I Didn't Do It, Austin & Ally, K.C. Undercover Reviewed: "Bite Club" (#2.18) "Scary Spirits and Spooky Stories" (#2.15) and "All Howl's Eve" (#2.23) and Monstober 2015 retrospective
What is it? Yeah if I didn't bother to do this when we bothered to review two shows at the same time I'm not bothering to do it for...whatever this jumbled mess is. Thanks Monstober crossover idiocy!
The joke quoted above is probably my least favorite type of crossover joke. It just seems like the kind of thing you have to say when two shows interact and they have similar characters. It tries to be witty and meta, but since we see the joke coming, it just comes off as very predictable. I don't think I'll ever see a better crossover than "The Simpsons Guy," since it managed to make fun of both shows and combine their respective styles of humor in a way that felt fresh and unique. Just a thought. Of course, I shouldn't be expecting much from these crossovers. They're just like, "Look! Characters from other shows! Let's get them to talk to us for a few minutes and never appear again!"
- the time it takes for me to prepare a salad to go along with that pizza
Kevin Kopelow & Heath Seifert worked on All That, Kenan & Kel, Sonny with a Chance, and Jonas (the first season, I believe, not the atrocious second season). They get a pass from me for their contributions to kids television.
I see where you're going with this, to an extent. I used to think of Austin & Ally as generic, run-of-the-mill Disney Channel crap with absolutely no redeeming value. But.....here's the thing. I started watching a whole bunch of episodes and I realized I really liked it. I mean, unironically liking it. Calum Worthy has always been a treat. Dez is another dumb character, but Worthy's portrayal of him always makes him entertaining even with all the stupid punchlines he gets. One of my favorite scenes in the history of the series is when Dez makes this weird concoction full of random stuff in it. Austin was having a throat problem at the time, and you would think that the joke is Austin drinking it. In fact, the guys all thought that Dez was giving it to Austin to drink. We find out that he wasn't, he just really wanted to try it at that precise moment. Then he drinks it and says, with a big smile on his face, "Yup. I was right. It's disgusting!" That joke lived and died not only because of the subversion, but because Calum himself does so well with playing Dez that you could automatically expect it to be funny.
Need I mention Chuck? Come on, you never liked Chuck's rivalry with Dez?
Of course I love Chuck's rivalry with Dez! Even when it shown through on the Coppertop Flop segments it was awesome. They really play well off together. Plus Chuck's (redhead) sister is kind of hot. Fun fact: she was in Good Luck Charlie, was Axl's girlfriend on The Middle last season or whenever, and was topless on Shameless.
Topless. Just pointing that out.
No lady is safe on this blog. ;)
But to address the bigger point, I noticed that as you said, iCarly has a very off-the-cuff, Seth MacFarlane-type of humor. And that has a lot to do with Dan Schneider having created the show and written several episodes. His approach to comedy is very hard to replicate for other writers because they never seem to understand why it works or how he makes it work. Without getting a grasp on that sense of humor, the jokes come off as very awkward. Even Dan himself has had trouble making his own sense of humor work. When iCarly and Victorious both declined, they were almost painful to watch. The subplot to "Robbie Sells Rex" is one of the stupidest plots I have ever laid my eyes on, and the worst part is that not only is it stupid, the ending itself is anticlimactic and unsatisfying. AND THE CHARACTERS THEMSELVES ACKNOWLEDGE HOW DISAPPOINTING THE PLOT WAS.
Episode Grave: Fuck it, I'm taking a page from MikeTheTVBlogger again and giving it a D-. Seek help, Aaron. It's ok to not be white. I'm glad Piper's on a completely different show so she doesn't have to work with you.
Episode MVP: Fuck it, I'm giving it to Piper Curda again despite the fact that she's nowhere near this crossover just because Aaron's self-hating racism bothers me that much, despite the fact that none of his racist Korean yellow-face caricatures actually appear in this episode either. If you keep insisting that I have to award MVP to someone who was actually in this episode, I guess I can give it to Trinitee...nah, no, fuck it, I'm still giving it to Piper. If you're going to keep insisting that I award Episode MVP to someone actually in this episode, I'm going to make it tied with Debby Ryan just to spite you.
You've already added some thoughts, anything about final grades and MVPs Mike?
If racial stereotypes bother you this much, especially Asian ones, avoid any Thundermans episodes with Mrs. Wong. She's pretty much every single old Asian lady you've ever seen on TV.
I wanted to add some thoughts to your Best Friends Whenever review but I haven't gotten around to watching the episode yet. I'm not surprised Christian and Sean weren't taking too kindly to it because that's the same reaction they have for a lot of Disney Channel shows. I'm not trying to knock them since that's exactly the review I expected but......let me put it this way. I watched Bunk'd more than an hour ago. I don't have enough material for a full-on review because the FiOS app on my Kindle kept screwing around but from what I saw, it wasn't that bad. I guess Jessie has crushed my spirit so much I can't go into that kind of stuff with an open mind anymore. I guess it's all up to perspective, but the show looks better than I anticipated.
Invisible Sister, however? I want a piece of that action. It's going to be tough since this will be my first ever movie review in any capacity, so we could always tag team it. You know, because your commentary on why Paris Berelc is hot is vital to this write-up. ;)
Hah, thanks! I don't blame you for not being acquainted with everything under the sun; it's a lot to ask for (especially with daily serials now like the Caterina Ledobear shows, i.e. W.I.T.S. Academy and with Make it Pop! making a return sometime down the road) and it's not exactly the type of thing you get praise for when you brag about it. I'm tempted to put down your choice of MVP as Piper and Debby in the books, but I think I'll leave it at Gumby :)
Oh, God, Mrs. Wong. Mrs. Wong. Yeah, I've ranted about her elsewhere in message board/non-blog form. Oddly enough she's...getting better. She's shaping up to be a nice pseudo-villain/nemesis for the Thundermans, but it's still not really great. It's still better than Sun-Hee and what's his face because while Mrs. Wong has the accent Sun-Hee and what's his face draw further attention by specifically having stereotypical traits beyond just appearance or accent, down into actual personality traits. Plus Mrs. Wong vs. Max is always a blast.
Eh, I'm not in a hurry to knock Christian or Sean too since really they're the whole reason why this blog even exists. I'm honestly surprised they didn't appreciate BFW more (or at least Sean, he hated it, Christian actually liked it enough) but I see where they're coming from on everything else. If you're jumping straight into, say, Austin & Ally Season 3 or 4 without seeing Season 1 and appreciating how they built up and utilized that humor style like you talked about, it's not going to be very appealing. If you're jumping into Jessie Season 3 or 4 or even 2, when the show went into a less subdued and grounded direction, I can see why they think the humor falls flat and why it might turn them off. Green-Eyed Monsters was a Tessie episode through and through, and all of its charm was derived from it being a Tessie episode (I have to agree with Christian and Sean the B-plot is kind of meh) so if you don't come into it appreciating Tessie I can see how more of the flaws will shine through. Also, in regards to Debby's acting, come to think of it (I've rewatched the episode several times since thanks to Disney Channel incessantly rerunning everything and compared it both to episodes in adjacent production order and just other episodes) there is something very wonky going on in that regard too. I swear, she was a better actress in Season 1, and she's a better actress in other Season 2/3/4 episodes too. That tells me it's probably the director who I'm going to look up now and it's...Rich Correll. Ugh. And...what? Rich Correll is the most frequent director of Jessie, in fact he's the most frequent director of any Disney Channel show period. He's literally Disney Channel's go-to guy. Name any random episode of any random show in Disney Channel's entire history (barring the imports) and there's like a 45% chance he's the director. He didn't just direct Hannah Montana, he's the show's actual creator (so yes he's also responsible for the monster that is Miley Cyrus). Needless to say just given the sheer volume he's directed both good and bad episodes of Jessie. So it doesn't really explain the wonkiness there. Then again, a part of Correll's success is that he's a very...adequate director. He's spent a career mastering and honing a very inoffensive, very safe and very bland directing style that probably works best and only with this type of network catering to the tween and teen demo that also gets a lot of attention from parents and "Think of the Children!" groups where safe and bland is more desirable than taking creative risks (and Chuck Lorrie sitcoms).
I don't know if it's because I'm looking at her acting through a biased perspective, that Debby really is just a lousy actress, or if it's bad directing, or if there something very wonky going on, but right now I stand 95% convinced something wonky was just going on. You look at the string of adjacent episodes - The Whining, Make New Friends but Hide the Old, Green-Eyed Monsters, 101 Lizards, Trashin' Fashion - and the best are probably going to be Make New Friends But Hide the Old (where Jessie was really confined to the very secondary B-plot) and 101 Lizards which is very wonky with visual proof right there on the screen because if you pay very close attention Debby is actually thinner there than in the other episodes in that string. There was a filming hiatus shortly after Season 2 even began after they filmed a small number of episodes (pretty much what I named above) in order to accommodate filming the Jessie/Austin & Ally crossover and during that hiatus I guess Debby took advantage of it to thin down or something, whatever, this blog isn't into fat-shaming or least of all direct it at Debby so there's no point in speculating over details. I can at least say she did switch to being a vegan as she tweeted and blogged about it around this time. And I bring it up because in 101 Lizards she does look thinner, then in Trashin' Fashion she looks the same as she did in the other episodes, and then in the crossover she's back to looking like she did in 101 Lizards where she's more or less stayed ever since, so it implies that 101 Lizards was actually filmed much later, possibly after the crossover, and sneakily inserted into the production order as if nobody would notice (and nobody would've if it wasn't for Debby's just-noticeable physical transformation). So it leads me to believe that maybe there is wonkiness going on there, maybe they were trying something experimental, maybe they was something "new" enough inserted into the production equation that threw people off-balance and they had to grow used to things again.
Also, Debby does blink a lot in that episode, I have to give them that. I still wonder if they tried a Season 1 episode or a different Season 2 episode if they would've liked it better, maybe thought Debby a better actress. Maybe I'll even go back and rewatch Bunk'd, when those episodes premiered I was actually in a pretty cynical mood and I was just about ready to write the entire network off as "oh yeah, once Jessie and A&A are done this is it and Liv and Maddie and GMW are going to be the only things worth returning for." The first episode wasn't that bad except for poor damn Jorge, the second episode was...I guess ok, I liked the B-plot a lot better than the A-plot which was honestly just stupid and it's Jorge's strongest by a million lightyears, the third episode was actually pretty good and I liked it even though I can't for the life of me remember what the B-plot even was, it had to be some sort of Ravi and Jorge thing by default, the fourth episode was no no no God no no no these plots are always stupid. I like Best Friends Whenever at least, and as I touched on above K.C. Undercover's hit or miss, but it's certainly had hits.
Well, that was awkward and not about any of the shows we were talking about. Oh, yeah, Invisible Sister. Monstober DCOMs are always huge, probably the hugest DCOMs aside from the cynically obvious mega-cashins *coughDescendantscough*. They're always a hoot and a half. I highly recommend the entirety of the Halloweentown series if you can manage the time, they're all up on Watch Disney Channel. In fact every single Monstober/Halloween-themed DCOM ever made or even remotely resembling one is on Watch Disney Channel right now, even Now You See It which was like actually a January premiere or something? But Halloweentown really is the quintessential classic DCOM, it's always the one that's pointed to for the "good old days" when DCOMs were fun and legitimate whole-family entertainment instead of straight-line tweenie-booper faire near-explicitly drawing in the girls through Zac Efron's sex appeal (or the boys through Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale). Twitches is good too, though those movies still aren't Halloweentown. Actually, what is a real hoot is the deceptively lamely-titled Girl vs. Monster which again stars IDDI's Olivia Holt with Katherine McNamara (who is a redhead so...uh, you know). This was actually the very first DCOM I ever saw upon its premiere three years ago (wow, it's already been three years!) and it was a blast. Not quite as classic as Halloweentown, it's more just raw action and fun-packed. The Best Friends Whenever to Halloweentown's Liv and Maddie/Girl Meets World.
So yeah, I'm looking forward to Invisible Sister just because Disney Channel has a near-flawless record when it comes to Halloween DCOMs. It's where they really shine. And yeah, you can see it a million lightyears coming, of course Paris Deceptively Impossible to Pronounce Last Name Berelc (you say it as if that awkward c hanging at the end was never there, BTW - Burr-elll) is...wait, she's only 16? Ok nevermind then. But hey I can still talk about how massively popular she still is with the fandom, she has a lot of fandom good will built up through her stint on Mighty Med. It will be really interesting to see her outside of a superhero role just like it will be interesting to finally see Rowan outside of GMW, or especially for that matter Karan Brar finally break out of the Ravi (or Ravi-ish) role. Hopefully.
To wrap up Monstober 2015 it was...well, better than other years in some ways, not as good as others. It was certainly a much bigger presence and celebration this year as far as the regular Disney Channel shows go, entirely a byproduct of the crossover aspect. At least it's a nice Monstober sendoff for Jessie, Austin & Ally and I Didn't Do It, too bad Dog With a Blog didn't quite make it. It was definitely Jessie's strongest one (compared to where they dress up and play paintball which was really just a regular episode, but still fun precisely because it's not trying too hard at Halloween; and then trying too hard at Halloween and spoofing The Shining; and then trying too hard at Halloween again and spoofing Ghostbusters; and then fuck it it's a Bessie episode even though everyone hates Bessie [if you don't know what I'm talking about I'll cover it very soon]). It was A&A's weakest; the anthology they had last year was definitely better, and best of all was their first episode which was just a regular episode with costumes and probably Ally's most important character-building episode ever. Of the two I Didn't Do It episodes this one was by far the worst, especially since the first Halloween I Didn't Do It is what canonized Jogan in the first place and showed that Piper and Austin have great chemistry together. It's very hard for any of the other shows to top that, it's probably the best Monstober episode of any show on Disney Channel during IDDI's abbreviated run. That's really the only thing people even remember about that episode, I vaguely remember Garrett being a disco ball who got stuck in a corn maze and something about a giant pumpkin or something. See kiddies shipping works, when done properly. Both World of Terror episodes were pretty bad, to the point where I'm halfway convinced it's Micheal Jacobs' way of protesting being forced to play along with the rest of the network and having his franchise "Disneyfied". A much better and far less childish way of doing that was demonstrated by Best Friends Whenever by completely spoofing the concept from start to finish (also by Shake it Up's "Whodunnit Up" back during the first Whodunnit Weekend). The first World of Terror wasn't even that bad, it was just so bland and boring and a whole bunch of nothing, especially Farkle's story where it pulls a fucking Tony Soprano and fades to black right where you'd expect the climax to take place (at least GMW has the excuse of practical FX and budget reasons). The little monster story was actually pretty charming, but World of Terror 2 is just so disjointed and random and I fucking hate that Hot Feet song, it shows so little effort at actually being a song I submit it as evidence of Micheal Jacobs giving the network the finger through blatant not giving of fucks.
What else...although it's no longer with us Dog With a Blog had a pair of decent Halloween episodes too, especially the second one which was a really touching character-builder between Stan and Ellen. This was also by far Liv and Maddie's best Halloween episode for the same reasons why IDDI's first one was so good (Lolden is a proven straight-line formula for a great episode, not being sarcastic on this one), though I did really like Helgaween-a-Rooney (Kang-a-Rooney was just kind of soft, when the show was still desperately finding its feet, thank God it found them). Shake-it-Up's Halloween episodes were pretty good too though I barely remember them. Back when A.N.T. Farm was a thing it made a big deal of MutANT Farm which ran through all three seasons, the first one being a near one-for-one retelling of the pilot but a Halloween What-If theme where the students are monsters instead, and it actually managed to be comedic genius especially having seen the pilot. MutANT Farm 2 wasn't nearly as good (though it did have IDDI's Austin North!) and MutANT Farm 3 managed some flashes of genius when it was revealed that the MutANT Farm-verse and the regular A.N.T. Farm/Disney Channel Live-Action/TGIF/St. Elsewhere-verse now I guess were parallel dimensions and the MutANTs found a way to cross over (see this Halloween crossover thing isn't new either). Good Luck Charlie's Monstober episodes were...adequete I guess. Scary Had a Little Lamb was ok I guess, though it had a distracting subplot of Teddy smelling bad due to being punked in a Halloween prank. Le Halloween was a weak effort trying to play PJ's clown fears and the Speddy card too much (I think the GLC writers just suck at shipping) and the last one was the best by default I guess. The Suite Life on Deck Halloween episodes were "stealth" Halloween episodes like Jessie's first, they'd almost perfectly blend in as regular episodes if it weren't for the vaguely spooky-themed plot or if you looked back on the original air date and saw it was in early October (there wasn't any indication that it even took place in October according to these episodes, IIRC). That was the earliest Disney Channel series I've seen other than on Replay actually, I haven't seen any of the Zack and Cody episodes. I don't even remember if Wizards of Waverly Place even did Monstober episodes (I've seen them all, but nothing sticks out as being obvious) or if you'd be even able to tell which ones are which without looking at air dates, it's pretty much the Monstober Halloween special series (it even originally premiered in the middle of Monstober, right after Twitches 2 - well, then again so did Dog With a Blog after Girl vs. Monster).
So in terms of actual Disney Channel episodes I'd rate it mid-upper pack. But - the sad thing is that unlike other years there isn't going to be an imported Halloween or horror-themed show on Disney Channel this year. These can be quite a treat actually. Last year it was a British or Australian or something series called Evermoor about a girl learning that she's a member of a powerful witch coven, like Wizards meets Degrassi - a single-cam pure drama no less, almost a rarity now on these kind of networks. The year before it was Wolfblood as which the name implies was about teens discovering they are werewolves, again a single-camera pure drama. The year before that it was Season 2 of My Babysitter's a Vampire, yes as in the movie we covered way down below (actually over on the next page now) earlier and that show is certainly a hoot and ranks as one of the best Disney Channel's ever aired, and the year before that was Season 1 of MBAV. So I'm going to have to knock down some major points for not having a horror-themed import this year just because it's become as much a part of the Disney Channel tradition as everything else. Oh well, at least we have a DCOM this year, let's see how that works.
Also, I forgot to mention this even though I specifically jotted it down in my notes to "include when you talk about Monstober." This Monstober was very shipping-heavy. It was just about as much about shipping as it was about the crossover element or actual Halloween or anything else. Tessie got back together, Delia and Luke got a little bit of action, Lolden was a major plot point. Oddly enough the two shows that rely most on shipping as storytelling crutches - Girl Meets World and I Didn't Do It - were completely absent of shipping. But as I noted in my Liv and Maddie review that was more than made up for in the previews of the upcoming episodes which promise to be nothing but pure unadulterated 100% Rucas and Jogan, which combined with the shipping that was actually happening in Monstober Spooktacular Weekend caused the entire Disney Channel collective fandom to wet their fucking pants at once and just completely spam anyone and everyone they could with how awesome it's going to be to go to sleep at night with images of Riley and Lucas and ignoring how inevitably utterly disappointed they're going to be when they actually watch Meets Texas and realize that Disney Channel can't even legally make their expectations come true and that they've squandered their teenage years being morons, but it doesn't matter because Meets Texas will just continue to build on their unrealistically false expectations. Especially since it's I Didn't Do It's very last episode, and especially since we get three nights in a row of Rucas, Rucas, RUUUUUUACS. Goddamit.
Shipping isn't bad per se, like any storytelling tool or trope it can be handled very well to be very enjoyable entertainment with something for the audience to take away from. Liv and Maddie with Lolden and Miggie is handled very well, especially remarkable because kiddie networks usually just take a straight line towards fucking shipping up (more on that in just a little bit). In fact Liv and Maddie handle it with shocking realism and maturity while at the same time not conceding anything from a storytelling standpoint. It really starts to unfold as a decent romance or even coming-of-age friendship instead of just shipping, with a lot of bumps along the way and how the characters overcome those bumps. Those are some pretty important things tweens and teens can relate to. You know, just throwing it out there, I Didn't Do It handles Jogan pretty surprisingly well too, especially when that ship was just birthed, but I think a lot of it just boils down to the on-screen chemistry Piper Curda and Austin North have. It's exceptionally rare to find actors who can pull that off in this age bracket. Chemistry isn't even something that's getting emotionally developed within the tween and teen years (though it helps that both Piper and Austin are either 18 or very close to it, which is also especially helpful for making me not seem quite as creepy over declaring Piper to be "insanely hot.") And again, Debby and Chris Gayla were more than old enough to have whatever puberty issues worked out to try to practice some on-screen chemistry too, and it also helps that that show laid the groundwork for Tessie back in Season 1 when they still had enough goodwill and raw staff talent to make it work and worth investing into. So yeah, I like the shipping in LaM, IDDI and Jessie because I just feel it's done well.
And then we get to the shipping in Austin & Ally and Girl Meet World where it's mostly just used as a crutch and a shortcut to save the writing staff from actual effort. The writers of Austin & Ally figured out real quick that all they need to do is get Laura Marano and Ross Lynch in a room together and they've got kiddie sitcom gold, which is why most of Seasons 2-3 at least are pretty much nothing but that. Remember all that stuff I keep saying about how the fandom would probably prefer it if Bunk'd or I Didn't Do It was just Peyton List or Piper Curda staring at a camera for 22 minutes? Yeah, maybe I should take it back because we more or less saw that in action with Austin & Ally. I think the GMW writing staff is starting to catch on to the fact that not only do their core demo fans have the same reaction to Rucas, but they also hit triple-gold with Lucaya and even any combination of the girls and Farkle (even including if not especially three or even four-ways. Man, I honestly never knew that tween and teen girls can be such horny perverts with no internal filter controlling their actions to speak of, at least on the Internet. It kind of makes me wonder where the hell were these girls when I was in middle and high school. It's also kind of disturbing that these girls give so little thought to how openly sharing these thoughts and attitudes will in turn influence how people, especially boys they know, will look at them and start objectifying them and encourage them to perform sexual acts or other behavior based entirely on externally-influenced impulse and a lack of sexual understanding that might be emotionally or even physically harmful instead of well-thought out consensual safe-sex practices utilizing contraceptives - but that's for another rant). I mean, just this morning I was looking on the IMDb GMW page and Bam! there it is, someone talking about how lucky a dog Lucas is because he'll probably have a three-way with Riley and Maya, even hinting at details of how such a sexual encounter would go down. It's really amazing, in a shocking, disturbing, absolutely not good at all kind of way. And people wonder why I spend so much time actively bitching and cursing (well, "*beep*ing" to be exact) at the fandom and calling them morons.
Anyway, yeah, the shipping on Austin & Ally and Girl Meets World is pretty fucking horrid and the most base examples of doing whatever you can to pander to the fandom, but of course it works because it's the bottom-line definition of storytelling as a means of raking in ratings and nothing else. If the audience just wants porn and doesn't realize they have this thing called "the Internet" or are too afraid of parental blocks then just give them as much porn as the network will allow. If it's a kiddie network that's squeamish about even showing kissing (seriously it took a loooong time to even show Austin and Ally actually kissing for some reason) then you just lay down the shipping thick and heavy using old-fashioned near-obsolete, "dead horse" romance tropes that may or may not reinforce and encourage unhealthy attitudes about teen romance in real life so that it builds a foundation for which the kiddie audience can use to erect their own mental-porn and lemon polluting Fanfiction.net and graphically describe on IMDb.com sexual acts between Lucas and Riley that might limit Riley's ability to comfortably sit and go on, without a shred of sarcasm or irony or realization of what they're actually talking about and how it would actually feel like if someone did such sexual practices to them, how awesome it must be for Riley and Lucas and implying how awesome it would be to have a guy who would do that to their own bodies.
I know it feels like I'm ranting about a stupid issue and being too much of a "moral guardian" and overly projecting (something I've been frequently accused of on IMDb), so I'll leave that issue there. So, yeah, Monstober, shipping, crossovers, whee. I think I've concluded all that I can say without going into further weirder rants.