Despite its name, Classic Alice isn’t a web series that takes its characters to any sort of wonderland.
Following Alice, an undergrad English major and aspiring writer, the series begins after she gets a bad grade (a B minus) on an English paper. Although Alice has a powerful analysis of literary classics, she’s missing the point — and the passion — from the poetry and fiction that she’s studying, and so to remedy this, she begins the ‘Classic Alice’ project.
Alice, type-A, anxious overachieving Alice, fears that she isn’t living her life to the fullest, missing out on the feelings and experiences that will make her capable of being a great writer. So, she decides to take her studies one step further, and live out the plots from classic works of fiction, instead of just writing about them.
To spur her towards taking action in her life — and to connect to the great works of fiction that she’s supposed to be learning from — Alice derives her actions from literary classics such as Crime and Punishment, Pygmalion, and even The Wind in the Willows. Helping her is Andrew.
And here, with him, is where things get interesting.
Andrew is a film student, narrating Alice’s project from behind the camera. He’s recording her actions as a final project for his documentary class, and he can’t quite help but interrupt Alice’s project as it goes along. Offering advice, handing out scorn, and often stepping into frame to join in on the action, even though he’s supposed to be staying away and not manipulating the scenarios.
Classic Alice diverts from the road that many modern adaptations are now taking. It’s attempting to recreate classic stories, yes, but when doing so, the characters always find flaws within the narratives. Alice is a student, learning and practicing her analysis skills, and it really shows throughout the episodes. Alice has a conscience, and therefore so too does her web series. She questions the moves that she makes — and those that the characters before her have made — which turns the show into a hybrid of sorts. A modern adaptation, yes, but of so many sources, and an adaptation that expands upon and critiques the original ideas that it is borrowing. Classic Alice seems little, but really, it’s huge.
It’s not even the plot that’s so good, but Andrew and Alice themselves. The pair (played by creator Kate Hackett and UCB alumnus Tony Noto) are the driving force of the series, and they share an obvious warm and flirtatious affection for one another. The first six episodes also have a certain intimacy to them that’s different from what follows, acting as a sort of pilot for the series when watched all at once. Alice and Andrew jump into this project not quite knowing what they’re doing, or the trouble that they’re about to cause — something that makes for excellent drama, and humor, too. As Alice is pushed out of her comfort zone, Andrew stands behind her as a safety net all of the way.
After those first six episodes, a Kickstarter was funded to pay for the next season (24 episodes in total, with only one as of yet unreleased), and now, Classic Alice is trying to do it again. It’s something that’s worth checking out, because in this show, Alice and Andrew are rewriting literary history. While Alice is reorganizing and invigorating her life according to a set of classic books, rewriting their stories throughout the series, Andrew is there right beside her, scrawling notes into the margins, and editing everything together.
It’s different from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries or Emma Approved, just as The Autobiography of Jane Eyre was too. Mainly because in Classic Alice, these characters, and what outcomes might come of them, are new to us.
The show takes inspiration from many classics, but it doesn’t allow these plots to overtake the characters’ own, individual lives. There is no source material here, just Andrew and Alice with a lot of books and a camera.
They’re muddling through some musty literary classics, and it’s a pleasure to watch them try and stick the landings.
Best Episode: “I Could Have Danced All Night,” the climax to the Pygmalion arc, where Ewan (a.k.a. Eliza Doolittle) finally gets to flourish in society with his new found social skills and style, ditching Alice as he does so. But it’s fine, really, because Andrew is there to comfort her when they get home. It’s not the plot that’s great here — as is true of most of the series — but instead the quiet intimacy between the two, as Andrew takes off Alice’s shoes and reads one of her newest short story drafts.