Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Haters Back Off Season One Review: A YouTube Celebrity Tries to Make it Episodically

Colleen Ballinger created a unique YouTube persona with legs in Miranda Sings. She's also a likable personality. Sincerity works in the favor of most YouTubers as they create vlogs and tweet to authentically connect with fans and Miranda has succeeded in connecting to her fans outside of her character.

Most of them know she's a very talented singer in her own right. In sketch-sized bits, the Miranda Sings character is quite brilliant as Jimmy Fallon's audience has gotten the chance to see a couple times.  .

Still, this only buys a small amount of of goodwill when you have to transfer an unlikable character into a narrative format. In this version, Miranda Sings, a horrible singer whose flirtations with YouTube gives her delusions of grandeur, tries to achieve fame with her deluded uncle (Steve Little).

The show's inherent weirdness also has a whiff of Tim Burtonesque suburbia (the framing of the house recalls "Edward Scissorhands") and the uncle's circuitously empty get-rich schemes recall Mike Judge.

Part of the origin of Colleen Ballinger's idea was her perception as a classically-trained musician that YouTube was giving rise to a coddled generation of singers who thought they were stars simply because they are getting internet views. That commentary is definitely apparent here: Miranda Sings is bratty to sociopath levels here, but she has an army of enablers. Her mother (Angela Kinsey) is afraid to say no to her, her (possibly intellectually challenged) uncle (Steve Little) fosters the worst parts of her self-esteem by a misguided belief that she'll be a star, and the boy next door inexplicably pines for her as if she's remotely worth the trouble.

The net effect of all these characters' combined idiocy is that you have to suspend your disbelief quite a bit. When you realize how terrible of a person Miranda Sings is, there's no reason to really want to try either. While many worthwhile TV shows have featured irredeemable characters, it's generally a tricky line to pull off.

It generally helps if there's an awareness in the TV show's universe that the person is, in fact, terrible (off the top of my head: "Legit", "The League", "It's Always Sunny", and "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and the show has the level-headed sister Emily but it's hard to explain away all the other people in Miranda's immediate sphere (the pastor who wants to date Miranda's mom) who aren't just yelling for poor Emily to be transferred to child protective services ASAP.

The show has a small smattering of moments of warmth in the first few episodes but for the most part, it's a tiring retread of the same problem-ridden characters continuing to do harm to themselves/ In the medium of TV that can be less tolerable to the viewer.

If you can hang on to the end of the first season,   SPOILERS AHEAD the show starts to turn things upside down in the penultimate episode with a game-changing season finale in which most of the characters wake up to the reality of their experiences. I'm not sure I'd recommend one should watch every episode until you get to the juicy stuff and I would have to fault the show for lacking an movement in the first six episodes.

Still, the season finale takes on an added level of depth that was lacking through much of the season. The ending has the haunting aura of a  Stephen King novel or a Twilight Zone Show episode. Miranda achieves fame but sells her soul and family in the process. I'm not sure if I'd recommend viewers stick it out to the en

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