Ashley Clements plays the title character in 'The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.' (youtube.com/lizziebennet)
It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a series in possession of an excellent cast and crew, a fresh vision, and great source material must be deserving of an Emmy.
This morning, the juried winners of the Creative Arts Emmys in Interactive Media were announced. While all the projects were excellent contributions to the world of digital entertainment, one stood out despite its name being perhaps the least well known among the winners: "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries."
"LBD," as it is abbreviated most affectionately by the cast, the crew, and a legion of devoted fans, is the story of Lizzie Bennet (played by Ashley Clements), a grad student who is on her way to receiving a mass communications degree but not sure what the rest of her life will bring. The show places her in front of the camera, interacting with best friend Charlotte Lu (Julia Cho), sisters Lydia (Mary Kate Wiles) and Jane (Laura Spencer), potential love interest William Darcy (Daniel Vincent Gordh), and a host of other characters straight from Jane Austen's "Pride and Prejudice" (on which the series is based), albeit with a few modern adjustments.
But "LBD" is no ordinary addition to popular culture. Despite being made by independent producers and distributed at virtually no cost to its audience on YouTube, the show received tremendous success and is a sign of what the future holds for serial programming. Here's why "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" deserved its Emmy win and what it says about the future of entertainment:
Watch the first episode of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" below:
1. Unknowns making incredible content.
One of the most remarkable aspects of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries'" success is that it was the product of the minds of several relatively unknown individuals. While the other Interactive Media Emmy winners are the projects of major studios (Bravo, OWN, and Nickelodeon), "LBD" was an independent effort.
The idea was spawned when Hank Green (one-half of the YouTube-famous video-blogging ("vlogging" for short) duo the VlogBrothers) came up with the idea of adapting a novel into a vlog. Within the Internet-verse, Green is well known for his and his brother's streaming-video work (his brother is author John Green), as well as his band of loyal followers (who call themselves Nerdfighters), but his work is largely (and regrettably) unknown by the general public. However, "Lizzie Bennet" was a unique and inspired project that, with the help of some great producers and writers, turned into a really funny, smart, and engaging show.
Its origins were humble; however, part of "LBD's" success was that it grew an audience out of the VlogBrothers' existing fandom. Fans of Hank Green's vlogs flocked to "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and became advocates for the series, spreading it around on social media and among friends, as well as engaging with it on their own time. In 2012, as the show was just starting off, the cast and crew made an appearance at the VlogBrothers' annual YouTube gathering, VidCon. A year later, several months after "LBD" ended, they came out to celebrate the series again, proving that their devotion didn't end along with the series.
See an episode of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" at VidCon 2012:
2. User engagement done right.
Making the show more than just a YouTube Web series, the "transmedia team," along with the writers of "LBD," also created social media accounts for characters. Posting on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Pinterest, etc., the characters were able to interact outside of the story world. Fan favorites Gigi Darcy (Allison Paige) and Fitz Williams (Craig Frank) carried on a jokey repartee, Lydia tweeted about her relationship woes with George Wickham (Wes Aderhold), and fashionable older sister Jane kept up a Tumblr style blog. And that was only the beginning.
In addition to having an active Twitter presence, the show spun off some YouTube series, including "Pemberley Digital" (which turned into "Welcome to Sanditon"), "Maria of the Lu," and "The Lydia Bennet." "Lizzie Bennet" became more than a static series because it pushed fans into the story world by giving them so much extra relevant and fun content to absorb.
See the first episode of "The Lydia Bennet" here:
3. This is only the beginning.
"The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" began streaming in April 2012, and after 100 episodes (two a week), it ended this past March. Yet fans were reluctant to let go, even as their hopes were met when Lizzie and Darcy proceeded to figuratively prance off into the distance together, a romantic couple at long last.
In response to audience demand, showrunner Bernie Su and crew put together a new series, "Welcome to Sanditon," based on an unfinished Austen novel, which used Gigi from the original series to narrate and participate in events in the fictional seaside town of Sanditon. The follow-up to both of these series will be the forthcoming "Emma Approved," which will adapt the Austen novel "Emma" and which, Su has confirmed, will exist in the same universe as "LBD," inciting fan speculation about a potential crossover of the series.
"The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" may be over, but that doesn't mean it's the end.
See the first episode of the "Lizzie Bennet Diaries" spinoff "Welcome to Sanditon":
The Creative Arts Emmys juried award for Original Interactive Program was well-deserved this year. It recognized a unique project that, with the hard work of a talented cast and creative team plus the devotion of an enthusiastic audience, managed to create sustained magic beyond the 100-episode YouTube series.
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- Lizzie Bennet Diaries