Emma Approved Revival — the story so far

Ashyle Cota discusses the return of Emmy-winning webseries, Emma Approved

For those, bibliophile or not, who invested in The Lizzie Bennet Dairies, Welcome to Sanditon or Frankenstein MD Bernie Su has this year proffered his latest web series endeavour; a revival of Emma Approved on YouTube via Pemberley Digital. Their modern remaking of beloved Jane Austen stories won them two Emmys and the second season documenting spoilt heroine Emma Woodhouse revisits her life coaching company, Emma Approved, some years later and after the events of the novel. A new episode or Q & A video is released every Monday ad Thursday on their channel.

So far into the first few episodes, we see that the company is strapped for cash, requiring the help of patrons, and moved into a home office. The creators seem to be trying to really pull out the stops as the real life shareholders get to choose what client Emma will take on next. The new format of Emma Approved is made by a documentary team and, unlike her previous self-documentation of apparent greatness, it’s no longer just about her. I love the touch of having Bobby Martin ask the crew what kind of cameras they’re using, only to be reminded that he’s no longer the one behind the scenes and the lens. Emma herself has hit what she considers a career slump after the breakup of her client Anne Elliot’s engagement to Freddy Wentworth. They’re the main characters from Austen’s Persuasion, who we haven’t got to see on screen yet.

Contrary to the usual course of things, the prospect of marriage has signalled the end of romantic relationships in the Revival. Bobby and Harriet’s relationship ends after BMart caught the wedding fever and they discussed their futures. The crossover return of Richard Collins from The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, brings with him news of the termination of the planning of his nuptials with his betrothed, Jamie. Collins’s entry into the circle literally dishevels Emma (even disrupting the usual correcting of the ‘D’ in the title cards in the following episode) much in the same way that Alex Knightley emerges after his tussle with his upset girlfriend.

Emma has regressed, at first, to her old habits and remains just as blind to misguided attempts to help others which don’t always address their needs maturely. When she falls apart, Alex and Harriet are left to keep the ship afloat. Her relationship with Alex is one of him trying to restrain her wilder inclinations, which can’t be healthy for either of them, and he leaves her unsatisfied, wanting “more.” Given the state of the other relationships so far, I’d say this one may not last as long either.

The introduction by Alex of a confessional space, where one can talk directly to camera alone is the, is the equivalent of formerly religious, private catharsis in this doll house of utopian perfection and sanitised, secular world. Perhaps, it is also a clergy reference to the canon, a species of people Jane Austen took satirical issue with, and a foreshadowing of Collins himself. Moreover, this Lifestyle Excellence award-winning life coach of course needs pastoral care for herself. She’s not really alone; the documentary crew are present, providing timely probing questions just when necessary. They choose what to leave and what to edit, instead of relying on the supposed intuitiveness of a phone app as in Welcome to Sanditon.

BMart and Harriet both wanted different things and they are not really taking the break up well. Emma’s veneer of showwomanship may have to come off, but Harriet’s tendency to put on a brave face requires a little coaxing. Those who have watched the first season and read the novel will recollect that Harriet once preferred Knightley to any other man, although she liked Robert Marin from the start. These feelings were never explicitly resolved in either and it will be interesting to see how the Revival of Emma Approved deal with this development. For all her faults, her gut instinct is often right and she in fact did not approve of this match originally. She isn’t always mistaken and perchance will turn out to be the lovable character who, even in the nineteenth century, bewitched us all.