Literary-Inspired Web Series
Over the past two or three years, I have been watching a lot of Literary-Inspired Web Series on Youtube. These are web series, often created by young, independent, aspiring filmmakers, which either adapt a classic literary text or take direct inspiration from classic literature. Like many, I started with the very popular The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and it all escalated from there. This is a post I’ve been wanting to make for a while, but I’ve been a little unsure how to go about it. Literary-Inspired Web Series are a genre in themselves at this point, and, whilst there is growing acknowledgement of their place within the world of adaptation, there is still a sense in which they are a little Other, a little unknown. However, I think there are a lot of positives to watching at least a few of these series and getting a feel for them. For starters, they are a growing, global phenomenon, which gives young amateur script writers, directors, and actors an opportunity to create their own shows for an audience. Many of the adaptations are unique, clever modernisations of classic texts. And most episodes are between 5-10 minutes, so they are relatively easy to catch up on.
It can be hard to know where to start with these, so I wanted to create a recommendations list of some I have enjoyed over the years. I’m going to attempt to keep this up-to-date as new series come out so if you are interested, this might be a good page to bookmark. Ultimately, I am going to write proper reviews for some, but probably not all, of these. But for now, have a look through and see if there are any which take your fancy!
Please note: Currently Airing shows are found at the end of the list.
All’s Fair Play, created by Kalamatea Productions
A web series inspired by the plays of Shakespeare, using a variety of video narrative techniques. Liam and Becca’s joint bachelor/bachelorette party threatens to become a personal disaster for almost all of their friends, and themselves. Also, when Porter gets drunk he soliloquies in iambic pentameter. Created and set in Canada.
All For One, created by Sarah Shelson & RJ Lackie
A retelling of Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers using a livestream video format. Dorothy Castlemore starts university determined to get into one sorority: Mu Sigma Theta. As she makes new friends (and gets herself into a whole lot of trouble), she keeps her online friends up-to-date with her livestreams. Created and set in Canada.
The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, created by Kalamatea
A retelling of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre using a vlog format. Jane Eyre, tired of her current teaching job, decides to document her move to become a tutor for a family with a big secret. Created and set in Canada.
Call Me Katie, created by Discordia Productions
A retelling of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew using a multi-channel vlog format. The Minola sisters, Katie and Bianca, start to vlog their lives; before long, Katie’s arch-nemesis, Peter, and their mutual friends, George and George, are doing the same. Created and set in Australia.
The Cate Morland Chronicles, created by Apple Juice Productions
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in a vlog format. Cate starts a vlog just as she gets a job working for Persona Magazine. Her first assignment is covering the reunion panel for her favourite TV show, and interviewing the star, Henry Tilney. Created and set in America.
Charlotte’s Web Series, created by Stuck in a Story Productions
A retelling of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web (yes, you read that right!) using a video letter format. Willa records videos for her Aunt Fern as she starts university in Hamilton and discovers she is sharing a house with some interesting characters. Created and set in Canada.
A Document of Madness, created by The Borrowers That Lend
A retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet using a multi-channel vlog format. Mourning the death of his brother, Hamlet starts to record videos for his therapist to update her on his life. Meanwhile, his friends Rose and Jill start a channel to record their first year of college. Created and set in America.
Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party, created by Shipwrecked Comedy
The sequel to A Tell Tale Vlog which imagines a dinner party for famous writers thrown by Edgar Allan Poe. The fun Murder Mystery night he has planned goes spectacularly wrong when, one by one, the guests start being actually murdered. Created and set in America.
From Mansfield with Love, created by Foot in the Door Theatre
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park using a video letter format. Frankie Price is given a challenge by her brother, Will, to keep him more updated about what her daily life working in the Mansfield Hotel is like. Created and set in the UK.
Green Gables Fables, created by Marie Trotter, Alicia Whitson, and Mandy Harmon
A retelling of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables in a vlog format. Season 1: after moving to Avonlea, Anne (Anne with an E) starts making videos to show the world her new life in Avonlea. Season 2: Anne starts her weekly vlogs again as she, Gilbert, and Diana start at Redmond University. Created and set in Canada.
Horizons, created by Betwixt Productions
A series inspired by the works of H.G.Wells using an academic vlog format. Leo, a Daylighter in the city of Horizon, starts his thesis project: an in-depth look into the Day and Night system of his city. His project changes dramatically when he accidentally encounters the world of the Nocturnes. Created and set in America.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, created by Pemberley Digital
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice using a vlog format. Lizzie Bennet uploads videos, with help from her friend Charlotte Lu, as part of a media project for her postgraduate degree. Created and set in America.
March Family Letters, created by Cherrydale Productions
A retelling of Louisa M. Alcott’s Little Women using a video letter format. Jo March gets a camera and decides to record the lives of herself and her three sisters for their mother. Some of her sisters have other ideas for the channel. Created and set in Canada.
The Misselthwaite Archives, created by Pencil Ink Productions
A retelling of Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden using a variety of video narrative techniques. Mary Lennox is sent to live at her Uncle’s house and keeps her therapist up-to-date with her life whilst Phoebe films their tutorial sessions. Created and set in America, although the production and writing team come from all over the globe.
Northbound, created by Anya Steiner
A retelling of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey using a vlog format. Catherine moves to New York for her first year of university and soon finds that the world of academia, and big city life, are a huge step away from her comfort zone. Created and set in America.
Nothing Much to Do, created by The Candle Wasters
A retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing using a multi-channel vlog and media project format. Beatrice and Benedick vlog their lives and rivalry whilst Dogberry and Verges film their own detective show. Created and set in New Zealand.
Rex, created by Severe Chill Studios
A series inspired by Arthurian legends using a personal, private video format. Lance uses his camera to record his memories of his brother, Merlin, and their friends. Meanwhile, Arthur starts talking to his camera in order to deal with the abuse of his foster father and his subsequent homelessness. Created and set in America.
Shakespeare Republic Series, created by Shakespeare Republic
A series of standalone episodes adapting famous passages from the work of Shakespeare. Each episode is centred around one actor presenting a modern interpretation of the original text. Created and set in Australia.
A Tell Tale Vlog, created by Shipwrecked Comedy
A short, comedic vlog series which imagines the life of Edgar Allan Poe and the ghost Lenore. Poe decides to record a writing vlog; the ghost Lenore, who is haunting him, is incredibly bored by his life. Created and set in America.
Words from Wilde, created by Mary McGillivary, Jessica Budin, Rob Baselier, and Gemma Osmond
A vlog series which imagines the life of Oscar Wilde as he finishes his last year of school. Oscar starts a channel, sometimes hijacked by his friends, in order to record his thoughts about life, art, and relationships. Created and set in Australia.
The Writing Majors, created by Betwixt Productions
A vlog series which imagines a modern-day Emily Dickinson, Jane Austen, and Oscar Wilde sharing a flat at university as they study creative writing. Emily is given a camera by her parents and decides she must record the life of the flat for posterity in the face of death and dementia, a project which is promptly high-jacked by Jane and Oscar for less morbid purposes. Created and set in America.
Project Green Gables, created by Laura Ekland Nhaga and Janika Vikman
A retelling of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables in a vlog format. Anne starts a vlog in order to document her life as she adjusts to her new school and life in Avonlea. Created in Finland and set in Canada.
The Better Strangers, created by The Borrowers That Lend
A retelling of Shakespeare’s As You Like It and a sequel to A Document of Madness told in a multi-channel vlog format. The Better Strangers follows Rose Crantz and Jill Stern in their second year at college as they move into Arden Hall; meanwhile fellow resident of Arden Hall, Orlando, documents his search for a girl called Rosalind. Created and set in America.
Away From It All, created by Hazel Jeffs
A retelling of Thomas Hardy’s Far From the Madding Crowd in a multi-channel transmedia format. Gabriel films his university placement in Wessex for his Facebook friends and Liddy starts a Youtube channel to vlog her life, whilst Bathsheba Everdene takes on an exciting new challenge. Created and set in the UK.
Middlemarch: The Series, created by Rebecca Shoptow
A retelling of George Eliot’s Middlemarch in a retrospective vlog format. Dot Brooke decides to make a record of the ordinary moments in the lives of her and her friends. Months after filming the videos, she edits and uploads them as a documentary. Created and set in America.