Friday, May 25, 2012

Weekend Web Series: Anyone But Me

Anyone But Me (season 1, episode 10: "Enormous Changes at the Last Minute")

Vivian is leaving NYC. Will her relationship with Aster survive?

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Anyone But Me is a teen lesbian drama created by Susan Miller (whose credits include The L Word) and Tina Cesa Ward. The series ended this March and you can watch all of its three seasons on YouTube.

I must admit I was very close to stop watching Anyone But Me after merely two episodes. Not exactly stop watching it - just bookmark it and save it for later, which usually means that I would stumble upon it again about two years from now and be like "oh yeah, I've meaning to watch this". But you know how it is: one more episode, one more episode, and then I really got into it and before I knew it I had watched the entire series. I should also point out that this is the very first web series I've watched in its entirety. Well, except for Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, but that was a while ago and besides, that's Joss Whedon we're talking about, so at that time I didn't really think of it as a web series; and okay, I have also seen that very short first season of Vag Magazine, so Anyone But Me is really the third. But my point is: this is the first series that has immediately gotten me excited about watching other web series as well.

Anyone But Me was a pretty random find. The show is featured in the tv series category on YouTube, and since my YouTube homepage is my personal page, I rarely notice the featured content. But I still thought I had discovered an obscure web series and I couldn't wait to write about it and maybe achieve my goal of convincing at least one person to watch it. Yeah. It turns out Anyone But Me is a very popular web series that has gotten a lot of press and awards and has over 11 million global views. That's pretty huge, especially for sth that is not comedy (because I have this theory, which I don't really have arguments for: comedy is easier to do in this medium, YouTube users will choose comedy series over drama, and if it's comedy and animation, that'll work even better; I might be wrong, I don't really know).

When you start watching Anyone But Me you should keep in mind that the first season was filmed in 2008. And in the world of web series (I know, I know, I'm annoying - I've only recently started watching them yet I sound like I already know everything there is to know about web series), a 2008 production that didn't shy away from shooting on location and in poorly lit high school hallways basically means a not so great image quality. However, by the beginning of the third season, the improvement in production is substantial.

I loved the writing on this show. The series finale left a few loose ends, but nothing really relevant to the story of Vivian and Aster. The good writing would mean very little though without the amazing chemistry between the two girls, between Rachael Hip-Flores (Vivian) and Nicole Pacent (Aster). I'm not one to place a lot of importance on the chemistry between actors, but in this case, this is the glue, it's what holds this show together.

In addition to Rachael Hip-Flores and Nicole Pacent, Jessy Hodges's (Sophie) good acting needs to be mentioned. Their bios suggest they're more focused on theater, but I do hope they're going to get more parts in tv/film because I would like to see more of them. Rachael Hip-Flores has such a warmth about her that her presence on screen is so soothing and heartwarming. And don't you think Nicole Pacent is a dead ringer for Eliza Dushku? (And there's another Joss Whedon connection for you.)

Since I'm on the topic of acting, sort of, I can't lie by omission, so I'll have to say I was pretty annoyed with aunt Jodie (Barbara Pitts). Oh, aunt Jodie is simply awful. You'd think this is her first time in front of the camera. And no, she doesn't get that much better by the end of the series.

ATTN Gilmore Girls fans! Liza Weil, or Paris, was a special guest star on Anyone But Me. She plays Aster's shrink. I didn't count the number of episodes she's in, but they are quite a few. (Hm, her bio on the ABT website says she was in a movie called Neal Cassady. I had no idea about it, I should watch it. Till On the Road comes out I guess I have plenty of time to do so. I'm dying to see On the Road, but more about that some other time. Btw, these days you can see Liza Weil in the first few episodes of Shonda Rhimes's Scandal.)

One of my favorite episodes of Anyone But Me was the first season finale, especially the library scene. Vivian pulls a book out of a shelf (the 07:57 mark), the book she was pretending to read when she first met Aster. The book is Jennifer Egan's Look at Me. I had read about this book at This Recording and it sounded really interesting, so I put it on my very long to-read / to-buy list. After having identified the book in this ABM episode, I couldn't believe how appropriate the choice of the book was. As Sarah Labrie at This Recording points out, there is a passage in Look at Me that can be linked to the 9/11 attack, even though the book was released before September 2001. And in Anyone But Me, the reason for Vivian's moving from NYC is the illness of her dad, former firefighter, an illness he contracted because of 9/11. On the day I watched ABM, I was thinking of placing an order with BookDepository, so after having identified the book in this episode, I couldn't help myself and ordered Look at Me, even though it wasn't one of my priorities. Just as Sarah Labrie mentions in her text, you can't find the 2001 edition of this book. I couldn't even find the edition you see in ABM, so I bought the newest edition, from September 2011, published by Corsair.

One last thing: Tina Cesa Ward already has a new project: Guards of Dagmar, starring the same lovely Rachael Hip-Flores. I see they're pretty far from reaching their goal on KickStarter, but I do hope they find the resources for this project because it sounds really interesting and geeky.

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