Yet another quick announcement about the future of this blog
I think you should just watch you are amused by. And yes I know that kids television can be very frustrating. But I'm very excited to see how the Jessie finale is. Hope it turns out to be a great finale.
You know, guys, there was a time where television as a whole could never be taken seriously. Sure, you could watch a great show and enjoy it, but actually reviewing it critically would get you laughed at. I think The Simpsons' influence on television extends even further, because once that show became popular, people started creating fan sites and discussing episode after episode. So if that changed at some point, why not kids television? It's still a valid form of entertainment. Can it be frustrating? It definitely can, because both Nickelodeon and Disney Channel were in much better shape ten years ago. But is it something that deserves ridicule? No, it doesn't. It really doesn't.
One of my favorite reviews on the Internet is Mr. Enter's review of "The Return of Slade" for Teen Titans Go. He talks about the depth and meaning of kids television and that the best shows are the ones you hold onto as an adult and inspire you to make your own stories. When you hold onto your childhood, you make shows like Hey Arnold or Courage the Cowardly Dog or Steven Universe. When you forget your childhood, you make something like Bucket & Skinner or Breadwinners. You start thinking you know what kids want instead of trying to understand what kids want. If you can look at a television show critically and discuss it, then you deserve the chance to write. Have you guys seen Kary's Degrassi Blog? It's absolutely beautiful. This black man in his 30s looks at Degrassi as legitimate entertainment through the academic lens of an adult. And it works on so many levels because Kary is a great writer and understands the show like no one else online. And yes, Unknown, the fandoms are the major reason why these shows aren't being taken seriously. Quality is subjective, but no one's sitting there and looking at these shows as legitimate entertainment when you have a bunch of hormone-fueled teens arguing over who should end up together. Girl Meets World, at this point in time, is not that kind of show. It shouldn't be treated like that and we really need to stop trying to treat it like that.
Oh yeah, the cynical blogger thing is really played out right now. Everyone does it at this point and they don't know how to find a balance. Also, if you feel the need to be overly cynical without any analysis or insight, you're doing it wrong and your work is going to be amateurish. Boycott the Caf, Full House Reviewed. Those blogs manage to be cynical and provocative while providing actual analysis and wit. Oh yeah, it also comes down to just being a good writer. A lot of these bloggers forget that.
DisneyFan, welcome aboard. Hopefully, you and I will be able to hold down the fort now that Unknown is on his way out soon. School takes up a lot of my time, but I have a job here that I enjoy doing and I'm going to push myself to see how much weight I can pull. Hopefully, DisneyFan, you provide some commentary on tomorrow's big double review.
It's funny you mention the thing about Teen Titans Go because, just today, Alex Hirsh talks about the season finale of Gravity Falls (on the official Disney Channel blog, which I think is blog.Disney.something or other) and how his childhood memories, both good, bad, and weird, helped shape that show and it really drives home how the best kiddie show creators are aware of this too. I'm willing to bet Dan Povenmire and Swampy Marsh are pretty much the same too. I think this was Dan Schneider's secret too, except perhaps he's been doing it for so long that ability to reach back into childhood has simply been worn out and that well is quite dried up by now.
Going back to the discussion of television, it seems like most people talk about TV, especially sitcom TV, as being an art form in terms of the 70s being a watershed moment (and this inevitably means Normal Lear, though Mary Tyler Moore and the great and always affable Bob Newhart get shoutouts too). Only relatively recently are these same pundits even giving 80s sitcom TV the same treatment, and if its 90s TV it's almost always Twin Peaks, Simpsons or maybe, just maybe Seinfeld (the only multi-cam sitcom of the bunch). There is some of the same discussion now being directed at children's shows, but again it's almost always cartoons, and I think the big reason why can be summed up in two words: Adventure Time. It was so mind-blowing and revolutionary I think everybody was just caught by surprise and it just generated a lot of buzz. You'll notice the most successful copycats, particularly Steven Universe, are from people who originally worked on Adventure Time. Interestingly enough if anything Adventure Time is a copycat of Phineas and Ferb (or at least Phineas and Ferb came first). Phineas and Ferb and especially Gravity Falls are two more cartoon shows that are drawing a lot of favorable attention from "serious" TV circles but again I think a lot of that has to do with basically being Disney Adventure Time. I don't know Alex Hirsh's background (we're very roughly the same age so he couldn't have been around that long) but I know he's at least a little chummy with Marsh and Povenmire. When Disney Channel/Disney XD actually tried to do more "adult" cartoons with TRON: Legacy and MotorCity and more or less try to compete with [adult swim], it was quiet and eventually canceled.
Bucket and Skinner...was a little bit before my time (odd for someone of my age to say, especially given that it was just three years ago) but I've still managed to see enough of it that yeah it's kind of a big pile of WTF. It was the first of what became a very long string of infamous Nickelodeon cancellations that culminated with Sam & Cat. Breadwinners...it's very clear that it's from a bunch of people who want to pretend its the 90s again and that they're kids again instead of actually mining their childhood experiences for good content. Or to put it another way, it's childhood distilled into a series of cereal commercials (the fact that General Mills actually has cereal commercials like this only helps drive it home). I think that's what happened to Jessie too, come to think of it. Back when that show was new, back in Season 1, there was a lot of content being churned out, a lot of interviews with Debby and other cast members, about how Debby was taking her own experiences growing up in Texas and putting that into the show. How Debby was excited about having an active part in shaping what the show and the title character would be like as final products, and how much of her own biographical experience was being mined for material. I pointed out in one of the previous reviews how she talked about wanting to be a doctor in The Whining (probably the last time this biographical mining was actually used) and supposedly the running joke about Jessie's sad love life actually came from Debby's middle and high school dating experiences (or at least what passed for high school, given that Debby spent her high school years in a fictional one onboard a cruise ship set). Then at some point it just started being more like a standard sitcom. I think we can all make a pretty good guess what that point was. I've been reading Spongey444's blog, which is just spongey444.wordpress.com, and if nothing else you can read his Jessie reviews and pinpoint where that transition happened. Spongey444 really liked my shout-out last time, so hey, why not, here's another one.
I think the big secret to Liv and Maddie's success is that the show really isn't even trying to live up or down to a certain expectation. Hart and Beck have pretty traditional sitcom backgrounds (they've only ventured into kiddie stuff relatively recently) so I think they're just wisely sticking to what they know they can do successfully. If you really go back and examine a typical Liv and Maddie episode, it's a lot more like a typical network sitcom than being perfectly in-line with a typical Disney Channel one. In an odd way...it's better at being Girl Meets World than Girl Meets World. I know I say that a lot so I'll need to qualify that a little more - in terms of having more of that traditional sitcom writing "feel" that appeals to older, adult audiences, Liv and Maddie is better at pulling that off than Girl Meets World despite Girl Meets World having precisely that exact, direct descendant pedigree from Boy Meets World. Among other things. I'd argue the same thing for Good Luck Charlie - it wasn't trying to explicitly be a kiddie show, it wasn't trying to have the type of humor a bunch of adults thought little kids would love, it really was just trying to be a standard domestic sitcom that just happened to be on Disney Channel. Again, Liv and Maddie is basically like that. Again, Jessie more or less used to be like that. Again, it's what Girl Meets World is trying to be. I don't know why the quality has to be all over the place though, even if not especially within the same show, or even in the same frikkin' episode!
This is the first I've heard of Kary's Degrassi blog BTW. I'll have to check it out
Yeah, maybe I was a little unfair with the direct statement regarding having to look to Al Qaeda or ISIL to find a person worse than AV Club's Todd Van der Wertt. But he is a perfect example of what you're talking about as the cynical journalistic/editorial style is exactly what he trades in.
And I'm not trying to be on my way out at least. Oh, yeah, that reminds me, what I have planned for my future contributions! More Jessie retro reviews for starters. I guess as the very last episode forever is tomorrow, I guess at this point every episode of Jessie is going to be a retro review. Also, a lot of essays about the state of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and children's entertainment in general. Breaking down content, ratings/viewer numbers, the fandom etc. Time permitting at this point. In the immediate future, of course the Jessie finale, Jessie goes to Hollywood (that's the title I'm referring it to and I'm sticking to it), the I Didn't Do It finale, The Rescuers, and...because it's just such a big event, too big to ignore - we're going to be breaking this blog's rules of both not stepping into GMWReview's territory and my own personal disgust and contempt for the episode previews and descriptions released so far, but yeah, Girl Meets Texas. All the damn parts. I'll let Mike and Nick handle everything else with maybe a blurb to add to Liv and Maddie or Best Friends Whenever or Nickelodeon's stuff.
And welcome aboard Nick! I'm glad it looks like things are looking OK for this blog still.