Thursday, December 31, 2015

In Memoriam: 2015 Retrospective

That's right, I'm back! Well, yes and no. I'm just popping in to do a bit of an update of where I am and mostly just to look back on 2015 in entertainment, mostly focusing on tween/teen entertainment but some other things as well. 

Right now I'm trying to set up another blog, and Mike and Nick are invited to be contributors. Unfortunately I'm running into some technical difficulties so I'll update you when that is cleared up. It will mostly focus on tween/teen entertainment and young adult literature but other things I just feel like reviewing as well. I'm also looking for a new job, hopefully either in education or in publishing (a bit far from my actual degree in aerospace engineering but, eh, things change - and it's not like a little bit of math hurt anyone. Right Maya and Riley? ;) I don't know when this will be set up other than "in the future."

But enough about that, it's time to look back at 2015. First, we've got a lot of departures with us this year. So much so that I feel it's best served with some historical precedent/background:

2015 is to Disney Channel what 2013 and even 2014 were to Nickelodeon (Mike and Nick, I'm sure, can vouch for this and understands what I mean). Maybe not quite as bad, but as far as historical precedent certainly the closest so far. I've talked about the "Kidocalypse" on this blog, on Christain and Sean's Girl Meets World Reviewed blog and even on Gawker's iO9 before, and this is pretty much what it's referring to. Ever since iCarly aired its final episode, things have tumbled downhill faster than Olaf trying to build a snowman up Mt. Everest during the events of Into Thin Air (too esoteric?) The weird, rather inexplicable thing about it is that it affected both networks, but it certainly affected mother-network Nickelodeon the hardest. Since iGoodbye, Nick's suffered a lengthy string of setbacks and premature cancelations that's been continuing to this day. Arguably it goes back even to before iGoodbye with the bomb Bucket and Skinner's Epic Adventure (or whatever it was called), followed by the premature cancelation of How to Rock (not necessarily a bomb as it apparently had good ratings), the bomb Marvin, Marvin; the bomb Wendell & Vinnie, and well you get the point. But perhaps the biggest and highest-profile failure is, of course, Sam & Cat, a failure so colossal and infamous it managed to make headlines with media outlets that don't normally cover tweener shows or even TV shows period. Yeah, sure, maybe Jennette and Ariana didn't exactly get along but the disappointing ratings didn't help either (while it was duking it out with Jessie, Good Luck Charlie and Austin & Ally for top-dog ratings early on over the summer of '13, they eventually slipped to Dog With a Blog and later ANT Farm Season 3 levels. For a show that was supposed to carry the glory of iCarly, that's pretty pathetic). In 2015 you can also add The Haunted Hathaways to that list, and unfortunately it looks like WITS Academy, Talia in the Kitchen and even Bella and the Bulldogs may see their last episodes in 2015-2016. I remember seeing a post on either the Haunted Hathaways or Thundermans board on IMDb, but it seems to be deleted, but there's something like a dozen shows canceled on Nick ever since Bucket and Skinner got the axe, when counting Instant Mom and See Dad Run. I might run down the numbers in a future post. Fun fact: Thundermans is the only show still airing on Nickelodeon that dates back to prior to August 2014. 

Not that Nickelodeon has not had successes too. That long list of shows includes shows that have had "natural" endings, most prominently iCarly, of course, in 2012, with Big Time Rush in 2013 and Korra in 2014. 2015 only saw one such show, the final two seasons (half the show!) of Every Witch Way, a show I know hasn't been exactly well-liked but I loved nonetheless. EWW's success also owes much to a new business model - one that could be called either experimental or weird, depending on how you look at it. One thing you can't deny though, is that it's cheap. By using their Nick Latin studios in Miami and limited budgets and production values, they can churn out EWW far cheaper than, say, Thundermans or Henry Danger, at a rate that makes daily showings (or "strips" as Nick now refers to it) profitable at relatively low ratings. At the same time, I think it shows that a show doesn't have to suffer for it as long as it's written well enough. EWW had a shaky start but it's grown on me tremendously, and by the time it bowed out it became one of my favorite shows (heck, this was #2 on the network behind Korra when the latter bowed out). I'll really miss the adventures of Emma, Maddie, Sofie, Katie, Daniel, Jax, Diego, and Mia as they defend the realm against evil witches while trying to navigate high school at the same time, with more than a little fun on the side. And I've certainly enjoyed Andi's own adventures at the WITS Academy so far, with hopefully more to come.

Unfortunately Haunted Hathaways didn't get the same chance to completely finish, though it did end up having a more or less suitable finale. This was another show that had a shaky start but grew to a fun, enjoyable show. Along with Thundermans it was the only show on Nickelodeon proper's live-action "teen" lineup to date back all the way to 2013. Poor Taylor, she always got gunk'd on practically every episode pretty much. But Amber, Brianna, Benjamin, ummm...the actor who played Miles...and Two Adult People ruled on it.

Of course between the two networks, it was Disney Channel who had the most high-profile show departures. 2014 saw the conclusion of Good Luck Charlie, which was pretty much an iGoodbye-level event as we saw Teddy Duncan off to college, P.J. off to his food truck and Gabe off to teach another generation of Duncans how to terrorize Mrs. Dabney. 2014 also saw the end to ANT Farm in a lukewarm sendoff, as well as the end of Fish Hooks which was barely a blip even at the start of its fourth season and by all judgement seemingly reached Bucket and Skinner-level of forgotten by now (wait, that was a show on Disney Channel/XD?) In 2015 we saw the end of Jessie, as the eponymous character finally sees the start of her acting career take-off and having to leave the kids in New York in order to pursue her dreams. Unfortunately it was pretty much an ANT Farm-like lukewarm sendoff, just another half-hour show half-filled with half-hearted goodbyes (genuine from the actors perhaps, but not from the network itself). It just seems a what's one of Disney Channel's longest-running series and second-longest by episode count, with 101 compared to Wizards of Waverly Place's 106 (not counting the comparatively astronomical count of Phineas and Ferb, which is far more than what 104 days of summer can fit). But, eh, who cares, Jessie's happy because she finally gets to be an actress, Tony's happy because he finally gets to be with Jessie kind of-sort of, Emma's happy because she gets to have her own show, Debby's happy because she gets to be away from the network, Peyton's happy because she gets to have her own show, Skai's happy because she doesn't have to be around Debby anymore and I guess I'm happy because I finally get those Game of Thrones references now (you know nothing, Jon Snow/Winter is Coming/blah blah blah every time you like a character he or she dies and Belish just weasels out of everything). I guess I should be happy about other things too.

And we have a second super-high profile ending, with Phineas and Ferb's summer finally coming to an end. This is perhaps the most groundbreaking series in the network's history, bringing people in to Disney Channel and XD from demos that never would've dreamed of it otherwise. Just like with Jessie and Good Luck Charlie and WoWP before, it's been going on for so long it did come as a shock when it finally came to an end no matter how much fanfare came with it beforehand (and considering all things, again, it wasn't much). 2015 seems to be where shows die with a whimper, even if they've been around for the better part of a decade (yes, the first episode of Phineas and Ferb premiered in 2007, the same year as WoWP). 

And now we get to the shows the network didn't even care about - I Didn't Do It and Dog With a Blog. At least Disney cared about DWaB enough to let it run a full three seasons ala ANT Farm, but IDDI's finale ended up getting shoved next to Jessie's with both buried deep into Monstober and lost amongst promotion for Girl Meets Texas and Invisible Sister (I'm sorry, you're not going to convince me that was a good DCOM). It might not be her intention, but it certainly was the network's intention for 2015 to be the year Rowan Blanchard gobbles up network airing real estate and promotion like Tywin Lannister carving up Northern holdfasts (yeah I'll stop the Game of Thrones references, I promise). I know Rowan gets a lot of hate, but I can at least - if not understand, then make guesses - regarding how the network is just overexposing both her and the show itself. Given Disney Channel's rather insular demo it's not like it matters either way, and the Disney machine is wont to overexpose so overexpose it will. Speaking of which, with Austin & Ally ending in a few weeks, Girl Meets World and Liv and Maddie are the only shows on the network to predate the 2015 calendar year and consequently the only shows from 2014 and 2013 respectively. On XD Kickin' It came to an end and Mighty Med got the IDDI treatment, though only in order to combine it with Lab Rats. 

For new shows we're given KC Undercover, now the third oldest show on the network at not  quite even a calendar year old and still finishing out its first season! It's an alright show I guess - though I feel like I'm putting myself at risk for making such a base comment, Zendaya truly is, well, one of the best-looking actresses this network's ever had in its entire history, and well to be equally frank that alone pretty much justifies watching it. The show wrapped around her isn't half-bad either, and I think Kamil and Trinity are great actors with pretty good comedic timing (especially Trinity, given how young she still is). We're also given Best Friend Whenever, which is an enjoyable enough show in its own right but has struggled with ratings anyway and rumors of Sam & Cat-like BTS troubles are starting to pop up, which means this show may not be here for long (I may be writing its obit a year from now). And...oh, yeah. And then we have Bunk'd. I'm just going to flat out admit I kind of just stopped watching this show. I intend to watch the episodes eventually before the premiere of the next ones but...meh. I find myself watching Boardwalk Empire or now Game of Thrones instead. I guess Peyton List couldn't do what Debby Ryan can do for me - get me to watch a show even when I think it's starting to get crappy. Sorry, PeyPey.

For Nick we've got the aforementioned excellent but ratings-struggling Bella and the Bulldogs, airing its first and second seasons only a few months apart with the show not even a calendar year old yet. It really is Nick's closest equivalent to GMW in more ways than one, and I'll even go out on a limb and say it's far superior. We also gained the aforementioned EWW spinoff WITS Academy, and a new season of Talia in the Kitchen - both of which I loved and are also struggling. We gained yet another "daily strip," Make it Pop, which turned out to be pretty decent and I'm looking forward to Season 2. For more traditional Nick shows, we have 100 Things to Do in High School - again, a show that can compete with GMW thematically and on quality but with ratings that have completely bottomed out (premiering half a year after its pilot episode doesn't help) and Game Shakers which, um, I'm sorry but I don't get that show. I didn't get a lot of iCarly either but at least that show had a certain charm to it, even if that charm largely exists through a nostalgia filter.

Oh, and DCOMs. 2015 was a big year for DCOMS (and NickOMs). We've had Bad Hair Day, which was admittedly somewhat of a typical early-year throwaway, then Invisible Sister, which ended up being somewhat of a throwaway too despite Rowan-everything (and again, I think is massively overrated anyway), but sandwiched in between are perhaps the two most anticipated DCOMs since High School Musical 2. One turned out to be exactly the success Disney automatically figured it for - and one turned out to be as much of a colossal bomb as the track record Nick's been having. Just looking at the raw numbers, it doesn't seem like Teen Beach 3 will be a thing. In fact Descendants aside DCOM numbers have been extremely poor across the board, and we'll have to see what happens after Further Adventures in Babysitting. With 2014's relatively lackluster performance I've predicted the death of the DCOM period, replaced with cheaper specials like what we saw from the Radio Disney holiday special or other low-investment, speciality or multi-cam programming.It's a trend that's been effecting the rest of the network too - KCU's been able to coast on the strength of Zendaya if nothing else, and GMW's been able to coast on the strength of its branding, but the network otherwise is in rocky territory, exactly in the same spot Nick was in 2013. Speaking of Nick, Splitting Adam turned out to be a pretty decent success, and I'm probably the only one who liked Liar, Liar Vampire, but Nick's other efforts - One Crazy Cruise, the literally forgettable Genie in a Bikini "movie" (I only even remember that movie more for the other events I did that day and thinking "oh yeah they aired that the same day too) and that mystery thing that I don't even remember - were lame to the point of being almost excruciating. Fun fact: Liar, Liar Vampire is Nick's first Halloween-themed movie since 2012's theatrical release of Fun Size (another excruciating lamer), something which used to be somewhat of a tradition akin to the Halloween or Christmas DCOM. But given that, Nick's future looks pretty bleak. Even their new strategy of "just make it as cheap as possible so we'll at least have something" doesn't seem to be paying off. As for Disney,  I've joked about it, but I wouldn't be surprised if in the near future the network's entire lineup ends up becoming inspired by the old-school TGIF or outright remakes/sequels of such. I don't know if this is going to be a good or bad thing but frankly the presentation of GMW makes me lean towards the former. Maybe it's just time I grew up again and matured some taste in TV.

And speaking of grown-up tastes, we've had one other major cable TV departure - the excellent series Justified, which ended with something only a little bit better than a meh (seems like this is all the best a show can hope for nowadays). This show built up tremendous momentum in the first three seasons, then struggled to keep that momentum going in the fourth and started losing serious steam in the fifth, but at least managed to present more or less a complete package. Better than the lame way Burn Notice went out, at least.

And at least we've still got Fargo when I tire of strained British accents and Westeros' seemingly large supply of redheads getting arrows in the back. 

In the end, I'd have to say 2015 for both Nick and Disney Channel largely just sucked the big one. Too many good shows made their exit, too many good shows that premiered this year have had their ratings crash, and too much of what's left is just lame as hell. Liv and Maddie still remains too good a show to miss on its first run, and Henry Danger has become a very enjoyable and well-written show, but I'm increasingly finding myself waiting to watch Girl Meets World and Bunk'd on Watch Disney Channel one or two days after the fact as I'm spending Fridays watching Game of Thrones or Boardwalk Empire with the family instead - if at all (I've still yet to watch Girl Meets the New Year, for that matter). Well, Rowan, if you're complaining about early access to GMW, you've got your wish now. I've had my reasons for watching these tween/teen shows, and there are still glimmers of hope that they can still be written to a quality and level of enjoyment where older audiences really shouldn't be ashamed to watch them. But with the last season of Jessie, with Bunk'd, with Disney Channel really just becoming a constant reminder that, hey, there's this multi-billion movie franchise you can go see in theaters now, it's starting to live down to the kiddie rep. I'll explain more in a follow-up essay (the same one I've been saying I'm working on for months) but my growing dissatisfaction with both networks is starting to push me towards other entertainment avenues - watching shows like the aforementioned Justified, Boardwalk Empire, Game of Thrones, Fargo etc. that are more "age appropriate." Reading actual books. And really starting to think about where the tweener/teen show has gone astray, and what makes shows like Liv and Maddie, Bella and the Bulldogs and 100 Thing to do Before High School (and yes even Girl Meets World too, I guess, very begrudgingly) different, and what made older shows like Jessie different in their heydey. And maybe the future of tweener/teen shows that can be enjoyed by all ages just barely exists anymore - or if the future is still there somewhere, just not on television.

Like I said, I'll get to that point in further detail. Eventually.

Friday, December 18, 2015

So It's Come to This: Nickelodeon Ho Ho Holidays

Merry freaking Christmas and a happy stinking New Year from your favorite Nickelodeon pals. I guess.

I just have one question: WHAT THE HELL WAS THIS SUPPOSED TO BE?!?!

There are times where you know something is going to be at least decent and then it ends up being even better than you thought. There are also times where you know something is going to blow and then it ends up being worse than that. This is the latter situation. This was an absolutely despicable, horrendous, poorly written, unmotivated piece of garbage that should have never made it to air. It was bizarre and awkward at times to the point where I believe the actors and actresses just gave up and became self-aware. For every isolated bit that might have been pretty funny, there are ten more that were dead on arrival due to poor set-up, poor delivery, or just poor writing altogether. This was a way to get all of Nickelodeon's shows and have them interact with each other on Christmas Eve in one of the biggest, most anticipated, and critically acclaimed crossovers of all-time. No, because that would have been the intelligent thing to do. Instead, the executive decision was made to have everyone play themselves. Yeah, so that's actually what happened. For some stupid reason, the actors and actresses are playing themselves, but I know this is not how they would act in real life. Almost all of them are literally playing their characters from their shows, and if not, then some campy version of themselves. And they all had to read lines off a script for this because there was no attempt at improvisation or just pretending like they're hanging out with old pals. They are all aware that this is a holiday special, but it actually is not because they are in a fake storyline in a story told by elves. 

Yeah. This was corny beyond belief, but actually salvageable. If these people were all playing their actual characters, do you know how much better this special would be? If anything, that makes more sense than having these idiots try to play themselves which they are clearly unable to because of the stupid plot. And do you know why these people cannot play themselves in a special like this? Because then they end up being meta about it. There is a lot of self-referential stuff in here, especially at the end where they talk about the final musical number like nobody else has ever made that kind of joke before. The delivery there was off-putting and awkward because nobody ever talks like that. You can't have these people play themselves in a live-action special and then turn them into cartoonish idiots. Like I said before, some of these people act no different from how they do on their shows. It's baffling to me how little anybody cared about making this special work. Was it an executive decision? I don't know. Did any of the actors and actresses have any input on what they got to say or do? I don't know. Is this the worst Christmas special ever made? Yeah, most likely. I don't even think that Star Wars Christmas special was this bad, or the several Simpsons holiday episodes that paled in comparison to the ones made in the classic era. 

Now what exactly makes this so horrible beyond the cheesy acting and dialogue? NOTHING MAKES ANY SENSE. We have the Nickelodeon stars at the party that they were all invited to while never questioning who invited them or who the host is. Then we cut to the two mentally retarded elves telling the story. They see a box for a game called Guess the Gift and then we cut to a scene demonstrating how Guess the Gift is played......for several minutes. That was one of the most frustrating scenes in the entire special. It was supposed to be a bunch of random gags slapped together, but the bit ran on way too long and had no purpose other than trying to shoehorn in the cast members who weren't part of the main plot. And none of them were funny. There were about four of these painful segments with obvious jokes and terrible pacing. In the second segment, the stars are singing about snowflakes, and then one of them comes in dressed like an apple. One of the snowflakes (Jace Norman, I believe) points this out but nobody else sees it, and the apple is convinced that he is a snowflake and Jace is not. He believes he should not be discriminated because he is unique, and everyone agrees with him. BUT HE ACTUALLY IS AN APPLE!!!! THEY COULDN'T EVEN GET THAT MOTHERFUCKING JOKE RIGHT!!!! It would complete the joke if that one snowflake saw him as an apple from their perspective, but from the perspective of everyone else, they saw a snowflake. That's the one problem with these two hacky segments. They stick to one joke that was stale and unfunny when it was first told, and they prolong it until you sit there screaming at the screen. But the last segment? It was a rap number about how grandmothers buy terrible presents for their grandkids because they are terrible people. 

By the way, this special relies on stupidity to the highest degree. Pretty much everyone here does a bunch of moronic stuff throughout the runtime and about 2% of it is actually funny. Kira Kosarin constantly breaking things and bringing it up even though nobody else does, Aiden Gallagher drinking an entire room full of eggnog in less than twenty seconds, the whole plot revolving around being trapped in the house but moving around as aimlessly as possible, Coy Stewart wearing a Christmas tree costume because it thought it was a costume party. Everything here was horrendous. I laughed a few times, and that was pretty much it. Except for the last song which had actual singers with talent, the music here is painful. Was this special trying to make fun of itself? I don't know, because nobody was in on the joke and there was no sense of cleverness or wit in anything here. 

But you want to know the one thing that made this even worse? The ending.

THE ENDING. THE ENDING. Rico Rodriguez, for some bizarre reason, always wanted to sing a song with the Nickelodeon stars but he never got a reply so he invited all of them to this party. Then he would trap them and ruin their Christmas. Beyond the fact that this plan is asinine and is not even funny on a "so bad it's good" level, Rico is an absolute creep for doing this. That is one of the worst motivations I have ever heard for anything. Do these writers even realize how ridiculous that sounds? That would be like me killing John Cena because he stole my sandwich. When you have eight, yes, eight writers working on this, you know you can do much better than just turn this into a zany Saturday morning cartoon. Even the stars themselves don't really care about what happened. They just shrug it off because that's what actual people do in a similar situation. If the characters themselves do not care about anything that's happening to them, why should I? This special was so disconnected from its audience, I have no idea who this is going to appeal to. Little kids? Yeah, pretty much. They will love this special in 2015 and seven years later, revisit it and realize how awful it really was. That's how these things work because this special will not work in reruns. It barely even functions now. Kevin Kopelow and Heath Seifert were noticeably the two main writers of this mess. 

They came back to Nickelodeon for this?! Well, I guess it happens to everybody at some point. You just start losing your touch.

I'm done here. This special was absolutely horrible. Almost every joke is painfully predictable, really stupid, or runs way longer than it has to. Everybody here is absolutely idiotic and they act like they just stepped into a parallel universe (except for Buddy Handleson, who is the only bright spot in this whole thing). And with the exception of the last number, the music..........basura. I hate the idea that this special had to be made. It just boggles the mind how eight writers could let this happen and they actually thought they did a great job. I know the actors and actresses had fun doing this, but as a fan and a reviewer, I did not have fun watching this. Although it does make me wonder how Disney Channel would handle this kind of thing........

Final Grade: D (Buddy Handleson kept this thing from going any lower. I love that guy and he was the only one who was actually funny. Also, as awkward as the snowflake segment was, the fact that it was so ridiculously stupid made me laugh. Although, that's probably because I have pity.)
Episode MVP: Buddy Handleson

What I'm about to say could be considered controversial on a real level, so I just want to say that I'm not endorsing this attitude in the slightest. But, unfortunately, being familiar with 4chan's /tv/ image board, I can tell you that they were probably disappointed that Brec Bassinger and Kira Korsarin weren't covered waist-deep in eggnog but they were probably just grateful Isabella Moner was.

Also speaking of that scene, I have no idea who that other girl was. Is she the one who plays, uh, Chloe or whoever on Henry Danger? I don't recognize her at all. She's not on Game Shakers (interesting that none of the players on that show were even there), or NRDD, or Bella (at first I thought maybe it's Lilimar, but that's a solid nope on that) or Thundermans, etc. The fact that everything kept sticking to her because she sat on a marshmallow chair One, prop sight gags don't really work for me and two, that's probably another one that got /tv/ all excited. Yeah, I promise I'll quit making a squicky list of all the things that probably kept /tv/ happy save for one I'll save at the very end. But, hey, I guess someone was happy watching this at least, though, um....ewww.

I guess grown-ups just don't trust kids to really be able to improv on their own. Disney Channel can't even trust two adult and veteran actresses, Sofia Carson and Sarah Carpenter, to do more than act from a script when they're supposed to be spontaneously excited about Andy Grammar. I think Sofia Carson and Sarah Carpenter are capable of acting spontaneously excited about Andy Frickin' Grammar. Disney Channel probably doesn't even trust Debby Ryan and Bridgit Mendler to say their own names without reading first, "Debby [staring at the camera]: Debby Ryan" and "Bridgit [staring at the camera]: Bridgit Mendler." Which is probably why they abandoned the network for live performances and an actual live show respectively. They probably don't trust Selena Gomez to be able to play you like a love song on repeat-repeat-repeat without reading the original instruction manual first. They probably forced Zendaya to do her Wand ID with a pronunciation guide for her own name (Zen-DAY-ah). 

It's kind of a Holy Grail to be able to let child starlets, especially older ones like the aforementioned Sofia, Debby, Bridgit, Selena and Zendaya who have been at it for a while and probably want to do something different, to be let loose and actually do some improv. The closest any of those stars have been to doing improv on Disney Channel is either Jessie's Green-Eyed Monsters (the one Christian and Sean really hated) or when Disney Channel ran the short-lived Prank*Stars (yes the asterisk is a part of the title) show and only Selena and Debby did that (that was very late in WoWP's run and just before Jessie, just  when Debby started dyeing her hair red). The closest I can recall any of the Nickelodeon stars doing improv is, um, this.

I can see why Buddy has basically been playing the same role over and over again since he was still in single-digits on "the enemy network," it's admittedly a role he wears well. Everybody else...yeah. It just feels like they're out of their element. Yeah, ok, play yourselves...but at the same time don't stray far from your regular roles because the tweens who watch this think Jack Griffo and Max Thunderman are literally the same person. If you follow this blog a lot you know I'm probably way too huge a Debby Ryan fan for what I should be, which means I follow all her social media, which means I know that people literally thinking she's Jessie Prescott instead of Debby Ryan drove her nuts to the point where it probably goes a long way to explaining why Jessie's final season outright sucked. It's why she doesn't want to dye her hair red anymore, she doesn't want people to see Jessie Prescott instead of Debby Ryan. We certainly saw that happen to Jennette McCurdy (who's supposed to be a friend of Debby IRL) too, probably Ariana Grande as well. I have to wonder when, for example, Kira's breaking point is. Jace Norman at least has apparently regular employment in NOMs to break out regularly, but most of everyone else is stuck being who they normally play.

But yeah, it could've been better. Obviously it's trying to be a variety type show, it should've stuck with it better. Kopelow and Siefert know how to do this. I mean, if only there was, say, a show that kind of tried to be the variety model, and had Christmas special variety show episodes, and had skits, and so on. Maybe this completely fictional and hypothetical show could've, oh, I don't know, aired on Disney Channel from 2009 to 2011 and starred someone named, oh, I'll just pull a name out of my hat, how about Demi Lovato.

Oh, and that reminds me, there's another actress who kind of went nuts playing the same role, though granted there are complications behind that story, but people now pretty much look at her work on Glee, or on Princess Protection Program or the Camp Rock movies (as cheesy as they were) and say, hey, she's not bad at all. 

At the end of the day it's just cheap, throwaway programming so I guess I can't really blame them for not wanting to put much effort into it. Rico Rodriguez is a bit of an odd choice for a guest star especially since he's closesly associated with "the enemy network," what with both his own work on ABC and his sister's on Austin & Ally. Then again, that might explain exactly why he's there. And speaking of Rico, it was the other Rico (who plays Ace McFumbles on Bella) who was the complaining snowflake, not Jace (he wasn't in that skit). The kid who played ChrisPo on 100 Things was the apple, along with his costar who plays Fenwick and the girl who plays Piper on Henry Danger. That was their sole contribution to this mess, and likewise Jace, Riele, Cree and Benjamin were stuck in the Guess the Gift skit (that's such a Dan Schneider skit to do, I'm not sure who wrote the snowflake one, maybe Scott Fellows?)

Yeah, when I'm bombarding you with random trivia and suppositions of various actresses' attitudes (especially ones where I've been told you don't know me! You don't know what I think!) for an episode/Christmas special review, it means there isn't much to review. You're really getting what you expect.

I'm not kidding when I say the Monstober "Man Behind the Mask" reveal was much better executed, and that was a three-minute long barely-veiled advertisement for Descendants (yet again).

Episode Grade: This really is the definition of a flat D right here. 
Episode MVP: It's a five-way tie between the little girl from the Thundermans who got shot at the wall from a catapult as if she's trying to get up the Wall from Game of Thrones, Dove Cameron for having a cute expression as Calum Worthy pulled the mask off her face to reveal she was the person in the mask during the Monstober episodes, Sofia Carson for when Calum Worthy also took the mask off her face revealing that it was also her who was in those Monstober episodes, so both she and Dove can remind you to watch Descendants, Demi Lovato for being on a show that actually knew how to do this, and finally, Debby Ryan for having excellent penmanship on her signature on all those legal notices she keeps sending me that I keep ignoring.

It's a canon fact that Aiden Gallagher's tongue has been all over Isabella Moner. It's outright stated in the episode's dialogue, right there, right out in the open, as plain as day. Also, likewise all over Jack Griffo.

They really did not think this entirely through. Anyway, Happy New Years' and a merry Martin Luther King Day!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Girl Meets the New Year (Girl Meets World)

What is it? Blah blah blah Girl Meets World you should know by now.

Right now, I'm really unsure about the future of this blog. As far as I know, both Unknown and Nick have fled the country so until I get some answers about where they went, I guess I'm just going to have to keep this thing from dying on my own. Let's talk about this episode first and foremost because.........I have some things I need to address here.

1. Why is the airing/production schedule for Girl Meets World so messed up? There were 30 episodes produced for season two and this was apparently the second-to-last one made. Keep in mind that this is a New Year's Eve episode and the next one is at their junior high graduation. What the hell is going on here?!?! I feel like the timeline on this show fluctuates so much these days, they should make a meta-joke about the whole thing. In this case, I really think the writers and producers need to get it together in terms of coming up with a production schedule that makes sense instead of having Disney Channel trying to interpret the whole thing. 

2. I noticed that of all the main characters on this show, Farkle annoys me the least. I was getting worried that the writers were going to start leaving him on the street for roadkill in the early goings, but he has played a major role in the second season as it has progressed. You know why he is the least annoying? BECAUSE HE HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE LOVE TRIANGLE, IF YOU WANT TO CALL IT THAT. What is this? This is not a love triangle with any sort of development or intrigue or mystery. This is the same BS we saw in Texas, only that time, it was part of a 90-minute movie that was interesting and had everything people expected out of Girl Meets World when it first came onto the scene. This time, no. NO. You have to settle things and you have to settle them now, writers. You can't keep people waiting for something that might never be resolved. I swear, if you guys even think about dragging this out into season three, I'm going to rethink what I said about the Texas episodes. It's really sad because I know the writers can push themselves and give us episodes that shake the core of the show and keep us tuning in  the week after. You want to take a page out of Degrassi's playbook? Go ahead, because with classic Degrassi, they never slacked off and made sure you had something to chew on with the big storylines. This is baby steps writing. I don't want that. I want an ending, I want finality, I want these guys to pull the trigger and do something.

3. We still don't know how Lucas feels about anything. That's really dandy. Seriously, they better take care of that.

4. Well, Charlie's gone for the time being. I can't say I'll miss him because I never really cared about his character. In "Semi-Formal," which was an episode I really wasn't into at all, he was just there. Then in Part 3 of "Texas," they turned him into a creepy stalker trying to be cute and getting upset that everyone saw through him. I really don't know why they did that because that just soured me on him even further. We got more of that with this episode, but at least his last scene with Riley was genuinely emotional and heartfelt. Hey, they wrote Charlie well this time, like an actual human being. Go figure.

5. Farkle made the right decision to spill the beans. I feel like he is the audience surrogate, wanting this whole thing to be over like me. He knew Riley was never going to do it herself and she would let her feelings turn into secret resentment so in order to protect the friendships, he had to do what he personally believed was right. Putting Riley on the spot like that in front of all the kids on her roof on the first day of 2016? Not cool. But I understand his intentions and now that everyone knows about Riley's feelings, we can move on. PLEASE MOVE ON.

6. I like Smackle. She's dope and plays off everyone really well. 

7. This episode was a C for me. As a fan, it was exciting to see Farkle spill the beans just to see what would happen. As a reviewer, I know this is weak storytelling and an absolutely disappointing follow-up to the Texas episodes. The pacing was slow and uninteresting, the build-up was worthless in the end, and we are right back where we started. The season finale better come through because if we have to drag this out any further, I'm going to punch a wall. STOP WITH THE CLIFFHANGERS, WE GET IT. LOVE IS CRAZY. JUST STOP AND PULL THE DAMN TRIGGER ALREADY.

Whenever Unknown or Nick return from their sabbatical, they can add to this because I'm finished. This episode was ridiculous. If you want a good New Year's episode, try "Train of Fools" from Boy Meets World. Remember that show? The one show that would never do what its sequel series is doing right now? I bet Vince McMahon's name is in the writing credits for this episode. Don't believe me, check it again and you'll see it for three straight seconds.

I'm not quite dead or fled the country yet (though the latter is something I'm actually in the process of trying to make happen - the fleeing the country part, not the dead part). Sorry for coming back to this post after so long. Confession time: I haven't actually really seen this episode. Well...I've seen it three times, just not in a focused matter. The first time I was half-paying attention while working on some other stuff, the New Year's Eve airing I watched drunk (hey, New Year's Eve) and the New Year's Day airing I was actually working on the "All the Shows That Left Nickelodeon After iCarly Left" post. I have a vague sense of what's going on, that Smarkle is a thing now, also tween angst. And, uh, I believe that adequately and laconically summarizes the episode. Also, Miss What's Her Face is back for the second time in forever. 

I'm just going to tell you guys, right now. Out of a matter of principle, I actually feel divided about this episode. On the one hand, rarely does an overdose of angst make for great television (Sean from GMWReviewed can tell you about that and House). On the other hand, that shouldn't be an excuse for not visiting these topics. On the other hand (perhaps I should say the gripping hand), it seems like GMW is making the same mistake Austin & Ally (and tween/teen shows in general) do and overplay the drama and overdo the shipping in a straight-line grab for the demo, which tends to go fucking bonkers over shipping with little regard to other aspects of plot, story or narrative construction (coming in 2017: Two Ridiculously Attractive Teens Are Shipped Together, airing in between More Steps by Further Steps and Family Still Matters). 

I'd have to say that seems to be the biggest complaint about the show lately, that doubling-down on what the tween audience cares about. It's not necessarily something the adult audience cares much for. Furthermore, what tweens think is good relationship advice isn't necessarily what adults think is good relationship advice (mainly because tweens have absolute zero experience and wisdom in romance and are vulnerable to all sorts of really shitty advice as long as it makes them think they're going to land that perfect guy or girl by the final bell of sixth grade and all they need to do is patiently wait until legal marriage age, which is what puts their butts in front of that TV). A cynical simplification, yes, but tweens do tend to want to have their cake and eat it too with both a highly romanticized idea of relationships yet a lot of relationship drama at the same time for their entertainment. 

So, uh, I guess that's my evaluation of the episode, given what I've actually seen. I'd rate it a flat C, MVP is, I don't even really know. Put all their names on a dart board and see where the dart lands first. Quite frankly this is such alien territory I very honestly don't even know how to evaluate it. 8th grade was a long time ago, and I've never been a woman and never will be. I don't know what an 8th grade girl thinks or what is realistic in her life experience. There's enough ethos and pathos in other episodes and other shows - Girl Meets Brother, first or second season Jessie, Bella and the Bulldogs, Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire, Justified - that I don't need to actually have been an 8th grade girl or her younger brother to feel what's going on (as opposed to simply knowing). My entire 6th grade romantic experience is admiring this ultra-hot Latina girl from afar, and while she was vaguely aware she had a thing for me, it wasn't mutual. She was just waaaay out of my league. It's my understanding that a lot of middle school relationships are like this and that 7th and 8th grade relationships and younger are pretty rare. Which is why these storylines resonate so much with this demo. It's wish fulfillment. If you're an adult viewer, you've either already have your wishes actually fulfilled in real life (and you're watching with the products of that fulfillment) or you've got psychological problems (which explains why I stick around). Adults watch Game of Thrones or Boardwalk Empire or Justified and etc. for wish fulfillment - vicariously experiencing Jon Snow shag that redhead wilding girl or Nucky Thompson gun down assholes with machine guns or Deputy Marshall Raylan Givens be a 21st century John Wayne, or Cam Newton nail that touchdown pass. 

What I'm wondering if there's a widening "demo" gap in entertainment and if tween entertainment is retreating in demo age. There's a certain sense to it - when Good Luck Charlie and Jessie were a thing, especially prior to Jessie's third season, it was at least partially reaching for girls and women roughly around Bridgit's and Debby's actual ages. But that demo has been going more for shows that would cause almost the whole country's supply of parents and moral guardians to scream at once if they ever aired on Disney Channel - namely Pretty Little Liars, but also shows on AMC and HBO. Even Bridgit and Debby themselves talk about how much they enjoy PLL, while never once talking about if they actually ever enjoyed their own shows. I suppose this explains the rather subtle shift in Jessie during its third season too, as they gave up trying to go for a very broad audience up to young adult women and just concentrated on the tweens. 

That said, to answer Mike's questions:

1. That's just Disney Channel for you. Some of it is probably practicality (how just things come together for scheduling) but it's kind of a mess even with that in consideration. I suppose I can explain in its own dedicated article.

2.-8. Yeah spot on pretty much.

Anyway, Merry Pearl Harbor Day and Happy New Year.

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