about NothingNothing Much to Do follows Beatrice’s and Ben’s competing vlogs. The two leads, witty and engaging, wield sharp tongues, finding any reason to banter as they gradually fall for one another. The supporting roles are just as endearing, be it Dogberry—a pint-sized version of Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock—or Balthazar—the sweetest musical prodigy you will ever meet. In my favorite video, Ben and Claudio screech, “My Heart Will Go On,” over a slideshow of sloths—it’s random yet hilarious! I don’t know why it works, but it does! Bizarre scenes—featuring fun, teenage antics—give this rivals-turned-lovers story a fuzzy, feel-good tone. If you can’t get enough of this zany crew, be sure to catch the sequel, Lovely Little Losers, which loosely follows Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost as Ben and his three flatmates attend university.

 

Emma Approved (2013-2014)

After the success of LBD, Pemberley Digital adapted another Austen classic, Emma. A life coach and matchmaker, Emma Woodhouse—armed with verve, ingenuity, and optimism—proposes ambitious plans to build her practice, often to the chagrin of her level-headed business partner, Alex Knightly. Some viewers didn’t take to meddlesome Emma as quickly they did Lizzie, but those who stuck around watched a bold entrepreneur evolve into a compassionate leader that learns how to respect other people’s decisions and personality quirks. Harriet, IMHO, is the most annoying presence in the series, but a lovable band of characters round out the rest of the cast. Also, the fashion! Emma looks perfect in every episode, and her blog shows fans how they can recreate her fabulous outfits. (Today’s high-waisted shorts and blazer are very Emma-approved.)

 

The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy (2014-2017)

Like LBD, this romantic comedy uses a classic tale to tackle a modern problem: how can millennials mold a life for themselves while living back at home? (Or, as J. M. Barrie would ask, “Why must we grow up?”) As an answer, Wendy creates an advice-giving vlog, Dear Darlings, and applies to jobs in other towns. Peter ignores the responsibilities of adulthood by chowing on pizza and playing video games. Meanwhile, hyperactive Michael thinks he can get rich by applying to reality shows, and John, a stoic clean freak, obsesses over a long-term plan that will attract stress but not much happiness. With three seasons at its disposal, this show brings emotional depth to all its players, especially Hook and Lily, who start as villains. Plus, fairies exist in Neverland, Ohio! Though we never see Tink onscreen, the audience experiences half of the story from her vantage point. (Also, I will ship John and Smee until the end of my days.)

 

Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party (2016)

The only non-contemporary recommendation on this list, but too fun not to share! As the title suggests, socially awkward Poe hosts a murder mystery party, but the game quickly turns into a real whoddunit as his guests die one at a time. Ernest Hemingway hits on the ladies, and Mary Anne Evans—AKA George Eliot—disguises herself as a man. Meanwhile, Oscar Wilde inserts himself in the hottest gossip, and everyone forgets about poor Emily Dickinson. The offbeat humor might not appeal to everyone, but viewers who want to see famous nineteenth-century authors solve a Clue- or Murder by Death-type mystery will cackle from start to finish. YouTube fans will especially get a kick out of this series as it stars many familiar faces, including Ashley Clements and Mary Kate Wiles from LBD and Joey Richter and Lauren Lopez from A Very Potter Musical. Shipwrecked, which functions as a modern-day Shakespearean troupe, specializes in creating historical and literary comedies; be sure to peruse the other videos on their channel!

Did your favorite make the list? Recommend these dramas to teenagers who need a gateway into classic literature! Once they’re hooked, follow up with these YA-friendly reimaginings:

Austenlandby Shannon Hale

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing YouStar Betwixt and Between, by Jessica Stilling

Star Eligibleby Curtis Sittenfeld

How to Keep a Boy from Kissing You, by Tara Eglington

The Hum Bugby Harold Schechter

Interferenceby Kay Honeyman

Star The Jane Austen Book Clubby Karen Joy Fowler

Lies Jane Austen Told Meby Julie Wright

Lizzy Bennet’s Diary, by Marcia Williams

The Lost Girlsby Laurie Fox

Nevermoreby Kelly Creagh

Star Nora & Kettle: A Paper Stars Novelby Lauren Nicolle Taylor

Star Oleander Girlby Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, by Lily Anderson

Second StarPemberley Ranchby Jack Caldwell

Poe: Stories and Poems; a Graphic Novel Adaptationby Gareth Hinds

Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen and Ian Edginton

Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesby Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Prom & Prejudiceby Elizabeth Eulberg

Pymby Mat Johnson

Second Starby Alyssa B. Sheinmel

The Secret Diary of Lydia Bennetby Natasha Farrant

Speak Easy, Speak Love, by McKelle George

Tiger Lilyby Jodi Lynn Anderson

Wrong about the Guyby Claire LaZebnik

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About the Author:

Biz Hyzy works as an editorial assistant for Booklist's Adult Books department, where she pilfers the most appealing ARCs before anyone else gets the chance. Besides reading, she enjoys swing dancing and ninja training (though, in her case, both include a lot of bumbling around).

2 Comments on "As You(Tube) Like It: 5 Must-See Literary Web Series"

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  1. THANK YOU. I’d never heard of the Edgar Allan Poe one and I am still grinning like an idiot because it is so friggin’ fun!

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