The first episode of Snapchat’s new micro-series Literally Can’t Even debuted this morning on the app’s new Discover media channel. While some may think the opening episode was “dumb,” there may be more promise in the series than meets the eye.
The show opens on two girls, Sasha and Emily, sitting in a car outside of a pool party debating whether to go in. Emily, played by Emily Goldwyn, is about to begin a cleanse — meaning no drinking for her. She complains to Sasha that she doesn’t think this is the right environment for her to kick off her sobriety.
“Exposure therapy is the only kind of therapy,” replies Sasha, played by Sasha Spielberg. The newly single Sasha is more worried about the guy she’ll be meeting at this party.
The show is composed in a comic book-style series of windows that highlights various angles of the scene in a way that’s easy to watch on a mobile phone held vertically. The show oscillates between one large frame and screen splits, but not in a way that’s jarring.
The three-minute show follows the girls as they try to survive this epic pool party, called “Sip & Surf XXX.” Upon walking into the pool area, the girls are shot at with a super-soaker water gun. The shooter, a tanned guy with rippling muscles, reveals himself as Xavier (pronounced Ja-Vee-eh) — Sasha’s potential love interest.
“Sick bod. Both of you guys actually. They’re different, but you’re both hot,” he says.
The rest of the party as you might imagine is a total train wreck. Xavier is intolerable. He corners Sasha and smacks her repeatedly with a pool noodle (in an effort to flirt?). Meanwhile Emily, ever determined to stay sober, is drinking cranberry juice and pretending to be drunk, so as not to blow her own cover. Though Emily is having a good time dancing and playing up a boozy facade, Sasha is ready to go. The girls conspire to leave after Emily “sobers up” and in the meantime, Sasha decides to hide under an overturned raft in the pool.
Of course, shortly before the episode ends, total chaos breaks loose. The climax hits when Xavier tries to “save” Sasha from her position under the raft and Emily tries to save Sasha from Xavier. Emily’s attempts are quickly squashed, because the other partygoers think she’s “too drunk” to go in the pool and Sasha is left to fend for herself.
The episode ends with Emily holding the hand of a soggy and bewildered Sasha, and softly whispering, “Sweet angel.”
Is the show terrible? Well, plenty in the Twitter-sphere think so. But that doesn’t mean Literally is without merit.
For one, the characters, though insipid, are accessible. They have the air of Romy and Michele, but updated for Snapchat’s under-25 demographic. What’s more, trailing two female best friends through their trials and errors as adult women is an easily consumable and familiar concept.
These aren’t likable characters. They’re exaggerated stereotypes of superficial girls, muscly bros in tank tops, and intense drinking culture. But they’re recognizable and easy to poke fun at. Some critics have said the show is too cringe-worthy to watch. But as modern media reminds us, discomfort is hardly a barrier to gaining a mass following. Just look to director Mike White’s HBO series Enlightened, or Vince Gilligan’s Breaking Bad.
But those shows are brilliant, you say.
Fine. Even if it’s not destined to be beloved, Literally could also be the kind of show you might find yourself hate-watching in the weeks to come.
Especially since Literally is less than five minutes long. Who doesn’t have three minutes of their day to sacrifice? Three minutes of boredom at work or in the middle of the night, where you turn to your phone for a brief moment of escapism. Everyone does. And if you’re one of Snapchat’s more than 100 million users, you’re likely to watch, even if it’s not every week.
However, you won’t be able to binge watch these episodes (though the first one has been unofficially uploaded to YouTube). They only exist for 24 hours after the time they’re posted — a decision in keeping with Snapchat’s ephemeral messaging platform.
It’s too early to tell whether Literally Can’t Even will prove stupid or smart, or even, dare I say, artful. But creating vibrant, bite-sized episodes of fiction is a smart move for a company clearly diving into media. And chances are it will lead to the kind of audience engagement advertisers are after and, in turn, to a potential source of revenue for Snapchat.