'Haters Back Off!' doesn't earn much love on Netflix

(CNN)Marking the latest YouTube sensation to attempt the leap to TV, "Haters Back Off!" is one of those concepts that, in this age of abundance, get awkwardly expanded from what could have been a "Saturday Night Live" sketch into a full-blown series.

Featuring Colleen Ballinger as Miranda Sings, the utterly clueless would-be sensation she created online, the eight-episode show does moderately reward patience at the finish. Still, "Haters" doesn't earn much love getting there with its cartoon-like portrayal of a young woman convinced she's destined to for stardom, and the creepy uncle who aids and abets her.
The show's critique of a fame-obsessed culture certainly has merit. But the writing comes at that notion so broadly as to undercut its efficacy.
    The series opens with Miranda posting a YouTube video of herself singing a song from "Wicked," badly. She's egged on by her uncle Jim (Steve Little), who has his own reasons, revealed later via flashback, for living vicariously through her.
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    Unfortunately, their shared delusions are largely tolerated by Miranda's sack-sad mom ("The Office's" Angela Kinsey), leaving it to Miranda's sister, Emily (Francesca Reale), to be the lone voice of reason, at one point saying, "Someone needs to be honest with her and tell her that she's got no talent."
    The ripple effects of Miranda's self-absorption extend to her neighbor, Patrick (Erik Stocklin), who is not so secretly in love with her. As the show progresses, Emily and Patrick become its primary source of humanity, as Miranda endures one indignity after another but receives enough encouragement (sometimes misread or inadvertent) to keep her committed to her elusive path.
    With her nasal twang, clown lipstick and exaggerated phrasing, Miranda is essentially the offspring of two blasts from "SNL's" past -- Gilda Radner's nerdy Lisa Loopner and Bill Murray's Nick the lounge singer. Asked whether she's an alto or a soprano, she indignantly sneers, "I'm American."
    The program's melancholy quality does resonate to a degree in the final chapters, when some of the ongoing plots -- including Patrick's unrequited crush and mom's hunger for any semblance of a life, despite Miranda's objections -- come to a head.
    Even then, though, there's a sense that the series is stretched beyond what it has to offer, and the episodes, which generally run a little more than 30 minutes, feel like a long sit.
    Granted, one can see why Ballinger's intentionally awful videos garnered attention, but "Haters Back Off!" (a reference to how Miranda addresses her online critics) is just the latest transplant to demonstrate the lingering if narrowing gap between YouTube and more traditional platforms.
    Mostly, the series belabors a point better made in a more bite-sized format -- namely, that being bad can be harder than it looks.
    "Haters Back Off!" premieres October 14 on Netflix.