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In an era that has witnessed the steady rise of YouTube and its own brand of celebrities, it seemed only natural that literary web series adaptations would find their way into the vlogging sphere at some point.

Well known for their reimagining of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into 2012’s Lizzie Bennet Diaries, Pemberley Digital has led this up and coming genre, lining up the ranks with the Emma adaptation Emma Approved, and Frankenstein MD. There is no shortage of alternatives outside Pemberley Digital, either. Some adaptations are definitely better than others, but there is nonetheless a series for almost every area of the literary spectrum. If Jane Austen isn’t quite your cup of tea, Anne Shirley is a seventeen-year-old vlogger in Green Gables Fables, and Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre comes to vlogging life in The Autobiography of Jane Eyre. Whether you’re up for Edgar Allan Poe retold in A Tell Tale Vlog, or Peter Pan reimagined in The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, YouTube has something for you.

Particularly popular for these web series adaptations, however, is the world of Shakespeare.

As someone who has at one point become too weary of Romeo and Juliet retellings and didn’t quite enjoy the web series Jules and Monty as much as I’d like to, I wasn’t too excited about discovering The Candle Wasters. The Candle Wasters is a team of four young women that produced a New Zealand-based adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing roughly a year ago, and if anything, I’m a little disappointed I didn’t find them sooner.

Their adaptation, Nothing Much To Do, is a reimagining told through three different YouTube channels — one for the modern Beatrice, one for the modern Benedick, and a third, more neutral vlog, to show parts of the story not present in Beatrice and Benedick’s stories. Beatrice (Harriett Stella) and Benedick (Jake McGregor) are high school students caught, to the dismay of their group of shared friends, in a heated rivalry that often gets in the way of the gang’s daily shenanigans. The bitter air between the two, however, makes way for a romantic storyline as the drama in the core of the story unfolds and they are forced to re-evaluate the dynamics of their peer group.

There’s more characters featured in this series than most adaptations, but instead of being scattered and overwhelming, Nothing Much To Do thankfully does not allow any characters, major or minor, to fall flat. The actors are convincing and lovable in each of their roles, and the chemistry between the two main characters rounds out a charming, well-developed cast. The larger number also allows the series to branch out from the typical bedroom-restricted monologues, and most episodes feature different filming locations and interactions with secondary characters.

The plot does take a while to pick up, but the modernized adaptation of the same storyline and at times even the exact same scenes from the original Shakespeare is refreshing and realistic enough that you can’t begrudge the slow pace of the first few episodes. Multiple elements of the original Shakespeare play are brilliantly present in the narrative, smoothly transitioned into the world of teenage woes and impressively far from being anachronistic. It’s obvious that The Candle Wasters have closely studied the material they’re working with, from clever allusions to specific lines in Much Ado About Nothing to cheeky references to other Shakespeare plays passed off as offhand remarks. Combined with an amazing cast and extremely well written dialogue, this easily makes Nothing Much To Do my new favourite literary adaptation on YouTube.

The Candle Wasters are currently working on Lovely Little Losers, an adaptation of Love’s Labour’s Lost serving as a sequel to Nothing Much To Do. They have recently launched a Kickstarter for Bright Summer Night, an adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and with what I’ve seen so far, I can vouch for the fact that this production crew is brilliant at what they do, and deserves all the support they can get.

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By: Hess Sahlollbey

One of the most highly controversial TV shows this fall, Supergirl finally aired and blew me away. From the moment the six minute preview appeared online, fans of the character were quick to write the show off as being too clichéd.

Having now seen the first three episodes, I’m better equipped to judge the show than I was after seeing the preview.

In Supergirl, Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El (Melissa Benoist) is a fish out of water. Having grown up on Krypton, Kara has come to earth as a teenager to escape Krypton’s destruction. While she might not have been born on earth, she’s more than ready to prove that she can get by just fine without help from her famous cousin, the Man of Steel. That being said, the show did feel a little too much like a chick flick since it had all the usual tropes: A best friend who is not so secretly in love with her, a shitty job where she fetches lattes for a Devil Wears Prada type boss, and a handsome new co-worker who can make Kara instantly forget how to speak. The suspension of disbelief can get to be a bit much when Kara has a luxurious apartment despite being a columnist with apparently no job security. Kara also disguises herself in plain sight by wearing her hair in a ponytail and glasses just like Clark Kent does. Later, she rids herself of both and receives compliments from her crush.

In Supergirl, Kara has her heart set out for Jimmy Olsen. And while their flirting may be sweet, it again feels a little too formulaic. In defense of the show, this was a pilot and its purpose is to set the stage. I’m already looking forward to the development of their romance — it feels more natural than the usual unresolved sexual tension of a will-they-or-won’t-they that we see on most shows.

Another point that interested me was the discourse between Kara and her boss, media publisher Cat Grant, over whether or not Kara’s superhero alter ego should be known as “Supergirl” or as “Superwoman.” As Superman’s cousin, Kara finds it insulting, telling Cat, “I’m a woman.” Cat, however, laughs in her face and says, “No, honey. You’re a girl. I’m a woman” as Cat attempts to take back “girl” as empowering.

Later there are subtle Superman cameos that don’t take the spotlight away from Kara. Anything from a blurry vision of him jumping in at the last minute to lend a helping hand to Kara, to the text message exchanges they have from time to time. While it would be nice to see the Last Son of Krypton, I can’t say that I miss him. Melissa Benoist is very likable as Kara all on her own.

If you’ve been craving more female centric superhero shows then rejoice in knowing that Supergirl is definitely worth a watch. What I like most about it is that the show has a lot of heart. Unlike 2013’s Man Of Steel, which had audiences divided on the cynical portrayal of Superman, Supergirl is a very family-friendly adaptation of the comics.

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This January marked the release of CBC’s six-part mini-series adaptation of Lawrence Hill’s The Book of Negroes. Fans of the book will attest that the novel set a high bar, and the show does an admirable job of striving towards it. When Hill, who lives in Hamilton, released the novel in 2007, it caused a ripple of shock. With a bold and well-researched take on the slave trade, Hill brought to life a part of the past that is not often talked about. While in no way an easy watch, the show captures Hill’s tale onscreen.

The show picks up where the book begins, with an aged Aminata Diallo recounting her life story in front of the English Parliament. She starts with her childhood in Bayo, Africa. As she speaks, the scene switches, matching her words. Her relationship with her parents is laid out beautifully, only for it to be torn at the seams moments later. Sold into slavery at 11 years old, Aminata is tied to a coffle of other village members, loaded onto a ship and made to endure a horrific crossing into what would become her new life as a slave. From this point on, the show is trademarked by heartbreak. While fans of the book may be surprised that the most graphic of details have been subdued, it is inevitable that many scenes will still make viewers cringe. The epitome of human cruelty is not an easy sight to witness, even more so when the recipient is an unsuspecting child.

The show jumps into the middle of the action without hesitation. The resulting momentum might leave the most faint of watchers with whiplash. Cinematically, choppy segmentation and brief scenes characterize the beginning of the show but it becomes more seamless with time as it settles into a more comfortable rhythm.

Central to the story is setting, and the show’s cinematography does it justice. Scenes of fog rising from the jungle floor and stretches of pale sand on blue sky are breathtaking, juxtaposing the horrid scenes that characterize the plot.

The opposite of lighthearted, The Book of Negroes is bound to turn stomachs and weigh down hearts. Even harder to swallow is the acknowledgment that the tales of human enslavement are not fiction, but a part of the past. In one particular scene, Aminata describes the moment when the people in her village began to “slip away like the moon behind the clouds. Only unlike the moon, the villagers didn’t come back.” The Book of Negroes allows viewers to follow Aminata as she too slips behind the clouds, and into the open arms of the slave trade.

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