Tuesday, October 6, 2015

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


I see you have a Dez.
I see you have a Logan.

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!

Ok, so, I Didn't Do It was boring, K.C. Undercover was weird, and Austin & Ally was weird and boring. Awesome.

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!"

I guess I'll Do It first, heh heh. The absolute best thing about that episode, in fact the only thing worthwhile, is that quote right above. Trish and Dez and Delia and Logan met, interacted for like 45 seconds, had fun, moving on. You can see it in the promo here. That's it, watching the rest of the episode is strictly optional.

There's something that needs to be said about I Didn't Do It, and it goes all the way back to the beginning of its second and what turns out final season. When I Didn't Do It started it was a wacky version of Friends for middle-older teens when people thought that demo was still worth grabbing on these networks. Turns out it wasn't and ratings were in the toilet, but at least I Didn't Do It had something in its plot structure that made it more different than every other show on Disney Channel. It was more plot-based hijinks than the random, see-what-sticks kind of humor that a lot of these shows tend to have, especially A.N.T. Farm and Austin & Ally. The cast sometimes got sub-divided but often they would go through the plot in one big group (The New Guy) and the plot would be one big, continuous lead-up to to a climax like a plot should be, and not a bunch of loosely randomly-connected boring stuff about as exciting as getting the mail like a plot shouldn't be. But Disney Channel decided a shake-up was necessary to keep the show from getting ratings hovering in the 1 mil range, so they threw out the old crew (don't worry they moved on to our next show, K.C. Undercover, it turns out) brought in the old Good Luck Charlie crew and then decided that a bunch of random, loosely-connected plots with all the excitement and anticipation of getting your cable bill was EXACTLY what will save this show. 

If you've been reading these reviews you've seen me mention and rant about the A-B-C plot structure and why it's a horrible way to plot out a TV show, especially a 20-24 minute multi-cam comedy like this. Good Luck Charlie was good in spite of it on its best of days, and I Didn't Do It is just too saddled with its initial premise and quite frankly cast to pull it off. As the name implies you've got three separate, maybe loosely-connected plots that may or may not converge going on during the same episode. Yeah, I know what you're thinking, duh. But stop and don't just think about it, analyse it. That means you're dividing the cast three ways and usually having little interaction between them. I Didn't Do It was sold on its cast as a whole, and they went back and demolished that. Go look at Austin & Ally and Girl Meets World - those are all "best friend" casts, and very rarely do they split apart. Good Luck Charlie and Jessie can get away with splitting their casts up because they're families, not friends, and families don't spend 100% of their time together. Yes, neither do best friends, but the whole point of best friend casts is that they're interesting when they're together. Splitting them up for the sake of the stupid A-B-C plot structure destroys that dynamic, and it destroyed the show with it.

Also, you're not just splitting up the cast, you're splitting up an absolute most 24-minute time slot which means at the very most you've got 8 minutes per plot presuming giving each plot equal time. 8 minutes is about:

 - the time it takes for me to get through three slices of pizza without getting heartburn or indigestion 
 - the time it takes for me to prepare a salad to go along with that pizza
 - the time it takes for me to drive to the local library
 - the time it takes for me to hunt though the closet for a light bulb
 - the time it takes for me to get through my Twitter timeline
 - the time it takes for me to set up my coffee maker
 - the time it takes for me to get my mail, with like 5 minutes to spare

Needless to say 8 minutes isn't a long time, especially to establish an actual plot. You're pretty much just setting up the joke and then BAM!, punchline. So you either have to come up with a really good punchline that can be delivered with little setup, or you're pissing away all your time with the setup and all of a sudden you can't fit a punchline in, so all too many times the setup itself becomes the punchline. Guess which one I Didn't Do It tends to lean more towards. Guess why it tends to be so boring.

Now, not everybody thinks like this. I Didn't Do It was probably the most divided show on the network, even moreso than Dog With a Blog. A lot of people liked the older-skewing Friends ripoff premise, a lot of people didn't, and when they changed the formula naturally the fanbase flipped opinions. I for one liked the old setup. If they wanted a new Good Luck Charlie, they should've just canceled I Didn't Do It and recast everyone into a new Good Luck Charlie. And it didn't save the show anyway as its airing its last episode ever the Friday after this coming one. So yeah, mission completely blown, guys.

It turns out moving the show to Friday with the Jessie, Girl Meets World and Dog With a Blog anchors did as much or more to "save" the show and pull ratings up as did the dramatic changeover in writing staff. I wish those knuckleheads at the network realized that option first. 

Regarding the Monstober Spooktacular: Delia and Logan do a science presentation in New York for some reason as an excuse to meet Jessie, Trish and Dez and so Delia can start dating Luke Ross and put that awkward situation out there; Garrett and Betty LeBow's little nephew trick the old neighbor lady who isn't Mrs. Dabney from Good Luck Charlie into giving them all her candy and garden gnomes which I'm sure was something Good Luck Charlie also did; and Lindy and Jasmine play this super-boring subplot about Jasmine thinking Lindy is a vampire but it doesn't matter because the people tuning in at this point would still tune in if it was just 22 minutes of Olivia Holt and Piper Curda just staring at the camera, in fact they'd probably prefer it that way (look, we're just watching because Olivia and Piper are hot, can you like get rid of the other guys they just get in the way - though apparently Austin North is a huge draw for the core female audience, which probably explains why Jogan is one of the most hugely disproportionately popular ships on the network). The last few episodes especially have been utter let-downs as the show winds down to a close. Really, Betty LeBow is the best thing about it now and the only change to the show that actually adds something, because she actually provides a great sounding board for the main cast to bounce off of. She and Judy (more on her right after) are the only sassy characters I actually like because 1.) they pull it off and 2.) they play with it (in Betty's case they make fun of it as much as they presented it just at face-value to be funny, not to mention the actress is just good enough to pull it off, while Judy has a more well-rounded character to avoid having it be the sole thing that defines her, plus again the actress is actually good enough to pull it off).

Episode Grave: (again intentional Holliday-themed misspelling): C-. It's slightly more meh than just meh, but if I give it a D+ or lower that actually implies that there's a so-bad-its-good element to it.
Episode MVP: Ah, fuck it, Piper Curda, just because I think she's insanely hot. Piper Curda gets series MVP from now to eternity because if the second season was just her standing in front of a camera I'd enjoy the show a hell of a lot more. Hopefully she just doesn't completely disappear from television because that will piss me off, even if all the Jesus Freak Bible quotes on her Twitter kind of turn me off. Runner-up is Olivia Holt because she's also insanely hot, followed by Sarah Gilman because I actually think she's really hot too (the nerd glasses do it for me). 

Ok, so K.C. Undercover. Fortunately for this show Zendaya is, like, seriously ridiculously insanely hot too so I'll watch no matter what, but for the most part the show can stand on its own too. Even in the episode where she was under disguise as a dude who couldn't shower, she was still hot and the episode was actually really good on its own merits. It didn't dwell on K.C. being a woman in a men's club (or men's military academy it turns out), it was just about K.C. and Ernie working together and focusing on the mission. The 1-hour Runaway Robot special was also really good too. So what about this episode? It was kind of...both meh and weird, but more weird than meh than say the Austin & Ally episode which managed both parts equally. Though I guess I'm in the minority here because according to my Twitter TL everybody thought it was fucking hilarious.

First we have the excuse plot of Ernie and Judy going to New York to find this werewolf serum that The Other Side (no seriously that's the name of the "bad guy" group, The Other Side) wants to use to turn its soldiers into, well, werewolves (and their soldiers apparently consist either of other teen boys and girls like K.C. or middle-aged obviously hired stuntmen depending on what happens to be convenient for the casting director, so either that would be extra-squicky or just conjure up images of middle-aged stuntmen in cheesy werewolf costumes, depending on how it would've worked out. Probably the second one). The dad, whose name I forgot, played by Kadeem Hardison who I really, really like in the role despite not being able to remember the character's name, says that it specifically has to be Ernie and Judy, played by Kamil McFadden and Trinitee Stokes who again I really, really like in their roles while offering no explanation why it has to be them specifically. So they go to New York, meet Emma and Zuri in a few scenes that's pretty much 100% sass and doesn't really contribute anything, and they meet their contact who for some reason is a really old guy in an Elvis costume and it just draws to attention why Ernie and Judy? Wouldn't it make much more sense for the mom and dad to go on this mission? Even Old Fart Elvis points this out. Fortunately Judy saves the sitch by explaining that they're just really well disguised and she wants to get it over with so she can go to the hospital and see her grandchild be born. Then Ernie fucks it up trying to impress Emma and now he's exposed to the werewolf serum, but don't worry, other than a few cheap jokes this doesn't factor into anything at all.

Meanwhile the writers have decided that K.C. Cooper, the teenage super-spy who goes off on exciting missions, would be really awesome to feature in a plot about hosting a Hallween party in her house to which her parents not only gave her expressed permission to host, but just about downright gave a parental order for her to host the party. This is an absolutely guaranteed recipe to an episode that isn't going to be boring. Most of this sub-plot (really both plots are competing equally to be the B-plot based on how engaging and consequential they are) is just K.C. standing around in a pleather catsuit-ish thingie and Marissa, played by Veronica Dunne who is probably the only other actress on Disney Channel who can really compete with Zendaya on the hotness scale and has a body as curvy as Debby Ryan's, plus like both of those actresses she's also legal-aged so you don't have to feel awkward about it, also stands around next to K.C. wearing this bee costume that just conveniently illustrates just how curvy you need to be to compete with Debby on a show that also has Zendaya on it. No, I'm not complaining about it, but I still feel obligated as a snarky reviewer sitting pretty in his basement to point out that it feels like a tacit, not subtle at all admission that the writers just don't have any ideas for this one so, yeah, stare at our eye candy and objectify these actresses to your heart's content. This whole thing about the show using the Halloween theme to its advantage to shove Zendaya and Veronica into these getups and use the theme to claim, no, we're not fetishizing, it's Halloween! actually goes on for a good while before we even come to anything resembling the plot finally turning its wheels. K.C. loses her magic spy bracelet while passing out treats so she kidnaps the kid  whose bag of treats it fell into, interrogates him, and then retrieves the bracelet out of her own backyard because it turns out that's where the kid hides his candy. And that's the episode.

Seeing a teenaged girl who is a legal adult in real life and whose career is exploding at the same rate as Ariana Grande's interrogate a kid half her age and height is, to me, fucking weird.. Yes, I know, it's Disney Channel, weird for the sake of laughs is their currency. I guess in my sadly adult eyes it just doesn't work. The rest of the episode is just fucking boring no matter how you cut it.

Episode Grave: Eh, I'll give it another C- for the same exact reasons as I Didn't Do It
Episode MVP: Tied for Zendaya and Veronica (but especially Veronica) for being such troopers as to agree to let themselves be objectified like that on a children's show. Also for being insanely hot. 


So now we come to Austin & Ally. Hoo boy.

Ok, confession time, I fucking loved Austin & Ally's first season, though that may just be the result of a grossly skewed and colored perception at the time that I'll actually cover in one of my Jessie retrospectives. I came to this realization when I noticed that Season 2, and especially Season 3, started sucking the big one and I thought damnit why can't they maintain the same quality as Season 1 then I went back to watching Season 1 shows and realized damnit the quality is the exact fucking same. Austin & Ally, by the balance, isn't a good show. There's a very specific reason for it. Actually a few reasons, really:

They just can't be compelled to write a show without having it devolve into gags that aren't so much gags as they are actors running about in an overly-exaggerated fashion (and I mean everyone, stop picking on Calum), and when they do make an attempt at actual humor it's a really, really bizarre sense of humor. If you've ever seen A.N.T.Farm or iCarly on its worse days, you'll immediately know what I mean. It's a humor style that tends to go for the surreal and just outright bizarre in an attempt to be funny, except it's watered down for Disney Channel consumption so it just comes off as being alien and outside a realm of what would be considered normal, socially acceptable behavior than any genuine attempt to be funny or just surreal for its own sake. It doesn't so much elicit guffaws for older viewers as so much as it just makes them scratch their heads and make them wonder if the writers might have some sort of, I don't know, how do I put this politely because I honestly am interested in being sensitive here, folks...condition? Obviously the writers aren't like that, but it's still both odd and interesting at the same time that they think such a writing style that emphasizes such mass-consumption surreal and oddness - almost like, I don't know, call it McDadism - that's so weird it's distracting yet not weird enough to be entertaining can actually, well, be entertaining. And yet the most bizarre thing about this is that they're apparently right. Austin & Ally is a ratings smash hit. iCarly had this exact same type of humor and its probably the greatest live-action kiddie show of all fucking time. So I'm just left to conclude that the adult mind and the tween mind is just that fundamentally different.

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. 

I'm not done yet though, because in addition to all of that the A&A writers also love stereotypes. For the most part the stereotypes are just as bizarre as the humor they prop up, and there's a prime example right in this episode. But moreover I want to cover specifically writer Aaron Ho, who is Korean, who created two characters named Sun-Hee and some guy who's name I forgot who are very blatant Korean racial stereotypes who might as well be wearing signs that say #WeSupportYellowFace. What the fuck,man? Does he think that since he's Korean it gives him basically what's sometimes referred to (such as on TVTropes) as "N-Word Privileges" and that he can get away with such blatant racism on a kiddie show? Again, what the fuck? I don't know. When you have someone such as Spike Lee, for example, he uses it to paint as clear a picture as possible exactly his artistic vision and what he's trying to tell you about his own personal experience, and/or the collective experience of his race or people of color in general, and illustrating an integral, inescapable part of what it means to be a person of color living in a world where discrimination and racism are as real as the hands on the ends of your arms. It's real fucking art to the absolute truest sense of the word and intent. When Aaron Ho does it for Austin & Ally on Disney Channel, it feels like it might as well be some white guy who does this because having Ally wave the Confederate Flag and lecture Trish about how "her people should swim back to Cuba" would be too blatant and on the nose and probably also hates the fact that people like Zendaya and probably Piper Curda especially since she's also Korean - literally the first Korean star in the network's history - are allowed to exist on the network. I mean, really, again, for the third time, what the fuck? Are you self-hating, Aaron? These become legitimate questions when you pass off shit like this on a show specifically produced for influenceable children.

Ok, yeah, another day another rant. Back to the episode. It's a three-part setup just like last year's Monstober episode. Each of the three parts aren't worth reviewing, if you really want to see them it's on Watch Disney Channel which you either get for free as part of your cable package, or you're a sucker who bought into Time Warner Cable, or you don't have cable at all in which use this as a reminder that you didn't work hard enough to earn the right to have cable TV and go back to fucking work you degenerate wage-earner, no overtime or welfare benefits for you, you lazy freeloading Democrat-voting bum. In one part Austin plays an accountant who's also a British stereotype for some reason, and he literally spouts off terms vaguely associated with accounting and British-y the whole time,and that's  pretty much it. That's all the time I'm going to devote to actually reviewing any of this so-called anthology since it directly related to what I was talking about above. And Kamil McFadden and Trinitee Stokes get to collect a paycheck as guest stars while they spend their whole time just looking at Austin, Ally, Dez and Trish and remind you that you can also see them on a show about a teenage girl who's also a spy.

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?

Well, Unknown, you've already done a fantastic job here with this review so I don't have any other thoughts on final grades and MVP. Especially considering the fact that I'm still not acquainted with some of these Disney Channel shows and it frightens me. I don't know, I'll give all my MVP awards to Gumby or something. He looks pretty funny.

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.

10 comments:

  1. Most of what i have to say relates to IDDI, so if you wanna skip the first few things, go ahead. But if you want, here are bullet points on everything else:

    * KC was amusing enough. and yes, Marrisa is hot. Although Zendya honestly isn't my type. The torture was weird though

    * I hated Judy at first, but she actually got better as time went on. Ernie is okay but a bit of a cliche butt monkey
    * A&A was fun. I am into Treehouse of horrors stuff so it was up my ally (and my austin...sorry) and i quie enjoyed the 2nd segment
    * I think you are looing a bit too bit about the racism thing. Disney sitcoms reahch for gthis a lot, so it's nothing new. I find these characters more annoying than flat out racist, and there isn't THAT much of it since they don't appear too much anymore.
    * I think A&A has stayed about the same minus the romance stuff. It handles odd humor thing since i enjoy the characters enough, and they have solid stories, moreso than other shows, and it can be creative.
    * I would find Piper hot but...it only just became legal for me to think so. Yeah.
    * I don't mind ABC plot stuff, because it's a good way to use your varied cast if you have one, like IDDI does. It just works, and it also works in a Halloween episode if you want to cover a few topics and do more things. This episode didn't do it hte best, but it was alright.


    Okay, if you're here, let's talk IDDI. greatly perfer Season 2, and that leaves me to why i think it changed so much. See, IDDI got a lot of hate...more than usual. WHy/

    The title and pilot. Both the title and pilot showed the show as being all about getting in trouble and avoiding responsibility. This show has the worst title ever, for that reason.

    They ditched this around episode 4, but it did have that element, and the characters were often unlikable. Especially Lindy. I do like the basic gimmick of doing stuff, and opening with a flash forward, but taking away the flash forward did nothing since the main plots would be the same without it.

    Seriously, IDDI got more hate then usual due to the pilot, and you think the Jessie hate was crazy. jessie just happens to get more attention due to Debby. So in Season 2, they switched things up so the show was more about human stories and the characters actually being nice.

    The antics were still there of course, it was just a bit better. Do i miss the gimmick? Sure, but the general antics are still here and i like that Lindy is waaay more likable, giving us better episodes like Foodfight.

    I also like the romance arc, even if it started in a shitty episode. (Lindy Nose Best).

    So yeah, that's how i feel about that whole thing. They changed it to avoid the harsh criticisms the show often got, which says a lot about how bad the show could get, given most of these shows never change in an attempt to actually get better.

    While the gimmick was the thing that separated the show from the rest, is it really worth it having your only gimmick being kind of negative sometimes?

    IDDI remains the weirdest disney sitcom story ever. It started with a bad and odd premise, changed a bit with it's gimmick, than changed it's writting staff and become totatlyl different..but got worse ratings and was canned.

    IDDI is the only proepr disney sitcom to be a 2 season wonder for ratings reasons. (Corey was affected by the writer strike, and Sonny had it's star go crazy got a bit).

    Weird.

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    1. You do bring up a few good points, namely that IDDI was arguably doomed from the start thanks to its really shitty pilot. It's proof that first impressions do matter and an exceptionally shitty pilot can sink a show even as it barely gets underway (this year's Minority Report being another example).

      I think the original writing staff WAS starting to respond to the criticism though, and the characters became more like, well, characters by late Season 1. That's when Jogan got red hot, especially with the first Halloween episode. It was becoming clear that Jogan might actually be the crutch that could save the show by itself (a lot like how Rucas is making the core audience come back to GMW away from the Boy Meets World nostalgia club or how Tessie managed to breathe new life into the twilight of Jessie's twilight season), especially when the fandom responded very positively to Piper's and Austin's on-screen chemistry. They actually were starting to dial back what wasn't working and making the relationships more palatable to the viewers. Unfortunately it was too little too late, but I believe if Disney just let them stay the course they would've finished righting the ship and we'd have a better situation, quality and ratings-wise, now.

      I think a lot of what made Season 2 fail boils down to two things: 1. Their stupid insistence on ABC-plot structure which as I pointed out made things choppy and abbreviated to an extreme, and 2. they're just really soft on the relationships. They went way overboard on softening the characters into blandness. Jogan became a lot more bland and I don't think Piper and Austin had the same chemistry they had in Season 1, especially compared to the Halloween episode. Hell most of Jogan was characters reacting to the idea of Jogan rather than having actual Jogan moments. What a ripoff. Come to think of it it's making me rethink just what kind of thing Speddy was and how that worked.

      But like I said, different strokes for different folks I guess. IDDI in either season is massively divisive, probably the most divisive show Disney's had in a long time, maybe even ever. A lot of people liked/didn't like the first season and a lot of people liked/didn't like the second season. Just not enough people liked either season.

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    2. My only issue with Season 2 is ...well 2, actually. Dragging out Jogan a bit too much and too much Betty. She is fun but she doesn't need to be in every episode, and sometimes she can be annoying.

      Also, given your rant on Mr Ho, it's weird how tyou seem to be fine with the crazy amount of sassy black women on this channel. Raven, Zendya, Zuri, Judy and Betty. Although they are at least actual characters, as much as i don't like Zuri. (She as her moments, see the Chess episode)

      IDDI did see improvement near the end of Season 1, but it still had some issues, and i don't think i had the same issues with Season 2. For the most part, anyway.

      As i said before, i don't mind hte ABC too much, since it works better with a varied cast. It did do it too much but Season 1 had it....although it was in it's worst episode.

      I just liked how Season 2 was even less about the bad premise than before. I suppose it's fair that others don't like it, for various reasons.

      I think the show overall was disappointing cuz after Kickin' It, i was excited to see Olvia get her own show, but she wasn't quite as good her. She has that in common with Landry Bender: Better in her Disney XD supporting role.

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    3. I never said I was fine with it! In fact Zuri (who is the worst offender in the network's history by far in fact if not all time) is simply waiting her turn in Jessie/Bunk'd. She used to be an actual character but as the show went on she just devolved with the rest of the show as the laughin' jokin' numbnuts took over (yes that's a term I stole from the AVGN because I feel it fits). Maybe I'm just blind to the issue but I never thought Raven or Zendaya's characters were even sassy to begin with, especially Z on SiU. Maybe it helped that they were main characters, I don't know. I already explained in the main review why I think Betty and Judy actually manage to succeed as sassy characters without going overboard on it - I think the actresses behind it make it really work to make them lovable characters in spite of their sassiness. Betty was the only new addition/change that I feel positively added to the show, and I just like Judy.

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    4. And Betty was the only thing i thought somewhat subtracted...sort of. Her presence added something, but putting her in every single episode was a mistake. They went overboard Raven was pretty sassy. Hell, there's a reason Zendya teamed up with her.

      As i said, i kind of hated Judy when she first appeared, but she got better. I can't say i like her, but she's better.

      As for the shipping...well, being tween shows, having romance comes with the territory. Heck, this was all the way back in Lizzie McGuire. They are usually handled...fine in the shows, it's the fandom that ruins them.

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  2. This Monsober was average. 2 Notably fun Halloween tales, (and 1 decent normal live and maddie) and the rest were forggetable. That's suall the aveage for these: 2 or 3 notably fun episodes, than a bunch of meh ones.

    IDDI's 2nd halloween offering was way better. As mcuh as i dig Jogan, that episode had the Season 1 trend of making Lindy a bitch, which i don't find funny. Also, Jogan started with Lindy Nose best. Both were written b Judd Pilot, who would be a bad writer for IDDI if it weren't for Dear High School Self, which is good.

    Jessie and ANT farm were the kings of Monstobber cuz those were justb plain dun instead of being normal episodes. I'll never need to re-watch a lot of these, which i will next year to review them.

    Last year on Deviant Art i reviewed every Disney sitcom Christmas episode,and sadly i couldn't do it for Haloween this year.

    Monstober DCOM's tend to be solid, even recent ones. Although Invisible Sister looks just like a normal movie that has Halloween in it somewhere. They have one before, but at least Twitches has...witches.

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  3. I'm bummed to hear IDDI is canned. I thought it became a MUCH stronger show in the second season--in fact I caught a Season 1 episode over the weekend and was stunned at how much worse the writing was. Plus I agree that Piper Curda has turned out to be reallllly attractive.

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    1. I could say something like Woo-woo all aboard the Piper train!, then I actually typed it out and it just looked creepy. Then again I suppose I just did it anyway.

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  4. In fairness, "Hot Feet" is an actual song from the 1920's. There's more to it than what was used in the show, but the song itself is an original product of the Jazz Age.

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