Monday, May 16, 2016
That's So Raven retrospective on the AV Club (and additional thoughts)
What is it? multi-cam kidcom, half-hour (24 minute) length
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Raven-Simone, then already a veteran but this really being her big star-making role; Annalise (Ann-a-lisa) Van Der Pol (Van...Der...uh, Pol), and Orlando Brown (town that can't put together a good basketball team anymore, most awesome chef in the history of Food Network). Rondell Sheridan before gaining fame in this thing.
Why are we reviewing it? Well strictly speaking we're not, AV Club is.
It's not often when a Disney Channel show gets talked about in a historical perspective, and when it is, it's nine times out of ten one of the "classic" TV series - Darkwing Duck, Ducktales, Gargoyles - or one of the very last grasps of Disney Channel's iconic for-TV-animation, which in turn ends up amounting to Kim Possible or maybe The Proud Family or perhaps as recently as it's going to get, Gravity Falls. In the extremely rare cases it's live-action, it's going to be either Wizards of Waverly Place (both for how long-lived it is - for the time being the largest series by episode count in the network's entire history - and for being the launchpad of Selena Gomez's mega-hit singing career) or Girl Meets World (in which case the context is almost always going to be in the context of its Boy Meets World predecessor or for how "groundbreaking" it is, namely in that it uses characters who originated from Boy Meets World) or - as in this case - That's So Raven, for being the genesis of Disney Channel as we know it today. That's So Raven is recognized as starting, for better or worse, the format Disney Channel is known for today - multi-cam laugh-track shows with some sort of "high-concept"/fantasy/escapist premise. Prior to that it was mostly either animation or relatively elaborate single-cam shows (Lizzie McGuire and Even Stevens were the last single-cam shows to premiere before That's So Raven) and while single-cam shows and animation have certainly premiered since (Phil of the Future, JONAS, and most recently with Stuck in the Middle for single-cam series and the aforementioned Kim Possible along with Gravity Falls and Fish Hooks, which incidentally starred That's So Raven's Kyle Massey as the voice of main character Milo on the animation front) the network has since been known for pumping out multi-cam productions and accusations of being driven by star-power and merchandising as much (or far more so) than the actual television side. And while people love to "blame" both Disney Channel and That's So Raven for turning the network into a cynical revenue-generating arm, AV Club has a point in that the show ultimately did more good than harm - lifting the 65 episode limit for one, so you can enjoy Girl Meets World/Wizards of Waverly Place/Kim Possible for a third season or more, and, yes, even raising the quality of the live-action productions of the network.
Anyway, you can read what AV Club has to say here: http://www.avclub.com/article/s-so-raven-changed-disney-channel-ways-no-one-coul-236629
And now for some additional thoughts (this is mostly in response to the cancellation prediction post - Mike did such a great job closing it out I really wanted him to keep the last word, plus this way I can add some things in some up-to-date context given recent events)
- I've heard that the episode order for GMW S3 is 40 episodes. This is freakin' insane for reasons this entire blog has insufficient space for. For starters, this is actually what sunk Sam & Cat. They had such high hopes for not only another Dan Schneider automatic hit, but a dual iCarly/Victorious spin-off to boot, and the Nick execs had nothing but dollar signs in their eyes, so a 40 episode one-season order it was. Such an insane order (it takes at least a week to film a single episode, which means it'd give them only three months of the entire year for a break - so basically going back to school, while, oh yeah, at least a few of these actors are in actual school - and that doesn't include the actual scriptwriting process which is a longer process itself) combined with Ari's busy music schedule guaranteed the cast and crew would be overworked from day one. I cannot imagine Rowan or Sabs being subjected to such a punishing schedule - hell it'd be punishing to Ben and Danielle. For that matter it'd be punishing for Christian and Sean if they insist on reviewing every single episode - and Christian's already at the end of his reviewing rope thanks to Season 2's whimper-like ending. Fortunately it seems to be the product of bad math on the part of one GMW speculator and super-fan and not an actual confirmed number by Disney Channel - from what I can tell the actual episode order is somewhere in the neighborhood of 28-30 episodes. 28 isn't too unreasonable; 30 - just two more - is already veering into "punishing" territory and I wouldn't be surprised if maybe it has something to do with the uneven quality towards the end of Season 2 (which indeed had a 30 episode count). ANT Farm and Jessie have had 27-28 episode order seasons and perhaps it's unsurprising those seasons had uneven quality too (well, ANT Farm had uneven quality during its entire run but...)
- I absolutely do agree with Mike that the live-action shows do deserve more respect - in fact this really deserves its own dedicated blog post and it's something we can do to really make it a signature blog entry together. I'd love to see more Nick sitcoms get 3-4 seasons instead of being two and through or even one and done. But in Nick's defense there are a few reasons why Nick's been trigger-happy on the cancellation button lately. For starters, they have to be sitcoms that are legitimately good. The last sitcom that really deserved extra seasons was How to Rock or maybe Victorious if you 1.) disagree with Dan's own statement that it was an agreed-to episode count ahead of time and 2.) disagree that the series was starting to really go downhill its final half-season anyway. Even The Haunted Hathaways, the last sitcom "prematurely" canceled that comes anywhere close to deserving the same, had narrative and comedy issues at least compared to Thundermans (of course so did Thundermans itself, and there's certainly an argument that had Hathaways been given a third season it would've worked itself out). Bella is certainly decent at least - honestly better than the lion's share of Hathaways - but in this last half-season it's had a few episodes feel like it's been treading water (then again it's also had some really great, GMW-worthy episodes like the last one about Troy's dad coming home or the one where Bella realized that the quarterback of the rival team wasn't jealous of her for being a girl quarterback but just nervous because he was in love with her). I'd even argue NRDD is pretty decent - again, I even said its one-hour special was one of the best things on Nick for 2015 - but apparently the demo isn't working out (and in all fairness it's a demo that's more cartoon-friendly anyway). Speaking of which, cartoons are more friendly towards being milked for insanely long runs, especially on kid-centric shows - live actors age, cartoon characters do not. Not to mention the pay scales are more network-friendly when it comes to animation (Google in some keywords and you'll find out how overworked and underpaid animators and voice actors are, even in this great country). But I think a lot of it is because Nick felt like they got burned from the last time they tried to milk a live-action series and so far the only live-action series from either network to get five seasons - iCarly. By that time the pay scales had grown so out of control (I think I mentioned it elsewhere, but "minute-for-minute" Miranda Cosgrove was the highest-paid actress in all of Hollywood) that it resulted in airing schedules of about a single episode per month at times.
- Oh yeah, I'm more than onboard with Mike reviewing The Loud House. It's what we're here for.
- Bizaardvark is coming June 24, right after Sabs' and Sofia's Further Adventures in Babysitting (the 100th DCOM, incidentally). That's, umm...going to be fun, I guess? It stars the actress who plays Marcy on Best Friends Whenever (so I guess Marcy's and Barry's relationship isn't going to stick) and a bunch of newcomers.
- speaking of the 100th DCOM, Disney Channel is holding a DCOM celebration over Memorial Day Weekend. No, they are not showing every one but at the very least, many, many, including the usual suspects of the entire HSM series, Twitches, and others. We'll see if there's any worthy of review (I've seen quite a few, quite a few have been before my time prior to this event). They're also running DCOMs every Friday on Freeform in May (the previous two being Twitches - a DCOM I've seen many, many a time - and Lindsay Lohan's Get a Clue which as a theatrical release is technically not a DCOM but eh). This week it's Stuck in the Suburbs, another DCOM I've seen before - exactly once, and it's almost impossible to find on DVD so I'm adding that to the DVR schedule.
- I've already reviewed three episodes of two separate shows that I consider to be especially lazy, cliche-filled writing - Minority Report's pilot and what turned out to be the very last two episodes of The Mysteries of Laura, ever (and Thank God because quite frankly both Debbys deserve better) but both of those were hour-long dramatic series, not half-hour comedies (well, we've also done Bunk'd which is pretty much Excuses In Laziness: The Series). But I've got some "adult"-ish half-hour comedies lined up, hopefully I'll actually get to them this week.
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