TV Review: Miranda Sings’ ‘Haters Back Off!’ on Netflix

Haters Back Off Netflix
Courtesy of Netflix

A YouTube star makes the jump to Netflix, with mixed results

Miranda Sings’ signature look is clown-red lipstick and eyebrows tweezed to pained, trying-too-hard cartoon arcs. Her hair is parted down the middle and held back with bobby pins, and she dresses like a third-grader from 1995. The effect is atrocious, which is the point. Miranda Sings, a socially maladjusted, abrasive teen with delusions about her own talent, is the alter ego of YouTube whiz Colleen Ballinger, who created Miranda eight years ago and, along the way, hit a nerve. Ballinger has 7 million YouTube subscribers and views of her videos number in the billions; she is the first YouTube personality to jump from internet fame to scripted television.

Unfortunately, “Haters Back Off!” doesn’t have the same organic appeal as Ballinger’s bizarre, pastiche-y videos. The short format and context-less medium of YouTube serves Miranda’s larger-than-life personality well; in an ocean of amateur, self-absorbed content, Ballinger’s Miranda schtick has welcome teeth. But in half-hour scripted episodes, Miranda chews and chews and chews the scenery, making it difficult to either believe in or laugh at a story about her.

With its staunchly middle-America aesthetics and bludgeoning awful personalities, the Netflix comedy feels like a pale imitation of 2004’s “Napoleon Dynamite.” The difference is that Miranda, unlike Napoleon, hasn’t found anything that doesn’t make her immediately think exclusively about herself. As a result, “Haters Back Off!” starts out almost unwatchably awkward. Miranda’s an egomaniac who can’t sing — who dabbles in casual racism and steamrolls over her long-suffering family members — but by the end of the first episode, the audience is supposed to feel for her, albeit just a tiny bit.

It’s hard to make an unlikeable character compulsively watchable, and in “Haters Back Off!,” Miranda lacks some of the innocent naivete that makes her character work on YouTube. In the context of a scripted series where at least a few people in the cast are relatively normal, Miranda is by contrast not just another self-obsessed YouTube star but apparently mentally ill. The soothing care with which her sister Emily (Francesca Reale) and mother (Angela Kinsey) handle her tantrums suggest that Miranda has had to be managed for a very long time.

There is something interesting to be said, in Miranda’s world, about desperate longing for Internet fame in a blip of a town where wieners on toothpicks are the height of sophistication. YouTube is a fascinating medium because of how intimate it can be; the viewer is brought right into the star’s bedroom to share in flights of fancy or upfront confessional. “Haters Back Off!” offers traces of that fascinating landscape, including moments where Miranda’s kooky, sullen frustration is completely understandable. But the show is too caught up in the foreground of attempting to be brutally funny with material that was fresh 12 years ago.

But who knows? Miranda’s not for everyone, but has a devoted following all the same, and that could be the case for “Haters Back Off!,” too. For a certain demographic, Miranda’s behavior during a church choir rehearsal could be raucously hilarious, an example of theater-geek self-obsession run amok. For me, anyway, Miranda’s obsessions and absorptions, which come at the expense of her sister’s happiness, her mother’s peace of mind, her uncle’s financial stability, and the lives of several goldfish, prove to be more tragic than hilarious.

TV Review: Miranda Sings' 'Haters Back Off!' on Netflix

Crew

Executive producers, Colleen Ballinger, Chris Ballinger, Kristen Zollner, Ted Biaselli, Brian Wright, Josh Barry, Jeff Kwatinetz, Gigi McCreery, Perry Rein

Cast

Colleen Ballinger, Angela Kinsey, Francesca Reale, Erik Stocklin, Steve Little

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 20

Leave a Reply

20 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. robert says:

    I think the show is hilarious..Similar type of comedy like Howard Stern’s Son of the Beach..

  2. Helen says:

    I guess it all depends on you pov as I think it is similar to Napoleons dynamite but much much funnier!! ND was meh, I guess it’s a bit funny in a weird way.

  3. The first thing I noticed was the rating pg-14 and I said hmmm. Then I came to the same relation and thought wow this is kinda like napoleon Dynamite, just not funny. Idk if it’s that pg-14 rating or what, it is just cringe worthy and you find yourself trying to look away from the screen then actually laughing. probably favorite character if I had to pick one was the kid who’s head over heals for her.

  4. Disappointed Mirfanda (NOT a Hater) says:

    I love the Miranda YouTube videos, but I have to agree with the author. The sitcom format just makes Miranda seem like a cringe-worthy character with a mental illness, a pedophilic uncle, and an overall disturbingly dysfunctional family. The script is shapeless yet predictable and relies on a combination of old Miranda jokes (which were hilarious in the original YouTube videos), tastelessly morbid and sexual humor, and secondhand embarrassment. Also, the transmisogynistic joke in episode four was cheap and lacked the satirical charm that makes Miranda’s prejudices funny rather than offensive.

  5. Chuck Maiden says:

    I was introduced to Miranda Sings’ videos through my 12-year old daughter. At first I was skeptical of anyone my daughter was following on Youtube, but when my daughter mentioned that she was hilarious (she has good taste and does a dead on impersonation of her) and also how she felt empowered by her hater handling, I was curious so I checked her out. I was immediately blown away by Colleen’s originality and quick thinking comedic riffing, so I quickly became a fan also. My daughter’s dream was to meet Colleen and came true when we got treated by a meet and greet at a live local performance (Beatlemania born again, BTW). When my daughter broke into tears when meeting her, Colleen wrapped her and rocked her in a hearfelt hug that lasted several seconds.

    So I come at this comment being admittedly biased. I get everyone’s perceptions about the show—I too was concerned about the translation from Youtube to series—but after watching 4 episodes, I realize now that Colleen’s genius is being expressed in a new way with this character. The show can be compared to other things—that’s human nature—but it stands alone, in my opinion. It’s an alternate universe. All I know is that I am laughing and laughing hard. The characters are outlandish and diverse but that lends to it’s interest. The weird thing is that they all have a connection to a reality in all of us, whether we like it or not. Miranda Sings is a new kind of comedian at the level of Charlie Chaplin, in my opinion.

  6. Fuelbot says:

    Actually, she isn’t the first. That would be Issa Rae. Her show just took longer to air.

  7. chad says:

    I had to turn it off lol…

  8. Jason says:

    I found it so funny! I never watched her youtube videos but couldn’t help but laugh at watching the show on netflix. It’s laugh after endless laugh. LOVE IT!

  9. Susig says:

    I am a Miranda fan..and so disappointed with the show. I think the problem, apart from the poor script is the really bad casting choices for the family members. It just wasn’t funny or endearing. Such a shame.

  10. ColdBrewCow says:

    I think the first youtuber to have a scripted show was the guy who did the Fred videos. It was on Nickelodeon.

  11. justin james says:

    “For me, anyway, Miranda’s obsessions and absorptions… prove to be more tragic than hilarious.”

    Interesting. That tends to be the main problem I find with MOST youtube ‘stars’

  12. Daniela says:

    I actually like it lol. It doesn’t have the same appeal as her videos and it isn’t perfect, but I enjoyed the first couple of episodes enough to feel like watching the whole thing. I don’t know if I completely dig the whole mentally ill thing, it might have been better if everyone just thought she was normal, but its interesting anyways. I think the show will do fine, you just have to have a very specific sense of humor I guess. Or maybe just be used to Miranda…

  13. Kalisha says:

    so true. i’m a fan of her YT work but am ultimately disappointed by the series so far. pretty monotonous and predictable.

  14. My name? Uh.. Yeah freaking RIGHT...gotcha. says:

    This is exactly the review I expected from this show. I laughed at the part where she just comes off as mentally ill, lol. I can totally see that being the perception. I think Miranda’s Mom and uncle were always meant to be “behind the curtain.” Can’t wait to see it anyway!

  15. Emmettito says:

    I think that this writer is obviously a HATER and does not like Miranda!! In all seriousness, this series was not meant to be taken seriously. As said by Colleen herself, Miranda is a despicable character. That’s why so many people love her, she cuckoo! Miranda is always saying she is greater than everybody when she is obviously the worst. Miranda Sings as a character is new, fresh, and hilarious.

  16. Noyce! says:

    Bo Burnham was the first YouTuber to really break into scripted, with cameos in movies like “Funny People” and as creator/writer/star of his hilarious series, “Zach Stone is Gonna Be Famous” on MTV.

  17. Robbie says:

    This will bomb. Netflix needs to scale back. Quality, not quantity, kids. Leave the YouTubers to YouTube, it’s where they belong.

More TV News from Variety

Loading