Sunday, January 21, 2018

Double-Feature Movies Mini-Reviewed: Arabesque and Never Been Kissed

For this review's opening quote taken directly from the movie(s), just imagine a very drunk Gregory Peck bullfighting with typical busy motorway traffic, then randomly reenacting the iconic bicycle scene from Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, and then finally randomly reenacting the iconic police crash scene from Blues Brothers. And yes, this is something that actually happens in the movie.

(Arabesque)
What is it? Theatrical-released crime/spy thriller starring Gregory Peck and Sofia Loren with a run time of approximately 1 hour 26 minutes released all the way back in 1965. Arguably the golden age of this genre of movie (and family and romantic comedies, for that matter), except it'd be hard to tell with this one.
Where did it air? Well, again, it was originally a theatrical release back in the day (a pretty big budget one, in fact) - in this case it aired on TCM which if it's in your cable package you can probably just wait for it to inevitably return (or set your DVR to auto-record anything with Gregory Peck and/or Sofia Loren), but more conveniently you can probably either find it directly off an OnDemand/streaming service or just get it from your local library.
Who stars in it? Well, I already mentioned it stars Gregory Peck and Sofia Loren, and those are going to be far and away the biggest names/the ones people most care about now.
Why are we reviewing this? For the same reason why the third thing ever reviewed on this blog ended up being Fox's series version of Minority Report.


So I know I labeled this a mini-review but we're going to open up with a rant first.

One of the things you most often hear when you write a blog reviewing Disney Channel and Nickelodeon shows, or when you read a lot of YA or are actively a YA enthusiast, is how for some reason things that are meant for tweens or teens can't be great. Granted aiming for a certain age demo doesn't automatically make it great, but it doesn't automatically make it awful either - and that "quality isn't automatically determined by age demo" thing works both ways. I'll concede something aimed for the extremely young demos as seen on Disney Junior and Nick Jr is more than likely not going to be praised for having a lot to offer to adults - like, say, PJ Masks or this new Top Wing show or Sunny Day or even say PAW Patrol.

...except apparently PAW Patrol has a huge older peripheral demo, who apparently tunes in for if nothing else how cute the pups are. And Doc McStuffins (at least the first few seasons, before they got stuck in that stupid Toy Hospital) and Elena of Avalor are legitimately really good. And apparently Mike really likes Mutt 'n Stuff - and I really like Blaze and the Monster Machines, especially since I can appreciate that they actually do a really good job explaining STEM concepts at this junior level (remember, despite how I present myself as being in the literary field with these critical reviews and book discussions, I'm an engineering background by undergrad degree!) And of course that expanding peripheral demo appeal has the potential to get larger the older you go - as we saw or are seeing with Good Luck Charlie, iCarly, Liv and Maddie, and Andi Mack.

So I don't buy the whole thing about "outgrowing" say for example YA or any given media, for that matter. Quality knows no age restriction, up or down. Something like 40-60% of YA readers are adults, depending who you ask. People who complain about "outgrowing" YA are probably reading the wrong kind of YA - or more specifically, utter schlocky crap like the kind that utterly flooded the market the previous decade and still gets pumped out a lot, or maybe just a genre YA book that's...just...written...very...poorly (believe me, there's a glut of those too). And true not every show is going to be like Andi Mack, and I have really weird tastes seeing as how I regard Every Witch Way to legitimately be great television (and hey it and Stuck in the Middle gives me something to share with my fake-abuela) but anybody who just writes off everything of this genre as being complete and total crap probably had a sampling size consisting of Bunk'd, Game Shakers and probably nothing else. Or had their hopes violently dashed by Girl Meets World.

...or they write for Deadspin.

Now obviously this doesn't exclude you from watching or reading "adult" stuff too. Yes, I read "grown up" novels too, and I watch "grown up" TV. But just because it's all "grown up" and especially just because it's "old" (or comes from some "golden age") doesn't mean it's going to be automatically good either.

Case in point - Arabesque. Let's start with that title, which, yes, it's exactly what you think it is. They wanted to give the film a foreign and exotic feel - so they do like what we Millennials do today and just stick "-esque" on the end like it's just a real, free-use suffix and not something someone makes up when they have two seconds to convince a teacher into a passing grade. Shockingly enough the genius who came up with this bright idea was Gregory Peck himself, WTF?

Anyway, the movie is essentially a copycat of a slightly earlier film, Charade, starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn. Charade happens to be the only film those two had done together (although fun fact, Grant was originally up for the role opposite Hepburn in Roman Holiday but ultimately declined due to not wanting to be upstaged by Hepburn - yeah Grant had quite an ego on him - and to bring it back to this movie, of course that role ended up going to Gregory Peck instead) and while I've seen quite a few Grant and Hepburn movies (including the aforementioned Roman Holiday, which of course is hands down my favorite Hepburn movie) Charade still ranks as one of the top for either of them. What's funny enough is that the director of Charade went back to do, yes, Arabesque, this movie - hoping that lightning will strike twice.

Unfortunately, all it left was a big giant smokin' hole in the ground.

Where Charade had a smart, sophisticated plot that kept you guessing until the very end and tightly woven intrigue that never bothered to venture far from its main physical locale (most of the movie takes place in a singular hotel), Arabesque is just a big giant confusing mess, dropping most of its intriguing pretenses and starting the chase sequences 20 minutes in and consequently destroying much of the suspense or mystery. Yet it still manages to find time to introduce enough plot twists to make a Westworld android's head spin and fly off, the end effect being each plot twist effectively cancels out the preceding one and, again, just leading to an overburdened, confusing movie in search of any point to keep the viewer watching. 

And on top of all that, I don't know if the action sequences are cheesy enough to watch even ironically.

Movie Grade: Yeah, I'm giving this one a big, ole' fat F, for reals. Not bad enough to be good, just bad. It's on the same level as FOX's Minority Report or NBC's Grounded (oh, don't remember that show? Yeah, there's a reason).
Movie MVP: Ugh. You know what, I'm going to give it to Sophia Loren, for two very particular, specific reasons:
1.) She was in Howl's Moving Castle, and Howl's Moving Castle is badass
2.) She plays herself on an episode of The Sopranos, where Tony Soprano's nephew Christopher robs her and punches her in the face, in what has to be one of the greatest scenes in television history.

(Never Been Kissed)
What is it? Theatrical-released movie from 1999 (yes I know we're reviewing two super-ancient movies this time)
Where did it air? I think I've beaten the whole "you could've seen it in theaters" thing to death and given how long ago that was that's not helpful, but the idea is to emphasize that it should be readily available on DVD/Blu-Ray and pay-per-stream services, if not OnDemand from premium cable channels or even less. In this case I happened to have recorded it from TBS back around last Thanksgiving.
Who stars in it? Drew Barrymore by far the most famous star, Jessica Alba in one of her first film roles while adult-sized, a few other notable names here and there that...I can't remember and I'm too lazy to look it up. Octavia Spencer (who's a pretty big deal right now, thanks to movies like Hidden Figures and The Help, but was also the main villain in one of the Wizard of Waverly Place WizTech multi-episode arcs) is also in the movie...for, like, literally 48 seconds. I think she has like a line or two.
Why are we reviewing this? Well it's closer to what we ostensibly review here than Arabesque at least....

So, umm, this movie....

Like the last couple of movies I reviewed, excepting the other one included in this multi-review spectacular (D.E.B.S. and Ice Princess) this is another one of those tween/teen/young adult demo movies that I talked about in the last review, right at the beginning of that era I was talking about soon after the first American Pie. Unlike American Pie (and more like those other two) instead of being mostly a delivery vehicle for sex jokes with some semblance of plot, Never Been Kissed is actually pretty plot-heavy. But unlike any of those movies (well, I've never actually seen American Pie so I'm not sure...) Never Been Kissed is just...pretty terrible.

First of all, the basic plot itself is pretty skeevy - the owner and managing editor of the Chicago Sun-Times decides to send one of their reporters (Drew Barrymore) undercover to a local high school to try to dig something up. What something? Well, anything, they don't particularly care, and later they decide to try to have her seduce one of her teachers to drum up a sex scandal. Besides being arguably entrapment under false pretenses (Drew's character is the same age as herself, 25) it's just skeevy as hell. And the rest of the plot, when it's not so skeevy (admittedly that plot point is the skeevyist, although there's a minor subplot involving Drew's also adult brother trying to seduce a teen girl), well...it's pretty clear that the writers have very little clue in terms of how actual teens behave, or people who work and write at a newspaper...or just people in general. I do think being able to go back to high school as an adult with all that hindsight and maturity and being able to rock it where you'd previously barely survived being a big pile of social fail is a pretty common form of serious wish fulfillment there, but this movie just majorly bungled it up.

I wouldn't go so far as to pull out what AV Club said about The Secret Life of the American Teenager being written and developed by aliens whose sole conception of humanity comes from watching Freeform, but one has to wonder just who they were writing this movie for, who they were writing this movie about and indeed if they have any connection with reality regarding what teens or living, breathing people are looking for in this genre, or just how actual real people even behave. Or even caricatures of something vaguely resembling the type of walking talking being one would observe inhabiting the same universe as The Simpsons.

Movie Grade: D-. Yup, in addition to being really old, both these movies also have being really terrible in common. It's getting a D- mostly because, upon further reflection, I think I'd still rather watch this than a typical Bunk'd episode. But it's pretty close.
Movie MVP: Leelee Sobieski because...ugh, this is gonna date me sooo bad...but around the time this movie came out I was just becoming a high school freshman, and in this movie she looks and acts like the type of girl I was really into at that time, much more than even Jessica Alba's character.

Not to mention, she probably ends up being the best actor with the most human-acting character out of this whole mess anyway. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - Just that this movie seemed like it had a lot of promise but...yeah. Big gigantic mess.

 - Something was also brought to my attention regarding my mini (well, rather not-so-mini) review of Matchwits, a high school quiz show on local PBS namely concerning its host Craig Eliot. In regards to where the hell they'd get this putz?, he's apparently the weatherman for one of the Colorado Springs stations, and...he's apparently survived a horrible accident that's left him with a brain injury.

Yeahhhhhhh...gonna have to wise up and admit to having egg on my face when I advocated firing him, and I guess I'm also forced to take back any criticism about him.

That said, it's very clear that the majority of the show's faults lie in how the competition is organized and run, much of which have nothing to do with Eliot - including the ridiculously lopsided blowouts from most matches (again, most matches being mathematically decided well before the halfway point) so I stand by my F grade.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Double-Feature Theatrical Movie Review: D.E.B.S. and Ice Princess

You're doing that babbling thing again. Alternatively, I do not get the point of this concept, nobody tunes in to HBO for the static, that is not a beloved sound.

(D.E.B.S.)
What is it? Theatrical-release movie from 2005 or so, about 90 or so minutes long. It's also apparently a light remake or inspired from a super-obscure 50s/60s movie called Teenage Gang Debs? It's also effectively an expanded version of a 2004 short/student film with basically an identical plot.
Where did it air? Well, like I just said, theatrical-release movie so originally it could be seen in theaters. As for today...that's a really good question, actually. I just happened to have caught it in time to have the DVR record it back about a year ago (and only recently got around to watching it), on one of Starz' 480p channels nonetheless. Yes for whatever reason they didn't want to bother to have it on one of their actual high-def channels, the whole damn reason you got the Starz package in the first place, whatevs. Despite programming my DVR to record it any and every time it appeared on TV since, well...it hasn't. So, ok, fine, I'll hunt through my local library's system and see if they have it. They don't. Ok, maybe through inter-library loan? Nope. My librarians can't find it from any library system in the entire country. That said, it's apparently available on Google Play for an ok price, and it's also available on DVD on a compilation disk that also includes Charm School, Feel the Noise and Seeing Double. Unless Seeing Double is referring to a DCOM or something, Charm School's the only one I've ever vaguely heard of.
Who stars in it? The most recognizable name by far is going to be Jordanna Brewster, most famous for espousing the virtues of living life a quarter mile at a time with her older brother, Groot Riddick. Beyond that you've got typical yeoman (or woman, I suppose) players who tend to be in B-ish and, let's face it, C-ish roles like that or television work. Of those the most famous is probably going to be Megan Good, who you might recognize from the (thankfully!) short-lived FOX series Minority Report, one of the very first reviews on this blog and the first to establish the precedent of occasionally venturing outside of the tween/teen genres especially if something's just bad.
Why are we reviewing this? Well, it's a silly teen/college-age adult movie that's surprisingly entertaining and deserves a fair shake, especially given how apparently obscure it is.

I keep thinking that the late 90s and early 2000s was the beginning of this trend of movies marketed to older teens and newly-minted adults with the start of the first American Pie, but really it's a trend that's been going on since the 50s if not far earlier and it's never really died down, becoming less a "trend" and more a genre in its own right, even if its not thought of in the same vein as say action movies or general romcoms. That said, I think there's just that...something that serves as a tell towards what decade a certain one of these movies is made. D.E.B.S....certainly has that feel, although (like the best movies of this genre and period, like Mean Girls of around the same time) it's not so punishing that it comes off as dated but rather nostalgic (or perhaps I'm just colored by how I see the movie). Unlike Mean Girls, which is actually a very brilliantly composed script utilizing the best talents and genius of Tina Fey, D.E.B.S. takes quite an opposite approach - being cheesy as hell, but a winking parody of this demo and genre (and all the other genres it borrows from) with a pretty interesting story and an actual message to tell not deeply buried underneath at all.

The D.E.B.S. themselves are...an extremely vaguely defined organization of exclusively teen girls who are trained as...well, again it's extremely vague but they're international police super spies, or something. Apparently there's a hidden test in the SATs and certain responses measure you're ability to be an assassin, a seductress, a leader or even a liar which apparently is what all super spies are good at. And then these girls get recruited and do...super-spy stuff. And date guys from the CIA and FBI during missions.

And then we have Jordanna Brewster's character (Lucy Diamond - yes really, and now I'm getting flashbacks to The Mysteries of Laura which has ruined The Beatles for me, permanently) who...is a supervillain for some reason? And, oh yeah, she's a lesbian. Spoiler alert: this movie's about lesbians. Her main lackey hooks her up with a female Ukrainian assassin to date, and the D.E.B.S. and the CIA think it's a meeting for, well, supervillain-y stuff.There's a big shoot-out and during the ensuing chaos the main character Amy (played by Sara Foster) runs into Lucy and...well they basically suddenly discover that they have a lesbian attraction to each other despite Amy's big lug of a CIA boyfriend whom she not-so-secretly hates. 

And...yeah, the rest of the movie is basically a Romeo and Juliet parable, except they're both lesbian chicks. And super-spies. Amy's best friend/chief lackey ends up getting pulled into one of their dates by accident and develops a crush on Lucy's chief lackey, and in addition to the lesbian Romeo and Juliet angle it starts to develop a "make love not war" message too. 

I mean...they're not bad messages, by no means. In fact, despite what you'd think would be  pretty heavy messages about finding yourself and sexuality...the movie's a pretty light, fun romp. Is it entertaining? Certainly. Is it more than that? Ehhhhh...just enough. Certainly by enough that it really deserves to be more remembered, and it's a ton better than many, many movies aimed squarely at this demo before or since but have lingered in the cultural memory longer for some reason.

Movie Grade: B+. I was really tempted to give this an A- but...that might be a bit much even for me.
Movie MVP: Jill Ritchie, whose Janet effectively serves as the glue to keep Lucy and Amy bonded until...well...they bond, I guess.

I mean that in the physical sense.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Just that...again, for however many times I've said it now, I wish this movie had a better shake than it ended up getting. It's not the greatest movie in the world. I don't even know if it's Mean Girls quality. But it is Mean Girls 2 quality at least. And before you start thinking that's a weird insult for a movie I just praised, Mean Girls 2 is the most underrated movie in history.

(Ice Princess)
What is it? Theatrical release movie from around...actually about the same time as D.E.B.S. and Mean Girls, 2005. Huh, two movies for the teen(ish) demo released at around the same time, I didn't even realize that until writing this. Oh, and Ice Princess is also a Disney movie. 
Where did it air? Well again, it's a theatrical movie so you originally saw it in theaters a whole dozen years ago. Wow, time flies. As for now...it's virtually perpetually on HBO OnDemand (which is how I saw it), so if you can watch John Oliver command Jamie Lannister to make sounds with his mouth, you can watch this movie readily and immediately. It's also probably occasionally shown on other cable networks but HBO's probably the best means given again it's ready availability OnDemand, and in 1080p glory and without any commercial breaks guaranteed. I bet it's also available readily on DVD too, if you'd like to buy it in physical media or get it from the library.
Who stars in it? Kim Cattral and Joan Cusack are going to be by far the most recognizable names especially for people who were older when the movie was released, but of course the main star is Michelle Trachtenberg who...I guess this was obviously meant to be her star vehicle but beyond this and a few other roles it didn't really seem to pan out ;_;
Why are we reviewing this? Well, it is a tween/teen live-action Disney movie....

This might come as a shock to you (unless you follow my Twitter feed which...I'm pretty sure is exactly two of you) but I absolutely adore figure skating (or "ice dancing" as us patricians call it). I remember being about 8 or 9 years old and after Saturday morning cartoons (yes that was a thing when I was that age) they'd usually throw up some sports-related event and usually I'd just change the channel because it was something I didn't care about, but one Saturday after cartoons the sporty-thingie was this ridiculously gorgeous girl gliding gracefully on this ginormous skating rink (how's that for some Cap'n Turbot-style alliteration?) and I swear it was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen in my life (well, I was like 9 but still). And I'd been hooked ever since, looking forward to something extra after Saturday morning cartoons to watch every skating season (it's typically...well, right now, especially with the build-up to the Winter Olympics, but on non-Olympics years they have internationals around March, competitions around October-December, and January and February they have non-technical, non-judged, strictly artistic exhibition "spectaculars" which are my favorite because they usually choreograph with gymnasts and other performers to actually put a legitimate show together, usually with pop singers providing vocals. Last year it was Olivia Holt!) Without a doubt since that age figure skating's been my favorite part of the Winter Olympics - I developed huuuuge crushes on Tara Lipinski and Sasha Cohen (not that Sasha Cohen - ehhh, you wouldn't even know who the real Sasha Cohen even is anymore) and I spent many, many hours on the Internet staring at (work-safe, since that's all we had) pictures of them (and before you're wondering, they're both quite a bit older than me). And while the Saturday morning cartoons have gone away, the figure skating (and other random sports hodgepodges) are still around.

So anyway, obviously something like Ice Princess is going to grab my attention, with the multi-threat of being a figure skating teen Disney movie. In many ways it's like the DCOM Genius if it were about the main character's figure skating friend instead - a girl in her very last semester in high school is a physics genius, but she needs to do a physics project to win a Harvard grant; one day she stumbles onto an ice rink where her rival popular girl happens to be practicing figure skating for a competition but she's hit with the inspiration to do her project on the physics of ice skating; in the middle of the project she's bitten with the figure skating bug herself and decides to abandon the scholarship altogether to go pro full-time. 

It's about what you'd expect plot-wise, and it bears more than a little resemblance to an old movie from the 70s, Ice Castles (which incidentally would be remade for direct-to-DVD format in 2010, five years after Ice Princess - and yes, I've naturally seen both versions and even tracked down a copy of the super-rare novelization of the original movie).  And even if it is somewhat inevitably paint-by-numbers, it still leaves behind a beautiful tale of a young woman finding expression, beauty and legitimate (in fact near-superhuman based on how quickly she picked it up) talent in something she'd only very recently discovered. After all, I think most everybody knows the basic plot to Shakespeare's most popular plays even if they've never seen any of them, but in many ways it's the individual performances and the direction that sets the ever-permeating versions apart. And I think Ice Princess manages to add a little bit of that Disney magic people like to think of (or perhaps even think has been lost) to this story.

That doesn't mean there's more than a little wonkiness to the story, though. Especially regarding...ehhh...The Jumping Shrimp. Yeah. There's a scene almost right at the very end of the movie - in fact it's the second to last scene period, and the last scene featuring here - where the movie kind of goes off the rails and even a little bit out of character given how Casey (that'd be Trachtenberg) helped her out to even get to this point and what friendship they had to...make a point about the cutthroat world of competitive figure skating? I guess?

Movie Grade: B+
Movie MVP: Well, it's kinda hard not to go with Michelle Trachtenberg with this one, though Kim Cattral and even Hayden Penniterrie (yeah she's in this one, she's the "rival" girl, in one of her first teen film roles) come very close. Even Joan Cusack too. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - Yeah speaking of having crushes on figure skating stars...I say this of a lot of women but I think Carly and Gracie Gold are the most beautiful women on the planet.

 - And yes Gold is seriously their name. 

 - I might have even further bias towards this movie on top of what I already explained since the first time I ever saw this movie - well, about 40% or so since I tuned in during the middle of it and this was before I had a DVR or access to HBO OnDemand or HBO period - was over five and a half years ago during the summer of 2012, when I was just very recently engaged to, well, the woman who'd still later turn out to be my ex-fiancee and started me rolling down the path to...well, starting up and writing this blog. Needless to say that was still during the happy times of our relationship and at the time I thought Michelle Trachtenberg kinda looked like my ex (then again I pretty much say this of everyone). But...things, especially movies and TV shows for some reason, really have a powerful ability to take me back to that time which is why I got hooked on the shows and movies that really resonated with me during that time, which being how a chunk of those shows were Disney and Nick, led me to being hooked and eventually to this blog (and to the very closely related field of YA literature and ultimately to me becoming a YA expert and the job I'm...trying to get now). 

 - it might also explain why...I find the shows on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon severely lacking now in very early 2018 than I do compared to this same time of the year back in 2013 and the last quarter of 2012 especially.

 - or it could be with the likes of Bunk'd and Game Shakers the average quality of Disney Channel and Nickelodeon show just does legitimately stink in comparison now.

 - Speaking of YA, the history of Ice Princess itself is pretty interesting - the script is written by none other than Meg Cabot, who also gave us The Princess Diaries and Avalon High, which is of course a pretty well-known DCOM. Now, she didn't write the scripts to either of those movies - she wrote the books they're based on (believe me, the book of Avalon High is totes diffs from the DCOM). Ice Princess is, in fact, her sole scriptwriting credit and the only movie she's associated with that wasn't in book form first or in any form, just being a movie (and they still brought in a script doctor to come in afterwards). She has stated on her blog that scriptwriting...isn't for her, which is sad given how much I ended up liking this movie. Apparently in her original draft Ice Princess was going to be more like the DCOM Go Figure in reverse, where a girl fakes being a hockey player so she can go compete in figure skating instead. 

 - but still speaking on YA and my career goals this provides a unique opportunity - as part of the practice process to become a professional YA novelist, I'm going to write the fan-novelization of Ice Princess for Meg, and I'll be posting a link to this very blog, so stay tuned! In fact I was hoping to start work on it today but I ended up doing some housecleaning instead...and writing this blog entry, too.

 - oh and speaking of the garbage-quality Nickelodeon has gotten lately...yeah, tonight's episode of Thundermans was on at the same time I was writing it but the previews made it look like absolute terribad garbage not worth watching, so I didn't watch it. You're getting this reviewed instead.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Matchwits Mini-Reviewed

What is it? Locally-produced half-hour quiz show for high school competition 
Where did it air? On local area Colorado Public Broadcast Stations, so you can only view it if you live in this specific geographic area (or go to the Matchwits website, I guess. I don't know where that is, uhh, Google Matchwits I guess?)
Who stars in it? Craig Eliot, the "quizmaster," and...I'm sorry, but he's a complete and total putz. He's got all the personality and presentation skills of toast - but not just any toast, specifically an attempt to make toast by taking a slice of Wonderbread and leaving it out under the Colorado sun on a cloudless day in early January, between the start of a rerun of Henry Danger and when you get it back during the first commercial break. But I'll rant on that more during the actual review. Beyond that, it's strictly whatever random high schoolers happen to be competing in whatever particular episode, very likely in their only television appearance for their entire lives. 
Why are we reviewing this? Well mostly because I want to rant but in my defense it does fall within the incredibly broad, expanded purview of "Nickelodeon and Disney Channel."

So a little bit (more) background about me: when I was in high school, when I wasn't pissing my precious social time away arguing not just Star Wars, but Star Wars canon status (yeah, seriously, don't do that) I was really into the local quiz bowl competition scene. Like really into it, hardcore. It was my sport. I have particular, fond memories of that time, my fondest memories of high school by far. Yeah, it was a simpler (and sadder) existence. 

Anyway, and so that is why I feel I have the authority to piss all over Matchwits, because as far as something actually being on television for entertainment's purpose is concerned, it's a gigantic flaming trainwreck of epic proportions.

I understand that's not strictly the primary purpose of the show, but really - if you're going to televise it at all, put some effort into it. From an objective television standpoint, it's an extremely poor, amateurish and outright sloppy production to the extent where it makes you wonder just want kind of care are they actually putting into it. From the standpoint of just being a high school quiz bowl competition - it's still an extremely poor, amateurish and outright sloppy production. Really, it's freakin' embarrassing. I mean it.

Of course don't blame the kids on this, they're just along for the ride really. The fault lies two-fold at the feet of Craig Eliot himself, who is just woefully under-equipped to be in front of his own selfie, let alone any camera even a modicum a step above that (no seriously where the hell did they find this guy?) and the general behind-the-scenes team.

I mean, if you're in the Colorado area watching this (or if you can find it online) and if you've ever had quiz bowl experience, you'll know exactly why this is such a shocking embarrassment.

For starters, the rules and structure of the competition itself is rather sloppy, if not outright thrown together. Inconsistent rules, frequent acceptance of flat-out wrong answers, categories are often esoteric beyond any possible genuine audience interest (and unsurprisingly often beyond any ability of the competitors to get more than a measly handful of points) and I swear are stacked to favor certain teams over others, to the point where utter blowouts are the freakin' norm. Seriously, competitions are often decided well before the second round, or about 8 minutes of air time (being a local PBS station production, there's no commercial breaks). And by that I mean, there have been many if not most games where by the end of the second round (out of four or so) the ability of the team falling behind to catch up is mathematically impossible, as in there are not enough points left to be awarded in competition to allow them to tie or exceed the score of the other team. You know what that is the result of? Extremely bad competition design.

Then there's Craig Eliot who...hooo boy. I should get clips of this. Frequently slipping up questions, frequently mispronouncing even relatively basic words or just stumbling over his speech, all the while eating up valuable competition time and just being a genuine liability to the competitors. I'm absolutely serious when I mean, get this guy otta there.

Putzes like Eliot severely undermine the teams, the players, and the entire competition in their ineptitude and utter inability to actually be proper quiz hosts, and when combined with his Wonderbread toast-under-the-sun personality makes the frustration for the viewer a palpable endurance test. You just can't help but feel sorry for the kids and their parents and family in the live audience (let alone those who are there thinking they're in for a legitimate treat) who are forced to sit through this. 

I'm not even kidding when I say my old freshman math teacher who served as our school's host did a far better job, not only in the liveliness of his presentation but in his actual fairness - careful enunciation of words so that there wasn't any fatal misinterpretation, professional delivery so to avoid tripping over his words, and done in a way such that the question was delivered clearly, but didn't obviously cut into competition time. Hell, I can literally be a far superior host to Craig Eliot. I mean it. Consider this my official application, Rocky Mountain PBS.

TL;DR: Matchwits is a fucking trainwreck. Fire Craig Eliot.

Series Grade: F. Given how much of an embarrassment this entire spectacle is, I feel I have no moral choice to award any grade other than this. These kids seriously deserve better.
Series MVP: The students who compete in this, definitely
Series LVP: Craig Eliot by a wide country mile. Again, who the hell is this guy and where the hell they'd get him in the first place?  It's been brought to my attention just exactly who the hell Craig Eliot is - a weatherman for one of the Colorado Springs stations, and...he's also a survivor of a horrific accident that resulted in a brain injury so...I'm officially withdrawing all criticism I have of him, and removing him from being the "LVP." That said, I stand by my original grade because it's very clear to me that the problems are endemic to the basic structure and organization of the competition, and that wouldn't change with Eliot or someone else in his place. So I'm instead awarding LVP to the behind-the-scenes runners and organizers as a whole.


Extra Thoughts:

 - for some reason this competition seems to favor schools up in the mountains on the Western Slope; schools along the Front Range and even on the plains (that'd be the flat part) seem to do rather poorly.

 - Oh yeah when my alma mater competes from what I've seen they kinda suck too, although I think they won the championship last year, for what it's worth

Henry Danger + The Adventures of Kid Danger Reviewed: S4 E7 & S1E1/2 reviewed (Toon in For Danger + Popcorn Monster/Game of Drones)

Zoom zoom zoom to the moon moon moon!

What is it? A combination of Henry Danger (I trust ya'll know what that is) with the premiere of The Adventures of Kid Danger which...yeah if you already know what Henry Danger is you know what this one is too.
Where did it air? Well if you already know what Henry Danger is you probably already also know this on Nickelodeon
Who stars in it? Cooper Barnes, Jace Norman, and Riele Downs for both shows because, yeah, animated spinoff (well I'm assuming it's Jace even though it doesn't sound like him but whatever)
Why are we reviewing this? Well, cartoon, live-action, you know.

Man, I can't wait for Mike to join me on this one. I'm sure he's going to have lots to say, and you damn well bet I'm gonna spread his words far and wide.

What's The Adventures of Kid Danger, exactly? Well, you can look at it several ways, really. You can look at it as an animated version of Henry Danger. You can even look at it as effectively a single-camera version of Kid Danger with an unlimited budget for SFX, just...not an unlimited budget for animation. Clearly.

Either way, it's just more Henry Danger. Or to put it a third way, it's Henry Danger hyper-Flanderized to Dan Schneider's logical conclusion.  

TIL Dan Schneider's most extreme logical conclusion ends up being about the same as every single episode of Robot Chicken ever made, ever. With a heavy dose of classic 90s cartoon tropes (so yeah, like every single episode of Robot Chicken ever made).

Before I go on, let's talk about Toon in For Danger. Of the three, I'd call it the middle episode in terms of quality, although the margins aren't that wide. It went about where'd you expect, which is exactly nowhere other than at the very end when we finally see the first episode of Adventures of Henry Danger. Save for the fake-out cartoon near the beginning, which was clearly the highlight of this episode.

In fact, I think I might actually like the fakeout cartoon better than the real thing.

So let's move on back to Popcorn Monster. It was...well...yeah, exactly how many times in a single review can I say "the logical extreme conclusion of Dan Schneider is every single Robot Chicken ever made" and "it's like regular Henry Danger except animated?"

Just like what came before it, nothing really much happened. I mean, live-action or animated it's pretty clear the Schneider shows in general are moving closer to being raw delivery vehicles for jokes (at least VicTORious actually had interesting, relatable plots at its best - yes I mean it) but Popcorn Monster was pretty much just empty, barely-buttered calories (cue the CSI: Miami sunglass drop if you want). 

Game of Drones...good God Game of Drones was just so freakin' stupid, but it worked. This is clearly the direction Schneider and crew want to take the show, and it's the direction they need to take the show. Beating a dead horse, it's what defines the best of Robot Chicken: it doesn't matter how much sense it makes, or how out of left-field it is, just make it funny. Hell sometimes the jokes work because they're so out of left field they don't even need a punchline. 

There are many types of stupid when it comes to TV. If it's so out-of-left-field stupid, that becomes the punchline.

Again, empty calories, but lots of flavor. So might as well move on to:

Toon In For Danger: Episode Grade: C-. Again, the best part was the fakeout cartoon.
Episode MVP: Whoever did Fake Kid Danger's voice. I'm so not kidding. This is a completely serious MVP reward.

Extra Thoughts:

 - man, Shawn White got old.

 - Yeah I'd believe the scripts for all three of these episodes were written in the space of the same two days.

 - The running joke with the news anchors is just getting old, man. Old enough to make Shawn White feel better about his age.

Popcorn Monster: Episode Grade: C. If this is what we have to look forward to for the future of Dan Schneider in general...eeeehhhhhhh. Time to start hunting Amazon or EBay for VicTORious, Drake & Josh and iCarly DVD collections, I guess.
Episode MVP: Whoever did the voice of the woman the popcorn monster threw into the tree because whatevs.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I got nothing, man.

Game of Drones: Episode Grade: B-. By far the strongest of the three, and if this is what we have to look forward to on Friday when Adventures begins its regular rotation, well, I might actually stick around after Loud House. Hell I originally gave this episode a C+ - even typed it out and everything - but then I decided....ehhh. What the hell, benefit of the doubt rewarded.
Episode MVP: Sean Ryan Fox. Yes really, despite his relatively minor role.

Extra Thoughts:

 - WTF is up with this BS about the episode having Dr. Minyak but not his super-hot assistant, even in animated form?

 - So we're getting yet another Jace Norman movie (or "movie"), yay.

 - Yeah I decided to split up the Grade/MVP/Extra Thought sections just for clarity and convenience given how we're reviewing no less than three episodes at the same time.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2017 Closeout for 2018 New Year's Series and Movies Reviewed Spectacular

This is what happens when you get lazy. You lump everything into one mega-post and call it a special.

So yeah, new series came, new series went in 2017. For Disney Channel...well, I think Andi Mack and Tangled: The Series were pretty much it for new shows (we're not counting Disney XD or Disney Jr. in this) and we've already reviewed those. Nickelodeon...I honestly don't know of any new series that debuted on Nickelodeon in 2017.

Well...that's not entirely true.

I can't name any new series to debut on Nick in 2017 from their "traditional," usual channels. But they've had imports (or rather semi-imports) aplenty. So we'll be reviewing them in this post (except for Hunter Street, which we also reviewed on its own), along with various miscellany series and movies that are loosely tied into this blog's mission statement of reviewing Disney Channel and Nickelodeon (and like) shows, as it says on this blog's title and very URL that you have to type in to even get to here in the first place. 

Also, Happy New Year, and Happy First Blog Post of 2018!

I Am Frankie - Nickelodeon

I had a clever quote pulled out for this one, but I forgot it.

Well if there's any question that both WITs Academy and Talia in the Kitchen are dead and buried after just one season each, it's in the form of this show because as it's coming from the same Nick Latin studio and the same creative team, they'd be producing those shows instead of this one (which is sad because I rather really quite liked the cast of both those shows). But at least I Am Frankie has an equally likable cast and, quite frankly (hah!), given both its single-cam format, actual investment in production values and vastly improved writing I'm going to consider it a more than fair trade. 

Yeah, in many ways it's kiddie-Westworld both in plot and in the twists it throws at us, and unlike Westworld...yeah, let's all just say it, we all saw those plot twists coming (but to I Am Frankie's credit it at least doesn't resort to Westworld's WHAT A TWEEEST! overboard every. Freaking. Ten. Minutes. As if plot twists alone are suitable replacement for plot) but it's a decent story with a cast that can carry it, and make us actually care about what happens to Frankie in her pals with that same strange, intangible and inexplainable magic that made the otherwise incomprehensible bizarre trip that was Every Witch Way so lovable, entertaining and just watchable. 

Season 1 Grade: B+
Season 1 MVP: Nicole Alyse Nelson, because a series about a robot with all the acting personality of one (not meant as a comment against Alex Hook who actually seems like a really good actress herself) really pops through the character of her human best friend.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Yes that's...what's his guy, the guy who was Aganemnon in EWW as the kinda sorta evil robot scientist who's less evil than the even more evil robot scientist who's still less evil than the super-evil government dues. And yes just like EWW you've got multiple heels inhabiting multiple levels of heel-ness...which was actually one of the strengths of EWW, so I'll be sticking around for this one. Speaking of which:

% We'll Be Seeing Next Season: 90% 100%, it is coming back guaranteed. I've received multiple word from seemingly knowledgeable sources that we'll be seeing Season 2 sometime this year, but nothing from a source that I'd consider concrete (the cast and/or Nick themselves, and yes I've sent tweets) so that prevents it from being a sure thing as far as I'm concerned, but I'm pretty confident it's coming back. The ratings were pretty average, but at least those ratings were made up by a solid fanbase that's very enthusiastic about the show, so there's no real reason to believe Nick won't be bringing it back, especially given the studio's reputation for delivering product at very cheap cost. With Hunter Street already announced to take up the typical February slots a show like this would occupy, expect this show to return August-September just as it did last year. UPDATE: Literally just an hour or so after I wrote this I did stumble upon confirmation that they're gearing up for Season 2 production as we speak, which would also suggest an airing date roughly a year after the first season.

Ride - Nickelodeon

Again I had a clever quote but I forgot it, I think I'm gonna quit this while I can pretend to be ahead.

A slow start but eventually picking up steam, and man, what a hell of an ending. You probably figured out the "twist" at least a few episodes in advance, but that didn't diminish its emotional punch, especially given Kit's equally surprise twist ultimate ending. I mean, I didn't think she'd take it to that extreme. But while it did build up to an interesting story, "build up" is indeed right as it did have a pretty slow start. Still, it ended up a decent enough imported addition to Nick's lineup.

Season 1 Grade: B-
Season 1 MVP: Kendra Lee Timmins because why not, and also yeah, that ending, man.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I might be a little biased because I adore horseies. Yeah I'm not afraid to admit it. But you probably figured that out the moment you stumbled upon a blog run by a grown-ass dude called "Nick and Disney Channel Reviewed."

 - I looked up Kenda Lee Timmins' age beacuse...well...#MeToo I'll just admit I kinda thought she was cute and I didn't want to feel weird and grossed out about it, if there's no problem being public about thinking she's cute in the first place...and as of the time of filming Ride she was 25 years old. Yeah. So I really don't have any excuse to feel grossed out about it because that's pretty much in "My Age" territory. FFS she's older than my ex fiancee, albeit by the slimmest of margins.

% We'll Be Seeing Next Season: 50%? I'm having severe trouble trying to find any news or information about this show despite the fact that it clearly existed. Hell I'm having trouble getting IMDb to recognize the show's page. Going by its airing schedule last year...we should've been halfway through Season 2 right at the point of time when I'm writing this, but that's not necessarily an indication of cancellation, especially since we've just seen Hunter Street get bounced to a different part of the year at least by a little bit, and don't get me started on EWW. If it were to continue production and air, likely candidate airing times include March and either before or after I Am Frankie S2 (mid summer or mid fall).

Mako Mermaids - Disney Channel

Yeah, this aired nearly two years ago which shows you how lazy I can be, even when it comes to watching TV shows which is one of the laziest activities imaginable. Or more precisely, Season (well, Series) 1 aired nearly two years ago. Actually, I guess you could argue Series 4 since it's a spinoff/sequel to the Australian series H2O: Just Add Water. The premise of that show was about three girls who fell into this "moon pool" on Mako Island (presumably just off the coast of Australia, somewhere, since while they never explicitly said it was Australia they never make any real attempt to hide it) and got turned into mermaids, and have to adjust to life accordingly while hiding their secret. Mako Mermaids somewhat flips the premise, as not only is it about a boy who gets turned into a mer...boy by falling into the pool, but three actual mermaids who call the moon pool home and make it their mission to turn the boy back so they can reclaim the pool for their pod (in fact it's the mermaids who end up being the central characters).

As it turns out at the very end of the show it does help somewhat to have seen H2O previously but it's not necessary (it does add some extra closure to H2O, though, for a little more extra satisfaction for that show). That said Series 1 does start with a clean break. And...it's fun. A bit uneven, but fun. Again I'm a bit biased because I totes adores mermaids (Splash - yeah as in the ancient Darryl Hannah/Tom Hanks movie, back when Tom Hanks was the king of the romcom and comedies in general which was movie eons ago - was one of the first movies I ever saw, and I pretty much fell in love instantly and ever since) but even I have to admit it's...a bit uneven if not outright wonky. The show absolutely relies on a Power Rangers-like "plot/problem of the week" structure so the main plot of how to fix Zack's problem/the overarching plot of the series tends to take a massive backseat but you get what you expect, and it's a fun ride all the same. I still wish the narrative could've been a little tighter, a little more "next level."

Series 1 Grade: A flat B. Of the three series total (and yes it is just three, don't believe what Netflix tells you they just broke up Series 2 into two) the first one does end up being the best, with Series 2 probably also getting a flat B but I would still rank the first marginally better, and Series 3 getting a B-. Again, it needed more "next level" storytelling to get it into B+ territory, let alone A-territory - "next level" storytelling that even I Am Frankie and its predecessor Every Witch Way had, or at least to a greater relative degree.

Series 1 MVP: Ivy Latimer (who plays Nixie) because...ummm...because she's freakin' gorgeous and (spoiler alert) after her character left off-screen at the very start of Series 2...yeah I sorely missed her. In fact while her Wikipedia page says she moved on to become a presenter on some Australian show, and I can indeed find clips to confirm that, her acting resume since Series 1 (keep in mind this is back in 2013, now a whole half-decade ago) is otherwise a complete blank.

Come back, Ivy ;_;

Extra Thoughts:

 - Yeah, I really love old-school Tom Hanks comedies.

 - I also really love Aquamarine - yes the cheesy movie with Sara Paxton, Emma Roberts and Jojo Levesque in it - which is based on a book by Alice Hoffman which I also really love.

 - Speaking of Aquamarine I once got an A+ on a college term paper where I talked about Aquamarine (both the movie and the book) along with the original Grimm fables, Alan Turing (yes as in the computer guy) and Grand Admiral Thrawn (yes as in the blue guy from Star Wars: Rebels). I'm pretty sure I still have that paper somewhere, in its physical form at least, and I'm pretty damn well tempted to scan it and post it right here.

 - Fun fact: Splash is credited with popularizing the name Madison. As in, well, Liv...and Maddie.

% We'll Be Seeing Next Series: 0%. Yup. Zilch, nada, ain't gonna happen. For starters, it's already been nearly two years since the show's premiere on Disney Channel and I think it's pretty clear that it just isn't going to be a thing on Disney Channel anymore.

Of course, that's Disney Channel and that's not to say you can't see the complete show elsewhere. In fact it originally aired stateside on Netflix (and Netflix partially financed the show to begin with giving them enough credibility to even call it a "Netflix Original") and to the best of my knowledge the entire show is still up there, if you do have Netflix. And Series 2 (potentially maybe even Series 3/1?) is being aired on Universal Kids, if that's part of your cable package. They seem to be rotating through Series 2 still, but that's not an indication they don't have Series 1 and 3 although it is an indication that Disney Channel clearly lost the rights to the show at some point. Whether they let it lapse - it did pull in mediocre ratings, although that might be attributed to its rather wonky timeslot and airing - or if Universal just gave Netflix a better deal, I dunno, but it's out there in some form.

And what if you don't have Universal Kids or Netflix, like I do (well, don't, rather)? Well...there are, um, "other means" but...yeah, I'm not going to go there.

Backstage - Disney Channel

Hey, guys who kept complaining that Disney Channel was holding Girl Meets World back and is too kiddie to do real drama? Yeah, well, here ya fucking go.

Backstage is DeGrassi: The Freshman Class. It's literally wall-to-wall drama. It's the only plot narrative of the show. And it's pretty intense.

Of course and unfortunately a side effect is that the plot progression and pace is going to be pretty slow - a bit slower than normal at points, agonizingly slow at other points. But it's very clear that real thought, effort, care and even heart was put into this show - and I don't mean just strictly in production values (remember, EWW had lousy production values but a ton of heart) but in its story. And its theme song is hauntingly beautiful.

Season 1 Grade: B-. Again, it's held back by its agonizing pace in places, especially at the beginning. But man, does it have one hell of a cast.
Season 1 MVP: It's really hard to pick due to all the cast pretty much getting equal attention throughout the series, and it being a very large cast, easily one of the largest of any show to ever air on Disney Channel since at least when I started watching. I guess I'll just default to Devyn Nakoda and Alyssa Trask because at the end, it does still end up being their story - they're the first characters we see and at the end of Season 1, the last.

% We'll Be Seeing Next Season: ...50%? This is a bit of a weird case. Series 2 basically just finished up airing in its native Canada (hence the long break even though this show started originally airing on Disney Channel also back in 2016, concurrent with the tail end of Mako Mermaids no less), but also it's already available on certain ABC-affiliated OnDemand outlets, region and package-dependent (and by that I don't mean like in Canada, I mean here in the actual U.S.) The key there being on ABC-affiliated OnDemand/streaming outlets which directly implies ABC/Disney already has the rights to air Series 2 in some form. Furthermore the original network that commissioned Backstage - Family Channel - is now Disney Channel Canada which means technically Disney Channel is the original rights holder to begin with. So the only thing stopping them is sheer will, but I've seen no indication that it's going to make a comeback. And again, from what I remember ratings were somewhat mediocre, perhaps held back by its slow pace (so again, people demanding that Disney Channel needs to be more "dramatic" can suck it).

That said, there's been a huge lead-time between Series 1 and 2, and Backstage's appearance on Disney Channel US was rather sudden to begin with, so it could simply be a matter of time - a few months, in fact - before Backstage makes its US Disney Channel comeback. But I'm keeping it at 50% due to lack of any confirmation whatsoever. If Series 2 were to air on Disney Channel, at this point we'd probably be expecting any time from late spring up until it'd be time to change out programming for the next Christmas season (or even later). Mid spring seems a bit optimistic at this point, if a return of the show period isn't overly optimistic.

The Lodge - Disney Channel

So...this is a bit of a weird one, actually.

It started out with a lot of energy, that's for sure - basically High School Musical: The Series, But British, And In A Lodge - and while they never abandoned that premise it did get a little bogged down in a GMW-esque love triangle (actually multiple love triangles, involving again a sizable cast) which certainly effected its pace and while the ways and methods the show was shot in were certainly slick (it looks quite lovely on a high-end 1080p TV, BTW) I swear its overall production values actually went down as Series 1 went on, and Series 1 is just 10 episodes long

It's also got, well...some zany Westworld-esque sudden plot twists and character turnover that would elicit sympathy from whoever's in charge of HR for the cabinet and personal staff of Trump (that's a really poor joke about high turnover, BTW). While it's pretty clear that the core cast is staying put, it feels like the main gimmick of the show isn't so much the slick, high-production value song and dance numbers as it is the love triangle plot twists that would make Farkle scream in the agony of not being able to keep up. 

So yeah, it's the Girl Meets World the fandom's wanted all along, but High School Musical-ized. And It's British, And In A Lodge.

Series 1 Grade: B-.
Series 1 MVP: Jade Alleyne because background characters need recognition too, damnit!

...or I can be a real cheeky bastard and give it to Dove Cameron - yes, the one and only - and at least have some legitimacy for reasons I'll get into.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Fun fact: This is actually based off a Disney Channel Israel series called North Star (the name of the lodge, hence the lodge in The Lodge also being called The North Star).

% We'll Be Seeing Next Season: 75%? This is an even weirder situation than Backstage, but it's a weird situation that works in the show's favor.

See, the thing is that this series was originally commissioned by Disney Channel UK so it's always been in the Mouse House. Hell, even the original concept it's based off was also straight from Disney Channel, this time from Israel. Not to mention Series 2 has a particularly special guest star - Dove Freakin' Cameron. Disney Channel US/UK in fact made a huge investment to get Dove into Series 2, and especially given the huge, practically all-eggs-in-one-basket investments Disney Channel US has made into Descendants, it would be outright foolish not to take advantage of that investment in this country. Hell, the whole reason why Dove's even in Series 2 was because she petitioned to be on it herself, because she's a huge fan of the show, and it would be foolish of Disney Channel to not capitalize on the personal endorsement of their biggest star, quite possibly the biggest star in the network's entire history, and one they've made huge investments into.

So I would venture that there should be a huge chance Series 2 is going to be on Disney Channel, given the investments and star power made, despite the lack of word either way. Series 2, in fact, is still ongoing in Britain as of the time of this writing due to some insanely huge lead-time (this is yet another series that premiered all the way back in 2016, again concurrent with the tail end of Backstage) so that may be a factor in the relative silence of this show coming back. As for when it'll air, see Backstage above. Unlike Nick which tends to want to air these type of shows on a daily basis and reserve a whole month for each show, Disney Channel has been treating these shows like their own originals (again, at least in part because in effect they are) so not only do they tend to premiere them on a weekly basis, but have no problem doing it concurrently, which blows the potential schedule wide open.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets A Christmas Maya

It's not Christmas anymore? Please, like that matters.

As far as I know, this is my first Girl Meets World review in almost a year. Since the show ended back in January, actually. To tell you the truth, it was strange watching this show again. It was like texting your old friend who you haven't talked to in years because you had a big fight, but you still remember the good times. And I did have good times with Girl Meets World despite everything I've said about it. With the exception of my rant near the end of the "Goodbye" review, yeah, I still stand behind everything I've said in the past.

So I've gone to hell and back with this show. The question is, why am I going to review more episodes? Well, there are some that I have thoughts on but never officially reviewed ("Game Night"), and in this particular case, this is an episode that I never watched before I reviewed it. Plus, it's a Christmas episode, and since Ray has taken the time to go through several holiday episodes of Disney Channel shows (his memory is downright scary), I've decided to fire back with the one show that makes him sick. It's weird how our opinions of Girl Meets World come from different places. When I went nuts on an episode, it came from a place of frustration, because I always felt like this show could be better. And I still think that. It was the poster child for wasted potential. When Ray talks about it (and he's taken every chance possible over the past number of weeks to spit on GMW's grave, not that I have a problem with that), it's always comes from a place of hatred. I could be wrong about this, and I encourage Ray to respond if he has a problem with my theory, but I remember a time where his favorite whipping boy was School of Rock. Now the tables have turned.

Woah woah woah woah here! First of all thanks for the compliment on my memory - in many cases I've had to go back and try to Google everything, but an episode summary will only get you so far and for the most part episode summaries are all you're gonna get so thanks for the compliment and I guess I do deserve props for that. That said, if you read my reviews carefully you'll no doubt spot gaps or at least notice that it's painting broad swaths in generalities. Even in places where I could watch the episodes (Disney has a habit of putting up all their holiday themed episodes up on Disney NOW so props to them for that too), it's just a particularly tedious exercise when done for only review purposes. So if it came across that I remember more than I actually (think) I do, well, I guess I deserve kudos for that.


Anyway, Girl Meets World doesn't make me sick. It makes me bored at its absolute worst moments - granted, that's the absolute greatest sin a piece of fiction can do (unless it, I dunno, does literally make you sick or as I said in my Shimmer and Shine review [yes I reviewed that show] it literally teaches the wrong lesson - incidentally a trait it shares with Meets the Tell-Tale Tot) but believe it or not there's at least episodes of this show i like. In Season 3 no less! Meets She Don't Like Me and Meets Hollywood (I never thought I'd say this about an episode that references Hollywood in the title) are the least overrated episodes the series has to offer. 
When I go nuts on GMW it's also from a place of frustration - but maybe the sources are a bit different compared to Mike. Mike's frustration comes from the show not living up to its promise (I'm going to say promise instead of potential, a distinction I may get into in a future essay, after I really nail down the articulation of that distinction). That's also where my frustration comes from - but my frustration also comes from the fandom in using the rest of the network as their whipping boy, the insane Stan culture many of them brought, the clueless entertainment pundits, and so on. I think I even ended up writing separate essays about each of these elements at one point or another, and certainly about all these issues together last February. 
It feels exceptionally hard to explain since I very much seem to be alone in this. I guess it's like...it's like the split reaction with Star Wars: The Last Jedi (I'm burned out on the Star Wars franchise myself, but that happened much before TLJ, and for different reasons entirely. Hell TLJ might rekindle my love of Star Wars based strictly on what I've heard, but I'm hesitant to have to watch TFA in order to do that). Or spit reaction to the Abramsverse Star Trek movies, which is something I'm also burned out on (and yes this time for many of the same reasons). 
Or...trying to think of a better example...remember that movie Boyhood? Or that weird-ass Spike Jonze/Joaquin Phoneix movie Her? Remember how those were the hottest movies around but everybody hated them? (And yes I've seen Her, it's...weird-ass as hell and a pretty lengthy, confusing borefest). It's like that. It's Hype Aversion (it's a TVTrope, you can Google "TVTrope Hype Aversion" to see for yourself). Honestly it probably wouldn't be a problem if it weren't for the loud, obnoxious GMW fanbase that makes me feel like I actively have to spite them in retaliation. But...like Mike said, I can write more about that later.
Also, School of Rock is getting canceled after this season so my work there is done.  







But you know what? I didn't come here to ramble on. Let's take a look at this episode.

So the whole thing is about Maya not wanting to celebrate Christmas with Shawn and Katy because she's worried that Shawn will be alienated by the Harts' crazy Christmas traditions. I'm not entirely sure what the lesson is here. Shawn grew up in a trailer park. If anyone knows about awful Christmases, it's him. The whole episode is written as if Maya just met Shawn a few weeks ago and still doesn't feel comfortable around him yet. To really get into this one, we need to suspend our disbelief that Maya would be dreading Christmas because Shawn's not used to her and her mother's holiday experiences. And it doesn't really work the whole way because Shawn would be the first person to understand what Maya's feeling. Maybe this episode would be more interesting if Riley was in Shawn's shoes. Like, through some circumstance, she has to spend the holidays with the Harts and we get to see how crazy their Christmas is. But, uh.....this is season three and it's Girl Meets World so what you see is what you get.

If there's anything here that makes the episode worth watching, it's the secret Santa plot. I almost wish that was the main plot since it's more substantial and has a real payoff. Riley organizes this secret Santa thing every year, and of course, it doesn't go well because even though these people are a tight-knit group of loving friends, they don't seem to know each other. At least that's what it seems like because each person gives reasonable explanations as to why they got the presents they got. It was genuinely sweet to be honest, and reminded me that when they treat the characters like humans and not just people who explain everything while saying awkwardly written lines, it made the show more rewarding to watch. Everyone reacts with believability to the presents they received. For a minute, it felt like I was watching a different show.

This episode was pretty decent in the end. I don't know if holiday episodes were ever really the show's strong suit anyway. But I didn't have any serious problems with it. The main plot could have used some work, but the subplot was a lot better than it had any right to be. By the way, happy holidays to everyone reading. This might be my last post for the year so I don't want to leave anyone hanging.

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Amir Mitchell-Townes. Zay is really something else. I remember how no one liked him when he first came into the picture ("Who is this guy?" is one of my favorite quotes from him, though), and by the beginning of season three, he had become one of the best characters on the show. He's probably the only person I could see surviving in the real world, and it's a shame that I don't get to see his character shine anymore. The way he explained his present for Smackle was incredible.
Christmas Grade: Four Calling Birds. You probably could have done the main plot without the Christmas aspect, and the Secret Santa plot really should have been the main focus.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-Lucas wasn't in this episode. In some ways, I don't think he was missed at all.

-Cory's impression of Chet was fantastic. It's almost like he was in the room himself.

-A big mistake here was not having Shawn show up. It's like they build it up so much and then it doesn't happen. Besides, it would have given us a chance to see Shawn. Did Rider Strong sign a contract with the network that says that he only appears when he wants and when the paycheck was fat enough?

-One thing I noticed, and I don't know if anyone else has, was that Zay seems to have similar mannerisms to his father DJ Jazzy Jeff. Watching Jazz on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, I can see where his son gets his charisma from.

-When Riley was making that heartfelt speech about why she got Farkle that menorah, he seriously looked like he was about to punch her in the face. His facial expressions were creeping me out. Seemed like he was ready to give Riley the beating of her life.

-Riley throwing glitter everywhere was hilarious. Sometimes, I feel like she would have made a fantastic character if she was animated.

Nothing against Sabrina Carpenter, of course but...at a certain point I just didn't feel like watching episodes that directly reference Maya in the title. Which is to say, I haven't seen this episode. Hell I've forgotten this episode existed.


Wow I can configure the title for "Featured Post"

Double-Feature Movies Mini-Reviewed: Arabesque and Never Been Kissed

For this review's opening quote taken directly from the movie(s), just imagine a very drunk Gregory Peck bullfighting with typical busy ...

Wow I can put a title here for "Popular Posts"