Watching The Hayley Project, one instantly draws comparisons to YouTube juggernaut lonleygirl15. The Hayley Project focuses on a college girl’s quest to find the truth about her friend Keira’s recent death. The series’ protagonist Hayley, played by Rachel Risen, vlogs in an effort to recruit her community of viewers to help her decide which leads to follow. The Hayley Project creators Andrew Park and Jato Smith’s use of the web as a platform is innovative. The show’s characters engage directly with the viewer to create a bit of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” quality to the show that makes it an exciting, interactive alternative to traditional television broadcasting for mystery junkies.
Unlike lonelygirl15, however, The Hayley Project’s acting is unconvincing and unnatural in its delivery. Looking back on the sincere, vulnerable quirkiness of lonelygirl15’s Bree, Hayley often appears scripted and robotic in comparison. We very seldom see any reaction from Hayley, even when the characters she meets dismiss her best friend’s death as “too bad…. She was hot.” So far, it’s tough to get a human reading on the series’ lead, making it difficult to want to “help her” as she implores us at the start of each episode. Lexi, Hayley’s roommate, is the most vivacious and dynamic character in the series, and it’s pretty clear we’re supposed to hate her.
We can’t lay all the blame on the talent, as the dialogue vacillates between passable, quasi-realistic banter to clunky, overwritten cliché. The pilot episode begins with some very unconvincing tears from Hayley and the bland assertion that Keira wouldn’t have killed herself (cue the melancholic piano) “… she had dreams,” which, according to the flashback seem to consist of a vague idea that she might want to be famous, “maybe an actor or a musician or something.”
Despite the weak acting and stilted dialogue, the storyline seems to be well thought out. Like Twin Peaks’ Laura Palmer, the series’ trailer sets up the likelihood that there is more to Hayley’s dead friend Keira than we may initially think. Faithful viewers might be in for some twists and turns, and they may even have some input into how Hayley solves the mystery. The filmmakers are earnest about creating an engaging story that viewers are invited to unravel with Hayley—let’s hope that as The Hayley Project progresses, the actors and writers find their footing.