Are you watching Emma Approved? The people who brought you the wildly popular Lizzie Bennet Diaries and the ill-conceived Welcome to Sanditon have taken on Jane Austen’s Emma and are 56 web episodes into a modernization of the story. Although I don’t feel Emma Approved has the appeal of the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, it’s doing a pretty good job of moving the story into the 21st Century. There’s a good cast. Alex Knightley is pretty fanciable. Maddie Bates is hilarious. Harriet Smith is an excellent combination of shy and aspirational (and I’m waiting for Robert Martin to come back).
The sticking point for me is Emma Woodhouse. I know she’s a character of whom Jane Austen said, “I am going to take a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.” If I recall my first reading of the book, I thought she was right. I didn’t like Emma very much. But she grew on me, through the course of the book and through each subsequent reading. I’ll admit that she’s not Jane Austen’s most likable heroine. I’m guessing that’s Lizzy Bennet (raise your hands). Apart of Lady Susan, whom we really can’t identify as a heroine, she might very well the least likable. (Although my vote here goes to Marianne Dashwood.)
But Emma Approved Emma is not really growing on me. Perhaps its because she’s too perky. Perhaps it’s because she hasn’t been brought low yet. Perhaps its the actress. I really want to like her. I like what’s being done with this adaptation. I keep watching in the hope that she’ll pull it out yet (and because I think Alex Knightley is adorable). So… what about you? Are you watching? Does it work for you? Do you have reservations? Have you seen the preceding Web series (I refuse to call them “webisodes.)
I liked the lead actress from day one. But the writing, Louisa, the writing! In LBD they sharpened the characters’ personality traits in order to make them understandable in a modern context. But in EA they’re all just plain different! Harriet is competent? Elton is a jerk to Knightley? Jane Fairfax is condescending to Emma? Mr. W is just a rich fussbudget? And Mrs. E … oh boy. It hasn’t helped that Bernie Su’s fallen in love with his own cleverness and seems to make bad choices just for the sake of being different.
But you’re right, Alex is adorable. And it’s ending in August, so I should just suck it up and power through the rest of it. I think I’ve had enough of a break that I can go back not expecting it to be Emma and enjoy it for what it is. Lots of pretty people being sassy!
Your post did spur me to catch up, and I’m glad I did. I wonder if bingeing isn’t the best way to see this show. Perhaps it’s the fact that Emma isn’t a particularly dramatic novel that’s the big hurdle? So much extra had to be created to come up with twice weekly mini-cliffhangers that we were never going to be allowed to just hang out and get cozy with Highbury, like we do in the book. Not a quiet set of people, this.