Tuesday, 22 July 2014

My Top 10 Favourite 'Lizzie Bennet Diaries' Episodes (2012-13)

The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is my favourite Pride and Prejudice adaptation and if you haven't already seen it then I would urge you to check it out. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is an Emmy Award-winning web series that tells the story of Jane Austen's novel through a YouTube video blog and is set in the modern-day. It was created by Bernie Su and Hank Green (who is the younger brother of the bestselling author John Green). Its episodes are all roughly 3 to 5 minutes long. Elizabeth "Lizzie" Bennet is now a 24 year old student who lives in California and is studying for a postgraduate degree in Mass Communications. With the help of her best friend Charlotte Lu she decides to make a vlog as part of her dissertation. Most of the episodes are filmed in Lizzie's bedroom and Lizzie chats about her life, her family, and her friends. Lizzie's sisters and Charlotte make frequent guest appearances on the vlog and there's a great deal of dressing up and role-play as they re-enact conversations with other characters. We hear about Bingley ("Bing Lee"), Caroline, Mr Collins, Wickham and Darcy long before we get to see them on the screen. 

I can admit that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries probably doesn't sound all that great on paper and I can understand why some would be sceptical about it - but it absolutely works and I'm a passionate fan. I adore Jane Austen's novel and this adaptation is a truly wonderful take on the story. It's the most creative and unique adaptation that I have ever seen. It's remarkably faithful to the major plot-points and spirit of the book. It's incredibly funny and highly quotable. The way in which it modernises certain aspects of Austen's story (e.g. Mr Collins' proposal and the Lydia scandal) are deeply thought-provoking. The acting is fantastic. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has also been hugely influential: it's kickstarted a trend in literary YouTube adaptations. There's The Autobiography of Jane EyreNothing Much To DoGreen Gables FablesClassic AliceThe Adventures of Peter and Wendy, Hank Green and Bernie Su's own Emma Approved, etc. So, yeah, if if haven't already seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries already then go away right now and watch it because it's awesome. If you have already seen it, keep reading! :) This post is my top 10 list of its episodes. Now I'm not actually saying that these episodes are "the best" LBD episodes. These are just the episodes that I happened to enjoy the most and obviously it's going to be a very subjective list. If you agree with my favourites that's great but if you have different favourites then that's great too. 

1. "My Name is Lizzie Bennet", Episode 1
Right from the start I was instantly sold on this new Pride and Prejudice adaptation. This episode is very funny and, in just over three minutes, it manages to set up the tone of the series, Lizzie's personality, and Lizzie's relationships with Charlotte and Lydia. This episode even manages to incorporate the book's iconic opening sentence! And Ashley Clements is brilliant in this already. Her Lizzie is funny, clever and instantly likeable. Clements isn't my absolute favourite Elizabeth Bennet (that's Elizabeth Garvie BTW) but I do love her portrayal and, for me, she's the one who best portrays Elizabeth's growth from a girl to a woman.

2. "Lizzie Bennet is in Denial", Episode 15
This is quite an unusual episode for the show because it's one of the few in which Lizzie doesn't appear. At this point Charlotte and Jane are both picking up on Darcy's attraction towards Lizzie but Lizzie is refusing to believe them. So in this episode Charlotte hijacks Lizzie's vlog and convinces Jane to re-enact a conversation that they overheard between Darcy and Caroline Lee. Charlotte and Jane's impressions of Caroline and Darcy are hilariously funny and spot-on! This episode is the funniest in the whole series for me. The character development is excellent in this episode too. Whereas Austen's book is told in third-person, the LBD has Lizzie speak her thoughts out directly to the audience. This episode reminds the audience that Lizzie is an unreliable narrator and that we shouldn't treat everything that she says as gospel truth. Laura Spencer became my favourite Jane Bennet after this episode as well. Spencer's Jane is beautiful, kind, sweet and warm but she's funnier and more assertive than the Jane of the book.

3. Episode 22, "Nope! He Doesn't Like Me"
Mrs Bennet has found a way of getting Jane and Lizzie to stay at Netherfield by redecorating her house so this is where this episode has been filmed. Jane is still convinced that Darcy likes Lizzie and we get to see more of her fantastic Darcy impression. The conversation between Lizzie and Jane!Darcy seems to be the equivalent of Darcy asking Elizabeth to dance a reel in the book. The only other adaptation to have this scene is the 1980 version so I love that! This episode has also given me a head canon: that Darcy uses the "Hey, do you wanna get your groove thing on?" line whenever he asks Lizzie to dance :D

4. "Are You Kidding Me!", Episode 60
Daniel Vincent Gordh makes his much-anticipated first appearance as Darcy in this episode and he's brilliant. He shows just the right amount of pride and coldness in this video that it's not hard to understand why Lizzie has taken such a dislike towards him. Also, on a shallower note, he's gorgeous and a snappy dresser. The 11th Doctor would love his outfit! :D This episode is pretty intense and dramatic and its modernised dialogue is extremely well-written. And am I the only one who thinks that the writer was influenced by the 2005 movie? Just like in that film, we get to see Darcy attempting to justify his conduct towards Jane before explaining his conduct towards Wickham in a letter later on. This episode has a fantastic cliffhanger too. At the very end Lizzie accidentally reveals to Darcy that she has a video blog. Lizzie's horror and Darcy's confusion makes for a great shot!

5. "C vs C", Episode 64
In this episode Caroline Lee shows up at Collins and Collins (Charlotte Lu's new office) because she wants to find out what was in Darcy's letter to Lizzie. Charlotte and then Lizzie use this as an opportunity to question why Caroline made no attempt to tell Bing about Jane's love for him. This confrontation never happens in the book but I'm actually quite pleased with this addition to the story because it's just so satisfying to watch Charlotte and Lizzie call Caroline out on her behaviour. This episode really showcases just how manipulative and bitchy Caroline is and Jessica Andres does a terrific job at playing her. I was thrilled when they found a way of bringing her into Emma Approved!

6. "Party Time", Episode 72
As I've already mentioned, Episode 15 is the funniest episode in the whole series for me but this episode isn't far behind. Lizzie is back at home and is reluctantly supervising Lydia's 21st birthday party. She's slipped off to her bedroom to make a video and enjoy some quiet time. She's then joined by her cousin Mary who is also after some peace and quiet. Lizzie then gets Mary to help her re-enact a conversation that she had with Wickham. Mary's acting is hilariously bad! I don't mind at all that they chose to make Mary a cousin of Lizzie's rather than her sister but I do really wish that we could have seen a lot more of Mary in this web series actually. True we do get to see some more of Mary in the spin-off The Lydia Bennet Diaries but, because the LBD does such a superb job at showing Lizzie's relationships with Jane and Lydia, it would have been fascinating if they'd developed Mary more and shown more of her relationship with Lizzie on-screen. Briana Cuoco does an excellent job at playing Mary too. Trivia: Briana Cuoco is the younger sister of Kaley Cuoco (Penny from The Big Bang Theory).

7. "Corporate Interview", Episode 83
If I have an absolute favourite episode in the LBD it's probably this one. It's completely adorable and it just makes me so happy! Lizzie is now doing an internship at Darcy's company Pemberley Digital which is based in San Francisco. Lizzie's interaction with Darcy here couldn't be any more different from their interaction in Episode 60. They're both much more relaxed and they're clearly enjoying themselves. There's even some flirting! It's so obvious that Lizzie is falling for Darcy here and the chemistry between Ashley Clements and Daniel Vincent Gordh is fabulous. Also, I love that this episode shows Darcy's sense of humour! It annoys me so much that the popular perception of Darcy is that he's this humourless, ultra-brooding guy - albeit one with a heart of gold - who never smiles. Fans of the 1995 version won't like me for saying this but I'm convinced that people have got this impression from Colin Firth's Darcy. It can't be because of the book. Darcy might not be as witty as Henry Tilney from Northanger Abbey or Knightley from Emma but he does actually smile quite a bit in the book and he does have a quiet, dry sense of humour. In the book Elizabeth thinks that Darcy is mocking her when they have their conversations and banter but that's not the case. The liveliness of Elizabeth's mind is what makes Darcy fall in love with Elizabeth. So I love that this episode emphasises Darcy's sense of humour. Daniel Vincent Gordh is my favourite Darcy :)

8. "Okay", Episode 88
What a relief this episode is! One of the major strengths of the LBD is its handling of the Lydia scandal of the book. The lacklustre movie Bride and Prejudice updated the scandal of the book into Lydia sneaking off with Wickham to ride the London Eye. Shock Horror! How will the Bennet family deal with this disgrace?! The LBD's handling of the scandal though is infinitely more dramatic and serious. In this adaptation Lydia is left absolutely distraught and heartbroken when Wickham releases a sex tape between the two of them online. Unlike Bride and Prejudice this version really hits home to a modern audience how lost Lydia's reputation would have been if Darcy hadn't saved her. Mary Kate Wiles plays Lydia's grief beautifully and it's heartbreaking to watch. It will probably take Lydia a good few years to fully get over Wickham's emotional abuse and betrayal but this episode shows us the first step in her recovery. Lydia and Lizzie both learn that the sex tape has been taken down. It's deeply touching to see the sisterly affection between Lizzie and Lydia here and it's heartwarming that they'll be spending more time together.

9. "Gratitude", Episode 98
Who doesn't love this episode?! After finding out what Darcy did for Lydia - buying the website with Lydia's video and shutting it down - Lizzie calls Darcy up and leaves a message on his voicemail. Lizzie then doesn't hear from Darcy for three full days and begins to worry that Darcy no longer loves her. But then he turns up at her house on her birthday. Darcy wanted to speak to Lizzie in person because he wanted to see the look on her face when he asked her "Why did you call me?" This episode is adorable and romantic and I love the look on Darcy's face just before Lizzie switches off her camera :D

10. "The End", Episode 100
And now I've come to the very end of the series. Lizzie is now planning to start her own company after she graduates and is going to be moving to San Francisco so she can be closer to Darcy. In this episode she says goodbye to her viewers. Lizzie shares this episode with Charlotte and Lydia and I'm actually quite pleased that Darcy isn't in it. As much as I love Daniel Vincent Gordh - again, he's my favourite Darcy - the LBD placed a very heavy emphasis on Lizzie's character development and the female relationships of the book so it feels more appropriate for Darcy not to be in this one. It's lovely to see that both Lydia and Charlotte are in a good place; they both get happier endings than they do in the book. Oh, and at the very end of the episode Mrs Bennet walks into the frame and asks what Lizzie and Charlotte are doing! A running joke of the series was Lizzie trying to hide the existence of her videos from her mother so this is a great moment.

Honourable Mentions:
  • Episode 19, "The Green Bean Gelatin Plan"
  • Episode 20, "Enjoy the Adorbs"
  • Episode 37, "Lydia vs Mr Collins"
  • Episode 80, "Hyper-Mediation in New Media"
  • Episode 87, "An Understanding"
  • Questions and Answers #10 with William Darcy


Hamlette said...

So... I have strep throat for a third time, and while I'm holed up in my room trying not to spread germs to my family, I am going to give the LBD a try at last! As soon as I finish the first episode of "Jeeves and Wooster," which a blogger also recommended. I'll get back to you when I finish the first ep of LBD and let you know know what I thought!

Hamlette said...

Okay, I've watched the first three episodes, and I have to say... I find them diverting, but not excessively diverting. That could partly be because I need a nap, but on the whole... I'd rather read the book, I think. Still, I do think they're very clever!

Hamlette said...

Okay, watched far enough to see some Darcy, and yeah -- he's quite easy on the eyes, eh? And ears -- very nice voice he has. As I find time, I'll try to watch the rest.

Also I tagged you in a game of Bucket List Tag here on my blog. Play if you want to!

Hannah said...

Well, I'm glad you're enjoying it at least! I don't love any P&P adaptation, even this one, as much as the book but I still think its quite fabulous :) And thanks for the tag!

Lianne @ caffeinatedlife.net said...

Oops, I, err, still haven't finished watching this series yet (despite recently purchasing it from iTunes and having read the novelisation some time ago). Maybe I'll finally get around to finishing it during my break from classes xD

Hannah said...

Hi Liane! Yeah, you need to get on that! I didn't start watching the LBD until quite near the end of its run. I binge-watched most of it over one weekend. But you have read the novelisation of the LBD though which I still haven't got round to yet. I was thinking of downloading the audio book because Ashley Clements does the reading but we shall see.