There are very few laughs in LOL, an independently produced web series from Manchester, England. Instead, creator Ric Forster’s teen drama series (currently on episode 17 out of 20) invokes the web slang ironically, the way you might try to defuse a sarcastic comment or cutting insult. Of course, when you’re a teenager juggling school, family, partying and your best friend’s boyfriend, nothing is a joke — life is quite serious.
The strong northern English accents give the series a sense of place, but they don’t interfere with a pretty universal tale of teens behaving badly. While warnings persist for strong language and adult themes, the plot is fairly conventional. But the story of Keely (Nicola Mahoney), a good girl who’s essentially taunted into going bad, finds a dark edge in the narrative’s fractured timeline, which flashes forward six months into the future, where the consequences of Keely’s ongoing downward spiral are much more evident. The pacing could be a little tighter, especially as the flashforwards reveal just how screwed up life for Keely and her friends has gotten, and characters could be explored more deeply. But on an episode-by-episode level, the drama is believable, well-acted and compelling.
There isn’t any interactivity or social networking to LOL, but sites like Facebook and Bebo are as integrated into the show’s writing as they are integrated into the life of the average teenager (on either side of the pond). The best detail is the use of status updates as voiceover: “Keely isn’t going to school today, feels proper ill…” our protagonist says as she secretly seduces Jaz’s boyfriend Dawber, while Jaz (Bryony Seth) updates that “Jaz wishes she was still round at Dawber’s.” It’s a subtle touch that invokes the way adolescents communicate, while simultaneously adding a sense of emotional awareness to an otherwise silent scene of students sitting in class.
The level of production is surprisingly professional given that according to Forster, the series was pretty much entirely self-funded. While he was able to make the first three episodes as part of a trainee director program at Lime Pictures, where he works full-time, the following 17 episodes were shot on location rather than sets and paid for out of pocket.
Thus, Forster’s primary goal for LOL is that it helps his cast get spotted for other projects and helps him find representation as a writer/director, making this another interesting show in search of an opportunity, and definitely one to watch.