Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jessie Throwback Reviewed plus More Retrospective

Ugh, I hope this works out as well as I'm hoping it is.

Anybody else want to jump in is fine with me.

You know, I like Good Luck Charlie. On a good day I like it better than Jessie. Actually on a good day I like it waaaaay better than Jessie. Back when Good Luck Charlie was still a thing, whenever I was on a bad date I kept thinking, I could be home watching Good Luck Charlie. True story. And back after the mess with my ex I had mentioned in the first retrospective, I had been on a loooooot of opportunities to be thinking, wow, I could be home watching Good Luck Charlie instead (turns out OKCupid really sucks for rebounds). Maybe it's just because they were the first live-action shows I happened to have seen on Disney Channel right at that critical time, but back when I was suffering from being dumped on the eve of chemo treatment both Jessie and Good Luck Charlie were there for me as reliable comfort snackfood on the TV screen.

Kinda like this I suppose. Also feel free to let this image fuel the Bridgit-on-Debby fanfiction that you're no doubt working on right now. Is it Calum Worthy or Rowan Blanchard behind the camera? Your imagination knows!

Yeah, enough personal awkwardness aside. Good Luck Charlie is a great show, an amazing show when it's at its best. I'd rate it somewhere between Liv and Maddie and Girl Meets World, maybe even above Liv and Maddie. Needless to say it's near the cream of the crop in my book, and there's a ton of people out there who'd agree with me. It ran for as long as Jessie ran and probably as long as Liv and Maddie and Girl Meets World are going to run. Pushing Wizards of Waverly Place aside it was the first Disney Channel live-action show to run the "postscript" season since, uh, all the way back to the near beginning with That's So Raven? Meaning, it's only the third live-action series ever in the history of the network to run up to 100 episodes, and the show that set the now-apparent precedent of "good" series reaching that mark instead of the old previous standard of 65-80. Right now with Austin & Ally, Jessie, Liv and Maddie, Girl Meets World and whatever comes in the future, it's almost a given that any show that can make the cut will run that long, but back when it was announced that Good Luck Charlie would get an extra season it was huge news. Hell, Good Luck Charlie almost got a 5th season (there's some speculation as to why it didn't - execs were simply too convinced that the show was tired, it was declined in favor specifically of Girl Meets World, it was declined specifically in favor of what's now Best Friends Whenever, it was actually Bridgit who refused so she can move on, etc.) but according to a tweet by Leigh-Allyn Baker it pretty much came down to the wire and we could've been practically a coin-flip away from celebrating the end of GLC at the same time as Jessie and I Didn't Do It. 

So why am I spending so much time on Good Luck Charlie? It was a well-respected if not seminal series according to the network itself, and it was always treated right by the network. When Good Luck Charlie came to an end in February 2014 they devoted every primetime block of that entire week to a Good Luck Charlie retrospective. Every main credited actor got his or her own night to his or her own self to talk about what he or she wanted to talk about the show and pick his or her favorite episodes for that whole night, so you got a nice rounded cross-section of episodes from the entire series run.

So when it came to Jessie's turn we got just one night with the most recent four episodes, and then some random episode after a rerun of Best Friends Whenever's lame second episode (which turns out to be Basket Cases, which is one of the shittiest episodes the entire series has to offer as indicated by the fact that Hudson is in it. Chris Paul ain't no Chris Bosh, and this ain't no Say Yes to the Messy Dress.) Hooray. The interstitial bits I guess were something. We learned that Skai's favorite costume was the one from Ghostess with the Mostest which seems kind of like a cheat, but eh, it was a cute costume; Karan's was from the ultra-dumb Four Broke Kids episode, Cameron's is actually from the finale tomorrow, Peyton's is from her favorite episode, Karate Kid-tastrophe (which you already would've known if you paid attention to her social media) and as for Debby's we didn't get to learn because apparently fuck her. Otherwise they were pretty generic, including the one that they had originally showed during the Jessie marathon at the turn of the year. I suppose if you were looking for a Good Luck Charlie-style sendoff, you're a whole school year plus a month too late. Still, the Good Luck Charlie sendoff felt much more intimate, with each of the actors feeling like they're actually addressing the audience. These Jessie interstitials were just bland, generic fluff that could've been ripped from a random ClevverTV or Fanlala promotion. I guess if I had to grade it I'd give it a C-, maybe even a D+. I don't know if this is the type of thing you'd give an MVP award for. 

So, here we are, in what are now the hours before the finale. Especially after I wrote the first retrospective and some reviews for older episodes and some reviews for newer episodes, I've had time to think about this show. I'll probably still be thinking new thoughts for days if not weeks after, deep into November or next spring or something, I don't know. I guess I can look back on Good Luck Charlie and what I thought of the show after it was all wrapped and over which is...not much. It occupied my thoughts for a good bit for the next few days actually, especially since I ended up visiting a food truck which PJ pretty much ripped off (even the food truck owner saw that episode!) but as the show faded from Disney Channel's rerun schedule so did it fade from my mind. Over the summer the entire series popped up on Watch Disney Channel which was nice, with the offer expiring upon the start of Monstober. But while it was certainly a hoot back to nostalgia and an era that in my mind is the golden age of Disney Channel, well, when Watch Disney Channel turned over to its Monstober theme it became a faded, sepia-tone memory again. And I've been able to live with that.

First of all, the fourth and final season of GLC just didn't have the sheen of the other three. It was still good, but it still suffered from the first of the Disney Channel curses, that a great series out of the gate will progressively get worse as it goes on (the other being that a series that builds up to greatness will have a really shitty first season ala LaM and GMW). Still, it was able to wear better than other series, a gradual loss of luster as opposed to the complete apathetic collapse of, well, Jessie. Either way,and of course, it's that last season you end up remembering the most, especially since when I came into the game it was well into the third season already (fortunately because Disney Channel loves rerunning everything to death I was able to catch up on every episode of GLC aired up to that point in like a month and a half, but with now seeing the episodes in random production and season orders). The other thing is that I was much more in love with the show itself than, say, hopelessly and madly in an inevitably unrequited love with Bridgit Mendler herself. I mean, shes' attractive but at the same time she just strikes me as being like every other young blonde actress in Hollywood (Dove Cameron strikes me as the same way - legitimately good looking and equally talented but striking me as being a pretty generic-looking blonde, or at least it's not like that, if I happened to be a 14-year-old girl, I would suddenly one day literally just wake up and decide to switch sexualities and become a lesbian just for her and bombard her social media with awkward love poems on why we should be married, which is something that has actually happened to Dove Cameron. On at least two separate occasions.) Good Luck Charlie presented just the right amount of goofiness and open-hearted warmth that I was looking for right at that time and what had pretty much become damn near extinct on broadcast television, with the closest thing that pops into my head, Last Man Standing, really devolving into a pro-conservative reverse-Norman Lear screed at that time, as if it looked at its basic premise of being an All in the Family ripoff and said, yup, we need to play that premise perfectly straight now and is pretty much proving that yes there are enough people out there to possibly elect Donald Trump president (sorry if you're a Last Man Standing fan but I seriously can't see what the appeal of this show is, unless you're a CIA operative looking to torture ISIL militants with it). 

But as much as I love the show - and I suppose I still think it would be nice to have a one-for-one GLC replacement: Liv and Maddie is really good but just too different to satisfy that need; Girl Meets World doesn't quite make it; I Didn't Do It tried and fell on its face hard for it - it's not like I completely went bonkers and lost my goddamn mind over it. Sure,I may have tried to prematurely end some bad dates so I can go home and watch it, but trust me those dates were so bad you'd be going home and watching The Odd Couple remake. Sure, I may have wished that I had been watching Good Luck Charlie instead of certain classes but, again, The Odd Couple remake. I loved Lemonade Mouth enough that I got the book and the sequel but I recognize it's not owed 100% of whatever amazing qualities Bridgit has. I didn't go ga-ga over Bridgit Mendler to the point where I'd watch anything with her just because she was in it - that said I did give Undateable a try, I saw the episode with the double-whammy of Victoria Justice and Ed Sheeran - fucking Ed Sheeran, man - in it. I concluded that there was a reason why they felt they had to go to the live gimmick (and really, even Bridgit Mendler herself as a gimmick) in order to desperately attract audiences. When I bother to do watch the show I just watch it on Periscope now (yes they apparently simul-cast the show though a stagehand's phone now,or at least the BTS-prep) because it's just convenient for me (I can still watch what I actually want to watch on the main screen). Really, I saw that one episode for as much Victoria Justice, who is a legit hottie, and even Ed Sheeran - fucking Ed Sheeran, man - as I did Bridgit. If anything Bridgit was just a nice nostalgic bonus. 

But for Jessie I guess it's the opposite - or at least it started out for a combination of the same reasons and just being starstruck but then as time and the series went on a lot of the same reasons just started dropping off. I'm not even that easily starstruck - other than Sarah Hyland who just strikes me as a mega-hottie because I guess that's just who appeals to me, you pretty much have to go all the way back to Sarah Michelle Gellar and Melissa Joan Hart to find an actress on TV I went completely fucking nuts over. Yes I'm a child of the 90s, goddamn I'm old (but not that old, damnit!) But when I first saw Gotcha Day and T-Wrecks together, they both struck me as more or less just pretty much being the exact same episode, just with slightly different permutations of the same basic formula. They were both episodes of TV shows about large families that have heartbreaks and joys and sad stories and uplifting triumphs together, or at least as much as a 24-minute runtime with a laugh track would allow. It just so happened to be that one had a pretty but otherwise unremarkable somewhat generic somewhat diminutive legal-aged blonde with pretty good acting skills and a pretty good singing voice, and the other had a downright gorgeous super-curvy legal-aged Doris-back-in-the-Day ripoff with 52c's up front, a sultry voice to match and hair the shade of the exact same red as what the ex who just dumped me had that may or may not have direct appeal to someone who was feeling in a lonely and vulnerable position. 

When I first started watching Jessie I wasn't even sure if I'd even keep watching, but then I saw 16 Wishes, and it resonated with me enough that I decided, you know what, I am going to hunt down everything this girl is in. Of course I saw Radio Rebel soon after, and picked up the book it's based on (which is titled Shrinking Violet BTW, which is slightly less dumb-sounding than Radio Rebel). I have copies of both 16 Wishes and Radio Rebel sitting on my desk right now, even though they're library copies because I'm cheap like that. I've seen every episode of Suite Life on Deck before I ever saw a single episode of Zack and Cody, yes even when the show started to turn to shit in the third season just like Jessie (Party On! is a whole bunch of stupid fucking garbage that the writers - probably those fucking idiot morons Jeff Hodgson and Tim Pollack - should be ashamed for). I actually convinced my dad that it was worth watching The Glades just because Debby was in a single episode, but mostly because it gave him something to watch before the superior-quality Longmire (I've read those books too BTW, for what it's worth - oh, and regarding The Glades, I never saw the episode she was actually in, what a ripoff). I picked up What If, saw that it starred Kevin Sorbo, read the movie description and went ewww, eww, no, no, not even, put it down

No, I haven't seen this either, and I never will. And yes i stole this from Sean at GMWReviewed.

But the core appeal was still with Jessie and watching the pretty redhead experience this crazy young adult life thing with the four kids that were more or less serving as surrogates for the core demo (minus the obvious one added in to bring in all the young horny tween boys, you know which one I'm referring to but just in case her first name is the same as Lucas' actor from GMW and rhymes with "Peyton Roi List"). As far as multi-cam sitcoms of this genre go, it was a pretty solid effort from New York, New Nanny to The Secret Life of Mr. Kipling.

My sub-hobby is stealing pics from GMWReviewed now. Thanks Christian!

And then, well, something happened. What happened? I don't know. Finding out and researching what that something is was one of the things that inspired the creation of this blog in the first place. Maybe Mike and Nick can shine more light on that. Maybe some of you in the comments section, as you already have been doing. Whatever it is, pretty much everybody frickin' notices it. The quality started to go down. The show started to lose its edge - or rather, gain an edge it didn't need in the first place. Everybody started to get more Flanderized - Jessie, Bertram, the kids, even the ding dang lizard. You can go back to the flood of peripheral media and interviews outlets like Fanlala and ClevverTV did with Debby, Peyton, Cameron,, that's pretty much all the people the core demo cares about but they went ahead and interviewed Skai and Kevin too. Season 1 Jessie was just a shy girl who was just growing out of her awkward stage and she wanted to find herself, so instead of taking on her dad's advice and joining the military she went off on her own to New York instead. No specific purpose, not to become a movie or TV star (she's on the wrong coast for that anyway) but just because she was drawn to the Big Apple. She had a long string of less than ideal personal relationships she left back in Texas, but it was no more a result of just the awkwardness of growing up as a teenager as it was with anything wrong with her, and she had broken off just as many relationships as men (boys, really) had with her. You go back to that aforementioned peripheral media about how Debby says she put so much of her own awkward teenage experiences into the Jessie character and so much of her life experience up to that point into the show (just like what Mike had said with Teen Titans Go) and when you watch Season 1 you can believe it. Emma was just a normal, halfway relatable teenager. Ravi was just a somewhat nerdy boy. Zuri was just a little girl, period, no more sassy than all the other little kids on the network, Parker Rooney and Chloe Bennett (Francesca Capaldi's character on DWaB, not the actual actress on Marvel's Weekly MCU Advertisement Series) included. Luke was just a little too curious and a little too confident in his Casanova skills to want to bag the hot redhead nanny with the huge...I don't need to finish this because you know exactly what I'm referring to.

But somewhere within the 2014 calendar year all the characters got hit with the Flanderization Ugly Stick, and hit silly-hard. Jessie's shyness and social and teenaged awkwardness and angst got mutated into a brand of clumsiness that makes the casual observer question how she's able to get out of bed without literally killing herself, and if she manages to keep herself alive mainly because God himself repealed the laws of natural selection. She didn't have a string of failed relationships because there's no such thing as a permanent romantic relationship when you're a teenager in high school; it was because she's a massive, horrible failure of a person on every level conceivable who is automatically and hopelessly repulsive to men no matter how hard she tries to change herself.
Despite the fact that she looks like this.

And oh yeah she's also a stalker with a record because well the writers didn't make her pathetic enough. Emma became the second coming of London Tipton. Ravi became, well, basically Indian-Stereotype Male Jessie. Luke started acting like the biggest thing he's going to gain from his nanny is registration as a sexual predator. Skai became just another sassy girl with enough racial stereotyping to make some viewers uncomfortable, reaching a low point in a Christmas special where she wanted to remind you how awesome New York is and how where you live sucks in comparison. Because that's exactly what makes me feel warm and fuzzy in front of the fireplace.

So, well, yeah - this series went from a wonderful and charming family sitcom to basically Disney Channel multi-cam laughtrack Girls. By that, I specifically mean how it gained a hard-edged cynicism that started to be increasingly the driving focus of all its humor. In an odd way, I guess it's relativistic - the story of a bright-eyed bushy-tailed girl with vague dreams of stardom being worn down into a cynical young adult Millennial hateball ala Girls. Maybe that'd win over brownie points on some poorly thought theoretical level but it lost a ot of its charm and goodwill along the way. Whoever's to blame is something that requires a group effort to investigate - series creator Pamela Eells O'Connell, writers Adam and Sally Lapidus, Eric Shaar and David J. Booth, Shari Tavey, Laughing Joking Numbnuts I mean Valarie Ahren and Christian McLaughlin, the departure of longtime Disney Channel veterans Tim Maile and Douglas Tuber (the two men more responsible in shaping Disney Channel into the hit it is today than practically anyone else), Debby Ryan herself, or some combination of the above. Hell, maybe Peyton, Karan, Skai and Cameron have some hand in the blame too. Maybe it's wrong to even point fingers and assign blame. Who knows. We can discuss that at length. Again, that's part of the reason why I even created this blog in the first place. I guess we'll just see how the series chooses to bow out tonight. I have to say, it is with a tremendous amount of mixed feelings that I meet the close-out of this series. Given the personal connection and, well, yes I guess I have to admit I have fallen in love with a girl unobtainable by way of being unable to reach my hand through the TV screen, emotions do have to run a little higher than they do for any other episode or any other series. There's a good bit of fear, sorrow, and outright anxiety in there. And on the note of that discussion, take it away Mike and Nick.

...but super quick, on a brief note, I just want to go over my prediction for the finale based on what I've seen: so Jessie makes fun of Luke or liking some nerd movie, Christiana gets Jessie a part in said nerd movie, the kids feel helpless without her as Zuri tries to put together a science project just like Emma in New York, New Nanny, they decided to dress up as extras in the movie and fly to LA where they run over Jessie with a golf cart, they try to climb onto the Hollywood sign to try to see Jessie better and because idiot writers who can barely put Hurr and Durr together, Jessie tries to rescue them, director threatens to fire her, she rescues them anyway and the director is so impressed with her stuntwork rescuing the kids he doesn't fire her anyway. What a shitty Fin.

Beautiful post, man. I think I'm just going to leave it untouched because I can't add anything more substantial than what was already said. :)

Thanks man :) I guess that pretty much closes it, I'll have more to say in the Jessie finale review, and maybe in the future as older episodes are reviewed.

1 comment:

  1. I've said my piece on Jessie and how it has changed and yada yada, so i won't repeat myself. I think the Reason GLC had more fanfare was cuz it was a lot bigger. It was return to a family show and didn't use a gimmick liek a lot of other shows did, and it gained an adult fanbase like no other show up t the point. It meant a lot for Disney so of course it got this big farefwell

    Jessie, not much. Even at the start it was just Debby Ryan's own show and that's it. Even after all this time, it got about the treatment it needs.

    I think we can jusr blame bad writting. See, Comedy writers always feel a nod to top themselves as a show goes on. As such they will try to go bigger. How sassier can Zuri be? How much more paethic can Jessie be? Let's keep upping it up and raising the Comedy.

    That's exactly what happend with Spongebob and Family Guy. But when you focus so much on that, the characters go doooown, and things change. Season 4 took a sharp turn back to a sweeter more family focused thing, so it's good we decided to end here, when things got slightly better.

    (Which means it's also good IDDI ended once it got good)

    I expect good things from the finale, due to just one certain bit from the promo .We'll see what happens.


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