Readers of this blog might suspect I play favorites. It’s kind of true: I have a soft spot for series by and about historically underserved groups.
Anyone But Me is not merely a “lesbian series” (what show is?). The show premiered in 2008 after the Writers Strike and gradually built a large and impassioned fan base. Part of the reason was, to be sure, its young and attractive lesbian leads. The L Word, on which ABM writer Susan Miller was a writer-producer, was entering its last season — and had lapsed creatively. There was a void in the market.
Yet the show also won recognition for its high production values — then much rarer online — confident direction by Tina Cesa Ward, elegant writing by Miller and solid performances from its ensemble cast, particularly the award-winning Rachael Hip-Flores. It was a serious show in a market crowded with punchy and short comedy videos. Since then, web drama has only grown, but few shows have matched Anyone But Me‘s dogged commitment to intimate storytelling. (The rise in drama has been led by genre programs from Machinima, Aol, BlackBoxTV, and ambitious standalones like The LXD; shows like Downsized remain pretty rare. Most other web dramas are melodramas, more concerned with expressionism than realism, which is fine, just different).
Credit for Anyone But Me‘s success has to be given to Ward and Miller, who have won awards for their writing, but deserve credit for being relentless and saavy marketers, keeping in touch with fans, fundraising with aplomb, marshaling celebrity endorsers and consistently winning press. Both women now have other projects in development and on the web: Miller has a show, Bestsellers, with SFN, while Ward has a concept-driven drama, Good People in Love, currently online, and another, Guards of Dagmar, in the works.
The 22-minute series finale takes the show full circle, back to Viv and Aster in Battery Park, but is really a meditation on growing up and dealing with change, a theme the writers broached from the start, in episode one. It’s an understated and hopeful conclusion to a classic web show.
“For Tina and me, the main concern was to come up with a story that would excite us, give our hugely loyal fans something to remember, and fulfill the arc of the show. Once we knew what that would be, it was really a matter of trusting the idea. We wanted the ending of the series to resonate somehow with the beginning,” Miller told me.
“Sure, there’s pressure before you actually start. But because of how deeply we’ve grown to understand the characters and trust our instincts for what’s right for the show, it was a really satisfying experience to make the finale something we can honestly say we wouldn’t do any differently. It’s a great feeling.”