Friday, January 22, 2016

Austin and Ally Retrospective

Wait what do you mean it's not January 10 anymore?

Yeah, I know, it's a bit late, especially when I gave Jessie like three retrospectives before the finale even hit the air. I'm slowly starting to get back into the whole blog scene (still trying to find a place to migrate to, though honestly the Blogspot thing isn't too bad - but I imagine we might be switching to Wordpress sometime, uh, this year. Maybe). Big, big thanks to Mike for this. He has said that I've made it possible for him to be on this blog - as it stands right now this blog wouldn't exist beyond some poorly-formatted ghost pages at this point if it weren't for him even just keeping up one or two posts in the meantime. I guess you could say I couldn't do it without him.

I know Mike was a big fan of Austin & Ally too (at least the first two seasons) so I hope he chimes in too.

Anyway, Austin & Ally....

There's a lot of debate in terms of what "eras" Disney Channel can be divided up into. There's general agreement that Lizzie McGuire pretty much stands in its own era more or less by default - then you have the That's So Raven era which...again, kind of stands alone by default. Then you have the Suite Life of Zack and Cody/Hannah Montana era where Disney Channel really started to become a hot property for tween/teen shows, and we all pretty much know about that one (even if we weren't actually around to see it). Then the Wizards of Waverly Place/Suite Life on Deck era. Then the Good Luck Charlie/Shake it Up Era. Right now I guess we would be towards the end of the Liv and Maddie/Girl Meets World era, into what's looking to shape up to be the K.C. Undercover era, with whatever show that show will share that title with still waiting for the jury to decide (it's pretty fallow ground and unless Stuck in the Middle or Blizzardvark ends up being a smash hit K.C. Undercover could likely end up being the sole dominant show of its "era'). Now naturally there's a lot of overlap between the eras - That's So Raven had a good chunk airing during Suite Life of Zack and Cody and Hannah Montana, including the first crossover that created the tangled-up ungodly mess of a canon universe called the Disney Channel Live-Action Universe that now includes friggin' Perfect Strangers and Spider-Man (thank you, combination of stunt-obsessed network heads and extremely anal detail-obsessed people on TVTropes).  Both Good Luck Charlie and Shake it Up, the lead shows of what is now considered a long bygone era, aired episodes concurrent with Liv and Maddie, one of the two lead shows of the current era I guess and just missed out on the other current leading show, Girl Meets World. And of course there are tons of other shows in the mix as well - Phil of the Future which was also a huge success somewhere in-between the HM/SLoZaC era and the WoWP/SLoD era, and Sonny With a Chance that just had too short a run to really lead its era (not to mention the controversy of Demi's departure) and "lesser" shows like Dog With a Blog and ANT Farm, but none of those shows were as high-profile as the mega-hit muilti-cams that really started to get recognition even beyond the network.

Anyway, between the Good Luck Charlie/Shake it Up era and the current-ish era, there was the Jessie and Austin & Ally era.

It might be a bit difficult to explain to an outsider just how much people went nuts for Austin & Ally unless they happen to be familiar with how people went nuts for Hannah Montana, at which case I can just say "yeah, it was pretty much like that." Hannah Montana was such a smash hit because, for good or bad, girls saw a relatable role model in Miley Cyrus. They felt she was relatable, but at the same time she had a combination of pure escapist elements and girl power elements through achieving superstardom on pretty much her own terms. Jessie was pretty much like that except for the escapist elements for the title character, which is probably why the show skewed at least a little older in demographics, at least at first. Austin & Ally had those Hannah Montana elements too, but again to a subdued degree. Again, at least, Ally (Edgar apparently?) Dawson was too secondary to Austin (Monica - yeah they were really tearing down gender barriers to middle names here folks) Moon to really pound home the girl power message that made Hannah -no middle name applicable)- Montana/Miley -middle name unknown- Stewart and Jessie -middle name still unknown- Prescott popular female leads. 

No, you go on most of the fandom's Twitter accounts and it's pretty clear they're drawn to their TV screens by Ross Lynch.

So yup, it's just disingenuous to claim that one of the big reasons this show became such a hit wasn't because of the eye candy that drew the girls in. I can't answer it myself, but Ross just pulls them in like a rare earth magnet. That said, at least on TV, he does have a goofy, disarming personality that I can see would be very appealing. 

But that's not to say that the show didn't build on that with its own merits. If you read my Jessie retrospective, you'll remember that a big part of the appeal of that show is just because the timing just ended up personally right. And if you've read the above, you'll know that these two shows were pretty much paired with each other to define each other's era (both premiered late in 2011). So again, the timing for Austin & Ally ended up being personally right. What I regard to be some of the best episodes of the entire series - Successes and Setbacks, Burglars and Boobytraps, Soup and Stars (yes really), especially Diners and Daters, and the first season finale, Aubums and Auditions - were all some of the first episodes of Austin & Ally I ever saw (a lot of these on the same day no less - gotta love how Disney Channel loves to marathon shows to death) and, incidentally, happen to be season 1 (the aforementioned first season finale, Aubums and Auditions, was actually the first episode of Austin & Ally I saw on its actual premiere night). 

If I saw Jessie and Good Luck Charlie as throwbacks to the kind of family and older tween/younger teen show I really missed from the 90s core TGIF era, then I saw Austin & Ally as a throwback to the kind of (then rather rare) live-action middle-late tween-ish show of the 90s, the type that maybe would've been sandwiched with animation on the classic Saturday Morning blocks. Especially in the first season since the Austin-Ally dynamic really wasn't so much a will-they-won't-they romantic scenario as it was just simply trying to appeal to both sex demographics or at least give something for everyone. 

Yeah, really. Go back and watch a bunch of first season episodes and you'll notice. The plotlines and antics were a lot more gender-neutral, and Austin tended to lead plotlines that might appeal to boys while Ally tended to do things that might be seen as tween girl-appealing. It wasn't until deep into Season 2 where the show really started to get the insane shipping reputation it ended with. 

And now that I'm thinking about it it was that kind of gender-neutral-ish plot dynamic I enjoyed the most, that brought back the most then-badly-needed nostalgia to the type of live-action comedy show I really enjoyed when I was actually the age of the show's intended core demo. Yes, it was goofy. Yes, it was embarassingly goofy at times. But as Mike can tell you, it pulled it off well. It pulled it off with almost an innocent child-like charm that perhaps you might hope from your own son or daughter when they reach their late tween years and navigate middle school (trust me, it's nowhere near as rosy as what Girl Meets World tries to picture, and it probably has the darkest, most realistic depiction of middle school in Disney Channel in that network's history - it is Disney Channel, after all). It's exactly the type of show you might expect your own tween children to be entertained by - hell, it's probably the type of show you'd want your tween children to be entertained by. A bunch of older teen friends having fun, being goofy and not straying from the path that could lead them into darker territory. It's almost physically impossible for them to lose their innocence. Even the interstital cards are of our four main cast members acting goofy, perhaps what you'd expect from a traveling Church youth performance group but with just enough coyness shaved off to be not just tolerable but outright charming. Charming, yes, even in a completely unironic way, which is just about as rare as personalized transportation and fully employed Millennials nowadays.

...and then the plotlines just became insultingly sophomoric (the low was when our fab four had to be taught a lesson on why they shouldn't fuck around with their manager's daughter's audio tracks - I mean, really guys?) and of course it went from being Austin & Ally to really being Austin & Ally - yes, when the show just became 30 minutes of shipping teasing. Just like friggin' iCarly.

So, yeah. At a certain point it was legitimately one of the best things on Disney Channel and quite frankly one of the best things that knew what it was. Just a charming tween show. It was goofy, it was entertaining, it had a cast that could carry the charm even if you gave them 12 blank pages stapled together and filmed it inside an empty warehouse. It may not have had the actual raw all-ages-appropriate quality of Good Luck Charlie or even Jessie, but, I guess oddly enough, it was a type of innocence lost that could be found in some sort of fascimilie in TV sitcom form. Before it just became tired and mired in shipping (but fortunately for the most part regained its footing just in time for the series to bow out in Season 4).

I suppose that's really all I need to say about it. Take it away, Mike!

Well said, Unknown. It almost makes me want to cry considering the fact that this show marks the end of an era. The last outlaw of Disney Channel, as it were.

I remember when Austin & Ally first came onto the scene. This was around the time Disney Channel was still entertaining across the board before it became a network only capable of grabbing my attention for one show. At first, I looked at it and rolled my eyes. I was getting burnt out on shows where all the kids wanted to do was become music stars and have instant success at whatever it is they happened to do. Even the name threw me off. 13-year-old me said, "Screw that. What a lame name for a show." But there was an underlying charm that the show possessed. Reminiscent of Big Time Rush, Austin & Ally was more than just a bunch of kids trying to become famous. The characters felt sympathetic and likable, their chemistry was as sharp as a Ginsu, and when I was watching the series finale, I realized something really important. These people really cared about each other. They met in the music store by chance, but ended up creating beautiful friendships with each other that never felt artificial. They acted like people you probably knew in school, or in my case, kids I know right now. Trish and Dez made a living out of antagonizing each other, Ally was sometimes called out on being a know-it-all, and it never seemed like any one of them had all the answers to everything. I'm genuinely going to miss this show, even though it ended because it had ran its course.

This marks a new generation of Disney Channel programming. When Austin & Ally first aired in December 2011, I was in eighth grade. Now I'm just a few months away from heading off to college and starting a new chapter of my life......hopefully. In the past four years, so many shows have come and gone. 2014-2015 marked the transitional period for Disney Channel. Shows like Dog with a Blog and Jessie came off as old school compared to stuff like Girl Meets World and Best Friends Whenever. We're in an entirely new era now. The oldest show on Disney Channel at this point is less than two years old. And chances are, we don't even know if this show will end up having the kind of fan support that shows like Austin & Ally did. With it constantly running into the same writing issues, and the lead star gradually losing her mind every time she ends up in the news, we might even see a premature end to a show that has yet to reach its full potential. 

Either way, Austin & Ally is going to be missed and the finale did a great job of letting us know where the Fab Four are headed, how their friendships ended up influencing their futures and how much they have grown to love each other over the course of four seasons. Even though things ended up becoming melodramatic at some point.........

.......which leads me into one of the things I wanted to talk about in a retrospective like this. When Austin and Ally first got together, I was in the camp who was excited for the new relationship. I was rooting for them to fall in love and make things work beyond being friends. They barely lasted 22 minutes before it felt like the writers pushed the panic button and started from scratch. After that, the tone of the series changed for good. It was no longer interested in just being charming and goofy anymore. It was all about relationships and romance and drama from this point forward. It just........didn't feel like the same show anymore. Disney Channel shows used to be entertaining enough that I saw them through to the end. Pretty soon, Austin & Ally was just a show where I would watch an episode or two at a time, instead of trying to keep up with what was going on and burning through several episodes with my sister. The show embraced this all the way to the end, but never really forgot its roots. It's the same thing that allowed it to make multiple references to the first episode where Ally destroyed the set of The Helen Show. Austin & Ally never tried too hard to be more than what it was. It was just a great escapist show you could enjoy for a quick laugh or a nice little heartfelt moment. In the end, I think we can all remember it for just being a decent-to-good show. We can remember Calum Worthy being comedically gifted enough to make such a stupid character work with his body language and natural charisma. We can remember the music that was almost never unlistenable, from the theme song to the last performance on The Helen Show. The decline could have been absolutely staggering and unbearable like Jessie, it could have just been caused by a number of detrimental changes like A.N.T. Farm, or it could have started becoming increasingly dramatic to the point where it seemed like every other episode was a big life or death spectacle like Wizards of Waverly Place. 

But Austin & Ally just became too focused on romance for its own good. I will give it credit for never being overly dramatic, and when it attempted drama, there were times where it came from a genuine place. I guess that's just a reflection of how great the chemistry was between the cast. There was no way they could make it through life without each other.

Another thing I wanted to touch on was how these people made each other better. The relationship between Austin and Ally is one of the strongest and most heartfelt that I have ever seen on Disney Channel. One of the most important reasons was that they gave each other a much-needed shot in the arm. Ally turned Austin into a hardworking, responsible, determined person with dreams he had to go through struggle to attain, while still keeping his dim nature. Austin helped Ally realize that she needed to become more self-confident and let the world hear her voice. We saw these people grow and become ready to face the real world through their experiences with each other. In all honesty, Austin & Ally was a more special show than people will give it credit for.

Or maybe that's just the critic in me. I don't know. R.I.P. Austin & Ally, thanks for the memories.

Series Grade: B
Series MVP: Calum Worthy. This guy was the unsung hero of the show. Dez was just another stupid character, but this is one of the few times where the actor's performance elevated him above the everyday idiot you would see on The Thundermans or Game Shakers or A.N.T. Farm. Worthy reminds me a lot of Jerry Trainor, the type that could take the stupidest material possible and make it hilarious. In "Successes and Setbacks," when Austin was having trouble with his throat, Dez showed the guys this concoction with a bunch of weird stuff inside and one cup of mud. Austin asks him what that would do to help his throat and Dez says, "Nothing. It's just something I always wanted to try." With the biggest grin on his face, Dez starts drinking it and says proudly, "Yup. I was right. It's disgusting." I admit it, I cried at the end of that scene because it was just Worthy's picture-perfect delivery that made such a ridiculous scene hysterical. The series finale further emphasized why Dez will always be my favorite character on this show. There was just more to him than other stupid characters on similar shows. 

Ugh and here I go being tardy again.

Really, Mike said exactly what I wanted to say, except perhaps even a big more eloquently. Thanks Mike! The whole college application process is a very daunting endeavor (I really don't think I have to even say "trust me I know" at this point) and the essay portion is a smaller component than what a lot of people think, but it's still important, and I'd wager to bet that you'd do a great job on that at least.

It's interesting you mention first watching this show at 13 years old in 8th grade since that's pretty much right at the perfect target age demo for this show (and pretty much Disney Channel/XD and Nick as a whole). It's a very narrow window that lasts for at best three years from 12 to maybe 14 - and now you know why most Disney Channel/Nick shows only last that long. 

There's a variety of reasons why that's being extended to four as of late, and Austin & Ally is very much a part of the vanguard of shows bringing that in. Wizards of Waverly Place and Hannah Montana got away with it because it had a lot of raw early and even late tween appeal (and thus a slightly larger window for demo appeal), so much so that it convinced the network outright that it should age the average network demo up a bit permanently (though perhaps not as permanently as they'd like as we're now in a process of witnessing Disney Channel's demo being brought back down). Good Luck Charlie had a lot of overall family appeal, especially with older teens and even college-aged students of both genders who were nostalgic either for this type of show or for their own, actual family lives (which means it had a much larger window available, so much so it barely missed out on a Season 5). Jessie actually had some of its expanded window opportunity built into the very show as a result of Debby's semi-DCOM 16 Wishes having a surprisingly large demo of college-aged viewers, so they thought they'd split the difference by offering a relatively older female lead who would be relatable and appealing to similar-aged audiences and more typical Disney Channel-aged costars to appeal to the traditional demo (of course, they later nearly abandoned the former as it became just another Disney Channel show). Liv and Maddie manages to go both routes somewhat, by offering a lead that's relatable and appealing to relatively older female viewers (and younger ones as well) but wrapping that around a show that's got the old something-for-everyone Good Luck Charlie demo. And of course Girl Meets World more or less works down the same Good Luck Charlie demo, but also brings a built-in nostalgia audience that will last for either as long as Disney Channel says so or when their patience wears out, whichever comes first (again, short-runners aren't necessarily a bad thing, see most premium cable).

In Austin & Ally's case, it was a bunch of relatively smaller issues coming together. I think even Disney Channel underestimated Ross Lynch's tween and teen magnetism - again, seriously, girls go nuts over him. Older women talk about Debby Ryan, Dove Cameron and Rowan Blanchard being appropriate role-models for younger generations, and the tween core demo will talk about how awesome it would be to be either of those three women, but you only have to look at the KCAs to see how they'd put their actual voting power into play. 

But Ross wouldn't have a lot of star power to leverage if he couldn't play the part of boyband heartthrob and the show capitalized on that massively as Mike had touched upon and in much the same way they did with Hannah Montana. And as much as girls like to watch pretty boys on TV for, let's be honest, raw sex appeal (or more accurately, infatuation-fuel, or even "like-like" appeal), girls also legitimately like watching and admiring other girls that can also serve as role models - which is where Laura (and to a lesser extent Raini) comes in. And let's not ignore the gorilla in the room - yes, people went nuts over the shipping, just like on iCarly.

Some shows, like the aforementioned Jessie, Liv and Maddie and Girl Meets World, have a built-in four-year window and the network is essentially making a bet that said window will stick (and for the most part it's paid off). Other shows, like Hannah Montana, WoWP and A&A, earned their windows by justifying being appealing and good enough to make their audiences want to stick through it even as they get older and age out of the demo, necessitating the show itself age with them. 

The things I mentioned were things that brought audiences to the show in the first place, but Mike mentioned other things - the characters themselves, how the characters interacted, and how the characters grew - that made them stay, and if nothing else helped the show age with the audience to keep the audience coming later in life - when they got their own real-life version of Ross that had been sitting near them in class all along, or when they just simply aged out of finding Ross appealing as a "like-like" fantasy, or found Laura no longer credible as a female role model, at least alone.

The show definitely engaged in shipping far too heavy and far too often, like a couple responding to the birth of a child and needing space by buying the largest and heaviest SUV they can find on the lot. More isn't always better, but it's an easy conclusion we've been too much ingrained into thinking. But I can save theories regarding Limits of Diminishing Returns, or for that matter on the rewrite process and Rowan Blanchard, for a later post when I talk more about Girl Meets World.

And without further ado:

Series Grade: C+, keeping in mind this is for the series overall. If I had to rate each series individually.... Season 1: A-; Season 2: C-; Season 3: C-; Season 4: A-. They certainly lost the plot and threatened to do some shark-jumping by Season 2 and panicked just as Mike described in Season 3, but finally got their heads screwed on straight again in Season 4. Sweeping away the Sonic Boom and Austin's entire career and establishing the Music Factory instead seems to have been the thing that did the trick, even if Jimmy Starr's reaction was a bit overdone (and again they were wise enough to even correct that too).
Series MVP: There's a lot of choices to make. Mike makes a strong point of Calum. I can make a strong point for Raini. Ross delivered the goods that made the show what it was, especially the songs, but Ross also needed Laura to really drive it home.

Aww, the hell with it. Like the theme song itself says, there's just no way they can do it without each other. Again, I promised myself I wouldn't cheese out by taking such conveniences, but I'm slowly learning there are times where it's legitimately justified.

(Trying this again) Series MVP: The entire Austin & Ally main cast: Ross Lynch, Laura Marano, Calum Worthy and Raini Rodriguez. Given one of the main themes of the whole series, including down to its very theme song, I just find it too appropriate not to pull off. 

Girl Meets Money Reviewed

No this isn't an episode quote (I'll put that in later), just a note of how we're going to review this particular episode. I'll let Mike open up on this one and I'll add comments later just like we did for STEM, but I'd like to write a larger post kind of wrangling in STEM, Money and some other GMW episodes (and episodes of some larger shows). I'd also like to do maybe a breif review or something put together about the best GMW episodes and the worst GMW episodes (so I don't tread on people's opinions I'll pick ones that both GMWReviewed and we think are pretty bad, but I'm not afraid of going all over the place picking episodes I think are good).

In life, I guess all of our roofs leak for a reason.

What is it? Umm...dude (or dudette, I hope we get decent female readership here), it's Girl Meets World. Also I never gave Mike credit for picking a super-excellent quote to open up the review with, so, here it is. If I were actually paying you it's more than worth every penny.

Anyway, take it away Mike!

BTW, I thought this episode was really good. But more on that later.

I really, really wish I had seen this earlier.....or made the effort to do a review earlier.

I was able to check out the GMWReviewed post about this episode the day after it aired, and it was a lot less positive than I thought it would be. I honestly forgot the last time that site actually called an episode good. But that's not a slam, just something I noticed. I love Christian and Sean's work and their dedication to the blog, by the way.

I think a look at the show as a whole at this point is a great idea, Unknown. We could pick our personal best and worst episodes, and point out GMW's strengths and weaknesses. Kinda like a Girl Meets World Performance Appraisal of some sort. I don't know when we would do it, but it's never too late to start. Plus, season two's hot streak eventually gave way to a string of mediocre and unremarkable episodes so that should be fun to explore.

Which brings me to my next point. I liked this episode, actually. It was better than "STEM," that's for sure. It wasn't anywhere close to the Texas Trilogy, but it was still pretty entertaining. It had a great point to make about how millionaires and entrepreneurs and such have all this money but never really do anything worthwhile with what they earned. There's definitely a time for indulgence, but I think this episode did a great job of illustrating why Farkle often shuns his white-collar background. He doesn't understand why his family deserves all of the money that Minkus earned because he has never seen it put to good use, or even used to help people. I'm not saying that Minkus is a live-action Mr. Krabs who hates being charitable, but this episode is from Farkle's point of view for once. He wants to be proud of who he is and where he came from. 

With that being said, there were some hiccups that slowed the episode down and will keep it from being in A territory. For one, I don't know what the main point of the episode is. I want to believe that I know it, but there were too many plots running around at once. It was about Farkle wanting to understand why he should be proud of his lifestyle. That's the narrative I'm going with. But wait, Cory is also trying to teach the class about the value of money and shoobedy bob and whatnot. To top it off, Farkle wants to spend more time with his dad who he barely sees due to being a workaholic (insert lazy racist joke about what would happen if Farkle was black here). And to put even more barbeque sauce on this bacon cheeseburger, the episode focuses on Maya and the struggles of being poor. Eh, I think the writers might have been stirring too many ingredients in the pot with this one. This is the kind of problem that could have easily been avoided if there was a carefully marked main plot and subplot. It felt like the episode was running in circles which made it hard to concentrate on the lesson and the main character. You could have made this into two 11-minute episodes focusing on the same topic, one episode from Farkle's point of view and one from Maya's point of view. This way, you could have the same story go in different directions based entirely on the actions of that character and still teach the same lesson. I understand what the writers were trying to do here, but it felt like they should have just stuck to Farkle's insecurities and ran with that.

You know how people want you to see how fortunate you are that you're not going through what others are when their lives are even worse than yours? Yeah, I understand that line of thinking, but it does not take away people's rights to feel bad about their lot in life. Maya may have water to drink and a roof to live under, but that roof still leaks at the end of the day. She has a right to be upset about that or harbor some resentment towards the world when her friends don't have that same problem. Her roof does NOT leak for a reason, Mark Cuban. That could have, and should have been fixed a long time ago. I'm just glad the episode did not try running with that whole narrative because it would have been a lot worse and cost it two potential letter grades. 

So the episode had a lot to say about money. Not perfect, and there were some notable kinks to work out, but the Farkle plot was enjoyable enough to hold my attention and I was left actually thinking a little bit more consciously about the life of a rich person. Not a bad outing this week, GMW.

Episode Grade: B

Episode MVP: None. No one really stood out to me in this episode as running away with it. Nobody stole the show, nobody in particular had me in shock over how amazing their performance was, everyone was just......there. Eh, it had to happen sometime. Okay, Rowan Blanchard was on her game this week in terms of comedy, but.......I think I'll just leave this slot empty. 


-I read about this complaint on GMWReviewed and on iMDb. Apparently, it seems to be a big deal so I might as well bring it up. People have noticed that Corey Fogelmanis lacks any actual range and speaks in the same monotone voice for every single scene he is in. It doesn't matter what reaction or emotion Farkle is supposed to have, he talks in the exact same way each time. Farkle is upset or confused? Monotone. Farkle is ashamed? Monotone. Farkle is happy? Monotone. Farkle has been told by President Obama to bring down ISIS once and for all? Monotone. There is nothing expressive or compelling about Fogelmanis' performance because he acts the same way every single time. Do I believe that? Well, it's not something I even noticed before. One thing I have noticed is that Farkle talks really fast. It made more sense in season one when he was a hyperactive goofball with a cheap haircut, but now that he has gone through his Donnie Barnes phase and traded in his turtlenecks for leather jackets and better haircuts, it makes less sense and doesn't contribute to the scene. I think Fogelmanis is doing just fine as Farkle. The character is naturally methodical and logical, so it doesn't surprise me that he does not show emotion that much. It will make it even more satisfying when Farkle finally has his big emotional moment. And let's not pretend like he talks like that for every single scene of every episode. It's just unnecessary for Fogelmanis to change his vocal tone all the time. I'm going to give this the benefit of the doubt because I don't think we should get all up in arms about it yet. It doesn't hinder my enjoyment of Farkle either. I want more of the Fark-Man, by the way.

-I got a kick out of the opening scene. Classic boneheaded Riley and her T-shirt logic. Actually, a lot of kids are like that. They just buy what's hot if it comes from the hottest stores, even if you can get the same thing at a less popular store for half the price. Where's Macklemore and Ryan Lewis when you need them?

-Another great Riley moment. Her chastising Farkle for his enjoyment of violent video games, then moments later, she's yelling at the screen, having gotten sucked into the virtual world.

-The subplot left no impression on me so I'm not going to talk about it. I literally forgot this was a thing until just now. I get Auggie's purpose, but he really doesn't need to be given so many stories. Does anyone really care about his exploits? I mean, if Auggie was talking in a horrible French accent one week and annoying the family, that would be a great subplot. Just him doing it with no explanation, the writers were just running short on material that week. Oh yeah, Topanga's a lawyer. Yay! Her character still exists!

-Mark Cuban's guest appearance was exactly what it needed to be. Unlike that stupid Perez Hilton cameo earlier this season, Cuban's guest spot is organic to the story and serves a purpose in wrapping it up. His interactions with Riley were top-notch, and there was no way the writers could have screwed that up. The confrontation was just too perfect, and for a sports fan like me, I felt like a kid in some kind of store. 

-It's really odd how Farkle's mother was never brought up in this episode or made an appearance. Is Jennifer Bassett really that hard to get?

-The ending was really creepy, and if this episode was a lot worse, then the ending would be what completely puts the nail in the coffin. Why would Farkle want to see random people stroll by where Maya lives, just to get a taste of the blue-collar life? Why isn't Maya questioning her entire friendship with this kid? Why aren't Maya's neighbors raising a big stink about being spied on by some middle schooler who has good intentions but looks like a big fat stalker in this situation? Who signed off on this, who agreed to this? Are they going to bring this up in future episodes? They're not? OH, SO WHY THE FUCK IS THIS EVEN HERE?! WHY AM I ASKING YOU ALL THESE QUESTIONS THAT YOU CAN'T ANSWER?! Ugh. I had to rant a bit there. 

So here I am adding in my review nearly a whole month after the episode aired. Oops.

Mike really took care of it anyway. I addressed it in later, more up-to-date posts but I agree with the whole idea of doing a compilation review, and not just for GMW but other shows as well. I pretty much have to agree with everything else which leads to the next observation:

It's pretty clear that between STEM and Money the episodes need to go through the rewrite process more rigorously. It could be a little, it could be a lot, it just depends on how the writing staff reacts to the rewriting process and just how plain old good they are. In fact I kind of have to wonder if this is true of most Disney Channel shows (I can think of a few Jessie episodes that probably would've benefitted) but GMW seems to be the show that's most in need of some better rewrites to really make an episode pop. But given that I'm updating a one-month old review I better save it for something more fresh.

There's actually a reason why I've been tardy on this one. Well, several, but I want to address Money on a larger issue with some other things. That's coming soon.

But anyway:

Episode Grade: A-. Unlike STEM I feel like I can better stand by this episode since 1.) It's more coherent and better put-together than STEM and 2.) it doesn't reinterpret certain middle school social experiments that accidentally created a whole classroom full of teeny-bopper Hitlers. That said, yeah, it could stand a little bit more of the rewrite process but not nearly as much.
Episode MVP: Ah to hell with it. Corey Fogelmanis. Yeah, you read that right. Mike already talked about it too, but I think he really needs to be given more credit. Besides, he did a good enough job of being the glue that held the episode together. If there isn't a performance that really stands out I always default to that.

Other observations

 - just like what Mike said, yeah, this is how you integrate a special guest star into an episode. You either go full-bore and make her the central focus of the episode, like Debby Ryan's Aubrey in Demolition or Olivia Stuck's Missy in Sneak Attack, or you actually have that guest star do what he's best known for doing if it's just going to be a cameo, like here with Mark Cuban. Yes technically Perez Hilton fulfills that requirement but...ugh. I mean, c'mon. It should be intrinsically obvious that his guest spot was lame. Or let me put it this way, if it's a role that someone else can accomplish then you done fucked up on your guest spot. I know I tend to be a bigger fan of her than Sean or Christian for likely and technically highly inappropriate reasons, but Debby Ryan is the only person who can play Aubrey McAvoy because of the special spin she's able to put on it (I still think she's a better actress than what our GMWR counterparts give credit). Mark Cuban is the only person who could do what Mark Cuban did in Money, and not just because his name is literally Mark Cuban (they could've had Minkus go solo if it got to that point). Mark Cuban has a certain flair he's earned from Shark Tank and his regular style of conducting business and sports people are very familiar with. Debby Ryan has a certain flair and likability that's made her very popular. Those episodes actually used those elements. Perez...stood there talking into a microphone. C'mon, guys. 

 - Oh, and I'm sorry but I absolutely love how Cuban owned Riley when she was ready to deliver another Knicks speech. Sorry, Riley, but there's more to the NBA than the part of New York that just happens to like the Knicks.

 - Also, I happen to be a Heat fan anyway, so neener neener. 

 - yes this also means I have the same attitude about Luke Ross and the NBA as I do Riley Matthews and the NBA.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Heads Up - Girl Meets STEM

I really need to stop making this a habit but I've added my final thoughts and conclusion to the Girl Meets STEM episode previously posted.

...I'll try to not be so tardy for Meets Money.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Austin & Ally finale review

There's no way I can make it with out you....

What is it? Multi-cam kidcom, half-hour (24 minute) length, though it was really the last part of a two or three-parter or so. So yeah they cared about this a lot more than Jessie, although I guess I can't blame them, viewership numbers don't lie.
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Ross Lynch, who was just basically one of a tween garage band group before this show that consequently exploded into stardom (the whole group, not just Ross) precisely because of this show and nothing else. But hey, like Rachel Crow he's from my hometown so some credit there I guess. Also Laura Marano, formerly of Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? (yes really) and the very short-lived Kelsey Grammar vehicle Back to You (on, what else, FOX). Also the little girl who Sarah Silverman sings the poop song to in that one show Sarah Silverman have (yeah there's a group of people determined to make sure she can never live that down, of whom I happen to be a part of). More-than-decent character actors (actually, better than what "character actor" normally connotates, really) Raini Rodriguez and Calum Worthy round out the billed cast.
Why did we review this? Because it's on Disney Channel, of course. Also, it happens to be the series finale of one of the biggest ratings pullers in the network's entire history.

So let me get this straight...does the last episode take place in 2019? 2029? Which part is the "present" then? Does that mean Austin & Ally actually takes place in 2007-2011? How does this effect the rest of the Disney Channel Live-Action Universe? Did Jessie to go Hollywood in 2011 then? Does Good Luck Charlie's "Futuredrama" take place in 2019? When does Shake it Up's "Future it Up?" take place in? Does that mean we're watching Maya and Riley grow up circa 2012*? Does this effect the rest of TGIF? Does Family Matters actually take place in the late 70s/early 80s? HOW DOES IT ALL WORK!?!?!

*On the other hand, if it results in some sort of great time frame reset it would eliminate the continuity nonsense from Meets Hurricane

But yeah, Austin & Ally is over now, sad face. We got a one-hour deal which was really a two-for-one deal, two thirty minute episodes back-to-back and presented as such (no awkward melding together like they did for a few of KC Undercover's episodes). And while both separate episodes, both managed to thematically compliment each other. Austin and Ally are going to go their inevitable ways, Dez is going to go in a third direction and Trish is presented with either staying behind and making sure everything runs smoothly in their absence or go in her own separate fourth direction. 

....aaaaaaaaaand because this is Disney Channel she chooses a third option, the classic "have your cake and eat it too because you so inspired the person who had to make you choose" option. 

To be honest with you I don't even remember what the B-plot was and it ended just 70 minutes ago. Everybody was upset with each other because their separate ways might force them to, well, separate. Then the reconciled during The Singer and the Jazz Player (based on the book The Jazz Player and the Singer). And then they had the marriage proposal, which of course was just a fake-out for the opening of the actual finale and for Disney Channel to use as promo bait.

So the series jumps ahead four years later, and we find out Austin and Ally just ended up losing track of each other, and when they get together it's incredibly awkward (especially since everybody, even Trish and Dez, assumed they had a nasty break-up) and they finally end up rekindling their romance on The Helen Show (just as the show itself points out, just like all the way back in the first episode "Singers and Songwriters") and forming a duet group, and then it jumps again TEN years and everyone has kids (Austin and Ally natch, along with Dez and Carrie and Trish and Chuck). And then they go back to the practice room and tap out the show's theme on the piano. Fin.

Not a lot actually happened plot-wise in either episode - both were pretty much focused on emotional closure, and I have to admit, it did a hell of a lot better than a certain companion show that ran about 14 episodes longer, ended three months earlier and had a main star with hair a lot redder.

Then again I still feel Disney Channel ended up treating this show better in the end, especialy when it came time to wind down to the finales. Austin & Ally went all-out, even with just a 30 minute finale; Jessie was, I have to collect a paycheck and fill out my contractual obligation but what I REALLY want to do is leave these losers, tour with my band and start a hair dye collection.

No, I'm not bitter at all.

Nor do I want to pathologically blame Debby for everything wrong with the network - but that's another post. In the meantime....

Final Grade: B+ for both of them. It did what it had to do. It brought emotional closure and gave the audience pretty much all the satisfaction that they'd be looking for regarding what's going to happen to these characters and how their lives will continue once we stop watching them, especially since oddly enough they had an even less-defined endgame than Jessie (they pretty much spoiled the whole "will Austin make it big?" story by having him make it big during the finale of the very first season, to the point where he's had comebacks in the meantime). It reunited the characters, or at least kept them all together, and gave a pretty good happy ending for everyone that wasn't a super-vague walking off of yeah, sure, she's going to be all right I guess, who cares, she's yesterday's news, watch Peyton List and Karan Brar on Bunk'd Fridays 9/8c!
Episode MVP: Raini Rodriguez no question for the first one (the series' penultimate episode). That episode was entirely dedicated to her character, and deservingly so for this performance. Laura Marano for the proper series finale. Ross Lynch is a fine singer and teen male idol, but quite frankly a lousy actor and I don't think you'll find much serious disagreement among those who aren't excessively infatuated with him (even in Teen Beach Movie, one of my most favorite DCOMs of all time...he was rather meh, and the rest of the cast had to help carry him). 

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Nickelodeon and Disney Channel 2015 Winners and Losers

It occurred to me that when I did my 2015 "post-mortem" post I really didn't touch on who really won out between Nickelodeon or Disney Channel in 2015, or who were the big winners and losers (both from a subjective quality and objective ratings standpoint) within the two networks. I kind of alluded to it, at least subjectively, though not by much and just focused on what shows left and what shows were new and just some feelings of each. I went into greater depth with my "List of Nick shows that left Nick since iCarly" post but that was over a much broader period than just a year (broad enough for several shows to enter and exit while still having considered successful runs). So, here we go, a more detailed run-down of who "won" or "lost" 2015:

(as usual, Mike and Nick are invited to add as well)

Between the Networks: The Winner of Nickelodeon vs. Disney Channel in 2015: Absolutely No One (but if I had to pick one, Disney Channel by a country mile)

2015 was a low point for both networks, and just the whole idea of tween/teen television entertainment in general really, continuing a trend that popped up since August 2014 (that "Kidocalypse" I keep talking about). And that's from both a quality and objective ratings standpoint. Disney Channel clearly won the ratings war, but even so, one of the top-rated "events" of the network, Girl Meets Texas, gained "highs" that more or less got A.N.T. Farm and Dog With a Blog stunted to three-season status (i.e., canceled) back in the day. Their brand-new high-profile show for the year, Bunk'd, the Jessie spin-off starring Peyton List (i.e., the girl who pretty much looks like a supermodel) struggles to get into the high million range - at this point getting over 2 mil is an amazing success. Best Friends Whenever has had bottom-dwelling ratings and BTS rumor troubles (supposedly Landry Bender and Lauren Taylor don't like each other, if you believe some of the people on Twitter) to the point where its second-season renewal is either a miracle, a concession to a new reality, or both.

Still, that's way better than Nickelodeon. 100 Things to Do Before High School is a bottom-feeder, as far as ratings are concerned. Nicky, Ricky Dicky & Dawn apparently isn't doing much better, or Bella and the Bulldogs. Thundermans was unceremoniously shoved to a Wednesday dead-end slot with those aforementioned shows - and managed to routinely kick Nick's own prime Saturday ratings. Nick's most popular show is a CGI co-production from France starring singing chipmunks from a franchise that got incessantly mocked for the new movie that just came out. Nick needs its original movies just to get to the same ratings level as Girl Meets World or K.C. Undercover. Nick's latest strategy - pump out incredibly cheap shows that can turn a profit no matter how few people watch - is proving that, yes, there comes a point where it doesn't matter how cheap it is, people still need to watch it. It's my understanding that Pig Goat Bananna Cricket has crashed and burned, so even their usually more successful animated and Saturday/Sunday blocks (that more typically compete with Disney XD or Cartoon Network as opposed to Disney Channel) are suffering.

It will be interesting to see where both networks go from here, especially if ratings continue to slide, or what the future of this genre of entertainment will look like. I've been saying for literally months now that I'll touch upon that subject in extreme detail, but during that time in my research I've become absolutely convinced that the future belongs to creator-generated content. In other words, kids will entertain other kids in the future. Maybe 10, 15 years from now the household names won't be the next Selena Gomez or Debby Ryan or Miranda Cosgrove or Ariana Grande, but the next Cameron Dallas or PewDiePie or Ryan Higa (yes I'm old and I need to deal with it). What's also interesting is that apparently there's much more money to be made as a YouTube star than actually working for the "big" corporations of Disney or Nick, particularly as you essentially cut out the middle-man: Smosh makes more money a year than what, for example, Bridgit or Debby made during their entire Disney Channel careers

Best TV Show of Both Networks: 100 Things to Do Before High School

This is far and away the most creatively and best written show on either network, with Liv and Maddie being the only real competition. Yes, Scott Fellows still has what it takes, despite Johnny Test (we can just forget about that altogether). It's relatable, yet silly enough to be escapist, and has legitimately interesting story and plots. The production values are also a cut above other shows too (it helps that it's single-camera format, but production values means more than just the quality of camera you use or how many or how few you use or how well-built the props are). It's clear that 100 Things makes great use of all the elements - the skill of its young actors, the directors' ability to wrangle that skill, the writing, everything - to make it stand out among every other show on either network right now.
Runners-Up: Every Witch Way, Talia in the Kitchen, Bella and the Bulldogs, Liv and Maddie

Best TV Show of Nickelodeon: 100 Things to Do Before High School

Well duh if I just got done saying it's the best either network has to offer right now. 
Runners-Up: Every Witch Way, Talia in the Kitchen, Bella and the Bulldogs, Henry Danger
So instead I'll just elaborate on the runners-up. EWW was pretty controversial when it premiered, and it still is half a year after that show's 80-episode run finale. It was Nickelodeon's first comedy telenovela, and the production values and plot developments were jarring for a lot of people - me included. The only reason why I even watched past the first week or even first episode was because at that time I felt like I was experiencing a nadir of programming elsewhere, and that I stuck with it because I was willing to watch anything on Nickelodoen or Disney with a demo older than Dora's. Quite frankly, I'm extremely grateful I did. EWW turned around in about the last third of the first season, and the second season onwards kept building that same momentum. The crew and the cast were finally starting to gel and even began to show off that synergy right on the screen, which is what ultimately made the show work. Yeah, EWW may have had rock-bottom production values and some confusing plot decisions (not helped in that it's actually a 160-episode long series with half of its entire episode count just left sitting on the cutting room floor) but I still think it shows that you can have a very enjoyable, watchable show with nonexistant production values as long as you have a cast that can make it work and, more importantly, have fun. Paola, Paris, yes even Rahart and the others - and don't forget Cinemat head producer/writer Caterina Ledoboer, you really are an inspiration for tweens and teens everywhere on how to have fun with what you make - especially important for that next generation of YouTube stars who will also be facing completely nonexistant budgets.And again with Talia in the Kitchen (pretty much same show, different cast and premise).
Meanwhile, Henry Danger is a return to form for Dan Schneider. Everything that made iCarly and Victorious work, and especially everything that made Drake & Josh work, is coming back with HD's second season. Meanwhile everything that didn't make iCarly and Victorious work seems to be shoved over to Game Shakers. And Bella and the Bulldogs more than a worthy network counterpart to Girl Meets World, to the point where I actually like Bella better (despite what Gawker/Jezebel says - they weren't even trying to review the show in the first place and I'll take it they just viewed the first set of wonky episodes).

Best Show on Disney Channel: Liv and Maddie

There isn't a lot of competition for "Best" on Disney Channel right now since the older shows have had their best seasons behind them before 2015 and the new ones...just...kind of suck. The only real exceptions are Liv and Maddie, Best Friends Whenever and Girl Meets World, and the latter two only with a ton of qualifications and conditions attached. Best Friends Whenever is often good in spite of itself (a problem its predecessor, Dog With a Blog, as well as K.C. Undercover, Austin & Ally and Jessie also had), and Girl Meets World is just too inconsistent with its varying quality (and again, is prone to being good in spite of itself - Meets Hurricane, anyone?) Liv and Maddie is the only show that's not only good, not only consistently good, but also consistently good on actually worthy merits. In fact between the two networks as a whole I can really only say that about this show and 100 Things (even the Cinemat shows that I'm a big fan of are good in spite of themselves, as I had mentioned just above). And even then, this wasn't always the case of Liv and Maddie - but it certainly was the case for the show during the entirety of the 2015 calendar year and at least a good chunk of the second season trailing off from 2014.

I'm also going to just insert a snippet of a minor story here - Liv and Maddie specifically really helped me in a personal dark spot late in 2014 into early-mid 2015. That may have removed some objectivity, but so what, it's not like I'm a member of an actual, official commission assigning this. Besides, it seems to be a common sentiment enough, so, yeah, Liv and Maddie all the way.
Runners Up: Best Friends Whenever, Girl Meets World
These are the only other shows on Disney Channel that even can pretend to come close to being the best. Yes, BFW is dumb, and yeah maybe the acting is questionable but in such a way to be entertaining. It's a show about best friends that can time travel at will, and that will to time travel is rather random, so at least it doesn't pretend to try to be the next Girl Meets World or Liv and Maddie or Lizzie McGuire, and has fun in the process. 
And Girl Meets World is, well, Girl Meets World. There's a whole 'nuther blog entirely dedicated to that show if you really want to know more about it. 

Best New Show, Between the Networks: 100 Things Again

Yeah, if I didn't need to explain it a second time I don't need to a third.
Runners-Up: WITS Academy, Bella and the Bulldogs. Best Friends Whenever
WITS Academy is having the same shaky start that EWW had, but not to the same degree, and it managed to gel quite a bit sooner. Speaking of which, making the focal point Andi and her WITS trying to gel with each other has been a pretty interesting plot decision, and the cast pulls it off well.

Best New Show, Nickelodeon: Duh,it's going to be 100 Things (Runners-Up: WITS Academy, Bella and the Bulldogs)

Best New Show, Disney Channel: Best Friends Whenever

Runner-up is K.C. Undercover by default.

Worst Show Between the Networks: Bunk'd

This certainly has to be the disappointment of the year, though given what the last season of Jessie is like I guess I shouldn't be surprised. Debby Ryan really was the glue that held that show together, and now they've ripped that glue right out. Peyton List, so far, hasn't even been given an opportunity to see if she can pick up Debby's mantle. It's like she's the perpetual guest star of her own freakin' show. The problems are numerous, but much of what ails Peyton's ability to be the lead in her own show is the ridiculously large cast - between herself, carry-overs Skai and Karan, Miranda May, and whoever plays Xander, Jorge, Tiffany and an almost guaranteed appearance between Hazel and....I don't even remember what's her face so I'll just call her for what she is, Mrs. Benson (oh wait, I just remembered it's Gladys...yeah, Mrs. Benson) there's hardly any room for Peyton. That's anywhere from 7 to 8 players per episode. Jessie had only six front-credited actors, and let's face it, Kevin Chamberlain was really just a perpetual guest star who got to have intro credit privileges (not that they weren't deserved). The relatively large cast also didn't hurt Jessie because it was Jessie and Bertram's job to be around the kids anyway, so they were forced to share screen time and Debby was forced to be given focus by rank of seniority as nanny. Yes, Suite Life on Deck also had a large cast between Dylan, Cole, Brenda, Phill, Matthew and Debby again. Again, Phill was a glorified guest star with intro credit privileges (again, not that they aren't deserved) and Matthew was perpetually stuck as a "guest star" for the entire series run. And again, that's still only six players. Yes, they added Marcus in the middle of the second and third seasons. Other than that fact, do you remember Marcus? Do you remember the eigth(!) cast member they added (no I don't mean Arwin coming back)? Do you remember they even did that? And anyway, even then most fo the group pretty much interacted with each other and the show never lost focus that it was Dylan and Cole's show, not Matthew and Doc's show. Yes, Shake it Up had a large cast. They never lost focus that it was Bella and Zendaya's show, not The Roshon and Caroline Variety Half-Hour (as much as I'd watch that). As far as Bunk'd's concerned, the focus is too disparate and too busy being everywhere. Part of that is built into the show itself - as CITs we have to follow Emma and Ravi everywhere, which means focus gets split between them two - but we also have to follow umm whatever Miranda's character's name is again (I want to call her her LaM's character, Lacey), and Xander, and Zuri, and Jorge, and Tiffany. On Jessie, following Bertram and up to one other character were optional (in other words, they only needed to spend a few minutes on the show if necessary). On SLoD, following Woody, Mr. Moseby and even London and Bailey were optional. On SiU, following anybody not Rocky or CeCe were optional. On Bunk'd, we have to follow Emma, Zuri, Ravi, Whoever Miranda Plays, up to Xander at least and at least one of the other kids (between Jorge and Tiffany) because it's what the audience expects at this point, especially after they hyped up the stardom Zuri and Karan carry over now. 

But that's not even the show's biggest problem. The show's biggest problem is that the writing just flat-out sucks. It's delving immediately into what made SLoD Season 3 and Jessie Season 4 crap. To paraphrase Chuck Sonnenberg, who does his excellent Star Trek reviews at Sci-Fi Debris (erm, you can Google it) in the same vein as Christian and Sean for GMW and what we do here, it's like Star Trek: Voyager. They took Star Trek: The Next Generation and just continued it for an extra season with the same trends with a different name and cast. The last season of TNG was crap, and so was the last season of Jessie. Again, it shouldn't be a surprise Bunk'd carries that trend in hindsight.

If only Pamela Eells O'Connell, Tom Pollock and Jim Hodgson can write a character who isn't a one-note stereotype (yes I'm looking at both you Ravi and Jorge). 
Runners-Up: Game Shakers, I Didn't Do It

Worst Show of Disney Channel: Bunk'd (duh), Runners-Up: I Didn't Do It

IDDI gets this ignoble distinction mainly by default, but the second season did stink compared to the first. They took all the elements that made it watchable and turned it into an excrutiatingly bland, boring mess that was more suited as a cure to insomnia than a Disney Channel sitcom. It was, quite honestly, rightfully put out of its misery. All of its players really deserve better, especially Piper Curda (there, uh, may be some personal bias in that last one specifically).

Worst Show on Nickelodeon: Game Shakers

Again, Game Shakers is pretty much all the bad parts of iCarly and Victorious distilled into its own series
Runner-Up: None
This is the one area where Nickelodeon can claim to have a numerical edge on Disney Channel in 2015.

Best Original Movie: Splitting Adam

Like 100 Things, it manages to be very well-written and fun with a legitimate good story and - dare I say it - heart behind it. Obviously it's also Nick's best original movie too with Liar, Liar Vampire being the runner-up (I seem to be the only one in the world who liked it).

Best DCOM: Bad Hair Day

But only by default. Despite having no less than 4 DCOMs this year (compared to '13's record-low of just one) this was an extremely fallow year for DCOMs of actual quality. I'm tempted to qualify and name Pants on Fire as best DCOM by technicality because I legitimately enjoyed that much more than the original movies actual Disney Channel had to offer.
Runner-Up: Descendants
Again, strictly by default. That said, it's a pretty cynical attempt at a straight-line demo grab (as Gawker's iO9 notes): filled to the brim with shipping and story/plotlines that make little sense other than it's what tweens think is cool. And that's that movie in a nutshell. Sadly, it worked brilliantly.

Worst Nickelodeon Original Movie: Oh Boy Where Do I Even Begin (but seriously, either One Crazy Cruise or Genie in a Bikini, depending on how you define "original movie")

Nickelodeon sure pumped out a lot of "movies" this year. And by "movies" they mean exactly three, along with a bunch of one-hour specials that are clearly really show pilots that stink to high heaven. Genie in a Bikini is legitimately one of the worst things I've ever witnessed on either network (and that says a lot), or for that matter any network (or at least including other networks of this ilk like Cartoon Network - yes even during the live-action days). Joey Richter, WTF? Genie in a Bikini was so bad it's really one of those things you have to experience yourself to see how bad it is. It's this year's...whatever that thing was supposed to be, with the little girls that were on Ellen DeGeneres. You know what I mean (and if you don't, you need to consider yourselves lucky).
But as far as legitimate movies are concerned, yeah, One Crazy Cruise was pretty awful too. Kid networks really need to stop ripping off The Hangover. Not even actual Hangover sequels are liked, what made you think it translates to kids shows?It That script should've died during the brainstorming sesh.
Runners-Up: Pretty Much Everything Else

Worst DCOM: [Redacted]
I seem to be the only one who absolutely hated Invisible Sister. Even Mike liked it, somehow. But yeah. I just wasn't impressed. It had a muddled message that was undone by its own plot and premise. It went into basically whatever direction it felt like. Rowan's acting was dead-on for a Keanu Reeves 47 Ronin impression. That's not a personal attack against her, but it's just so bizarre and outright surreal that an actress who can act on que so adeptly on GMW has such wood plank-like passion that it actually went into uncanny valley territory. I don't care if you all disagree with me.
Runner-Up: Teen Beach 2
What makes TB2 touchy is that it legitimately has a good message - the whole women and STEM thing the latest GMW was about - but it's an afterthought, wrapped around a poorly-written, dead, listless and boring package that killed and betrayed everything the first movie was about. It was a complete dud of a movie, and audiences agreed as it was a complete ratings dud - don't expect a TB3. The only thing it had going for it was the Fallin' For Ya remix and the ending number, That's How We Do. Otherwise, it's the greatest implosion of a DCOM franchise in the history of DCOMs.

Worst Original Movie: One Crazy Cruise

It's hard for me to pick between this and Invisible Sister, but I figure this headline would be less upsetting.
Runners-Up: Teen Beach 2, All the other one-hour "junk" Nick had, umm, Invisible Sister

Best Individual Episode, Overall: Rate-a-Rooney (Liv and Maddie, Disney Channel)

If you've seen this episode, you know why it belongs here. This is what Girl Meets World is trying to be, encapsulated in a single episode.

Best Individual Episode, Nickelodeon: Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn Go Hollywood

Like many shows that end up being good, it doesn't forget how to be goofy yet successful. With a bevy of guest stars that would make even Liv and Maddie envious (Jack Griffo; Daniella Monet; Paris Smith, Autumn Wendell and Denesia Wilson of Every Witch Way; even Food Network's Alex Gurnichelli) it didn't waste any of them (ok, so many the EWW actresses were more of an Easter Egg, but it's better than what Bunk'd probably would do). This is exactly how you do a one-hour special for a goofy live-action tween or even pre-tween sitcom like this.
Runners-Up:  Haunted Family (The Haunted Hathaways), A Superhero is Born! (Thundermans), Meet The Evilmans (Thundermans), Son of Evilman (Thundermans),  Finish Line (WITS Academy), A Tale of Two Lives (Every Witch Way), Van Pelt Reunion (Every WItch Way)

Best Individual Episode, Disney Channel: Rate-a-Rooney (duh); Runners-Up: Detention-a-Rooney (Liv and Maddie), Gift-a-Rooney (Liv and Maddie), Flugelball-a-Rooney (Liv and Maddie), Girl Meets the New Teacher (Girl Meets World), Girl Meets Semi-Formal (Girl Meets World), Identity Thieves (Jessie), Dance Dance Resolution (Jessie), Karate Kid-Tastrophe (Jessie), The Puppies Talk! (Dog With a Blog), Guess Who's Dating Karl (Dog With a Blog), Runaway Robot (K.C. Undercover), A Time to Jump and Jam (Best Friends Whenever), Cyd and Shelby Strike Back (Best Friends Whenevr)

More or less each show got to put up at least one really good episode, even the ones that didn't have such a hot season this year. The Liv and Maddie episodes were all a good mixture of the seriousness and goofiness that make this show so great; Girl Meets World put up a few good solid episodes, with Semi-Formal perhaps being the best; DWaB had some hilarious episodes as did BFW; KCU's 1-hour special was pretty solid and delivered on the action the show promises; even Jessie got to have two or three episodes that were a solid return-to-form to what the show used to be (and having Phill Lewis as Mr. Moseby certainly helped). 

Worst Individual Episode, Disney Channel: Rossed at Sea Part 1 (Jessie)

All the problems of Jessie Season 4 encapsulated into a single episode. 
Runners-Up: Lindy and Logan Get Pshyced (I Didn't Do It), Girl Meets Gravity (Girl Meets World), The Neighborhood Watchdogs (K.C. Undercover), Nearly Any Given Episode of Bunk'd

Worst Individual Episode, Nickelodeon: Henry and the Woodpeckers (Henry Danger)

Runners-Up: Almost any given episode of Game Shakers

Best Finale, Nick and Overall: Every Witch Way

Pretty much by default, but at least it was action-packed, even if it did end in a cliffhangar designed to set up WITS Academy

Runner-Up: Dog With a Blog, Haunted Hathaways
Though not intended as such, at least HH's finale had emotional closure. That's more than what a certain show with 101 episodes, a clearly defined end-game and a very pretty redhead with a generous bust-size for a star can say.

Best Finale, Disney: Dog With a Blog

Again, by default. Yay, competition falling on its face!
Runner-Up: haha, nice joke!
Actually I just remembered that Phineas and Ferb ended in 2015. Phineas and Ferb, and yet it was so low-profile that I forgot it happened even though I saw it multiple times (pretty much every time they aired it). Yeah, needless to say motherfucking Phineas and Ferb gets the spot of Disney Channel's best series finale in 2015 with Dog With a Blog being the only real legitimate runner-up. I suppose P&F also takes the best finale spot overall away from EWW, though (and as good as P&F's was) I still maintain it was pretty close (yes I like EWW that much).

Worst Finale, Disney and Overall: Jessie

Yeah. Where to start. Just read our review of Oray for Ollywood. They might as well have shoved a pie in Debby's face as she was making her exit from the studio lot.
Other than EWW and HH I don't think any Nick show has had a series finale in 2015 (at least officially)
Runner-Up: I Didn't Do It
Yay, non-finale due to premature cancellation!

Greatest Improvement: Liv and Maddie

In the second season Liv and Maddie went from a show that can be best described as meh and was sometimes just outright bad to one of the greatest in the history of either network. Everything just meshed and came together as John D. Beck and Ron Hart pulled out all the stops and pushed their own talents, with the cast doing the same. They got A-game guest stars, and had them coming back. Many of them had recognizable names (at least for the network), many didn't, but they were all great. The secondary characters were A-game as well, from Johnny Nimbus to Dump Truck; Holden Dippledorf to Andie, uh, I forgot what her last name is supposed to be (Esposito?) Forget about Liv and Maddie being a case study on how to improve a show, it's a case study on how to make a great tween/teen/family show period.
Runners-Up: Girl Meets World, Henry Danger, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn, Talia in the Kitchen, to a lesser extent Bella and the Bulldogs

Greatest Fall On Its Face: Three-Way Tie Between Jessie, Teen Beach 2 and I Didn't Do It

I tried to pick just one, and I can't: these are three such specatular failures that they each need to be studied. Regarding Jessie, it seems like absolutely everyone, including the actress who plays the lead character whose name is the same as the show itself, just quit and gave up and completely lost interest as soon as the new season and new year began. It was a 20-episode long string of going through the motions. Even the finale just went through the motions, getting Jessie to Hollywood in order to say, see, we have an end game!, and it was a 30 minute insult to the fandom that made Debby and Pamela the reigning queen and woman-behind-the-scenes of the entire tween television entertainment scene since 2012 when iCarly came to an end, and even before that for Disney Channel itself after Wizards of Waverly Place called it quits. Even Debby herself became ashamed of the show - no, really, it was pretty much Miley-style. Go Google it if ou don't believe me. 
As for TB2 and IDDI, it's a great case study on how to dismantle from the inside a movie and TV franchise, respectively. Nice going, Phil Baker. Nice going, TB2 writing staff (different from the first movie - Obvious Mistake #1). 
Runner-Up: Bunk'd
Technically it's hard to fall on your face if you started lying on your stomach in the first place, but Bunk'd counts since the magic ratings success carried over from Jessie never happened. 

Best Gimmick: Disney Channel's Monstober Crossover

In addition to the obligatory holiday theme, there was some interesting interaction across some shows, plus I guess that contest was a thing.
Runners-Up: Disney Channel's Sounds of Summer Musical Guests, Radio Disney Christmas, Lab Rats vs. Mighty Med, Nickelodeon's Worldwide Day of Play (I need to reach to put Nick on this list)

Worst Gimmick: Disney Channel's Monstober Crossover

On the other hand, the success of Monstober was very show-specific. Some shows, like Liv and Maddie and even Best Friends Whenever, integrated it well. Others, like I Didn't Do It and Austin & Ally, squandered it and treated it like something that was forced upon them (granted, it was, but...)
Runners-Up: That Mystery Thing Nickelodeon Did, Nickelodeon's Ho-Ho-Holidays Special

Greatest Success Story, Disney Channel: Descendants

Yeah, this was far and away Disney Channel's greatest success in 2015, just going by the pure numbers. As much as TB2 fell flat on its face, Disney has a new TV movie franchise waiting in the wings anyway. Proper DCOM ratings, a huge fanbase and endless merchandizing.
Runners-Up: Descendants: Wicked World, Star Wars: Rebels, Girl Meets World, Liv and Maddie, Lab Rats vs. Mighty Med

Greatest Success Story, Nickelodeon: Alvinn! And the Chipmunks

You can also call this 2015's biggest surprise. Nobody expected this French co-production based on what many people thought was a dead franchise walking to be Nickelodeon's biggest success of the year, and one of the most watched programming of the entire network. A combination of things ended up making this a winner.

Runners-Up: Every Witch Way, ¯\_()_/¯
Nickelodeon just got hammered in 2015 and it shows.

Greatest Failure, Disney Channel: Teen Beach 2
Teen Beach 2 kind of sucks, and it shows. The ratings are just disappointing enough to guarantee this franchise dead. For what Disney Channel hoped would be the next High School Musical (and for a while looking like they hit paydirt), and with Descendants looking like a more likely successor, TB2 has to be considered the network's greatest disappointment by the raw numbers.
Runners-Up: Bunk'd, Jessie Season 4, I Didn't Do It
It's obvious Bunk'd was supposed to pull in the same tentpole numbers as GMW and LaM, not struggling to get more than Nickelodeon's daily "strips" and telenovas. Jessie's fall from grace, struggling to get to 2 million compared to routinely getting close to or surpassing 4 million in 2013 and the first half of 2014 is pretty bad, but at least it was a lame duck. I Didn't Do It got a crew change to help right the ship, and consequently swiftly capsized. 

Greatest Falure, Nickelodeon: 100 Things To Do Before High School
Again, just talking raw numbers. As I've said this is my favorite show of both networks right now but practically nobody seems to be watching. Meanwhile, haphazard messes and cynical demo-grabs like Descendants are doing gangbusters.
Runners-Up: Pig Goat Bananna Cricket, Bell and the Bulldogs, WITS Academy, Talia in the Kitchen
Again, most if not all of these shows are actually pretty good in quality - even if not especially PGBC which is my idea of a cartoon that can be enjoyed by older audiences. Again, nobody's watching. But that tends to apply to the network as a whole.

I find it hilarious how you said that 100 Things is the best show on both networks, but when it came down to best individual episodes, ain't no love in the heart of the city. :)

I'm not really qualified to speak on Disney Channel because I spent the better half of 2015 pretending it did not exist outside of Girl Meets World, so I'll just go with Nickelodeon and see what I can come up with. 

Best Live-Action Series: The Thundermans
Have I mentioned this before? Yeah, I probably have, but The Thundermans just has this charming quality that keeps me coming back. Maybe it's the chemistry between Kira Kosarin and Jack Griffo. Maybe it's Dr. Colosso's role as comic relief that he excels in. Maybe it's the fact that they do the superhero thing a lot better than Henry Danger does so it never feels like a joke. But yeah, this is one entertaining show. I feel like it has improved greatly since season one, or at least maintained a consistent quality. Nickelodeon should have played its cards right with this series, because if they had, it would be a lot bigger. Not Hannah Montana big, obviously, but this show is currently in its third season and I have no idea how big the fanbase was. Does anybody even talk about this show online?

Honorable Mentions: Bella and the Bulldogs, 100 Things to Do Before High School

Best Animated Series: Allllllvin! and the Chipmunks

When I first heard about this show, I legitimately thought it was going to be on Nick Jr. The animation was the sole reason for that and it made me wonder why this was even being attempted. But I ended up being pleasantly surprised. On a network that can barely promote shows well enough and seems to be strapped for ideas, this show is a breath of fresh air. The voice acting is always entertaining, the characters are endearing, the jokes have this nuance that reminds me of early SpongeBob, and the music is always a pleasure to listen to as well. I'm still not crazy about the animation, but this show rises above that and manages to satisfy all my needs as a fan of kids shows. Between this and TMNT, Nickelodeon at least knows how to resurrect old franchises.

Honorable Mentions: Harvey Beaks (before Alvin came, man.........), SpongeBob SquarePants

Worst Live-Action Series: Game Shakers
You probably knew this was coming. This show is a reminder of the fact that Dan Schneider needs some rest and he should really stop working on two shows at once. Nothing about this series works except for Kel Mitchell, and that's only because he is tailor-made for Schneider comedy. There are some actors and actresses that are just skilled at making his deliberately awkward and hammy material work. Him, Josh Peck, Miranda Cosgrove, Matt know the rest. I also like Benjamin Flores, Jr. and wish him the best, but I don't care about Babe or Kenzie. Hudson is the stupidest character that Dan Schneider has ever created. How that is even possible when we saw what happened to Cat Valentine is beyond me, but he solely exists for the purpose of being stupid. The pilot turned me off completely from watching more episodes, but I actually liked the Christmas one......because of Kel. Without him, this show would be absolutely irredeemable. It's not built to last and should have never been greenlit.

Dishonorable Mentions: Every Witch Way, Henry Danger, Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, & Dawn (I feel like I don't get this show's reason for existing. Can someone please help me?)

Worst Animated Series: Pig Goat Banana Cricket

Horrible, horrible animation, these characters all make me want to hurt myself, bizarre plotting, horrible theme song, just a horrible way to spend your time. Did I mention that this show makes me want to hurt myself?

Dishonorable Mentions: The Fairly OddParents (this show's decline has been absolutely painful), Breadwinners

Best Business Decision by the Network: Creation of The Splat

The 90s Are All That was getting pretty stale and this was a wise move to rebrand it. From what I have seen, The Splat has a lot more variety than the last block and seems to carry a freshness that The 90s Are All That was lacking. Even The Adventures of Pete & Pete came to the airwaves for the first time in years. I think I know why people love that show. Still, no Secret World of Alex Mack? Why does The Splat want to keep me away from Larisa Oleynik? When the show comes to The Splat, somebody let me know.

Hi it's me again. Went back and cleaned up some of the formatting mess for starters (Blogspot is handy enough if you're doing a run-of-the-mill blog but otherwise it's pretty limited, as I've stated before in the past). Not a lot to add except I still find it interesting where Mike and I disagreed.

For starters I really do seem to be the lone EWW fan here (or just about anywhere). I really don't know if it's worth really getting into a debate over because it really does end up being an acquired taste. It has charms that work for some people, and not really much for most. I could go on but I can save that for a separate entry. 

What's much more interesting is Pig Goat Banana Cricket. Unlike EWW, which is essentially a foreign-language crew being tasked with creating a telenovella comedy for the English-language market, PGBC is much more in-line with Nickelodeon's "traditional" style of animation. It's a very specific style that Cartoon Network has adopted or imitated off and on (most successfully with Regular Show, though I suppose you can make the case that Adventure Time! and Steven Universe are also Nick-ish style shows) and that especially Disney XD has been making a straight line for in its animation. It's a style of animation that's been with Nickelodeon since Ren and Stimpy, just because if nothing else Ren and Stimpy was so game-changing - you can't exactly say there hadn't been anything like it before, but animation of this nature that was "kid-friendly," not so much - that it really became a signature for the entire network. By animation "style" I don't mean just the art aesthetic (though that's certainly a major component) but the overall look, feel and plotting of the show, down to if not especially the mixture of gross-out humor and randomness. 

Anyway, I like it. Probably because I'm simple-minded enough - I do like Jessie after all. I'd love to see if Mike would be willing to do a post where we just debate the merits of PGBC some time. Like EWW it's not everybody's cup of tea and it just boils down to does the randomness work or not. Based on the ratings, it seems to work for few.

Harvey Beaks is...hmmm. It's from C.H. Greenblatt, the creator of the under-appreciated Chowder which was a brilliant cartoon in '08 (wow I'm old). I'll give it credit, it's certainly a gorgeous cartoon from just an aesthetic perspective - maybe even bizarrely so. C.H. Greenblatt is especially good for that kind of thing. And the main eponymous character is certainly charming enough. I just think those are the biggest things it has going for it. I saw the first few episodes from its premiere and I was admittedly underwhelmed. I saw today's (1/15's) new episode and it was...decent. PGBC is loud and obnoxious by comparison, but in a way that's so stupid I can't help but laugh.

But then there's Alvinn! And the Chipmunks - it came right out of nowhere and it's owning the network, for pretty much the reasons Mike said. 

Also, yeah, Game Shakers really does suck.

Oh, and as for nominees for 100 Things for best episode of the network - I really liked the one with Garrett Clayton in it. 

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