Netflix combines comedy, fame in YouTube star’s original show

One of Netflix’s newest original shows—titled “Haters Back Off!”—premiered on Oct 14. The “bizarre family comedy” stars Colleen Ballinger as her hit online personality, Miranda Sings. The series follows the story of Miranda, a self-absorbed, delusional and arrogant young performer who seeks YouTube fame.

Adapting a YouTube channel into a traditional TV show is untouched territory for Netflix, but Colleen’s channel—as dedicated to her character Miranda—seems like a great first choice. Netflix describes the show as “a commentary on society today and our fascination with fame,” and Miranda is certainly a character that exemplifies that.

The show follows Miranda as she uploads her first video, achieves the fame she chases as one of her videos goes viral and more. The show kicks off with Miranda singing her rendition of “Defying Gravity” as Uncle Jim records her. It’s obvious to the viewer that she cannot sing, but her astounding faith in her abilities is only fueled by her uncle’s praises.

Miranda fans will be excited to finally get the chance to see her mother Bethany and Uncle Jim—played by Angela Kinsey of “The Office” and Steve Little of “Eastbound and Down,” respectively—who are frequently mentioned in her YouTube videos. Miranda’s hypochondriac mother recognizes her daughter’s problematic behavior but is unable to speak up for fear of backlash from both Miranda and Jim, who are bent on achieving fame.

Viewers are also introduced to a few completely new faces, namely Miranda’s sister Emily—played by Francesca Reale—and best friend Patrick—played by Erik Stocklin. The only conventionally normal member of the family is Emily, who is seen by the rest of her family as the weird one. Patrick—who sells popsicles—is equally as funky as Miranda, but seems to take her flippant behavior to heart.

The major issue with the show—and perhaps the biggest concern for long-time fans of Ballinger’s Miranda Sings YouTube channel—is the transition between the short, inconsequential videos to the 30-minute episodes. The show tries to not only root the Miranda Sings’ character in reality, but also to create a more meaningful background story.

With this show, Netflix attempts to combine the offbeat comedy of Miranda’s character with a deeper message of society’s obsession with fame. Ballinger has expressed that she is aiming to show a different, more vulnerable side of Miranda—one that explains the source of her insecurities and her hilariously ridiculous personality.

Still, this combination can be jarring. The early episodes are full of cringe-worthy moments that create an atmosphere starkly different from the original YouTube videos. Fans are used to experiencing a Miranda whose purpose is purely to entertain. On YouTube she exists solely in the realm of online virality—she’s not real. The Miranda in “Haters Back Off!,” however, is like a real person, and her problematic nature becomes increasingly apparent—almost to the point of discomfort.

That being said, it may be helpful for those new to Miranda Sings to go online and familiarize themselves with her quirky humor and unfamiliar format. After watching her YouTube videos, the show’s message is clearer, thus prompting the viewer to question cultural norms and society’s hunger for fame and acceptance, in addition to the Internet’s role in that process.

All in all, the show is successful in taking Miranda Sings’ image and transforming it into something meaningful, and creating a person who—despite her odd behavior—is wildly relatable.