To Binge or Not To Binge Episode 63: ‘Looking for Alaska’


Hannah Allred

(Graphic by Hannah Allred | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Arielle Gulley, Arts Writer


This article contains mild spoilers for “Looking for Alaska.”

Hulu’s newly released mini series “Looking for Alaska” seems to check all the marks when it comes to a successful show, except perhaps originality. The show is based on the novel by John Green, best known for teen romances such as “The Fault in Our Stars,” and was developed by Josh Schwartz and Stephanie Savage, the geniuses behind “The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl.” So basically, it was obvious prior to watching the show I was about to get a whole lot of teenagers with a whole lot of emotions. In this regard, “Looking for Alaska” did not disappoint.

The best part of the series was the creator’s decision to have it take place the same year the original book was published — 2005. Not only does this allow for a killer soundtrack — think along the lines of Jet, Death Cab for Cutie and 50 Cent — it also allows older viewers to look back on their own time in high school and revisit old friends in that awkward stage of life.

The story is loosely based on Green’s own adolescent years and centers around Miles (Charlie Plummer), a transfer student attempting to fit in and navigate a new boarding school with new friends. Miles and his friends — including the show’s namesake Alaska (Kristine Froseth) — go through the ups and downs of adolescence and tragedy in their lives while still attempting to find who they are as individuals — the struggle most teenagers face. The show is well-written but the characters are nothing new — the pretty, rebellious girl that everyone is infatuated with, the wise school teacher with great life advice for the students, the self conscious new student trying to find his way, the rich kid jocks and so on. While the show is a good one and does a great job at gaining empathy from its viewers, overall it felt as if it had been done before.


 To Binge or Not To Binge

Was the show good? Yes. I recommend it to anyone interested in a coming of age story that is going to make you feel something and question your life when you finish watching. Is it something I could sit down with and watch all eight episodes at once? I’m not entirely sure, especially because the material can be a bit heavy. While it’s focus is on 16-year-olds at a boarding school — a seemingly fun experience according to “Zoey 101” — it isn’t exactly the sunshine and good times that Nickelodeon made it out to be. It’s not a fun take that’s going to make you look back on your own high school memories with fondness and miss the good ol’ days. The show depicts the dark side of kids and their torment and ultimately makes you grateful you never have to go back to high school.


Best Episode

The show is basically the novel cut up into eight pieces. Pinpointing a single episode would be the same as pinpointing a chapter. While the series is meant to be watched in the order given and that is when it makes the most sense, it does have a bit of a slow start and finally gets its groove by episode four. The episode focuses on the friends, and you get more backstory and a look into the characters’ dynamics. 


Similar Shows

The show is a dramatic take on the lives of teenagers as they handle their wealthy peers, alcohol, drugs, etc. While the comparisons to “The O.C,” “Gossip Girl” and “One Tree Hill,” are obvious ones, honestly they are off base. The show has moments of humor but has a more serious nature than a typical teenage drama. It reminded me of “Perks of Being a Wallflower,” if it were diced up into eight parts instead of a two-hour feature film. Other similar shows include “Skins,” “Degrassi” and “My So Called Life.”


Trigger Warnings 

 “Looking for Alaska” contains underage drinking, smoking, suicide, death, depression and strong language.

“Looking for Alaska”
3.5 out of 5 stars
Available to stream on Hulu
1 season, 8 episodes, approximately 6.5 hours total.

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