Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Another quick note on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I FINALLY LEARNED WHAT IT IS! And moreover, how to do it on Blogspot/Blogger. So hopefully we'll actually get some traffic now!

Thank you to the five or so loyal readers I have, I hope to see even more of you in the future!

Sam & Cat, Reviewed

Apparently, you weren't just fine since you didn't even complete your episode order.

When the best part of your show is the theme song, you know you're in trouble.

Ray discussed Sam & Cat during the Dan Schneider write-up posted recently, and thinking about it now has made me want to talk about the show in greater detail. Ray's definitely invited to join if he wants to, and hopefully, we can figure out exactly what made this show a failure.

Yeah, I'm not beating around the bush here. Sam & Cat was a terrible show. Even at the time, I wasn't crazy about it, and I stopped keeping up with it after the first couple episodes and watched as it collapsed under its own weight. It was a spin-off of two of Dan Schneider's hits, iCarly and Victorious. I guess there's some uniqueness to spinning off two different shows, but that's where the interest ends. The show follows Sam Puckett (iCarly) and Cat Valentine (Victorious) as they live in Cat's grandmother's place in Venice Beach and go through wacky adventures while running their own babysitting service.

Alright, the first thing I have to ask is.......why? Who asked for this show to happen? Why select these two characters? iCarly was on its last legs and was going to end very soon. Victorious was supposed to carry the torch from that point, which was made more clear by it winning Favorite TV Show at the Kids Choice Awards in 2012. Then it got cancelled, and the last season did the show no favors by being poorly written and unremarkable outside of a few episodes (like "Opposite Date" and "One Thousand Berry Balls"). With these events taking place, I don't think this is what was needed to fill the void. Sam & Cat was pretty generic for the most part, and I don't think most people would be upset if  it never happened. It doesn't really remind me of either show it was conceived from. Sam and Cat just go through random stuff every week and we were expected to laugh at it. The only connection to the original shows are Sam and Cat themselves, and they're not nearly entertaining enough to elevate the material they are given.

Which leads me to my next point: The chemistry. There's almost none of it between Sam and Cat. I mean, I know that's what happens when you create sitcom pairings through putting every character in a random name generator, but every episode just feels off. Sam and Cat are roommates and business partners, but they almost never feel like friends. They don't really bring out the best in each other or make you want to watch the next episode just to see what they do next. They're both characters that need someone stronger than them to play off of. On iCarly, Sam had Carly, Freddie, Spencer, and Gibby to play off of on a regular basis. All of them had different personalities and  ways of communicating. Victorious had Tori, Jade, Andre, Robbie, Beck, Trina, Sikowitz, and Sinjin to play off of Cat. That's eight different people Cat  had the chance to interact with on a regular basis. On this show, Sam and Cat only have  each other, Dice, Goomer,  and Nona. That's hardly anyone decent enough to be a foil to. And the characters are much weaker.  Dice is alright but nothing special, Goomer is a moron, and Nona barely has much screen time at all. The supporting cast doesn't steal the show, but just emphasizes exactly why this show was a bad idea.

What really stands out is that Sam and Cat aren't really themselves in this show. They come off like watered down, stereotypical versions of themselves. Which hurts the comedy a lot because you can tell they really need stronger characters to bring out their personalities. Every situation is based on two things:  Sam being lazy and gluttonous, and Cat being stupid and weird. I feel like at one point, their characters were more than that. With the spin-off, they just walk around and spit out as many punchlines as they can until the laugh track breaks. There's no value to the sitcom beyond it being Sam and Cat teaming up and doing things. On both the original shows, there were stakes to what the characters were doing. Sam had to save Carly from being killed by her prison friends or Cat had to go to San Diego to light a candle and celebrate her favorite actress who she thought passed away. Here, Sam just sits around watching TV and eating chili biscuits while Cat is doing one-woman shows about Abraham Lincoln. What reason do I have to care about anything these two are doing?

That's why it shouldn't be a surprise that "The Killer Tuna Jump" is the best episode of the series, because it tries to be more like iCarly and Victorious than any other episode. Jade, Freddie, and Robbie instantly outshine every other character on the show and make them look like amateurs. What they do on screen is way more interesting than whatever Sam and Cat do most of the time, and it makes me feel like if Jade was in Sam's place, the show would be ten times better. Ray mentioned something about the Victorious characters having this air of coolness about them, and I see it here in this episode. Jade takes the attention away whenever she's on screen. Freddie is the same way too, and Robbie to some extent also because of how much better his jokes are than Goomer's, for instance. For the first time, I actually care about what Sam and Cat are doing, because they get to be around characters they are already familiar with or have more to offer than the characters specifically created for the show.  Sam and Cat don't really have much of a social life outside of hanging out with a kid younger than them and a mentally disabled man older than them. So for them to finally act like girls in high school and not outdated sitcom buddies was really satisfying.

Sam & Cat came at a time when Nickelodeon was trying to create a new generation of shows, many of which were given the ball to run with and were sacked by the network before they could even cross the goal line. I'm looking at How to Rock and The Haunted Hathaways as examples. It was never made to last, mostly because of the flimsy premise  and the fact that  Ariana Grande was literally blowing up in the pop world around the time the show debuted. By the time the show was cancelled, Ariana's second album was close to hitting stores and she was only racking up more hits. Plus, it was apparent that as time went on, the actors were  getting more tired and the show had absolutely nothing to say. This is also when Schneider's Bakery officially started to decline. iCarly and Victorious 


...and yeah it just ends mid-sentence there, folks. Like I said, technical issues. This has been a known thing for a while which is why I took steps to try to preserve as much of Mike's original draft as possible...unfortunately Blogspot managed to eat those too :( So I'm going to post it now, see if Mike can piece together what was missing (fortunately it wasn't too much at least) then add my own thoughts.

Monday, April 16, 2018

An explanation of my ratings system (and some other minor updates)

Well it's pretty much what it says so, uh, let's get to it:

A++: Somebody pretty much plucked a show idea out of my head and made it exactly the way I would, and further into perfection.
Examples scored: none so far, and honestly I'm wondering just what would end up getting this grade. Linda and Heather-a-Rooney was the closest this actually got to literally happening as per the description, but it'd have to applicable to an entire series in order to be truly A++ worthy (obviously movies, mini-series or specials are excepted).

A+: Virtually perfect. Maybe some flaws, maybe even a bad episode or three, but it's very clear this is the cream of the crop when it comes to the network, if not just television period.
Examples scored: Gravity Falls, DuckTales (interestingly enough, both of these are DXD animation - go figure)

A: Something getting this grade is good enough to set a great mood for the rest of the day or turn around a bad one (to give you an idea what kind of bar we're setting here)
Examples scored: A few Andi Mack episodes at least; I'm pretty sure this was the highest grade I ever bothered to give Girl Meets World (Girl Meets She Don't Like Me - yes, really), the absolute best DCOMs/NOMs might be able to make it here (Phineas and Ferb: Across the 2nd Dimension), Game of Thrones (yes really)

A-: Still potentially good enough to be the highlight of your entire workday (unless you, like, skydive for work). Maybe still clearly flawed in some way - maybe it's still tied down by the conventions and tropes of its genre or format, or maybe it's the best episode of a mediocre or even lousy series, or maybe it's just outshined by other episodes, but it's still a must-watch
Examples scored: most of the Andi Mack episodes we bothered to review so far, a handful of typical Disney Channel faire (Girl Meets World, Jessie, Liv and Maddie, you get the idea), truly exceptional DCOMs/NOMs (Teen Beach Movie, Lemonade Mouth, Splitting Adam)

B+: The veneer might be a bit transparent on this one - maybe there's just something about it that prevents it from juuuust being taken that seriously. But still, not only is it solidly entertaining but you come out of it feeling like you actually gained something from watching it.
Examples scored: Ice Princess, D.E.B.S., most decent-good Disney Channel/Nickelodeon stuff will likely end up here (again, GMW, Jessie, LaM, the Nickelodeon imports/imports-in-spirit like the Every Witch Way/I Am Frankie canon, so on), most good or even great DCOMs (How to Build a Better Boy, Geek Charming, Jinx)

B: It's still very good, and you still watch it feeling like you took something away from it that's greater than just sheer entertainment value but...not as much. Maybe it was a great episode for a particular character (maybe even the character the episode actually focuses on!) but...that's pretty much it.
Examples scored: Most of say Liv and Maddie and good Jessie up to the end of Season 2 will likely fit in here, higher-quality DCOMs/NOMs (the first High School Musical)

B-: It's entertaining, but that's it. Probably not a lot to takeaway other than it just being exceptionally entertaining.
Examples scored: Jessie through late Season 2, lots of Liv and Maddie in here too, good Bizaardvark and Stuck in the Middle, good Disney/Nick shows in general, lots of DCOMs/NOMs (the last High School Musical)
Note: Chances are I'll probably score "so bad it's good" stuff in here. I don't give scores objectively, I grade from the gut, so to speak. Such examples would include...well, just off the top of my head, my favorite of The Adventures of Henry Danger so far.

C+: At this point you're probably just going to find a good way to spend a half-hour/hour/feature-length time period decently entertained. Basically, it's all filler. Velveeta cheese dip, if you will.
Examples scored: most Bizaardvark, most Stuck in the Middle, Bunk'd topped out here (exactly once), EuroTrip, your average network show that I bother to watch, good Henry Danger and Thundermans at this point. And...yes, I'd score most of iCarly here.

C: It's...average. It's decent enough to watch.This is probably the threshold for something you'd bother to tune into on a regular basis.
Examples scored: A lot of network television I bother to watch, Raven's Home really tops out here, most of Thundermans as of this point, The Adventures of Henry Danger (provided that's even still around)

C-: Ok, now we're starting to scrape the barrel. You tell yourself you'll try to watch every premiere but...you don't beat yourself up if you miss a week or seven. Even if you do regularly watch it, it might just be as background filler or paired with another activity like Twitter surfing or...writing this blog. AV Club calls it the Gentleman's F but...I think we need to go lower still for that to really hold true.
Examples scored: For me, a lot of GMW (#SorryNotSorry), a lot of Raven's Home, pretty much most of Nickelodeon period at this point.

D+: For me, the true Gentleman's F. There's reason to watch but...not really. Maybe worth watching just to satisfy a curiosity. Really, you're not giving it a lower grade due to some gut-feeling obligation. Maybe it only took you just past the halfway point of the way into the episode to predict how it ends.
Examples scored: A "high-quality" episode of Bunk'd, Game Shakers or School of Rock.

D: For a regular series, this is something that you gave a try to...and gave up after a few episodes. For a movie or special, it'd be something you'd seen once and...decided that's all you need in your life. You pretty much predicted all the plot points a third of the way in.
Examples scored: Bunk'd, Game Shakers and School of Rock as a whole, One Crazy Cruise

D-: For a series, you maybe gave it one or two episodes before just giving up, or maybe even consistently bad word-of-mouth is killing it. For a movie or special, maybe you gave up on it even as you were nearing the end. At this point, it's not even a viable alternative to checking your Twitter feed.
Examples scored: I don't know if I gave Invisible Sister this grade, but that's a good example all the same. Marvin Marvin (remember that one, kiddies?), Blogspot/Blogger itself.

F: You pretty much get this already, folks. It's just awful. Not truly worth watching. You feel like you've seen the entire episode just a few minutes after the front credits.
Examples scored: The new MacGyver pilot, the Minority Report pilot

F-: Yes that's right we go a step beyond when it comes to grading awfulness. Now you're just being vindictive and spiteful when awarding grades. You hate it that much. Not only does it meet the criteria for at least a D+ grade but you found something personally offensive about it. You're literally demanding your time back. The only way you even bothered to finish this, if at all, is because it was on your DVR and you abused the Fast Forward button.You can correctly guess every finite plot point and plot twist from watching the previews
Examples scored: Crowded

F--: This one really must've done something wrong. You feel like it's a personal attack on you, and you need to respond back to the creators in kind. It felt like literal torture to watch. The only reason you finished it is for review purposes - and even there you lied because again you heavily abused the fast forward button. You feel like it's actively promoting extremely disgusting and distasteful attitudes without anything else to redeem it. It's just not funny, or entertaining, or anything. It's quite simply, offensive garbage.
Examples scored: The pilot of Riverdale (hey, it started out really, really bad, folks), Undateable's The Backstreet Boys Walk Into A Bar, The Mysteries of Laura's The Mystery of Whatever Episode I reviewed. Xfinity and DirecTV as actual services.

Extra Thoughts:

 - it turns out Mike wrote a really good review of Sam & Cat but...I'm still trying to overcome technical issues in posting it. Yay, Blogspot!

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Blurt! Nickelodeon Original "Movie" *REAL* Review

I actually had a real nifty quote picked out but I can't remember it so I'll just go with "don't fart don't fart don't fart"

What is it? Well it's advertised as a Nickelodeon Original "Movie" but yeah, let's talk about that, right here, right now.It's an hour long, with commercial breaks - which means it's something akin to 44 minutes long without 'em. Now, that does fit the typical accepted definition of a "movie" (by four minutes) but still...that's kinda lame. I really don't get this somewhat unique trend Nickelodeon likes of putting out these hour-long "movies" that started back in 2015, but whatever. I understand the kiddie networks are getting hammered (see Mike's post immediately below) but still, this is ridiculous. I would say it's at least better than Disney putting the DCOM label on an obvious hour-long pilot but...Disney did that exactly once. There have been many more hour-long specials passed off as "movies" by Nickelodeon than 90-minute movies, so yeah, Nickelodeon's still worse.
Where did it air? Well if you didn't get it from my long rant immediately above...Nickelodeon.
Who stars in it? Jace Norman, the actress from Knight Squad (which aired immediately afterwards on the original broadcast), Jojo Siwa who I'm really, really tempted to just flat out claim right here, right now, that she pretty much just moved straight to Nickelodeon studios and actually lives there now, probably in the room right next to Daniella Monet's, and umm...a bunch of people I don't recognize.
Why are we reviewing this? Because I said I'd give this a *real* review if it ever does better than a C+ so...review spoiler alert.

Down in the comments where I first talked about how shitty DirecTV is (p.s. DO NOT SIGN UP FOR DIRECTV THEY SERIOUSLY SUCK, I MEAN IT, THIS IS MY OFFICIAL ANTI-ENDORSEMENT, JUST GO WITH NETFLIX LIKE EVERYBODY ELSE WITH A BRAIN IS DOING) Mike mentioned how he thought Jace was a pretty good actor. Well, it turns out, he at least kinda is. He's really good at nailing down that teen/tween angst and apathy to comedic effect that, well...Dan Schneider was really good at, really, and I can see how that two ended up being a natural pairing. I can also see how Jace was initially cast as a somewhat generic, tween heartthrob but...he also carries on the role of "everyman dude just going through puberty" really well, too. 

It's a very Jace-focused vehicle, with everybody else - the Knight Squad chick (I'll learn her name soon enough), Jojo, everyone else - really not getting all that much screen time in comparisons, so it rises and falls based on the quality of Jace's acting, and fortunately Jace is, as Mike pointed out, exactly the type of talented actor to carry it, so there you go.The jokes...I mean, I really don't know if they're legitimately cleverly written or if it's entirely Jace's delivery, but I guess at a certain point it's moot. The whole premise and gimmick...is surprisingly weak, but again Jace carries it enough that it's not much an issue. In fact, I really can't decide if the scriptwriting stands on its own or if it's all Jace.

But...I suppose in the end it doesn't matter as long as it's good, right?

Movie Grade: B-. It just barely made it but hey, I promised I'd give it an honest review if it does better than a C+ and here we are.
Movie MVP: If the review isn't clear enough, if Mike's comment doesn't make it clear enough, it's obviously Jace. Almost by default since he gets like 70% of screen time. Jojo actually comes pretty close though, if it weren't for the lopsided screentime bias.

Extra thoughts:

 - Again, I can't emphasize this enough: DO NOT SIGN UP FOR DIRECTV. I'm not kidding when I say, as a DirecTV user, I would rate my satisfaction right there at an F-. The only reason why I'm not even tacking on an extra minus there is because I think that's a distinction best reserved for rival Xfinity. There's no reason on this thing we live on called God's Green Earth why anybody would sign up for either service, not when there's Netflix and...speaking of Dan Schneider, I think it's pretty clear that the writing's on the wall that for Nickelodeon and Disney Channel...well, given its current connotation I don't want to say time's up but...not for sex abuse reasons (I'll get into that more retroactively in the Dan post) but for whatever reason the audience landscape has changed so drastically Nick and Disney Channel can't help but find themselves obsolete. Nick and Disney Channel themselves know this, hence Noggin, DisneyNOW and Disney's big annoucement of launching their own streaming service which I predict will fully replace Disney Channel...in five years or less.

 - And shoutout to Jojo because she's actually surprisingly good here in this too. She reminds me of a more likable version of Dylan from Speechless in this.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

What does Dan Schneider's departure mean for Nickelodeon?

It's the end of an era, apparently.

Multiple news outlets have reported that Nickelodeon has decided not to extend their current deal with Dan Schneider and Schneider's Bakery, effectively ending their relationship that has lasted several years.

This is huge news for the network. Not just that, but Nickelodeon has also decided to cancel Game Shakers. A fifth season of Henry Danger is still planned, for whatever reason.

There are also claims of Schneider being verbally abusive, long production days, and the longstanding rumors of him sexually abusing his young female stars.

I'm not here to talk about any of that because that wasn't my intention with this post and that's an entirely different topic. What I wanted to discuss was how this will change the live-action landscape of Nickelodeon. Dan Schneider has been part of the network since the days of All That, and he has been the creative mastermind behind most of Nick's most successful live-action shows. Is this because he's just that good, or because other content creators were never given the same respect and opportunities? There have been memorable shows made by other creators over the years, but Schneider's Bakery has dominated for three decades now.

This was probably a long time coming. Beyond just being shows of really poor quality, Henry Danger and Game Shakers just don't have the same success that Drake & Josh or iCarly had. Nickelodeon was most likely disappointed that both shows were going under the radar. Now that these shows are on borrowed time, there has to be an overhaul somewhere.

Let's look at how things are now. Henry Danger has at least one season left. Game Shakers is finished. The Thundermans is on its way out. Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn is also heading for the door. The only show left is Knight Squad, which might not even be around next year. Of course, there are other shows coming, but who's making them? Schneider leaving means that this is a completely new generation of live-action shows. By 2020, the Nickelodeon we used to know will no longer be around.

This really is bittersweet, mostly because of how I grew up as a huge fan of Schneider's shows, and now as more allegations are coming out against him, I don't know what to believe about the man anymore. I guess Nickelodeon had to move on at some point. Schneider's Bakery has been treading water for too many years now. Henry Danger and Game Shakers are going to be footnotes in a couple years, and it's not like going to another network will help improve the quality for future shows. This is something that will have huge implications years down the line, but for now, all we can do is just sit around in shock.

Aaaannnnnd...it's me. Hopefully Blogspot won't fail on the text editing so you can tell it's more, or even worse delete what Mike said.

First of all, I do want to talk about the alleged sexual abuse done by Dan - or rather, do my part to clear up the rumors regarding the lack of any accusations. I forget where I read it - I want to say it's NickAndMore!'s blog although his post is decidedly absent of any analysis beyond repeating what the newswire itself says or maybe it's his Twitter account - if it's something else I'll link to it as soon as I find it - but whoever it was, it made a good point about how no one's stepped forward after all this time, especially during the height of #MeToo and #TimesUp and especially after both the creator of The Loud House and now the creator of Ren and Stimpy - some of Nickelodeon's greatest hits, the latter almost synonymous with the network itself (at least until Spongebob) and the former the one gleaming non-Spongebob hit on the network, animated or otherwise - have been outed, but still nobody's come forward pointing their finger at Dan. Let's face it - Dan's very appearance - rotund and nerdy - and his very occupation just makes him a ripe and natural target for pedophilia accusations from people who just see it as a one-second opportunity to play Crazy Days and Nights or even just The Drudge Report. I'm not trying to dilute or lessen the impact of such accusations - again, if you know my history as I've talked about on this blog, I'm probably the last person to do that - but rather, just point out that so far none exist, and if there was ever a time for someone to feel most comfortable for pointing it out, now's definitely the time.

Dan's a smart guy, and he's also a married guy (his wife has her own franchise, Hungry Girl) and he knows any actual sexual assault will pretty much permanently destroy any ability to earn any real money for the rest of his life. At this point, just given the lack of evidence, I'm not inclined to believe he's sexually assaulted anyone. Of course, that will turn 180 instantly the moment even one accusation actually comes forward, but with zero such accusations I feel I have no choice but to give him the benefit of the doubt. I really also do believe that Micheal Jackson - yes, the king of pop - is pretty much innocent of sexual assault, but given how he loved to hang around with those much younger than him, it's only natural people would be creeped out. I feel that's just the same case here - he had a natural talent to be "with it" with a teen and really tween crowd, and the nature of his business necessitated he not only hang out with but personally evaluate the talent of teen and tween talent, and that's just going to naturally creep people out. The fact that what appeals to tweens and teens can seem...exceptionally creepy from an adult perspective well, needless to say that doesn't help either.

But onto the issues at hand, the real reason why he was let go and the quality of his shows, both of which are deeply intertwined. 

I feel I do myself a disservice by not mentioning how Drake & Josh and - yes really, Victorious - is one of my most favorite shows of all time. The others...yes, including All That, Zoey101 and even iCarly - were not so much my cup of tea, but then again I was watching this through strictly an adult's perspective (the first episode of iCarly I ever bothered to watch on premiere was the one with Jimmy Fallon in it, where she gets forcibly canceled by the FCC). I can see how kids - or at least tweens - still saw a lot of appeal in those shows. iCarly especially - let's face it - had a lot of lowest common denominator appeal with its demo. To continue my unfiltered, brutal honesty, iCarly's success was in featuring two extremely bratty tween girls and their random guy friend going almost literally just whatever seemed cool at the time, or at least during the table pitch. They went into space, they went to Japan, they crash a fan's wedding. And in not one of those episodes did they even make use of much of the premise or setting - it was Carly and Sam acting bratty and Freddie being drug along for the ride in what amounted to slightly different set changes. Then again, this wasn't all that much different from Disney Channel's biggest successes of the time, Suite Life on Deck and Wizards of Waverly Place, except WoWP at least typically used its premises and sets a little better.

Of course even WoWP matured and iCarly (and SLoD)...didn't. But that's ok, because just like how SLoD eventually gave way to Jessie which I still insist was KidCom at Tiffany's in comparison (at least in its second and especially first season, before it devolved into another inferior Suite Life clone [and don't give me any guff about how that's what it literally was to begin with]), iCarly gave way to Victorious which was a much more mature and dare I even say sophisticated take, really nailing the teenage perspective and zeitgeist through the three calendar years or so it ended up running through. A lot of people joke it's The Breakfast Club: the 2010s show and...I don't think that's inaccurate at all. Whereas Carly and Sam were bratty strictly as a comedy delivery device, Tori, Beck, Jade, and Andre pulled off a really slick, cool air that was the right mix of rebellion and just outright apathy, with Cat and Trina being excellent foils that ultimately helped magnify the other four's coolness (although I'll have to admit a lot of that slick coolness was rubbing off on Carly and Sam towards the end too). That's the difference between writing for tweens, and writing for actual teens. It's something that Disney Channel...well, they don't bother to do much anymore, if at all. They flirted with it in JONAS especially (and we all saw how well that worked), then again with I Didn't Do It (and again, we all saw how that worked) and to a lesser extent with Good Luck Charlie, Jessie and Liv and Maddie and between all those two exactly two of them worked and only then by trying to have mixed appeal to even a sub-tween demo along with an older teen or even outright adult demo (Jessie really dropping any real teen and especially adult appeal it had by mid-season 2 aside from Debby's sex appeal - and if you're going to ding me for that comment, you should've read the IMDb boards on Jessie and Debby Ryan before thinking I'm wrong on that, and on that note I'm glad those boards are gone). Of all those named shows, Victorious was the only one that successfully managed to hold onto the actual older teen demo it was aiming for - but not the only one in Nickelodeon's history or even on Dan's resume as with Zoey101 and for me especially, Drake & Josh (I regard the success of that show to be credited to how it was more of an adult-style sitcom that just happaned to star teens).

Then...it all came crashing down almost immediately after Victorious aired its last episode. And I don't just mean for Dan Schneider, but Nickelodeon as a whole and it even managed to drag Disney Channel down with them, but that's another post (that I've already written, multiple times, and probably continue to write in the future). Sam & Cat...was a disaster. I'm not sure what happened exactly other than it felt phoned-in, relying on an assumed magic inherited from iCarly that never bothered to transfer. Especially right after Victorious, it just came off as too generic to be taken credibly as a Schneider's Bakery creation. 

Then we have Henry Danger which is a success...for some reason...but to its credit it at least bothers to make use of its premise (some episodes). And we have Game Shakers which is...iCarly 2.0, for 2017. Game Shakers obviously wasn't the success Nickelodeon was hoping for, or even what the network and Schneider insist it actually is. What also doesn't help is that it insists on having actual game tie-ins which, even if they are of strictly a mobile nature, still represents a steep production cost on top of what it would've been otherwise. But I really feel that if you had to pick a point where it really fell through, it was back on Sam & Cat. The insane production schedule (for those not in the know, the first season had 40 episodes, at least half of the show's anticipated ultimate episode count, something virtually unprecedented, although they only made about 35 or so) and the lack of return on that investment no doubt was where it first soured. Actually, maybe even back on Victorious which ended on 65 episodes even though most people thought it was automatic at an 80 final episode count, if not into the 90s or even up to 100. Victorous' premature episode axe was such a surprise they didn't even have time to put together a proper finale (rumors have it that Victorious was supposed to even run concurrent with Sam & Cat with potentially intertwined storylines). Not to mention the iCarly spin-off about Gibby that was put to filmed pilot, but never picked up (I'd love to know if any of you have seen this).

And...well, let's talk about those expenses which probably was the singular most contributing factor. Multi-cam shows are meant to be cheap by design, that's the whole reason why they use multiple cameras to film everything in the first place (so you can get things on fewer takes and those multiple cameras help hide things that normally would need additional production values to hide otherwise, namely that invisible fourth wall). Dan Schneider was driving up costs so high, however, that it pretty much defeated the purpose (iCarly ended up being much more expensive than Zoey101, the sole single-cam show Dan did for Nickelodeon). To Dan's credit, the vast majority of those costs went straight to the players themselves, but to clearly an excessive degree. Here's a bit of trivia for you - "minute-for-minute" Miranda Cosgrove was the highest paid actress in all of Hollywood during the run of iCarly. She got paid $180,000 per 26 minutes of usable film (or basically per regular episode, or half of an hour special, or a third of a 90-minute special). Jennette McCurdy got $150,000 per episode, as well as the entire cast of Victorious. For comparison's sake, Sofia Vergara, lead actress of Modern Family - one of if not the most popular "adult"/"family" sitcoms during that same time - got paid $90,000 per episode - or in other words, half of Miranda Cosgrove's running rate. When adjusted for "minute-by-minute" considerations that gets reduced to a quarter of what Miranda made for the same amount of footage. And keep in mind, Modern Family is a single-cam show! (Actually, a very complexly shot show at that.) To put that in another perspective, that's more than the per episode rate commanded back at Disney Channel by Miley Cyrus, Ashley Tisdale, Brenda Song, Debby Ryan, Dove Cameron, Rowan Blanchard, Sabrina Carpenter, Bridgit Mendler and your choice of either Bella Thorne or Zendaya combined (Disney Channels' rates top out at $20,000 and if the show wasn't named for your character you might only be seeing $15,000 or even just $10,000 per episode - with one exception, when they gave Miley a whopping 5 grand pay bump per episode, whee). 

Yeah, needless to say that's not exactly sustainable, when one of your actresses cost more than all of the lead actresses at the rival network put together. And now you know why they had such nonsense like having every single episode of iCarly be a "special" that would air once a month, and then for the rest of that month well...I hope you enjoy Bucket and Skinner and Marvin, Marvin!

I can't imagine Jace commands anywhere near that amount now, or Cree or Madison on Game Shakers but...yeah. This was a long time coming, but it has nothing to do with sexual assaults or even angry outbursts (although the latter certainly doesn't help his case, though it just makes him look like he's coming out a punk in the public eye more than an actual critical reason for letting him go). It has everything to do with...well, he's just getting old, and everyone loses their touch, no exceptions. Myself, working in the publishing industry (well, kinda sorta, more on that in the future) and even being an author myself (kinda sorta, although I'm happy to say that the "author" part is starting to actually weigh more in my life), well it's only natural that I see it all the time. I see it with my favorite authors all the time, and so on. So, it was inevitable, and now that Nickelodeon is starting to feel the effects of Dan's erosion of talent and product, well, that's what we've come to.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Blurt Nickelodeon Original Movie "Review"

I'm gonna tell you upfront that this isn't so much a "review" as it is just venting in frustration. This also continues the train of thought that I've left off with Mike from the post below, and I'll probably continue this train of thought in a later post. 

But I recorded Blurt (and apparently the first episode of Knight Squad that premiered after it - that's another thing, I kinda feel this trend of making "movies" that's only an hour long to be a little lame) when it premiered on President's Day, but instead of watching it I watched Zombies instead. I guess that's my mistake, and I guess maybe I should've made more time to watch it, but my DVR ended up crashing (that was something I couldn't exactly anticipate, you know) so I lost that recording. And all of the Blurt! replays were really closely spaced together - I don't think they had any scheduled after the first week. Well, that's not entirely true - but NickAndMore! just informed me that they spontaneously cancelled all the repeat showings for this week, so, I'm like, ok. I look it up on the Nickelodeon app and on Nick.com and...it's not there. At all. You can literally watch every single Nickelodeon Original Movie in the past two years...except this one for some reason. Z-O-M-B-I-E-S (yes I'm going to insist on spelling it that way) is still on the DisneyNOW app for longer, but, well, I guess Nickelodeon just doesn't want me watching Blurt! if I missed it the first showing.

...so I'm going to grade it accordingly.

Movie Grade: Not only is it getting an F minus minus score but it's also getting our first DO NOT WATCH warning, ever. And yes, this is also the first time this blog's given a grade out of pure, unfiltered spite. So friggin' sue me. As much as I praise (some) Nickelodeon shows for being better then their Disney Channel counterparts...the network's a mess. Almost all those shows are imports (or "imports-in-spirit"), the network still treats them crappy compared to their mainline shows, and their mainline shows are for the most part just garbage. And the inflexibility of being able to watch things, at least compared to Disney Channel if not even other cable networks or broadcast, is just more garbage on top of that.

Fuck You, Nickelodeon.

If this movie warrants a grade better than a C+ I might actually give it an honest review if I ever get a chance to watch it. But given that a big punchline from the trailers is do not fart do not fart do not fart, I doubt that's the case. 

And instead of giving a Movie MVP (or LVP as the case would be) I'm also awarding a score of F minus minus and a DO NOT BUY warning to DirecTV. Yes, we're making a bold move here by specifically singling out a product and/or service and warning readers not to buy into it. Somehow I think we'll survive if they threaten to pull sponsorship. But after over two years I'm tired of their absolutely horrific and inexcusable reliability rates that often have nothing to do with the weather and everything to do with just how crappy the equipment is. Not that Xfinity is all that much better, namely in how equally horrifically and inexcusably overpriced their subpar and frustrating service is. It's in my opinion that it seems like the service to use then, if you can afford or want only one, is the one all the other cool chillin' Millennials are scrambling to nowadays - Netflix. And I know a lot of these Disney and Nick shows aren't available on Netflix, especially the latest ones - but a lot of them are, and as I explained, most of the new stuff is garbage anyway. Not to mention I'm hearing Netflix's and Amazon's own original tween/teen programming is really kicking ass in comparison. Really, it's just going to get to the point, with all this talk of "Peak TV" and all, that if it isn't on Netflix (or Amazon at least), then maybe it just isn't worth watching in the first place.

Is that what you really want, Nickelodeon?

Extra Thoughts

 - Honestly I'm not all that big a fan of Amazon's business practices either, which I suppose defaults me to recommending Netflix specifically (or Hulu I guess). They just purchased the Ring security system thingie, and given how frequently they advertise on FOX News and how all their commercials have young women as package thieves, they just strike me as...very alt-right-y (which I'm not afraid to just flat out say "is code for being neo-nazis, because they're legit neo-nazis"). Not to mention they're choking out traditional "white collar" and higher-end "blue collar" jobs in favor of remedial service jobs (package handler, package delivery...and, uh, that's pretty much it in Amazon's ideal world) and I don't think I need to tell you how literally-Great-Depression-like, unimaginably disastrous that is for the economy or the workforce (i.e. you), and yet they get heaps of praise for it, somehow (probably because they donate a lot of money, politically). And now they're moving their headquarters here where...they threaten to choke out even more good quality jobs for remedial service jobs, threaten an already fragile if not outright broken city infrastructure with over-saturated congestion, and well I guess pollute the airwaves with more insinuation that the only good job a young woman professional can get anymore is "petty package thief," probably because she can't find any good jobs that pay a buck or two above minimum wage sorting and delivering packages for 10-hour shifts because, you know, Amazon choked those out of existence. So, yeah. Maybe don't be in a hurry to sign up for Amazon Prime and all.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Disney Channel and Nickelodeon Live-Action shows (and maybe some others) between now and the premiere of Knight Squad this Saturday, ranked

Disney Channel

1. Stuck in the Middle
2. Andi Mack (yes I've decided I like Stuck in the Middle better than Andi Mack)
2. Bizaardvark (yes I've also decided Andi Mack is tied with Bizaardvark)
3. Tangled: The Series (yes I know it's not live-action but at this point it really is making up a huge chunk of the original premiere schedule so, there you go)
4. Raven's Home (see mid-break review)
Unwatchable flaming piles of garbage tier: Bunk'd

Nickelodeon

1. Hunter Street, and you know what, we might as well group all the other "daily" specials they air in whole month-long blocks at a time right in here, everything from Lip Sync Battle Shorties and Paradise Run to I Am Frankie and, well, Hunter Street
2. ...you know what, starting with "2" still implies that whatever's the best show is still good, which is an incorrect implication, so let's start somewhere more appropriate...
3....
4....
5. The Thundermans
6. Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn (you know this show actually was good, wtf happened in Season 4? This is seriously worse than Jessie's and Austin & Ally's late-season downfall combined...)
7. The Adventures of Kid Danger (yes I know again, see above with Tangled)
8. Henry Danger
9. ...you know, I'm not sure if I should put Game Shakers in here and School of Rock in 10th place, or just move both of them into an "Unwatchable flaming piles of garbage tier" especially since I skipped entire seasons of watching either show on the account of, you know, unwatchable flaming piles of garbage
10. See immediately above




MIKE: I really don't think a show like Knight Squad lends itself well to being a cheesy multi-camera sitcom. Not every new show has to be done in the same format. I get that Nickelodeon hasn't cared about the live-action department for five years now, but why can't this be a single-camera show? Wouldn't that cut production costs? I don't know, just a thought.

Don't you think you're being a little too hard on NRDD? I mean, let's be honest, it was never that good in the first place. Is it worse now that the kids are all going through puberty and their annoying, somewhat endearing kid personalities turned into annoying, scratchy-voiced teenage personalities? Probably. But I don't think it was ever shooting for anything higher to begin with.

Damn, you really gave it to The Thundermans there. I agree, and I'll do a write-up on it at a later time when it ends, but still, that show's been with us for four years, dammit.

I actually watched a School of Rock episode for the first time this month. It was a new one where Kendall from Big Time Rush was a janitor at the kids' school. My first impression is that the show is pretty damn lame. Like, lame to the point where it doesn't stand out at all and if it ended today, nobody would care. They probably wouldn't even know it ended until they look it up on Wikipedia one day out of complete boredom. They'll be like, "Wasn't there some rock shit that came on Nick that one time?" How to Rock was definitely ahead of its time. If it started airing in 2014 instead of 2012, it would definitely get to three seasons.

The main chick on Hunter Street reminds me of Frankie from Degrassi, in voice and appearance. While we're on the subject, Degrassi is atrocious now. I'm all for them addressing social issues, and not all of their attempts fail, but they are way too concerned with being progressive and making a point rather than be entertaining. The show was never so blatant about what it was doing before it came to Netflix. But anyway, Hunter Street. "You used real garbage?!"

You like Stuck in the Middle more than Andi Mack now? I say this having seen almost nothing from either show, but why is that the case? Is Disney Channel getting that good to the point where two live-action shows are consistently pulling off A-quality episodes?

Olivia Rodrigo is going to grow up gorgeous, that's my prediction. Is Bizaardvark a discount iCarly? I heard about the concept a while ago and I just thought it was a ripoff of something we're already familiar with. 

I'm just going to ask, why is Bunk'd still on? Why did Disney Channel renew it for a third season, much less a second one? Why has Peyton List not moved on yet? Why is Jadakiss as hard as it gets? And why am I writing this with the confidence that whoever's reading this will get the reference?

I think Disney Channel needs to get some new blood. They're starting to run out of shows from what I'm seeing on that list. 

RAY: I'm kinda surprised you think that about Knight Squad, I'd think the basic concept of a show like Knight Squad only lends itself to a cheesy multi-cam. It's basically about four buddies who go on knight adventures, and a little bit of school because tween sitcom. To me that screams cheesy, tween/teen multi-cam sitcom. Plus - I'm not saying John D. Beck and Ron Hart (yes the Liv and Maddie guys!) can't do single-cam...but they seem to have really mastered and nailed down the multi-cam format and know what it's good for, especially when it comes to cheese and simple viewer entertainment. After four years of Liv and Maddie (plus the work they did on Shake it Up) and something like two years more or less actually talking to these guys (well, what passes for it on Twitter) plus the heaps of praise Disjointed is getting...I more or less unequivocally trust them.

That said, I'm not entirely sure. I haven't seen it yet. More on that in a bit actually....

As for Andi Mack...I was going to write a more detailed post on this (and I probably will) but...this latest season just doesn't seem as interesting as the first one. Now that you've mentioned what kind of a mess DeGrassi is (that's another show I've never seen much of, as I didn't even have Nick when it was running on that network and I don't even know how to watch it now other than...move to Canada?) I think it's suffering a few of the problems that show has, plus the same ones Girl Meets World has. Namely, Jonah is this show's albatross hanging around its neck. The parts involving Andi herself and Jonah...just aren't interesting anymore. The parts with Buffy aren't all that more interesting, especially since most of her stuff lately seems to revolve around the middle school basketball team equivalent of a teamkilling, team-stealing asshole. Yeah that's really frustrating to deal with, and that's not necessarily a situation that's easily resolved, but as much as creative writing teachers harp on students that you need conflict in order to have a story, you also need actual traction to that story. Otherwise you're just gonna have Buffy stand there in frustration when her own freakin' team captain steals the ball from her. Yeah, that's conflict - and that's all there is. You don't have a complete story without pushback, and without resolution. And yeah, I know, those parts are coming more or less but the conflict doesn't feel interesting. It just feels...exactly like the type of frustration Buffy is feeling, just spinning her wheels helplessly.

But I guess what I'm getting at is...my greatest fears about Andi Mack seem to becoming true. That it's getting so wrapped up in what it wants to do that it feels more tedious to watch than fun. Good Luck Charlie was fun to watch. Hell even Jessie was fun to watch a lot of times, as I've said time and time again, to say nothing of Liv and Maddie especially as that show brilliantly matured. Hell, Stuck in the Middle is experiencing that same brilliant maturity and so is Bizaardvark. And I just want to make it clear that it's attempt to tackle relevant social issues isn't necessarily the thing that's making it a chore to watch. Cyrus' parts are my favorite parts of Andi Mack now. And as it turns out it's not even so much about Cyrus being gay and finding himself, but dealing with the fact that the buy he's attracted to is his best friend's boyfriend. That's brilliant. That's very excellent writing. And just the parts where he's still struggling to fit in, for no other reason than because he just thinks fitting in might be fun, perhaps with a little FOMO in there. But while there's some interesting developments in the actual Mack family, it's overshadowed by Andi-Jonah-Amber drama and as for Buffy...it's as if the writers decided that it'd be cool for Buffy to be the sole girl on the boys' basketball team...and literally just stopped there. Like, once they got to that point they didn't know what to do with her and just left her hanging there. 

And if it sounds as if I myself am stuck on S2E4...yeah because I pretty much am. I didn't get through watching the show in time before I got a DVR upgrade and lost all the episodes, and after that my DVR crashed so I lost the episodes again. But...I've had something like three or even four whole months to catch up on those episodes, and I didn't. I don't do that unless I have reservations that a show just...might not be that interesting to watch anymore. And I don't have reservations on a show without reason, especially a show I've already watched the whole first season on. I make a point of watching Bizaardvark and Stuck in the Middle at the most days after they air because those shows are fun to watch. I make a point of watching Hunter Street hours after viewing, if not just viewing it on the live feed (which is perhaps a habit I need to get back into). Because those shows are actually pretty fun.

...but that's another essay/post altogether. 

...at this point I'm just looking at Thundermans even being on my DVR recording list and...smh. I don't even know if I'm going to make it to the show's end at this point.

And speaking of having my DVR crash, I lost Blurt, although I did watch Zombies (or is that Z-O-M-B-I-E-S?) at least. I can't find Blurt on the Nick app which just seems...par for the course given Nickelodeon's general apathy on everything.

No, I don't think I'm too hard on NRDD at all. They were cute in the first two or even three seasons, but it's just so painfully obvious they've outgrown the whole concept of the show without some major retweaks - retweaks that probably aren't that hard to do, save for apparently the writers' and crew's own reluctance and inertia. FFS Lizzy Greene turns 15 in just a couple of weeks, and it's gotten to the point where she can post provocative pictures of herself on her Insta and it's only slightly less disturbing than when Daniella Cohn does it. I'd argue she'd even at least somewhat outgrown her super-comedic, super-intentionally-awkward role in Tiny Christmas. For some of the other castmates like Casey Simpson it's at least as bad if not worse. And then there's Mace Cornell who, as Mal might say, decided to ditch this popsicle stand completely. 

And then there's School of Rock, and while I'm at it Game Shakers and to a lesser degree Henry Danger, although that degree of separation is rapidly shrinking. Or even Thundermans. I think in Thundermans and Henry Danger's cases it might just be the show's getting old - there's a major difference between two different shows doing the same basic humor, and the same show doing the same basic humor it did during its first season. A skilled crew (like Beck and Hart) knows how to make it work, but it's almost useless trying to hide pure and simple creative fatigue. But School of Rock managed to accomplish that feat within the first few episodes. As someone trying to put real honest effort into these reviews, I really want to precisely articulate, exactly nail down, ok, why does School of Rock suck? Aside from just being lame, that is. But the thing is, I can't. I can't nail down exactly why that joke doesn't work, why this plot falls flat, etc. The saying "you know it when you see it" exists for a reason and I guess...School of Rock just can't interest me. 

And Game Shakers just isn't even trying. It does what a lot of Dan Schneider shows post-Drake & Josh (and even Zoey101 did this in spades) tends to do, although iCarly and VicTORious (yes I'll keep insisting on spelling it like that, it's on the damn title card) are lightweights in comparison. Just a lot of dialogue and situational-based humor that's funny in accordance to Schneider's really weird, warped sense of humor and not much else. In iCarly, a lot of the humor was just flat-out physical, and in VicTORious, the situational comedy was very relevant and just made sense. Drake & Josh just about had a perfect balance of this. I can't explain wtf happened.

I'll talk about this more but...long story short, very little of these kiddie shows interests me anymore. As far as I'm concerned these imported/imported-in-spirit "dailies" and game/special event shows (like Paradise Run and Lip Sync Battle Shorties) are what's keeping Nickelodeon afloat. I'm hoping Knight Squad can add to that, but that's based entirely around the reputation of just the specific people who put the show together. I really enjoy Bizaardvark and Stuck in the Middle but those are now the oldest shows on the network, and they're long in the tooth season-count if nothing else (or in other words, they don't have much longer in this world). I really enjoyed Ducktales, but it's been now going on months since the last episode aired and it's painfully obvious DXD itself is a dying network. Disney itself sees the writing on the wall, hence Disney's big announcement of a paid subscription service which might be the future and might spell the actual death of Disney Channel. I'm not paying extra for kiddie shows without a kid of my own, sorry folks. Plus...you know, these shows were great when I was at a certain time and place and headspace, but that time and place and headspace was a long time ago. Part of my problem is that the time and place have moved on, but the headspace didn't necessarily. But I'm slowly starting to realize that that headspace wasn't as great a headspace to be in as I thought, and it's just time to fucking move on already. Now I'm just more into books, I've got strong potential career commitments coming up that promise a better, more evolving headspace - and part of that includes the real possibility of writing my own stories instead of just absorbing and reviewing the stories other people make up. Are they also kiddie stories of the same ilk as all these shows? Yeah. But at least they're my own, in formats that promise more potential than what Disney and Nickelodeon insist on sticking with, even with Andi Mack.

And videos. That's right, I've made the commitment to move onto YouTube.

But really...I'm not even sure what to do anymore.

Wow I can configure the title for "Featured Post"

Another quick note on Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

I FINALLY LEARNED WHAT IT IS! And moreover, how to do it on Blogspot/Blogger. So hopefully we'll actually get some traffic now! Thank ...

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