Haters Back Off is a television comedy series starring Colleen Ballinger, based on her character Miranda Sings, that was released on Netflix on October 14, 2016. The "surreal and absurd" series centers around the family life of Miranda Sings, a sheltered, self-absorbed, overconfident and untalented young performer who seeks fame on YouTube. The half-hour episodes depict Miranda's road to fame, and the price she pays for trampling on the feelings of others, from the time she uploads her first video until one of her videos goes viral. The show co-stars Angela Kinsey as Bethany, Miranda's mother, Steve Little as Jim, Miranda's uncle, Francesca Reale as Emily, Miranda's sister, and Erik Stocklin as Patrick, Miranda's best friend. Netflix describes the show as "a bizarre family comedy, and a commentary on society today and our fascination with fame."
The show was developed by Colleen Ballinger and her brother, Christopher Ballinger, together with showrunners Gigi McCreery and Perry Rein. It is produced by Brightlight Pictures. The show is named for Miranda Sings' signature catchphrase that she uses when responding to negative comments on her YouTube videos. The series' eight episodes were released simultaneously worldwide. The show is one of the first scripted series created by a YouTube personality.
Netflix has renewed the series for an 8-episode second season, to be released in 2017. Ballinger told Entertainment Weekly that the writers plan to continue pulling stories "from things that actually happened to me in my career" and that "Miranda has a lot of mending relationships to do."
Since 2008, Colleen Ballinger has posted videos as her comically talentless, narcissistic and quirky character, Miranda Sings, primarily on the YouTube channel Miranda Sings. The character is a satire of bad, but egotistical, performers who film themselves singing as a form of self-promotion. Miranda is portrayed as a home-schooled young woman who is eccentric and infantilized, narcissistically believes that she was born famous, and is obsessed with show business fame. Miranda uses spoonerisms and malapropisms, is irritable, ludicrously self-absorbed and self-righteous, socially awkward, and has a defiant, arrogant attitude. She responds to people who offer criticism with the catchphrase, "Haters back off!"
Ballinger's videos received little traffic for more than a year, but in March 2009, she uploaded a Miranda video called "Free Voice Lesson", full of awful singing advice, that quickly became a viral sensation. This led to requests for Ballinger to perform live as Miranda, and she later began to tour worldwide. The Miranda Sings YouTube channel has received more than 1 billion views and has more than 7 million subscribers, making the character one of the most popular YouTubers. Ballinger's personal YouTube channel, PsychoSoprano, has more than 700 million views and 4.5 million subscribers. Miranda has appeared in character on television shows including Victorious, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, with Jerry Seinfeld, and The Tonight Show. Ballinger released a 2015 book, Selp-Helf, written in Miranda's voice, that ranked No. 1 on The New York Times Best Seller list for Advice, How-To & Miscellaneous.
Ballinger told interviewers that she and her brother Chris began to develop the idea for the show about five or six years ago. At first they considered a movie treatment but later decided on a television series format. Ballinger chose Netflix over HBO to produce Haters Back Off, because she felt that Netflix understood and was enthusiastic about the character and its online origin and fanbase. Comparing the show to Christopher Guest's Waiting for Guffman, showrunner Perry Rein said: "This is the first time we’ve done a show about a really bad dancer and singer. [It has] characters that take themselves very seriously in their very small worlds."
On YouTube, Miranda has always had an offstage relationship with her mother and uncle, and Ballinger had the idea for Miranda's best friend, Patrick, for a long time. Ballinger also said that she wanted to use the series and its longer format to expose Miranda's vulnerability and make her believable; to explain the source of the insecurities that make her so rude and eccentric. The character of Emily, Miranda’s sister, however, was new. Ballinger said that her brother, Chris, helped Francesca Reale to create the character. Emily is the only normal person in Miranda's family, but they treat her as the odd one, like Marilyn in The Munsters. The series greatly expands Miranda's world from what has been seen on YouTube. Miranda represents an "extreme version of what the average gawky teenage girl may be feeling."
When the show was first announced, /Film mused: "Haters Back Off seems like a smart move for Netflix. [A] streaming content provider seems like a natural fit. Her built-in audience is already used to watching original content online ... Netflix is just a few clicks away [from YouTube]." TechCrunch predicted that the show will be a success and recommended that Hollywood executives take note of Netflix's initiative. "[T]he rise of YouTube-fueled online influencers has been breathtaking ... building big audiences beyond the reach, knowledge and control of traditional entertainment gatekeepers, including the networks. ... Netflix can ... leverage the audiences of these online stars, and their marketing reach, to drive the fans to new properties ... online, where their fans already routinely seek entertainment". In September 2016, the series was included in The Wall Street Journal's list of "The 6 Best New Things to Stream in October". Bustle.com listed "11 Reasons You Should Watch ... Haters Back Off", commenting that the show "is already bound for greatness. ... Miranda has become emblematic of a new kind [of] star-seeker in the digital age: a youngster who decides that waiting for a fame-making opportunity simply won't do and that in order to become visible (and ostensibly beloved), you have to create the opportunities for visibility yourself. ... The show is destined to hit you right in the funny-bone."Colleen Ballinger as Miranda Sings, a home-schooled young woman
Angela Kinsey as Bethany, Miranda's hypochondriac mother
Steve Little as Jim, Miranda's enabling uncle and manager
Erik Stocklin as Patrick Mooney, Miranda's best friend and neighbor
Francesca Reale as Emily, Miranda's exasperated, voice-of-reason-and-normality sister
Chaz Lamar Shepherd as Keith, a local pastor
Dylan Playfair as Owen Trent, the church choir's dreamy but narcissistic guitarist
Harvey Guillen as Harvey, the manager and son of the owner of the fish shop
Lindsay Navarro as Kleigh
Rachelle Gillis as April
Ben Stiller as himself
John Early as Maureen, the Mattress Queen
Season 1 of Haters Back Off began filming in April 2016 in and around Port Coquitlam, British Columbia, near Vancouver, which substitutes, in the series, for Miranda's hometown, Tacoma, Washington. Filming on Season 1 wrapped on June 3, 2016.
Ballinger began promotions for the series in January 2016 with a comic YouTube video announcement. Miranda was featured on the cover of Variety, and in a feature article about the show, in June 2016. Ballinger also promoted the show on her social media, including with an original song about it performed by Miranda. On September 1, 2016, Netflix released the first production stills from Season 1. On September 21, the show released its first of a series of teasers. Ballinger appeared on The Tonight Show on October 14, 2016, to promote the series.
The first season of Haters Back Off received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a rating of 47%, based on 14 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Haters Back Off is bizarre, painful, and often times excruciatingly funny – yet the appeal of the YouTube transport doesn't quite carry over in the longer television format." On Metacritic, the season has a score of 54 out of 100, based on 9 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". The show won the "Best Comedy" award at the 2016 CelebMix Awards.
Positive reviews of Haters Back Off include Robert Lloyd's in the Los Angeles Times, who observed that, unlike in Miranda’s YouTube videos, the character's actions in the TV series have consequences and affect the other characters and their feelings. Lloyd thought that the series succeeds in "shaping a funny idea into a semblance of life". He praised the performances, especially Kinsey's. The Guardian printed two positive reviews: Brian Moylan called the series a "hilarious transfer to Netflix. ... Ballinger gets at something that is not only a cultural critique but often hits on the fragility of egos and everyone’s need for acceptance." In their other review, Stuart Heritage wrote: "It's a uniformly singular sitcom about the effects of fame, and frequently a very funny one. ... [I]t is great, once you’ve attuned yourself to its quirks". Melanie McFarland, on NPR, compared Miranda's world with Pee-wee Herman's, saying that both are "perversely funny, cartoonish worlds that also manage to be weirdly innocent. 'There's just that sly element of wrongness about it that makes it oh so right.'" Daniel D'Addario wrote in Time magazine that the series "is imperfect, but it's also more than it needed to be. ... Ballinger examine[s] what the obsession with having fans papers over and the new problems it creates." Paste magazine ranked Haters Back Off as the 9th "best new Netflix Original Series of 2016".
TheWrap's Michael E. Ross called the series an "antic, sometimes wise, often laugh-out-loud funny case of art imitating life imitating art", noting that "there are times ... when the veneer of ego is stripped away, and we discover the shy, insecure young woman behind the bluster. Haters reflects a hearty sense of humor about the genesis of online celebrity. ... [W]hat resonates ... is Miranda’s underlying humanity, her basic drive to be recognized, to stand apart from the crowd. And we can all relate to the pain of rejection". Jasef Wisener of TVOvermind.com gave the series 3.8 stars out of 5. He was favorably impressed by the character development and the performances, especially Ballinger's and Reale's. He also liked its structure and musical score, but felt that the exposition was sometimes bogged down in the early episodes by its explanation of details and sometimes panders to Miranda's established internet audience; he felt that the series improves in the later episodes. He disliked the sexual innuendos and found Miranda's relationship with Uncle Jim uncomfortable, although these are elements carried over from Miranda's YouTube videos. The A.V. Club's Danette Chavez commented that Ballinger's "portrayal of Miranda is multidimensional in spite of the character's single-mindedness. ... Haters fleshes out the environment that would spawn such an egotistical personality. ... [L]aughs are as consistently delivered" with zany comedy, although the "domestic strife and even anguish" makes the series nearly a dramedy. But she felt that "sometimes the foreshadowing is just a little too foreboding. ... the tonal shifts don’t always jibe."
In a mixed review for New York magazine's Vulture site, Jen Chaney judged that "not everything in Haters Back Off! works. ... If you find Miranda Sings irritating after watching a two-minute YouTube clip, you should find something else to put in your queue. But ... fans ... who have a reasonable amount of patience will likely find some redeeming qualities to latch onto, especially as the episodes progress. ... Miranda is a purposely maddening character. But Ballinger commits to her so fully and with such specific physicality ... that she's often mesmerizing to watch. ... [But] maybe Miranda Sings is better in shorter doses." Similarly, for The New York Times, James Poniewozik wrote that:
Like Miranda’s performances, Haters can be terrible and transfixing at the same time. ... Ballinger commits to Miranda's hunger and histrionics. ... There's a deeper pathos to Miranda's situation, but the season doesn't delve deeply into that until late, by which time haters will have long since backed off. ... There's a lot in Haters Back Off! to gratify Ms. Ballinger's YouTube fan base. ... Beyond the winces, there's something human in its comedy of internet thirst: the insatiable drive to put a piece of oneself out into the world and hit refresh, refresh, refresh.
Brian Lowry, writing for CNN, had a mostly negative reaction. While he felt that while the series' "critique of a fame-obsessed culture certainly has merit", and that the later episodes "reward patience", the show was too "cartoon-like", and "there's a sense that the series is stretched beyond what it has to offer." Keith Uhlich, in The Hollywood Reporter, found the gags funny, but he concluded that although Miranda is "an acidic critique of the very celebrity strivers who make up the majority of the YouTube community", it is more effective "in short bursts". In "an eight-episode Netflix series ... the lampoon loses its edge". He also thought that much of the pathos in the series is "unearned, unconvincing" and the characters are "shallow vessels freighted down by contrived plot complications . ... And there's more than a bit of that vainglorious YouTubers' entitlement in where Haters ultimately ends up, the satire finally curdling into smugness." Sonia Saraiya of Variety did not think that the series has "the same organic appeal as Ballinger’s bizarre, pastiche-y videos. ... Miranda lacks some of the innocent naivete that makes her character work on YouTube. ... Miranda’s behavior ... could be raucously hilarious [for some viewers], an example of theater-geek self-obsession run amok. For me, anyway, Miranda’s obsessions and absorptions ... prove to be more tragic than hilarious." Rob Lowman of the Los Angeles Daily News wrote: "The series seems to want to exist somewhere between a Pee-wee Herman world, where Miranda exists within her own reality, and Waiting for Guffman or other parodies of self-important clueless people. It doesn’t succeed as either, nor on its own terms.
The show debuted as the 2nd most popular digital original series in the US for the week of October 14–20, 2016.