Wednesday, September 21, 2016

100th Post/1 Year Anniversary Special: Why This Stuff Matters

Hey guys, guess what, this post marks the 100th post on this blog! And guess also what else - on this day, September 21, one year ago, in 2015, I wrote this blog's very first post! 100 posts and 1 year...didn't exactly fly by, and several times, even more than Christian and Sean at GirlMeetsWorldReviewd, I seriously contemplated if it was more worthwhile to simply quit. I very quickly discovered the folly of trying to review every single new episode on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon - at its peak time I was devoting 15 hours to a single week on this blog, which was completely unsustainable for something that I don't get paid a dime for. Then I decided to venture out and review other shows - and some jackass decided to use the opportunity to troll me by posting a link to a bunch of rabid fanboys but that's neither here nor there. And I did learn several valuable lessons in the meantime. I learned how to prioritize reviews so that we review only the shows really the most worthwhile to review (Bunk'd and Game Shakers being so awful it's not even worth watching to begin with, while other shows like Henry Danger were, while not necessarily bad, were so formulaic that reviewing each episode just got tedious on its own anyway, with School of Rock falling somewhere in-between). I also learned not to let the opinions of rabid fanboys get to me, and that pathetic trolls will just continue to be uneducated pathetic trolls that will nonetheless scare me if only because they have real voting power (we'll see how well that goes in a few weeks) nor let it dampen my desire to review more "grown-up" shows (though given most of the ones we've reviewed, it's something I'm not very tempted to do again). But most of all I was lucky enough to have Mike join this blog, and looking through and doing a rough estimate he's done about 48%-51% of the total word count on this blog (if it's towards the lower end it's only because of my tendency to go on long-winded rants) and about 50%-52% of the actual post count on this blog, which really should be enough to tell the whole story. Double-team blogging makes a huge difference and Mike absolutely is the reason why this blog still exists a year later and why we can celebrate a 100th post at the same time, or for that matter at all. So give a big round of applause for him, uh, virtually I guess.

So given that 100 posts and a 1 year anniversary is kind of inevitable, I've naturally had some time to think about what to do for a celebration post. I don't want to just run through raw statics of say the blog itself (because that's honestly just kind of lame) or through the various shows and compile what are the best seasons and who has what Episode MVP award the most like Christian and Sean do because that's something I'd rather do near the end of the calendar year, during the dead of winter, when I have nothing else to do (especially since we do many more shows that's going to be an ass-load of time spent doing that). So I think I'll go ahead and do something different, something I've been wanting to do anyway*: address why this whole kiddie-show thing is important and why it matters, and why it's important for more than just trying to virtually baby-sit attention deficited little punks or for grown-ass men who are also deviants.

When I was doing research for this (yes I actually did research for this, see the * below) I ran across a TIME article about how they do children's television in the Netherlands. It's a very different landscape over there, and if anything it actually has a closer resemblance to some YouTube channels out there (and not even necessarily YouTube Red) than it does traditional broadcast or especially cable children's TV over here. A lot of it is creator-driven and along those lines involves much greater participation from people in the actual audience demo than here, where it's pretty obvious grown-ass corporate men and women are calling all the creative shots. A lot of it ends up being education-driven too, but not necessarily in the way old fart Millennials like me are still accustomed to thinking with incredibly boring and dry programs that are trying to be virtual classroom replacements - much of it's about very practical matters or even a bit more slice-of-life (i.e. reality show-ish) than education TV advocates here in the 'States might appreciate. Come to think of it, maybe there is a bigger resemblance to U.S. children's broadcast TV than I give it credit for, at least since early this decade. If you've ever seen the stuff they show on CBS during the prime-time children's hours Saturday morning you know what I'm talking about - at least two of the programs are simply docu-reality format period (following pet doctors/specialists), two of them are interview/news snippet type of things, and there's even a completely scripted, single-camera format show like what you might find on Sprout! (The Investigators, or something like that - really clever title I know, P.S. it's about investigating mail fraud, oooOooooOOOOooohhhHHhhhhhh). This is pretty much the entirety of the broadcast children's television landscape now, a very different picture from the late 90s and even into the middle 2000s when younger-demo anime absolutely dominated Saturday morning, and before that when broadcast was flooded with domestic animation of various genres and quality Saturday and Sunday morning and weekday afternoons (you can do a Google search and read about Disney Afternoon and pretend you're in a virtual museum!) 

And then we come to the traditional children's cable juggernauts - Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network, with the former two cases being a mere shadow of their past glory. The latest episode of Girl Meets World garnered 1.4 million viewers (and perhaps garnered really is the right word for once given that number) and the latest DCOM aired so far, Adventures in Babysitting, despite being actually pretty good ended up with the lowest viewership for a DCOM in nearly a decade (second-worst since about the time Disney Channel became a basic cable network). Nickelodeon, until recently, was getting its butt thoroughly whooped by Disney Channel ever since iCarly left with 2013 and 2014 being particularly lopsided years, though lately things aren't looking so bad as Disney Channel's simply sunk to their level. Meanwhile, Cartoon Network manages to show some meaningful gains, especially in a demo Nickelodeon and Disney Channel hasn't tried to flirt with much (though they've certainly made effort to) - adults, both older Millennial and even younger X-Gen males and females. 

So what's happening? I think it boils down to two things - both Disney Channel and Nickelodeon refuse to be flexible outside of their traditional narrative/content generation of sticking to traditional, corporate-driven sitcom and show formulas, and (very much related) refusing to be flexible outside of traditional network distribution and viewership models. I'll explore that in a future post but right now I just want to talk about where the future is headed, and how it relates to why stories for young children matter.

I read a book recently, I forgot which one exactly, but it had a great quote (I don't remember if it was in the actual narrative or in the acknowledgements) about why people like telling stories from a child's perspective. It was written from the perspective of a young teenaged girl (which is why I think it might actually be in the narrative proper) about how children and teens like telling stories and being involved in stories because it makes them feel like they matter. And trust me, it can be tough to feel like you matter when you're a teen, especially given what teens put themselves through (much of it trying to feel like they matter). Extra-curricular activities, social activities, etc. I think putting these thoughts and experiences down through some means - whether through pen, canvas, video, or whatever means happens to be convenient for that teen to express through - helps teens mentally sort through this stuff and figure out what kind of path they need to go down. And of course, it helps to share these experiences with other teens so that they can be inspired to see what kind of path lays ahead of them, too.

I've partially done that on this very blog myself, although only in the context of the mission statement of this blog - I've shared my experiences dealing with cancer at a very young age for cancer (not like a St. Jude's Hospital or Shriners ad but you still get the picture) and how that got me into, of all things, Jessie, and from there the rest of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and ultimately this blog in the first place. I've shared why of all things Jessie ended up being the specific gateway to this kiddie stuff as cancer refuge in the first place, because Jessie herself (Debby Ryan) ended up reminding me of my ex fiancee who dumped me around the same time when I first discovered I had cancer - which, come to think of it, I guess is kind of odd I find comfort in the one thing that more reminds me of the bad stuff I went through, especially since the resemblance they had to each other started becoming too real when Debby got arrested for DUI. 

But for whatever reason, this stuff matters if evidenced by nothing else through how often it comes up - through teens making videos on YouTube or putting up DeviantArt profiles and what not. And, at a certain point, by how much they used to connect and identify with these shows. Jessie had really high ratings until somewhere in Season 3 and especially in Season 4 where the show basically became Suite Life Minus Zack and Cody. Girl Meets World had success early on based on the promise of being "real," relatable and being something the demo can connect to, but I think it falters because it tried too hard, relied too much on old-fashioned narrative techniques and tropes (that, again, corporate types would make bigger assumptions on than actual kids) and ultimately didn't feel genuine enough and too cynically "corporate." Wizards of Waverly Place (which when I watch it now is actually kind of awful in places but that doesn't make Alex any less relatable), the Suite Life series, That's So Raven and Even Stevens are long gone. I think the only shows that really relates and resonates is Liv and Maddie and maybe Girl Meets World if nostalgists keep telling themselves that (sorry Christian and Sean) and both of those shows are absolutely on their last legs (I wouldn't be surprised if Girl Meets World is renewed for a fourth season - but at this point I'd be less surprised if they just call it a run and be done with it come February '17 apparently). Maybe maybe Best Friends Whenever though I think that show mostly survives on humor if it's even surviving at all. K.C. Undercover absolutely survives on Zendaya's star power (it's really strong star power) and a fantastic cast build around her but the plotlines by themselves actually really suck. Other than The Thundermans, Nickelodeon seems quick to cancel every show that comes by with even a modicum of charm (though I'll take this back if School of Rock also fails to survive into its sophomore season) and keep awful crap like Game Shakers (though it also seems to be trying out dirt-cheap docu-reality shows, especially Chrashletes of which the biggest [practically only real] expense is seeing how much it'll take Gronk to actually host a Nickelodeon show).

I absolutely believe that, eventually at least, Disney Channel and Nickelodeon will cease to exist in their current forms. Nickelodeon might evolve to become an alternative-outlet provider, but given the Disney corporate structure and how they've already expanded into a few potential alternative-distribution outlets as it is (plus "Channel" is becoming increasingly an anachronism) I expect Disney Channel to eventually simply fold. Maybe they'll just consolidate everything into an uber-Disney app and live-action shows (if they even still do them at that point) won't necessarily be so dramatically segregated from, say, being able to watch Pixar movies through said app.

I also read the article written by none other than Mara Wilson herself about what it's like to be a child actor (spoiler alert: it sucks) and her conclusion that one day we'd go so far as to completely replace child actors with CGI. I don't quite agree with her assessment - CGI is still a bit buggy when it comes to completely replicating and replacing a person out of Uncanny Valley territory - but I also at least partially disagree with the sentiment that being a child actor is always a bad thing (though the Debby DUI situation has me thinking about siding more closely with Mara). But as I said earlier, children and teens will find ways to express themselves, and acting very much is a part of that.

...but I do think in the future, the very near future in fact, child actors will increasingly be their own agents, their own producers, directors, and content creators as they more and more realize their dreams single-handedly through outlets like YouTube, maybe even YouTube Red. Having teens become YouTube Red partners, having them become cultural icons on their own ala people from PewDiePie to Austin Mahone and Justin Bieber, and having them be cable of producing scripted content (especially if a few enterprising ones try the single-cam approach - and some will) especially could be a killing blow against Disney Channel and Nickelodeon. It's something I have great hope for, because while user-created content is nice and it's steadily evolving, having a polished product is nice for kids to be entertained by - and is a powerful source of inspiration when it's made by kids practically exactly like them.

Plus, it would suck if kids' entertainment just devolves into endless faux-reality entertainment or prank-based content. Those are all fine and dandy actually, but kids do need stories of actual substance to grow their narrative boundaries, for the same reason why video games and YouTube itself needs to be broken up by proper reading and schooling.

Well, I think that just about wraps it up. I'll invite Mike over to add any thoughts, he's more than deserved it. Like I opened up with this blog really is half his anyway, in more ways than one (including literal!)

Christian and Sean are well-respected here.......but yeah, shots fired. 

I want to thank you so much for the introduction and the kind words. Honestly, I really didn't think I was doing that much work on the blog until you pointed it out today. It's great how our 100th post is on the one-year anniversary of the blog's inception so we really were blessed today. I'm trying not to get emotional, but damn. Unknown, you're really going to bring me to tears. Reading all that just made me realize how grateful I am to be here, getting the opportunity to write and people can actually read and respond to it. I guess I'll share my own story of how I ended up here.

For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of Nickelodeon and Disney Channel. My allegiance to either network swayed at times. 2007-2009 was definitely when Disney dominated due to High School Musical, Hannah Montana, the Jonas Brothers, Demi, and Selena. Yeah, those were good times. But they all walked out at some point and Nickelodeon really had the market cornered with iCarly, Victorious, and Big Time Rush. It's hard to believe, but at one time, all three of these shows were good at the same time. I'm not joking. Then Big Time Rush became the only show left with quality, and it ended.......with an actual series finale. I'll never forgive Nick for treating Victorious like it did.

So yeah, eventually, both Nickelodeon and Disney Channel went through a downward spiral. There was a time where I could tune into both networks and watch multiple shows apiece. Those days are long gone. I still want to review one episode from each live-action show out, but I haven't started yet. I still have time, but someone remind me on New Year's Eve Eve (for you slow people out there, December 30) to get to it if I haven't already. 

At this point, neither network has anything in the same realm as the shows I watched growing up. I know I sound like an old head looking at it through rose-colored glasses, and 48% of my frustration comes from that, but the other 52% comes from the fact that my generation's shows were simply better. When I was eight years old, I had Drake & Josh and Zoey 101. Ten years later, eight-year-olds have Henry Danger and Game Shakers. Do you see how far the fall from grace has been for kids live-action shows? I'm keeping animation out of this, because as far as I know, the 2010s has been a damn good decade for kids cartoons. 

When Unknown first brought up the blog, I just knew I had to jump at the opportunity before the competition beat me to it. I had no competition, but that's besides the point. I saw that Unknown shared similar sensibilities when it came to how we viewed Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, and the partnership has been like yin and yang from the beginning. I seriously can't remember a time where we disagreed with each other. Well, except for Invisible Sister, and I'll still fight him on that because that movie was surprisingly good. Anyway, this blog has been something I never truly appreciated until now, at least as much as I do in this moment. Unknown's put a lot of hard work into maintaining this blog even when it seemed unnecessary, and the fact that he's still here lets me know that I can trust him to keep things going. Rome wasn't built in a day.

There's one thing my partner said that hit me like a ton of bricks. Teenagers and children like to write their own stories because they feel like they don't have a voice, like they're just around to deal with growing pains until they become adults and settle into themselves. I never looked at it like that. I have an adult cartoon where pretty much all of the characters are kids, and that was a conscious choice because I didn't want the adults around. I just wanted my show to focus on the kids, and the characters remind me of a time when things were easier, when you didn't have to worry every single day about your future or what the news said because you were busy in your own world. Let's face it. Corporate people can't understand this. They're not focused on quality control, they just want shows that they think will be appealing. It reminds me of when Nicktoons first became a thing in 1991. Several different shows were developed during this time, and many were rejected because the company thought they were too formulaic.

Think about that. There was a time when Nickelodeon was worried about quality control, and didn't want generic programming because they knew kids deserved better. Doug, Rugrats, and Ren & Stimpy may seem pretty standard 25 years later, but when they first came out, they stood for something. They stood for Nickelodeon's attempt to stand out from the pack and air something unique, something kids had never seen before. Disney Channel was like that at one point too, just wanting to give kids something relatable and soulful. In 2016, soul is dead. Not just the genre, but this way of thinking by network executives. If I want subversive animation that actually stands out from the pack and gives me something to remember years from now, I just watch American Dad or Rick & Morty. 

The only problem is, these shows are made for adults and teenagers who really want to laugh. Kids don't have an American Dad or a Rick & Morty or a classic Simpsons, do they? A Boondocks, seasons 1-3? Family Guy, seasons 1-5? South Park? The last kids show to really shake up the game like that was SpongeBob. Yeah, I said it. SpongeBob is seriously one of the best comedies I have ever watched, and the early seasons have aged like imported wine. It set out to do nothing but write interesting stories, tell clever and snappy jokes, give kids something sophisticated and silly but endearing altogether. It was just a straight comedy show.

I don't even see an early SpongeBob in 2016. When is that going to change?

Back to the main point. There really aren't that many good kids live-action shows at the end of the day. The Thundermans is good for what it is, but most people probably aren't even aware that it exists. Girl Meets World has been dripping with potential since the first episode, but at this rate, it's going to take years before it ever peaks, much less comes close to touching its predecessor. These shows can't be mentioned in the same breath as Drake & Josh and That's So Raven. Those shows were never high concept art, but they did what a lot of kids shows can't do today: Be entertaining. Seriously, is any kids live-action show right now even worthy of being compared to Drake & Josh in terms of comedy? That kind of stuff is beyond creators today, even Dan Schneider himself.

Okay, I'm going on a rant here. Unknown, you want the mic back? 

Dang, I actually like what you wrote better than what I wrote! Of course that's a big reason why I really like having you here and why I specifically wanted to make sure to thank you in the very first paragraph. Needless to say, I really do thank you for your contribution to this blog so far. Without it this would be Post #24 or something, if it'd been kept updated at all.

Oh yeah, and I want to make it clear, Christian and Sean are well-respected here. I'm sure they don't mind the slight nab at them :) At least I thought it was a light enough jab....

Yeah, we can talk about the glory days of kidcoms and the greats especially. Like Drake & Josh. I saw my very first episode of Drake & Josh in 2012 (needless to say I was a late-comer, for reasons I already partially explained here and further explained in earlier posts) but that was back when they decided to run a bunch of episodes every day in October randomly for some reason, so while I didn't see the whole series I saw a very big chunk of it (at least a majority by episode count). Even back then, I didn't think it was just one of the greatest kidcoms ever, but one of the greatest sitcoms period. I mean it. It amazes me that I can go back and watch Drake & Josh, or even iCarly and Victorious on its best of days, and then look at Henry Danger on its worst of days or Sam & Cat and Game Shakers on...pretty much any given episode and it amazes me that the same guy did all this?!?! Big Time Rush was another really good one, but excepting Thundermans I can't remember a good non-Schneider live-action show that's managed to last; Haunted Hathaways was the closest at two seasons and there was a point where that show started to almost be nothing but "let's endlessly slime poor Amber Montana (Frank now?) and make a show of that," or Bella and the Bulldogs which on average was a much better show but Brec Bassinger herself recently tweeted the show is done. As we've discussed before 100 Things to Do Before High School is the best of them all but with ultra-low ratings (even lower than Disney Channel now), no word on renewal and with Isabel Monier now having a huge part in the upcoming Transformers movie it's safe to say it's done too. Hopefully at least that show was instrumental in getting her that huge movie role get, and will help her rise to stardom. Hell even Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn has moments and I think I heard that show got Season 3, so I guess I can name that. Legendary Dudas was surprisingly good but Nick has a very poor track record for single-cam and charming shows as of late, and as I've previously stated I've come to the conclusion that School of Rock is just slightly better-smelling garbage than Game Shakers. And as much as I complain about the ending of Jessie it at least got a half-assed ending. Even How to Rock (remember that show?) got a more complete ending than that. 

Of course Drake Bell and especially Josh Peck were great actors too. I really liked Grandfathered, which I reviewed a few months back (the episode guest starring Drake Bell no less, making it a mini-reunion). Was it Drake & Josh good? Hell no. I really shouldn't even insult, say, Fraser or Newsradio by even mentioning them in the same paragraph. But it's at least as good as the single-cam sitcoms that actually manage to get renewed on ABC for example. In fact I'll eagerly go on record to call it better than the last five or so seasons of Modern Family or the last few of The Middle. And today's adult multi-cams? Yeah, forget The Big Bang Theory, you'll have to go back to that era of Fraser and Newsradio to find multi-cams really worth remembering anymore. Or at least How I Met Your Mother even though I haven't seen a full episode ever (I saw 15 seconds of the episode with the Korean Elvis and then changed it back to Girl Meets World. True story). 

It really surprises me how much creative control Nick let the actual show creators have back in the day, especially when you compare it to now. I've seen some Salute Your Shorts through The Splat and...honestly it's a bit too cynical for my tastes but I suppose that's the point. Hey Dude is a little hokey, not too far off from Saved by the Bell on a dude ranch (again I suppose it's the point) but it's my kind of hokey (fun fact: one of the writers of that show was Graham Yost...who'd later go on to do the decidedly not-kiddie Boomtown, Justified [which I've mentioned here and there] and The Americans). I love CatDog, and Ren and Stimpy was one of those shows that has lost its edge today precisely because it's been so revolutionary, everybody else just had no choice but to catch up with it. It's funny you mention American Dad! as being subversive because I think it's suffered that exact same fate even before it hit the air thanks to Family Guy - that show along with old-school Simpsons had made subversive TV so mainstream, you have to wonder is it really subversive anymore if it is mainstream? Rick and Morty isn't an aberration, it's specifically what the demo flat-out expects (I mean, the very network it's on is called [adult swim]). 

We're living in a golden age of entertainment, but again, precisely because of that entertainment can be frustrating. What used to be subversive and edgy is now referenced on a billion other TV shows, if not meta-self-referenced on those original shows now (yeah I'm looking at Family Guy again and even South Park). We demand more from our shows now, and rightly so, but not everyone's delivering. Even the insanely popular shows like TBBT are middling, average, milquetoast (there's an SAT word for you). And especially when it comes to kid's entertainment, it really does end up getting into an animation vs. live-action divide, for two related reasons: because Simpsons/Family Guy happened, and because a live-action equivalent of those shows didn't. Both of those shows used the freedom of their medium to expand far beyond what sitcoms up to that point bothered to try (there's an ancient interview out there where Seth MacFarlane pointed out the episode where the Griffin's house gets "fumigated" as a specific example, and how having a bunch of SWAT guys shoot up bugs in a house would necessitate a movie budget in live-action but it doesn't change the budget squat on an animated show) and they were just so jarring yet so good and entertaining that, like Ren and Stimpy before and like South Park, they've forced a change in how people think of animation. And because people still think of animation as largely being the domain of children (the "Animation Age Ghetto" that TVTropes talks about) well...ironically enough perhaps for that reason it forced all that innovation to trickle down to children's animation as well (that and the influence of anime in the 90s, with how in Japan animation really is treated as an alternative to live-action and not simply just something for kids). You have things like Regular Show and Steven Universe and My Little Pony. Who would've thought that My Little Pony would have Old-Fart Millennial/X-Gen appeal?

I think there are several problems with live-action shows now, at least as they exist on the network. For starters it's very hard for live-action to get that Family Guy/Simpsons watershed moment, because in order for it to really be transformative and subversive it has to be aimed at kids specifically, and few people on corporate-run television want to risk that. Up to this point and counting, whenever someone had an idea for a really subversive live-action show, even when starring kids, it just automatically got shoved into the adult demo. There's no preconception that it has to be for kids no matter what like animation. There's nothing to be subversive against, in other words.

And then there's the thing about that whole corporate mindset Mike mentioned. They don't want to rely on creativity or subversiveness, they want to rely on "proven" formula. That's not to say they didn't allow for their shows to have a bit of a slant and an edge, at least to an extent. iCarly was very edgy, especially at the beginning. iCarly very much tackled head-on the types of antagonists tweens and teens are sick and tired of all day but are very politically incorrect to acknowledge openly - teachers, authority and even corporate cynicism itself (iTake on Dingo, which was easy since it was shots at the competition, but still). Yes, Disney Channel and Nick still does it all the time but not with the relatively hard edge iCarly did. On a typical Disney Channel or Nick show today evil teachers were buttheads, but on iCarly they were outright assholes. On a typical Disney Channel or Nick show today, teachers were immovable obstacles and kids had to learn to deal with them and often with bad consequences (granted, it's a valuable lesson but meh) but on iCarly asshole teachers actually got their just desserts. Compare iHave my Principals or iGet Detention to the latest Gamer's Guide episode, The Long Weekend, and you can tell the difference between comic relief teachers (granted, Lauren Pritchard is pretty much hilarious in everything and it's Dana Friggin' Snyder) and actual asshole teachers who get their just desserts in the end. Both of those iCarly episodes were immensely satisfying. 

Victorious had a hard edge too (Jade was pretty much Hard Edge in teen girl form suitable for kidcom sensibilities). The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, That's So Raven, Wizards of Waverly Place all had a hard edge (again, Alex was walking teen girl wizard Hard Edge). Even Jessie to an extent, with some of the more "under the radar" humor it had, but it also tried to let the humor work with the plot instead of devolving into a slapstick and pun delivery device. It's interesting since we mention creative control too, since the actress who starred in the show herself supposedly put in a lot of input into the beginning. I think you can tell later on she either started to lose that input one way or another or just stopped caring - I dunno, maybe around the same time and maybe for the same reasons as she decided it was a good idea to start driving around in a brand-new $50,000 Audi and drink booze at the same time.

I think this is why in the near future the best content, including and especially live-action, will be from tweens and teens themselves. I don't think live-action will ever die, but I think i twill be the domain of creator-generators or whatever you want to call them because, while there are tweens and teens who certainly do animation routinely, live-action will always be easier and more convenient to some degree. They'll find corporate sponsors and partners through YouTube Red, or even Hulu or Netflix, or independent advertisers - or they won't, but they'll still put it up on YouTube anyway. PewDiePie, anyone? Or for that matter Angry Video Game Nerd, EgoRaptor (wow I am old) and literally every single Vine and Instagram celeb. Kids know how to be subversive - I did some teaching, I know - and they will put it into their works. It's just a question of, how well-polished is that final product going to be, and how long and who and in what form will it arrive?

And since Mike mentioned that he has an adult show starring kids, I've got a few ideas kicking around, but I don't really mention them much because my ideas come and go as they please so I don't find much of a point in going in-depth with something that has yet to have any permanence even within my own mind, and because actually I think it's bad luck to share ideas before they're seriously being worked on. But one of those ideas - more of a general concept anyway - is actually trying to goad parents into making their own children into stars, at least to a limited degree. All of the tasks necessary to make a live-action film are very useful life skills, in fact thanks to social media now moreso than ever. Whether that's acting, scriptwriting, shot composition, editing, or directing. 

Also, if you want to talk about shots fired, Steven Universe is way better than Adventure Time (at least the two episode of Steven Universe I actually bothered to watch) and I actually like new Spongebob better than old standard-def era Spongebob, and Invisible Sister is still terribad *runs*.

* Oh yeah, I forgot to explain this the first time around. That whole "we're now two blogs!" thing which, as you've gathered, is kind of obsolete now. The idea was that I was trying to launch a blog/newsite more professionally-polished and geared towards kidcom and tween/teen entertainment news and editorials, complete with more polished, journal-quality essays on the past, present and future state of tween/teen entertainment (this post you're reading had its genesis from me kicking around what was supposed to be the inaugural post/essay). I even managed to convince someone to help me with Gawker - yes, that Gawker - to help host a dedicated URL on their Kinja posting platform (to make it clear, it would have had absolutely no affiliation with Gawker beyond simply using their software, and just like with this blog I would've been paid absolutely bupkis on it). Then two things happened - the first, of course, was that Gawker got absolutely wrecked as a result of the Hulk Hogan defamation lawsuit (I really don't want to get into the particulars, you can Google it or better yet go to and read from their perspective). And the second was the simple realization that there isn't much of a market for tween and teen entertainment, especially live-action entertainment, to be critically analyzed, which means the chances of launching the aborted blog into a bigger feature with the possibility of paid advertisers was quickly approaching zero. Several blogs already critically examine animation for all ages, in part or in whole, but when you start applying the same to live-action tween/teen entertainment people are extremely dismissive at best, or they start throwing accusations (like in the comments section) that you're only doing this because you have a serious literal hard-on for and enjoy having wet dreams about Selena Gomez or Zendaya (never mind that both of those actresses are well into being legal-aged, although that still doesn't excuse being creepy about them - or accusing others of doing so). Part of that is because of that whole thing Mike and I spent this entire post talking about - there's no subversive or hard edge to this medium of tween/teen entertainment anymore, so it immediately gets dismissed. Either way, it looks like this blog will continue to be the most worthwhile avenue for me doing this thing.


  1. I don't have much to add to all this, other than that this is why Cartoons tend to get more respect because there's more effort put into kids animation. Sure, we get a teen Titans sometimes, but typically we get Steven Universe, or We Bare Bears and recently The Loud house.

    It's no coincidence that CARTOON Network is doing the best right now, because the other networks focus too much on live action, and screw over their cartoons too much sometimes.

    With Disney, they are trying harder to put more story into them, as shown with Lab Rast, Mighty Med, Elite force, and even something like Best Friends Whenever has kind of a plot to it, as well as KC Undercover.

    Thar's nice but they are still bound by the sitcom format so sometimes they can't be as good as they could be. Lab Rats especially can suffer from this, as you'll have amazingly written episodes like Back From the future, but because it has to be a sitcom, it'll have an episode like Face Off which is ruined by bad comedy taking over, usually tied to unlikable characters.

    We need more variety, then just comedy. That stuff has it's place, but kids do need something more serious sometimes. This is happening in cartoons too with less action shows, but at least stuff like Gravity Falls took it's audience more seriously and gave us great drama.

    Sometimes we'll get a horror show like Haunting Hour but that's rare, and with how damn good it could be, it's a shame we don't get more like it.

    There's more i can say but there's only so much you're willingly to read, so i'll wrap it up. A lot of this stuff can work fine, but they need to put in more effort into their live action shows, by giving us more variety, or just stuck to cartoons and treat them way better.

    Happy Anniversary, by the way.

    1. As for them working harder to put more story into them, well, that's turned out to be a bit of a mixed bag. Pretty much always when they try to put more story in them it's either only to try to put in more action or jokes, or they just flat out suck really bad at it. I think stuff like you mentioned with Lab Rats' Face Off is an example of this. The KC Undercover episode Spy of the Year was hilarious and one of the best episodes so far, and it didn't try to be much of a story but just 24 minutes of jokes featuring John O'Hurley and Adam Irigoyen. In Too Deep Part 1 was a much straightforward effort at story (oh, and we can all agree the Volunteens are a Disney Channel-friendly allegory for ISIL, right?), and it sucked so bad I'm not even going to bother to watch Part 2 (it doesn't help that the previews pretty much spoil everything there is to figure out anyway). I mean, let's face it, much of the writing talent on Disney Channel just sucks - if they had better talent, you could argue they'd been headhunted by higher-profile networks. Dan Signer, who at this point is one of the *MORE* talented writers left (if he's even still around) got his start on those awful FOX near-faux-documentaries (you know, about how the Moon landings are faked and finding gross stuff inside the butts of middle-aged lonely men who should know better, sorry for that last image but FOX actually aired this) before going straight into Disney Channel. This is what we're dealing with. This is what makes the background of John D. Beck and Ron Hart of Liv and Maddie with actually very well-known sitcoms like King of Queens, and with Micheal Jacobs on Girl Meets World, and even Pamela Eells O'Connell of Suite Life/Jessie (and Mad About You, Just Shoot Me and Married... With Children - all three of these are considered very groundbreaking multi-cams, especially Married, and Mad About You and Just Shoot Me happen to be some of my all-time favorites and yes I'm both addicted to syndication and I'm an old fart) so notable. And even then all of those people have had moments where they quite frankly sucked (in two of those cases specifically with the further they go along instead of actually improving).

      But yeah, I agree, maybe a little drama would help. Disney Channel is already doing that with importing Backstage, and this other show that's coming Oct 17 seems to be in the same vein as well. But dramas tend to be a little bit risky because it's easy to go too melodramatic and just turn off the demo completely. Not to mention Disney already has an entire network dedicated to that, Freeform (and look at how overly-melodramatic those shows are, especially Dead of Summer and PLL). Nick has their own network for melodramas too, MTV (you know, it used to show some music thingies at one point). Likewise, I think Disney's decided to shove all their animation (at least "boy animation") to XD; because Nick doesn't necessarily have a separate "animation" network (and they're already known for classic animation anyway) it's more visible on that network.

      Since I'm so willing to write long walls of text I don't mind reading yours BTW, so if you have more to say, spill :)

      And thank you very much for the congratulations. I know you've been putting together a collaborative project, so let's get right on that next.

    2. I mentioned in my update (the part after Mike's) why it's easier for Cartoons to get more respect because it's easier to try (the part where I talk about how Seth MacFarlane talks about how you can do anything on the same budget). The flip side to that is that overall animation is actually more expensive than doing a live-action multi-cam sitcom of the kind typically on Disney and Nick but that wasn't always necessarily a constant and especially today animation has become much cheaper (mostly thanks to cheap and easy technology but in no small part thanks to simply exploiting the fact that the animators' and voice actors' unions are very poorly organized compared to SAG and many individuals aren't even unionized period, so, yeah....)

      One thing I forgot to mention is that it seems like Nick and especially Disney now seems to be slowly shifting to animation. We have The Loud House, the first new cartoon on Nick that isn't imported to get respect in a LONG time, as well as Elena of Avalor (yes CGI is animation of course, and a big part of how it's getting cheaper) and Polly and the Tsu Tsu Pets (which is not *quite* near-garbage) on Disney. Along with Cartoon Network on a steady, multi-year (if not decade) rise, I don't think it's a coincidence either (especially if we end up seeing more 3D CGI animation on mainstream Disney as opposed to just the Junior blocks, since that kind of animation is in some ways easier and cheaper than "traditional" or "flat" 2D animation).


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