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‘Emma Approved’: ‘Emma’ for the 21st century

With the 200th anniversary of “Emma” next year — and the fact that next June’s Jane Austen Summer Program will focus on the novel —  now is the perfect time to catch up on one of the latest modern adaptations of the book: The web series “Emma Approved” ended its run in August, so you can binge-watch to your heart’s content. Or you could watch along with me over the next several weeks as I recap the series here!

Wait. There’s a web series about “Emma”?

Yes! “Emma Approved” is a modern-day retelling of “Emma,” told in about 70 short videos filmed in the style of a vlog (that’s short for “video blog”). There are a handful of supplemental videos, too, but you don’t have watch those to follow the story. During its 10-month run, the series also incorporated social media, with characters posting and interacting on Twitter and other social media sites, and blogging on the show’s Web site.

Again, you don’t have to read those if you don’t want to. The tweets and blog posts add to the story, but they’re not required reading.

The series comes from Bernie Su and Hank Green, the creators of another Austen Web series you might have heard of called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (you guessed it, a modern-day retelling of “Pride & Prejudice”). I highly recommend it if you haven’t watched it.

Thanks, I’ll do that. But why should I watch “Emma Approved”?

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Su and Green could pull off another Austen retelling — “Lizzie Bennet Diaries” set a high standard. But then I heard their concept for the “Emma” adaptation: “Emma” as a workplace comedy. The characters interact mostly on the job, where business etiquette and professionalism supplant the strict propriety of the Regency era. Half the fun of watching any modern retelling is seeing the clever ways in which the creators adapt the original material. And in “Emma Approved,” they nail a lot of the book. Example: In this series, Emma is a lifestyle coach and matchmaker. Is that perfect or what?

Color me intrigued! Where can I find this Web series?

It’s on YouTube — on the Pemberley Digital channel, no less, a company that plays an integral part in “Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Most “Emma Approved” episodes run no more than 7 minutes each so you can squeeze them in when you have the time. If you want to save yourself from watching ads (and the same title sequence 70+ times) as you binge-watch, you can buy episodes or the entire series on iTunes and Amazon, where they’ve been edited together in longer segments with no ads and fewer title credits.

All right, I’m in!

Great! I’ll try to post weekly and cover about five episodes (plus supplemental videos and any noteworthy Twitter interactions or blog posts) each time. Come back next week for the first installment (episodes 1-5, plus a bonus video)! Meantime: Ready, set, gooooooooooooooooooooo….


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