Monday, September 4, 2017

The Bold Type Season 1 Mini-Review

We at least need to check out your vageen (yes this is a word-for-word direct quote, spelling and all)

What is it? Hour-long domestic/workplace drama on Freeform
Who stars in it? Katie Stevens from Faking It (which I understand is a very similar workplace femme-focused drama), Aisha Dee who seems to have had a number of significant roles with various other shows and Meghann Fahy (yes her name's spelled corrected) in which this seems to be her first major starring role on a TV series and may I add, yes as a redhead is quite a stunner ^_^
Where does it air? Freeform, which tries to advertise itself as Disney Channel but for cool older kids. It's actual success at it seems somewhat mixed especially now that Pretty Little Liars has bowed out (indeed, a few of their hopeful similarly-themed PLL replacements seems to have arrived with massive, dead thuds and TBT seems to be a turn towards a different direction, but more on that).
Why are we reviewing this? Well, we'll get into that.

...man, what a frustrating show to watch.

I was really looking forward to this when I first heard about it - yes, the "incredibly sexy women working at basically Cosmo" was a hook, but what I'm really interested in is "incredibly sexy women become well-rounded characters and legitimate feminist pioneers in an industry that, while seem as being dominated by women, still largely cater to men's interests, especially financially and sexually and start breaking barriers and changing cultures" which is practically this show's tagline (I'm sure the real one is less long-winded). This is one of my favorite genres in young adult lit and adult lit books aimed at younger 20-somethings (and I'm not afraid to admit I loved The Devil Wears Prada) and it was exciting to see something like this, a "what if in The Devil Wears Prada Anne Hathaway's character just refuses to take any bullshit whatsoever from literally Day 1?" as a regular, weekly series in 1080p glory.

Unfortunately, the series we actually get doesn't quite pan out that way. There are hints of pioneering feminism and fierce independence here and there, but all-in-all I feel the show is exactly seeped in the same male dominance the characters are allegedly trying to fight. The main trio are constantly trying to push for more articles of substance, are constantly being pushed back by demands they write articles that glorify women as sex objects and little more and...really, I think the series has our main trio simply cave too much and celebrate it as a victory. There's some interesting LGB...well, L issues being explored and while it manages to rise above "the only reason this show even has lesbians, or a kinda-sorta-maybe lesbian, is because the hetero guys think it's hot" (kinda) quite frankly that's not enough nowadays, when even Doc McStuffins and Good Luck Charlie can have lesbians portrayed in a positive or at least neutral light and while I don't mind lesbians expressly showing interest in being romanced (that kinda is the whole point of being a lesbian, or being hetero or anywhere on the sexuality spectrum aside from asexual, after all) or even being objectified, that objectification has to come with some justification. Aisha's character - Kat - does indeed have that justification, and I'm not saying it's weak, I'm saying it feels weak relative to other portrayals of lesbians I've seen on television. The bar's just simply moved, and it feels like Freeform's keeping up only with the absolute bare minimum just so they can say, hey, we're with the times.

And as for our remaining two heroines, Jane and Sutton...they do kinda-sorta feel like minimally spiced-up The Devil Wears Prada copy-pasta jobs.

I know the professional reviewers rave about this, especially from reviewers who at least claim to actually be from this exact type of magazine background and say that this is practically 100% accurate. I don't doubt that accuracy...and that's what scares me. I specifically want to see strong women, but it feels like the show's trying to handwave and convince us that these women have strength when I don't really see it. That's what makes it absolutely disheartening and frustrating to watch, and I really, really hope that the professional women working in actual magazines are better able t express opinions regarding distasteful articles and practices in favor of ones that might better appeal to other professional women and make professional women realize that these articles actually have substance and of use instead of basically advertising oneself as a sex object. And again, there's nothing wrong with expressing sexuality, whether with oneself or with another - but Kat and Sutton's quest to give Jane her first orgasm just comes off as incredibly awkward and even downright comfortable.

I don't know. Maybe it's just because I'm not a woman. We have, like, a single female commentator here and I don't know if it's enough to really get to know if my feelings and assessment here is legitimate or not. Aside from just going by the ratings, which so far isn't great and even worse (actually much worse) than two one-and-done series canceled from last year, Guilt and Dead of Summer.

So, uh, well I guess no mini-review of Season 2 then :(


Season Grade: C+-ish to B minus-ish, I'm leaving a lot of wiggle room to account for "maybe I just don't get it," but I stand by saying that I still feel wanting more than "women romp around working for a glorified sex magazine." I was going to add "and celebrate at the end of every episode just for surviving another day" but if it really was about that I think I would've kept watching.
Season MVP: But I will say it's very well-cast and all the actors are top-notch and very believable. Any of these women could very well get it, but I'm giving it to Meghann Fahy because she's really drop-dead gorgeous. Really, she's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen in my life, I mean it. Not that the other women aren't absolutely to-die-for gorgeous either.

...and now that I'm actually reading what I'm typing, I realized I kinda self-defeated that whole "I wish this was actually more feminist" rant.

Extra Thoughts

 - wow, that really didn't end up being all that much of a mini-rant after all, didn't it?

 - In case you're wondering what I think of Freeform in general...eh. Shadowhunters is...eh, with an insanely hot redhead in it. PLL is...fucking bonkers, with an extremely hot daughter of a bigshot TV executive producer in it. Beyond that I don't even know of any shows that made the ABC Family/Freeform transition or premiered since. I'll always associate ABC Family/Freeform with The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the show AV Club claimed was invented by aliens with only a minimal, fragile grasp on what the human species is actually like. 

Well...there is one show I've seen, the reality-docu Cheer Squad which...I really, really liked. Professional cheerleading (yes it's a real sport/thing) may not have the most feminist street cred (and I know I severely damaged mine throughout the course of this review) but it's really interesting seeing just how hard these women work and just how intense it is, but sadly it doesn't seem to have been renewed (it premiered around this time last year).

 - Hopefully we'll actually have a Descendants 2 review tomorrow. And it only took us, what, a month and a half?

- Oh, and so is I Am Frankie. This is actually a series I've really been looking forward to since it was announced. Then again I seem to have a disproportionate fondness for these imported/semi-imported shows, whether single-cam or multi-cam (as was the case with Every Witch Way/WITS Academy/Talia in the Kitchen which I have an extreme disproportionate fondness for).

 - Hope you're enjoying your Labor Day! I'm...choking from smoke from forest fires literally thousands of miles away. Yay.

 - I'm not even joking Every Witch Way was pretty much my 2014/2015 now that I think about it.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Doc McStuffins Reviewed: "The Emergency Plan"/"What a Quack"

She's going to make a fantastic toy ducktor! Oh, I mean doctor!

What is it? CGI-animated A-B format (two 11-minute episodes per half hour) cartoon 
Where did it air? Both the Disney Junior block on Disney Channel and the dedicated Disney Junior channel.
Who stars in it? There's certainly a lot of yeoman voice talent going around, but regular readers of this blog will recognize Laya DeLeon Hayes as the voice of Doc McStuffins herself and as Priya from Liv and Maddie: Cali Style!
Why are we reviewing this? Eh, beyond our children's TV reviews-with-swear bombs mission statement there's not much to really offer other than why not?

Doc McStuffins is usually recognized as one of the best shows on Disney Junior right now, and with really good reason - much has been made about its inclusivity and medical accuracy in a way that can be introduced to children, but none of that would mean a hill of beans if it just wasn't that damn good. Between Elena of Avalor which...well, admittedly is also just damn good, Sofia the First which is just simply too princess-y for my tastes to tolerate, and PJ Masks which...yes I know it's based on a French comic but it really just strikes me as a pale imitation of something you might find on Nickelodeon like say PAW Patrol or a certain other French-based cartoon...at the very least Doc McStuffins is fighting with Elena as the two best shows on Disney Junior right now, even if by default.

That said...I really liked the first few seasons a whole lot better before the "move" to McStuffinsville Toy Hospital. The show just felt more interesting while the new season feels anti-climatic (yes really) and more paint-by-numbers in comparison. I'm not really sure why it's just that...being in a town full of animated toys just feels much less interesting than being a regular ole' toy doctor, I guess.

We have our first episode, The Emergency Plan which loyal reader Shipping Wars are Stupid kinda-sorta brought up in our Harry Hook blog post since it features a family with two moms and...well, if it weren't for the fact that the big toy dragon keeps using the word moms instead of parents, that's the only evidence I have that convinces me that the writers and animators themselves didn't just outright forget these were same-sex parents. Some of you may feel that's a major win because it gives normalcy to same-sex parents, some of you may feel it's a missed opportunity because it doesn't lead to a much bigger discussion about diversity during a time when, boy howdy do we need it. 

I really honestly feel like these are two female mom-parents because no duh they're dolls, what the hell else are they gonna be? Everyone knows the guy dolls are lame anyway! My point being is, the fact that they happen to be both moms in the same family feels more a function of them just being dolls rather than pointing out diversity in family make-ups to me, which is why I'm not even bothering to refer to them as lesbians. I was going to argue that them being dolls makes them feel like they belong more on the "+" side as opposed to the "L" side of the LGBTQ+ spectrum, but not even that - the fact that this is contextualized as dolls and toys really makes it feel like it falls far outside that spectrum, or any sexual spectrum whatsoever. It just...doesn't really feel contextualized in a way that makes me feel positive about diversity. Don't get me wrong, it doesn't feel like a negative depiction of diversity either, it just feels...perfectly neutral.

...which I suppose is appropriate because that's really how the rest of the episode feels. It's just...well, neutral. Stuff happens, and it's pretty obvious that this episode doesn't really have much about diversity as it does emergency preparedness (hence the episode), which granted is especially topical now. But it really does feel like a PSA with Doc McStuffins characters extended into an 11-minute episode.

In some ways that's my least favorite "Junior"-genre episode because I grew up in a time when that's all we got from the age ranges of say 7 and younger. It feels not only lazy, but obligatory in a take it and like it approach. That said, well, it's ok here I guess.

And the B-episode, "What a Quack"...starts out more interestingly with actual conflict!, but that conflict deflates quickly in what I feel is an extremely anti-climatic chase scene. From there it's...really more PSA.

The first few seasons of Doc McStuffins were not this PSA-y, trust me.

Episodes Grades: C+ for both.
Episodes MVP: Laya because Priya kicked ass and took names.

Extra Thoughts- 

 - yeah, it freaks me out that the dolls have more human proportions than the actual human who barely towers over them.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 VMAs semi-very-partially-live-and-very-mini blog and *SUPER* mini-review

No, nothing fancy here, not even a snarky one-liner quip here. I mean, we've been coming to the VMAs really for the performances all along, right? They were great, the ones I bothered to watch. Of course I love Fifth Harmony so of course I loved their performance. Loved Lorde's too. I didn't bother to see TayTay's (see next paragraph) which was apparently pretty controversial. And stuff.

Mostly though...Katy Perry's jokes were...pretty damn awful. There's no way getting around it. Who the fuck wrote this shit? And it's three hours long. Even if it were impossible for me to go to sleep without flooding my thoughts with TayTay (and just for the record, no, that's not true, I'm using an illustrative example here), I wouldn't be able to do bear all that just to see her performance especially when I can let social media show it to me no less than 12 hours later, if that. 

I'm patient enough to wait half a day for social media. I'm not patient enough to wait three hours through a live telecast.

Three. Fucking. Hours.

Ugh.

Awards MVP: Absolutely Jared Leto for his extremely touching tribute to Chester Bennington. In fact this is the sole reason why we're even bothering to have an MVP instead of just skipping it althogether, to give this at least part of the recognition it deserves.
Awards Grade: Meh?

Extra Thoughts:

 - don't get me wrong, I like TayTay it's just that...I did make a New Year's Resolution to make the blog less creepy, although if I was really interested in doing that I guess I would've used a different example.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

It's Time To Become Known

Hi, it's Unknown. Well, that's what I used to be known as. But that was always an awkward name to be known by. And circumstances have forced me to change that.

Those circumstances are that I've decided to launch my own YA literature blog. We've talked about YA before on this blog - and don't get me wrong, we still will - but the new blog will focus more on the craft angle rather than reviews (although it'll still have reviews that will probably just be crossposted here because laziness). So, yeah, enjoy the new blog (which is empty right now, granted) and hey now I have a name, yay!

UPDATE: Yeah, I actually did find a better URL so I changed it, but I forgot to actually update the link. So, I did that too. The above link actually works now again, yay!

"Kloger" (American Dad; Off-Topic)

Admit it. You wanted to see this episode happen for years.

I have two reviews coming up after this one. In one review, I take on the first Girl Meets World episode I thought was a bad sign of things to come. Call it a throwback if you will. And in the other one, I continue Mike's Quest. But before all that, I wanted to "break the fourth wall" and talk about an episode of one of my favorite shows that had me stopping dead in my tracks. I watched it on Tuesday and even now, more than a few days later, I still don't believe it actually happened. I refuse to believe the writers actually decided to go through with this, and actually thought this would make for entertaining television. But unfortunately, they did, and even a show as brilliant and clever as this one is prone to some awful episodes.

American Dad is undoubtedly one of the best comedies that I have ever seen. Four years ago, that wasn't the case. I always saw it as a Family Guy ripoff, and in the beginning, it probably was. However, after hearing several positive reviews about it, and seeing how much people adored it compared to Family Guy, I decided to give it a chance and I never looked back. This series is one of those shows that won't get the mainstream recognition and boatloads of Emmys given to other comedies, but will be remembered as one of the best underrated shows ever made. The show has a unique, otherworldly DNA that separates it from many others on television and allows itself to create unconventional, provocative plots from everyday situations. An episode about Steve losing Stan's trust will end with Stan trying to get his multimillion dollar drone back from the Chinese mafia. Or Roger's obsession over being cheated out of twenty bucks driving a limo will see him track down everybody that stiffed him and kill them all, ending with his limo on the wing of an airplane and crashing through it to kill the last person on his list. I say this because it's important to know why American Dad is so special. It took what worked from the early years of Family Guy, everyday sitcom plots, and a shotgun blast of creativity and insanity to create an animated show that many believe is Seth MacFarlane's best work.

However, nothing can last forever, and in 2013, the times began changing for AD. TBS picked up the show that summer for a new season of 15 episodes, meaning that season nine (2013-2014) would be the last one on Fox. You know what, just for a minute, I'm going to clear up the whole season discrepancy thing because I don't think anyone's really sure what season we're in right now so for the sake of this review, I'm going to let you know what I think it is:

Season 1 (2005-2006), Season 2 (2006-2007), Season 3 (2007-2008), Season 4 (2008-2009), Season 5 (2009-2010), Season 6 (2010-2011), Season 7 (2011-2012), Season 8 (2012-2013), Season 9 (2013-2014; this includes the final three episodes Fox aired of the show in September 2014), Season 10 (2014-2015), Season 11 (2016), and Season 12 (2016-present).

Yeah, so that takes care of that. Anyway, while season nine was underway, it was announced in November 2013 that co-creator and co-showrunner Mike Barker would be leaving the show due to creative differences. I'm not sure what those differences were and I can't find anything that explains it so my guess is that TBS wanted the show to be edgier, broader, and more appealing to casual viewers. Barker was probably told by all these people who he's never worked for in his life how to run the show when he had put his all into doing that for nine years. Add to the fact that the show was old, and all of those factors had Barker heading for the hills. Just a theory.

While in 2017, I would much rather watch a new American Dad episode than a new Family Guy episode, there's no doubt anymore that the show changed after season nine. The move to TBS, Barker's departure, and the constant turnover of writers was just leading to the inevitable. And season ten wasn't the best sign that the show was going to be the same as it had always been. While there were some definite gems ("Dreaming of a White Porsche Christmas," "LGBSteve," "Morning Mimosa"), some episodes were pretty unremarkable ("Blonde Ambition," "My Affair Lady," "A Star is Reborn"), and at least one of them is among the worst the show has ever done ("American Fung"). Season eleven was actually a step in the right direction, with a much higher batting average, and a lot of entertaining ones ("Hayley Smith, Seal Team Six," "The Two Hundred," "The Unincludeds," "Next of Pin") to make it the best TBS season so far.

But here with season twelve, it really looks like the show is struggling to keep itself from feeling long in the tooth. And if they have to resort to ideas like "Kloger," it might be time to put it to rest before it embarrasses itself further and begins having a string of terrible seasons, like every other show that has come before it. If you can't tell from the title, Roger and Klaus start dating. Yeah, that's what happened. Roger and Klaus start having mind-blowing, hardcore sex and try to keep their relationship a secret from the family. I'm not joking. This isn't fan fiction (someone most likely wrote this already, but that's besides the point). A professional writer actually thought of this idea and then assigned the idea to another writer to turn it into a script. And then they did a table read for it. And then they recorded the voices. And then they.......you get it.

I'm still trying to figure out how this idea wasn't thrown out and never spoken of again. Look, Roger has done so many disgusting, sickening things over the years. But besides the thought of him dating Klaus being disturbing enough, why would he be attracted to him? Roger hates Klaus, it's one of the most established features of the show. Klaus has been straight for the entire series, and now all of a sudden, he thinks it's hot to be in Roger's mouth, lick his toes, spank his ass, and make love to him? This story makes no sense for either character and is the epitome of sacrificing who they are for the sake of a plot. Roger is so desperate for companionship, he wants to lay down with Klaus and start going on dates with him? Half the time, he doesn't even want to hang out with Klaus or talk to him. And there's nothing interesting about their romance or any insight into why they would suddenly have this intense, burning attraction for each other. It's just them having sex and making out. It's shallow in a way that Family Guy usually is, not American Dad.

Another reason this episode failed was because nobody cares about the relationship. One thing that makes these plots interesting and give some humor to these awkward situations is the opposing side. Nobody was disgusted by Roger and Klaus' romance or condemned it. It's just them reacting to it like these two had been living in an apartment for years together and finally decided to explore their feelings for each other. In the past, when American Dad would do plots like this, the characters would act like human beings reacting to situations like people in real life would. "Pulling Double Booty" had Stan's body double start dating Hayley. Of course, Francine doesn't know this, so when she sees Hayley making out with the body double, she freaks out at Stan and it leads to one of the funniest scenes in the entire series. Even after Francine finds out the truth, she's still disgusted by it. Or take "Virtual In-Stanity" for instance. Stan is so desperate to spend time with Steve that he uses the CIA's virtual reality machine to create a teenage girl for Steve to date, and even offers to have sex with him. Bullock is even shocked by what Stan's doing, and Francine loses it when she finds out. Meanwhile, we're still on Stan's side because all he wants is to make up for all the times he wasn't there for his son. There were actual stakes to these episodes and a reason to care about them through the awkwardness. Plus, the topic of incest was handled with sophistication.

Here, it's just Roger is lonely and looking for love for some reason. Klaus pretends like he doesn't want to be in a relationship. They find each other through online dating. They start dating in secret. Stan and Francine find out, Klaus realizes he was only into Roger because of the sneaking around, and breaks up with him. Roger becomes a mess trying to win Klaus back, and then he realizes that he was only with Klaus because he didn't want to be alone, all while going insane in solitary confinement.

There's a small indication of conflict here when Roger and Klaus decide not to tell the family, but once Stan and Francine find out, they're not disgusted or weirded out or even curious as to how it happened. They act like parodies of themselves and decide to have a double date with them. A lot of this episode comes off like it doesn't even know itself why it exists, outside of just wanting attention. Roger and Klaus dating is a tough plot to pull off, and even tougher now since the bar has been lowered on TBS, but there was still a chance to make it work. This show has made some of the strangest things in the world work. It made Roger having a crush on Hayley work, and that ended with Roger cutting off all of Jeff's skin and wearing it just to feel closer to Hayley. Of course, in that episode, it worked because Roger didn't want to have feelings for Hayley. Maybe if Roger and Klaus got really drunk, and woke up disgusted with themselves but questioned if they could be together, it could have been more interesting. But instead, they go the Family Guy route and just have them suddenly wanting to bone each other 24/7 like horny high school kids. I swear, this is up there with Brian giving Stewie herpes and Peter marrying Chris so he could gain his inheritance. It's really no different from those episodes, and if I had never watched this show before, I would write it off for good.

At the end of the day, this is just a really bad episode of television so it's important to keep things in perspective. Whatever American Dad does this Monday will probably end up making everyone forget about "Kloger." Besides, it's not like the show has been terrible for years now. But this is just another bad sign that the move to TBS wasn't exactly the best choice for the show's quality. It almost makes me wonder what would happen if it ended in 2014 and TBS never picked it up. Would this be an idea that would happen in the Mike Barker era? Maybe. But I feel like the execution would be a lot more thoughtful than what it was here.

Episode Grade: D
Episode MVP: Jeff, for having the only really funny line in the episode ("If I put as much work into working as I do into not working......I don't know.")

Hey it's Unknown! Well, not so unknown anymore but...yeah I'll get to that.

But I'll go ahead and say that Family Guy isn't really all that off-topic, as if it really matters. I mean, it is a cartoon and it does have a sizable teen fanbase even if that fanbase does skew middle-older but even so we've reviewed New MacGyver, the Minority Report TV show, several crappy comedies from NBC and even some crappy movies from Lifetime. So...yeah.

But I'm going to offer a minor, weak defense of Kloger in that...well, it probably wasn't thrown out during the drafting or table reading process because...it was a legitimate idea to try out. 

Now, that's not saying that all ideas are legitimate, that all ideas have equal legitimacy. As I mentioned in the Raven's Home review, it's a legitimately good idea to reveal that Raven Baxter is a lesbian, considering that both Raven-Symone is a lesbian in real life and there's even room to organically explain it into the plot, how Raven and Devon can remain good friends despite being divorced (not that being LGBTQ+ is required to have good relationships between divorced spouses). Now, having Raven decide to have a sexual (or implied sexual) relationship with Chelsea, now that's a terrible idea for exactly the reasons Mike went over with Kloger.

See, the legitimacy of an idea, at least when it comes to these TV shows, is entirely built up on context. R'sH has a certain context. Jessie, Liv and Maddie, Andi Mack...they all have a certain context that makes up the framework of their universes, and vice versa. But the beauty of American Dad! is that it's worked up its own universal framework so brilliantly yet casually that it's free to throw context out the window in the last act or so of every episode as Mike explained at length above.

So what to say is that...not to say that there's no such thing as terrible American Dad! episode ideas, but what might seem like a terrible idea for any other show might be an absolute brilliant one for this show.

So there are legitimate kernals of...maybe not brilliance but "let's try it out and see what happens" with Kloger, it just didn't pan out the way everybody thought it would in people's minds. There's shock value, but it's shock value marketed to an audience that's been desensitized to shock; there's legitimate curiosity value; there's a big "why the hell not?" factor that history has shown has potential to work with this show.

So...again, it's not that terrible ideas don't exist with this show, it's just that the nature of the show really blurs the lines between what truly is a terrible idea and what might actually turn out to be a great idea once you try it out.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-I liked Roger referring to Steve as "Snot's friend with the glasses."

-Speaking of Steve, there's a subplot of his that doesn't really mean much, but keeps the episode from being completely irredeemable. He tries to get out of the Presidential Fitness Test by catching Hayley's pinkeye (ironically, I got pinkeye this week so Hayley most likely gave it to me), but when that doesn't work, he ends up shitting on himself to be excused. I wish I was making some of this stuff up, honestly.

-Honestly, the reveal of Roger and Klaus having sex didn't work for me. It would have been way more realistic (and potentially funnier) if they were just drunk and did something they regretted. Then they could explore their feelings for each other that way. But like I said before, they don't do anything you would expect them to (at least until they break up). They just act whatever way the plot asks them to. The worst part of the whole episode is that Kylie Minogue montage of the two fooling around in secret. It seriously didn't feel like I was watching the right show.

-Francine acting "urban" is a joke I feel would have been funnier in a different episode, but it's not that good here. Roger's comment about her being white does kinda save it, though.

-Part of me liked how Stan didn't really care about anything relating to Roger or Klaus, but that just speaks to how much the episode could have used his involvement. I just feel like Stan wouldn't want the relationship to happen more than anyone else.

-Well, I've written all I can. Next review will be more age appropriate.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raven's Home: First Impressions

Something had to replace Girl Meets World, right?

You might remember That's So Raven as one of the most popular and long-running series in Disney Channel history. Ten years ago, the show aired its final episode. Ten years later, it's returned as a spin-off featuring a divorced Raven trying to raise her two kids with the help of a divorced Chelsea and her son. They are all under one roof in Chicago.........Raven's home.

Just a few things before I get to the review here. I don't know why this spinoff is happening or who asked for it. And that's not to say I wasn't happy with seeing Raven on my screen again, in her element getting back into the character that entertained me so much as a kid. Because I was. But there are some things that really don't need to be revisited. In this day and age, reboots and spinoffs come off less like genuine creative endeavors and more like sly marketing strategies. Disney Channel wants its old audience back. So what do they do? Announce the return of one of its most recognizable characters. But they still have to appeal to the kids, right? Give her two kids that she couldn't have possibly had at such a young age, unless they were ten years old or younger which they clearly don't seem to be. And also, make her and her best friend divorced with children because we have to cash in on the success of Fuller House, a very similar show that didn't need to be made either but has won over viewers in spite of the critics.

What I'm saying is that right off the bat, there's something calculated, something manufactured about Raven's Home that doesn't make it seem like something the network actually wanted to do because they wanted to reintroduce Raven and Chelsea to a younger generation. They just needed something to fill the void of this one particular show that ended earlier this year and got cancelled because they no longer had any use for the show. With all of the problems that Girl Meets World had during its run, it really did seem like Michael Jacobs and the writers wanted to give kids an enjoyable product, and give parents something they could enjoy with their kids. With Raven's Home, the only thing that stands out so far is Raven herself. It's almost like Disney just wants you to remember this one thing that was popular for a couple years and water it down to whatever the hell else airs on their network. Seriously, I'm really going to have to do reviews of Bizaardvark and Bunk'd?!

Anyway, I decided to just condense my thoughts here in one review because honestly, the show isn't worth reviewing individual episodes yet. It's not at that point where they differ wildly from each other, and after three episodes, why would it be? We're not talking Rick and Morty here, this is a live-action kids sitcom on Disney Channel in 2017. I know exactly what the game is at this point. When I find that one episode that stands out, either for being incredibly good or offensively bad, I'll make it into an edition of Mike's Quest. The show deserves that much.

Honestly, after three episodes, I can say the show is decent. It's just decent and I don't have strong feelings on 85% of the stuff that the show does. It hasn't done much to separate itself from the rest of the Disney pack. When Girl Meets World arrived, there was a very distinct tone. Good episode or bad episode, it gave me material that a lot of other shows couldn't. Raven's Home is just paint by numbers so far. It kinda reminds me of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn, but at least with this show, I understand why it exists, why people would watch it and what appeal it has. Raven is really the only bright spot so far. She's the one that's going to elevate the show beyond just being another robotic Disney sitcom. If there is one thing I noticed, it's that in terms of jokes and dialogue, it's not That's So Raven. I don't know what these network heads put in the water (it was probably in 2010/2011), but all of the shows they have now share the same comedic DNA. A joke that Raven's Home would use is the exact same joke that a show like School of Rock would probably use. I wish I could figure out the problem, but all I know for sure is that the shows made in 2005 and the shows made in 2017 are cut from a different cloth. It's almost as if there's this constant desire to be funny. Which I find ironic because a lot of these shows aren't funny.

You know what? I'm losing my train of thought. Raven's Home, if possible, has the ability to do great things. Show the hardships of being a single parent, develop Booker's character and his relationship with Raven as they try to hide the one thing they can actually bond over. Mature Chelsea's character as she becomes more responsible and self-reliant while keeping some of her original charm. And, if possible, get some good comedy out of Raven in this new position of parenthood. Unfortunately, the only way that can happen is if it goes to ABC. Let's be honest, the fans of the original show are older, less interested in the new generation of kids shows, and are only here to see two characters. A more mature That's So Raven deserves a more mature home. The younger generation won't understand the connection with the original show because they didn't grow up with it, so who is this supposed to appeal to and what does the show want to be?

That's the problem with a lot of these reboots. They don't really understand what they're supposed to be. I saw the sneak previews for the upcoming Hey Arnold! and Rocko's Modern Life specials, and it's obvious from the jump that they were made for the older generation who grew up watching the shows. Anyone else wanting to watch it can, but we all know who these specials are supposed to appeal to just from short clips. I'm not sure where Raven's Home is supposed to be going, but after what Disney did to Girl Meets World, I'm worried it won't live long enough for us to find out.

Hey, it's Unknown! Well, he's not so Unknown anymore...but that's for later.

But...well, Mike really hit the nail on the head here. I think pretty much every reader here understands that.

Let's make no bones about it: there's only one reason why this show exists, and that was that by early 2016 Disney Channel saw itself in a real downturn, if not an outright death spiral. I Didn't Do It (remember that show?) was two and through, Best Friends Whenever soon followed, and Mike already brought up Girl Meets World. Disney Channel needed anything to keep viewers coming back, and there's no way to hide that desperation working its way into Raven's Home's very concept. The same circumstances are likely what brought Andi Mack about too but...well, one's been an admittedly better execution than the other. Andi Mack was a desperation ploy in that they actually dare risk quality and high production values as things to attract viewers with. 

If you thought Girl Meets World was a blatant nostalgia grab (and make no mistake, I absolutely do), well then Raven's Home kind of forces the cynic out of all of us.

That's the one thing I have to disagree with Mike on - I don't think GMW and R'sH are all that different. Maybe I need to give Micheal Jacobs more credit than I do but it's clear he was struggling to bring that craft and vision to the screen, and that's why after three seasons the network was done with the show. If anything R'sH has a real advantage in that the producers and writers just want to bring something to screen and not really care specifically - and I think with the pressure off creatively, R'sH has actually shined.

I mean...don't get me wrong I liked some episodes of GMW which is why from what we've seen so far unless they do a big reveal of Raven Baxter being a lesbian (and quite frankly, I fully suspect that's exactly what the show's going to build up to as the specific reason why she and Devon broke it off) I don't think this show's going to deliver a Girl Meets She Don't Like Me, let alone some of the Season 2 episodes that are regarded as classics (or what passes for them). But that doesn't mean R'sH isn't entertaining so far. It's just...exactly that. Entertaining

TSR was a legit great series. Last year I reposted an article from AV Club where they talked about exactly why that show was great. Yes, 80% of the episodes were for the most part just...entertaining. But it's that part aside from "the most part" that really made it rise. It was as much about Eddie, Chelsea and Cory as much as it was about Raven, and it really gave it a close-knit ensemble if not outright familial feeling. I think that was Cory's in the House's main failing - it wasn't that Cory didn't justify his own show it's just that it didn't have as good a cast surrounding him as Raven had in her parent show. And I think that's what's really holding R'sH back - Chelsea is nice (redhead!) but the show really feels like it's missing something without Eddie (unfortunately it doesn't seem likely that Orlando Brown will be returning to the Mouse network ever...or any network, for that matter) and I can't be the only one screaming why won't you cast Kyle?!?! at the screen.

Seriously, Cory was my favorite character. I...see a lot of me in him when I was that age.

As for the kids...well...we already saw this in Jessie. That was another show that managed to have a great part aside from "for the most part" before it just spiraled down into patheticness during the final two seasons. Right now I'd compare the kids to say...Jessie Season 2, when it was still holding onto that great family close-knit feeling from Season 1 but the Flanderization (look it up) creep that would define Season 3 and especially Season 4 already started to make its way in.

It's a good series so far but...I can tell it's a good series while passively watching it even when doing something else. Something that I've done, which is how I know this.

But if that's what it takes to stop the viewer hemorrhage, then all the more power to it, I guess. And hell yeah it's nice seeing Raven Symone and Annalise Van Der Pol back (they look like they've aged probably because they're just, well...legitimately older than their TSR characters, but I don't think Raven's aged badly at all, actually). And she still has that timing down.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-I want to continue Mike's Quest (maybe finish it by the end of the year), but I don't know what show I should tackle next. Here's the list of targets: K.C. Undercover, Raven's Home (I need to get material from this show soon), Andi Mack, Stuck in the Middle, Bizaardvark, Bunk'd, Game Shakers, and School of Rock. If I'm not careful, one of these shows is going to get cancelled before I review it. But anyway, which one of these shows do you want to see me take on first?

Don't worry about it, I still need to move onto actually reviewing Descendants 2 beyond just "there's nothing really indicating Harry swings either way until he just flat out macks out with another dude." Or, speaking of macking out I haven't even touched the S1 finale of Andi Mack. As a review, or even on my DVR.

And the first show on that list to be canceled certainly ain't gonna be School of Rock. That thing's proving to be a cockroach among KidComs.

-I don't know about the theme song. I like it and at the same time, I don't. It's weird. Obviously, it's not as memorable as the That's So Raven theme song but it's still pretty catchy. I think the opening sequence is what's keeping me from liking the song more. If there was one clip I could use to highlight the decline of Disney Channel and live-action kids television in general, it would be this one. Bright, in your face, and it reeks of wanting to be liked. That crazy blended family and their shenanigans!

-If there's one character I don't like so far, it's Tess. She annoyed me in the first episode and it hasn't changed since. You know how everyone was complaining about Farkle in season one of GMW and talking about how irritating he was? I get it now. Tess speaks in a stereotypical Brooklyn accent with all of her lines (despite the fact that the show's based in Chicago and as far as I know, she didn't move from New York), and so far, has contributed nothing to the show but just being a wacky next door neighbor. In the last episode, for no apparent reason, she hit Levi's drone with her baseball bat, and when asked why she did it, she said it's because she had a bat. I'm dreading the episode where she's going to reveal how terrible her home life is and we'll all have to feel sorry for her. Like, her mother can't afford Christmas presents this year or some shit like that.

-I feel like Booker and Levi are the kind of characters that are funny now, but as they get older, their shtick will become annoying because they'll get taller and their voices will change and we'll all feel a little more dead inside. I don't know. I was watching some of the Thundermans "Thunder in Paradise" special and when I heard Billy's voice change, I felt like I was in the fourth dimension of hell. When did that even happen? He has the same voice for three and a half years and all of a sudden, the shtick he was doing before is now automatically grating because of his voice change. It's like the actors mature, but the characters don't so once again, dead inside.

-I guess I'll just use the rest of my time to talk about other shows. I saw the Wizard of Oz episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn this weekend. I finally realized that this show is all about Dawn and her brothers are just the sidekicks. I should have noticed this before, but the episode was treating Dawn like the leader and her brothers as collectively peabrained morons. Has it always been like this? Also, this episode had a rare instance of Dawn making me laugh when she tried to cover up her crappy audition by stating that she was doing an Australian accent. It's really easy to amuse me sometimes.

-I also watched some of School of Rock and I honestly don't know why Unknown hates it so much. I mean, if it had Dan Schneider-type writing, I could definitely understand it, but at worst, it just seems bland and robotic. I need to watch more though so I can fully embrace the hate like my partner.

 - Mike's right about one thing, the shows made by Disney Channel for 2017 aren't like the ones they made back in 2005, especially if you disclude Liv and Maddie from the 2017 shows. Hell, the shows on Disney Channel now aren't like the ones back in 2012 and 2013 when Good Luck Charlie, Austin & Ally, Jessie and Phineas and Ferb and even A.N.T. Farm and Dog With a Blog were in their prime, the world was just introduced to Gravity Falls and Liv and Maddie and Wizards of Waverly Place and to a lesser extent Suite Life on Deck were still very fresh in people's minds (especially since they still reran endlessly on the network at that point). And both I Didn't Do It and Girl Meets World were still on the horizon, if that counts for something. The only exception is, again, Andi Mack precisely because making a conscious effort at quality is this show's very gimmick to begin with. But Bizaardvark is legitimately entertaining in the same way R'sH is, and so is Stuck in the Middle. KC Undercover...honestly its action is getting in the way of its own entertainment, which wasn't something that happened in S1 and S2. Bunk'd...no seriously how did that get a season 3?

 - Oh Mike, you'll see the reason for my vitriol for SoR. You'll see.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Before we review Descendants 2, let's discuss the Harry Hook problem

So, in our last review (which as of the typing of this sentence was literally just minutes ago) I wrote an entire blog post in reply to a comment left on our Criminal Minds mini-review by Shipping Wars are Stupid, who happens to pretty much be MVP of our "readerati" (as some blogs like to call them). I follow Shipping Wars are Stupid on Twitter - out of respect for him I'm not going to link back to it and leave it up to him - but I will say his Twitter feed is a great source for sports news and LGBTQ+ topics (you'll also recall he wrote the entirety of our article commemorating "The Puppy Episode" of The Ellen Show where Ellen's character comes out as gay). 

So why am I mentioning him at all when talking about Harry Hook? Well, again, his Twitter feed is a great source for LGBTQ+ topical news, and I like to think I learned a lot from it. Which is why I feel qualified in saying this:

I have seen zero evidence suggesting that Harry Hook is a legitimate LGBTQ+ character. In fact I have seen zero evidence suggesting he is doing anything other than just ripping off Jack Sparrow, because since the first POTC movie Disney feels literally every pirate has to be Jack Sparrow now.

Now if Harry is actually making out with other guys that obviously changes, but there's nothing in his behavior that suggests he is an LGBTQ+ character.

Now in order to understand why I feel that, we really need to understand how LGBTQ+ people and gay men in particular act in real life. So, how do gay men act like in real life? Well...they act exactly the same as heterosexual men except that they date other gay men.

There is nothing inherent in Harry Hook's behavior or action that denotes an LGBTQ+ character.

Harry acts flamboyant, I'll give you that. Flamboyancy is not an indicator of a person being straight or gay. It's a neutral trait. A behavior he happens to have.

Behaviors are traits that people learn throughout their lives, whether by deliberate or unintentional outside influence. Being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum is not a learned trait, it is a trait that is developed from birth and cannot be "corrected." And just for the record, being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum is itself a neutral trait; it's not a neuroticy, it's not a disease. While being on the LGBTQ+ certainly contributes to the definition of a person, it remains a neutral trait nonetheless - like a person's skin color or genetic ethnicity.

Harry Hook exhibits behaviors. And until he actually seriously macks on, I dunno, say Jay or Carlos the amount of actual bearing on the LGBTQ+ spectrum he's exhibited is exactly zero. Hell, it's just as accurate to say that he's shown zero evidence of being heterosexual, for that matter.

But I feel that equating certain behaviors and mannerisms to homosexuality (or heterosexuaity) is highly offensive and calls back to the "dark days" of cinema before and during the McCarthy Blacklisting era when random behavioral traits were randomly (and insanely) attributed to other, more inherent traits and then having all of the above lumped together to define an "abnormality" that was also automatically equated with a greater tendency to commit crimes and other depravity, not to mention spiritual damnation. That's not something I'm very fond of, and I for one like to think that we as a society can move on from associating certain learned or even voluntary behavioral traits with neutral, innate traits like being on the LGBTQ+ spectrum (or for that matter, skin color or genetic ethnicity).

Ummm...I was expecting to write a lot more but...actually I think that just about covers it. Well, maybe someone like Shipping Wars are Stupid (or another reader) can help me fill in the gaps if I've left any.


The Bold Type Season 1 Mini-Review

We at least need to check out your vageen (yes this is a word-for-word direct quote, spelling and all) What is it?  Hour-long domestic/wor...