Literary Web Series: A Modern Retelling of the Classics

I’m more of a Charlotte Brontë fan, myself, but after binging on Pemberley Digital’s “Emma Approved,” I might be more inclined to pick up a Jane Austen book- or two.

The 72 episodes (yes, I watched them in a span of 24 hours) are a modern rendition of Jane Austen’s novel, Emma:

“Emma amuses herself by matchmaking, convinced of her own superiority and knowledge of people’s hearts.”

The web series showcases Emma Woodhouse as a 20-something lifestyle coach/event planner/matchmaker/all-around-renaissance woman whose ambitious yet stubborn spirit gets her into a world of trouble.

Binge-watching a web series was not how I imagined spending my Sunday, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show and it got me to thinking. Modern re-telling of classic contemporary tales as web series could be a way to rejuvenate, preserve, and inspire interest in a new generation of readers. By applying the story to a modern-day context, it delivers the story in a message that appeals to the digital generation while sparking interest in what the original text was about.

“Emma Approved” isn’t the only literary-inspired web series from Pemberley Digital; the production company is also responsible for the widely popular, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Welcome to Sandition, and Frankenstein MD (Which airs on PBS).

And Pemberley Digital isn’t the only one retelling classic tales. There are web series about Romeo&JulietJane Eyre, and more.

With web series like “Emma Approved,” classic literature has the ability to make its mark on yet another generation of readers.

Could this perhaps be an emerging trend that book publishers invest in to generate interest and sales of classic and  not-so-widely-known classic literature?

I guess we’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, what are some classic tales you’d like to see in a modern-day rendition?


2 thoughts on “Literary Web Series: A Modern Retelling of the Classics

  1. I’ve been a fan of Pemberley Digitial’s web series since my friend introduced me to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries back in 2012. I’d read Pride and Prejudice and seen several of the adaptations, but this was so new and cute and different to anything I’d ever seen before and I was instantly addicted.

    The thing that was really amazing to me about all Pemberley Digital’s series is the transmedia element. They basically set up fictional twitter accounts for each character and had them interact with each other as if they were real people. In Emma Approved they had a blog running as well. They have it all catalogued on their website in chronological order if you’re interested in checking it out. It really adds a new dimension to the series. (Pemberley Digital, 2014).

    I also love the New Adventures of Peter and Wendy series by Epic Robot TV and In Earnest, which is based off the Importance of Being Earnest. It only started a couple of weeks ago, but it’s really good so far!

    I never considered the idea of publishing companies using this literature web series trend to create their own content to sell books, but I would 100% approve. It would be way more interesting than regular marketing strategies.

    Also I would love to see The Secret Garden adapted for the web. It was one of my absolute favourite books growing up and I think it would work really well as a web series!


    1. I think Pemberely Digital is genius; I followed Emma’s blog and their creative use of social media truly allows people to connect with the characters in a way that, perhaps, the book didn’t allow them.

      The trend of book-adapted web series is becoming extremely interesting and I am just excited to see all of the creative ways people interpret classic literature. I’ve heard about the Peter Pan webseries–will definitely have to check that out.

      Hopefully publishing companies catch on; digital media has truly opened the door to a plethora of ways to tell and re-tell stories.

      Thanks for sharing : )

      Liked by 1 person

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