If Christmas movies (for the silver screen and the small screen) have long been a thing, Netflix is experimenting with the Christmas miniseries.
Dash hates Christmas. Having convinced both of his divorced parents that he spending the holiday with the other one, and having told all but his best friend that he is spending the holidays in Sweden, he is looking forward to peace and solitude.
Lily loves Christmas, and her family's big celebrations are a crucial part of that. So when her parents head to Fiji for the holidays, and her grandfather heads to Florida to visit his girlfriend, Lily is crushed.
Dash is handsome and funny, but also guarded and anti-social. Lily is creative and exuberant, but also risk-adverse and insecure.
Both are introverted bookworms with rich interior lives, and both adore the Strand Bookstore in the East Village. One day, urged on by her more adventurous and extroverted brother, Lily leaves a red notebook between Franny and Zooey and Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction. The notebook contains an enticement and a challenge.
Dash finds it and accepts the challenge. Soon the notebook is bouncing back and forth between them, each new entry containing a new dare in a different part of New York City. Dash and Lily have never met, but they get to know each other through the notebook. And the dares force each of them outside their comfort zones.
The first season is adapted from Dash & Lily's Book of Dares, published in 2010. The novel's authors traded off chapters, with David Levithan writing from Dash's point of view and Rachel Cohn writing from Lily's point of view. The series preserves the dueling perspectives with dueling narration, allowing for a real back and forth between these two kids who spend most of the season isolated in their own stories.
It's shot like a Christmas movie, with warm rich colors and bright twinkling lights. But the writing and acting are sharper, and the production values are significantly better, than a Hallmark Channel movie. Tonally, it feels much more like a young adult When Harry Met Sally...
Austin Abrams and Midori Francis are wonderful as the titular leads. You believe they're as smart as their characters, and they give performances that are both winning and at times surprisingly vulnerable.
The supporting cast is good too, especially Troy Iwata as Lily's brother and Dante Brown as Dash's best friend and matchmaker.
Netflix has already renewed it for a second season, to be adapted from the sequel novel The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily set a year later, but the eight half-hour episodes of the first season tell a complete and satisfying story with no cliffhangers.
If you like Christmas stories that mix in a sprinkling of cynicism with a heavy dallop of earnest holiday cheer, and romantic comedies that make the Big Apple look magical, "Dash & Lily" is highly recommended.