Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bunk'd Mini-Review: Cabin vs. Cabin (S2E18)

Aside from not wanting to be around you or see your face, I thought he was totally into you!

What is it? Simply the worst KidCom this blog's reviewed yet, and up there with worst thing period along with Minority Report, The Mysteries of Laura, Grounded, Undateable, Riverdale, MacGyver, various Lifetime movies...wow we review a lot of bad things on here.
Where did it air? Disney Channel where it will continue to air new episodes...amazingly enough, even when all signs pointed otherwise.
Who stars in it? Peyton List, Kevin Quinn, Miranda May, Skai Jackson, Karan Brar, Nathan Arenas, Nina Lui...I think I pretty much got them all. And they're all probably very, very thankful they still have jobs on this network.
Why are we reviewing this? Because we're gonna be stuck with this one for a while, but at least we'll have Andi Mack and Stuck in the Middle and Bizaardvark and whatever's on Nick.

Normally, I make a point to do full reviews for the core genre shows we review on this blog - kids' TV shows, specials, movies (TV and theatrical/cinematic releases) and the occasional book or two (though we might actually be slowly moving more book content into here) - and reserve the mini-reviews for shows outside of those genres that don't really warrant a full review (even if it is outside those genres and I feel it deserves a full review, it'll get one).

But fuck it, Bunk'd is so bad I really don't want to spend a lot of time going through why. So spoiler alert: it gets an F, and it just sucks, there.

Episode Grade: F. Uh, like I literally just said.
Episode MVP: Peyton List because she's so damn hot. There. I said it.

Extra Thoughts:

 - A review of Andi Mack is coming, I swear.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Indigo Blues and Pure Red Young Adult Novels Reviewed

She probably slobbered.

What are they? A pair of Young Adult novels written by Danielle Joseph, who also gave us Shrinking Violet upon which the DCOM Radio Rebel is based on.
Where did it air? Ummm...well they're books so you can get them wherever you get books. I got mine from the library because library.
Who stars in them? Umm...well, like I just said they were both written by Danielle Joseph who also wrote Shrinking Violet upon which Radio Rebel was based on
Why are we reviewing this? Well since I reviewed Shrinking Violet when I reviewed Radio Rebel I figure why not review the other two novels Joseph has written, so there.

So, one's pretty disappointing and the other is...pretty decent.

Spoiler alert: Indigo Blues is the disappointing one. The middle novel in publication sequence (Shrinking Violet being first - Joseph's first novel, in fact - and Pure Red being the latest) it's...meh-tastic with a little bit of enough gender stereotypes and pidgeon-holing to make me feel a little uncomfortable. It's about a girl in high school who dated an older guy who's old enough to be looking into college graduation and then they broke up, and the older guy wrote a song about her, and they have a bunch of angst about the other thanks to memories drudged up by what turns out to be this hit song. Really, the plot is almost a straight-up ripoff of another book, Audrey Wait!, which was written around the time of Shrinking Violet and (yes I've read that book too) I think vastly superior to Indigo Blues here. So, I would just recommend you read that book instead, really.

And that's even after main character Indigo's best friend turns out to be a redhead.

Pure Red ends up being much better because if nothing else I feel it's more developed. It's about a girl who's on her high school basketball team and not only does she have to put up with a bully but also her dead mom and her aloof, painter dad and yadda yadda, trust me it's pretty decent. It's a bit of a slow read - and by that I don't mean it's boring but it is the type of book you'd probably want to read in a more casual, relaxed setting (outdoors on a nice breezy day isn't a bad suggestion, for example). It's a rather, um, "character-contemplative", character-driven and introspective book (like Shrinking Violet, in all fairness) so if you're really into that (like me, apparently) then you're good to go. But you shouldn't really be expecting a lot of plot-heavy developments, in other words. It's very much following the main character, Cassia, and her thoughts but not necessarily in an action-oriented way (and I don't mean in the explosion-laden, Die Hard way but in action period). Oh and speaking of which you probably caught onto the color symbolism from the titles of the books alone here but Pure Red really gets into color symbolism as part of its narrative. In both Shrinking Violet and Indigo Blues it's really more about musical symbolism, again given Danielle Joseph's background in DJ'ing and radio.

Neither book is as good as Shrinking Violet and Shrinking Violet still has a more tightly-constructed narrative than Pure Red, but Pure Red's still an interesting read if you're interested in reading more from the author that ultimately brought you Radio Rebel.

So...in conclusion I'm not really going to talk about the one book because I think there's basically the same book out there that you should read instead, and I'm not really going to talk much about the other book in case you feel like reading it yourself, but there you go, that should give you enough of a review to go on. Whew, that turned out to be a shorter review than I thought.

Yeah, I'm still taking my morning coffee. Like I said in the last Andi Mack review, nobody's human without coffee in the morning.

Novel Grades: C- for Indigo Blues, a flat B or maybe even a B+ for Pure Red. I rated them both three stars and four stars respectively on Goodreads if that means anything.
Favorite Novel Character: I guess Indigo by default in Indigo Blues (really I didn't feel very much attached to any of the characters as indicated by all those words I used above and its C- score) and, eh, probably Cassia in Pure Red too. Like I said in Shrinking Violet, Joseph really likes to focus on her mains, which is noticeable even with books written in the first person perspective.

Extra Thoughts

 - Like I said we already have a winner for the Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 contest and the prize has already been rewarded but I'll have a follow-up post for that soon. And I'm even thinking of doing another contest soon, though I won't make any promises (I'm kinda going back and fourth)

 - I've written about the power of books before and I keep making promises to do it again, but reading even Indigo Blues reminds me why I like reading so much and why I like being in the publishing industry so far, but, eh, I guess that really is just an Extra Thought.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Home Away From Home (S1E10)

It should be just the two of us. It's what Amber would've wanted, says Cyrus as Buffy stands behind him, looking ready to plant her running shoes so far deep up Cyrus' ass Cyrus could probably taste the school's track surface.

Well the good news is that I have stuff to talk about other than to just fanboy endlessly about this show.

The bad news is, the streak's over.

I suppose this episode was inevitable - oh, I don't mean kicking the A streak, though that's inevitable too, but I mean the "CeCe and Bex are gonna play a game of chicken to see which one can admit being in the wrong first" episode. These obligatory episodes are a double-edged sword: on the one hand, because they feel so obligatory it's almost impossible not to see where this is going. On the other hand, it's obligatory for a reason - sometimes you just come to an impasse in the narrative and the only way through is through, as they say.

It's only natural that Bex would either want or need a place of her own and it's equally naturally that there's going to be a few hiccups along the way and a lot of "I told you so's" thrown in all directions. And of course her apartment's going to be crap for a variety of reasons that boil down to comedy, but at least some of those other reasons are in play here so I can look past that too. And no duh it's going to be a major adjustment for Andi who's been living a pretty danged privileged middle-class life so far to be knocked down all the way to...middle-class-but-the-electricity-doesn't-really-work.

I mean...I have to take back what I said at the beginning because I really can't say anything here. I mean, you've all seen family sitcoms before. You know exactly how this plays out. If you've never seen an episode of Andi Mack before, if you spared yourself the major "twist" and are wondering why is the show named Andi Mack and they keep showing a girl and why are they spelling Andi with an "i" you can still accurately predict exactly what happens in the A-plot, probably right down to the exact dialogue.

The big problem is that, like I just got done saying, this and all the obligatory episodes are kinda necessary for progressing the characters to a certain point. I'd like to say skilled writers can work around it anyway, but there just comes a point where there's only one bridge left to cross. And they kinda work their way around it at the very end by refusing to let everything just return to the previous status-quo, so, now Andi truly has an expanded family and household.

And then we get to the B-plot which is...yeah. If you're running a show with an A-B plot structure and you find yourself having to get through the Obligatory Episode(TM), another way to help power through it is to pair it up with a really good, strong B-plot. Which is to say, your B-plot cannot afford to be super-weak. So of course they pair this episode's A-plot with a super-weak B-plot, the weakest of the entire series so far in fact. Way to go there, writing staff.

The B-plot...yeah, let's just say it: it's fucking garbage. Absolute, utter, Bunk'd-quality garbage. Cyrus is all in a tizzy because Iris hasn't texted him back, he's going on a double-date with Jonah, he begs Buffy to be his plus-1 and then it turns out Amber canceled out on Jonah too so it's really a guys-only nite with plus-zero invitations. And then Cyrus has to act like a moron about it in front of Buffy and Jonah, and that's were we get our lovely opening quote for this review.

This B-plot pretty much resolves with Cyrus just standing there like a dope. What a fuckin' waste of time.

Episode Grade: B-. The A-plot was, for like what the third time now?, of the completely obligatory variety but at least it ends strongly. Then it's entirely undone by the garbage B-plot.
Episode MVP: Lauren Tom because reasons.

Extra Thoughts:

 - I'm impressed that Amber manages to be a massive bitch to everyone without actually even being there.

 - Yeah I think needing coffee in the morning to be human is pretty much just being human

 - Phil Baker wrote this episode which probably explains why the B-plot was so damn weak. Good Luck Charlie did have a tendency to go all over the place with it's A-B-C plot structure.

 - And this is why we always check our pockets before throwing pants into the laundry, kids!

 - Oddly, Spongey (one of our regular commentators - the commerateri, as they say on The Truth About Cars.com [don't ask]) thought She's Turning Into You was one of the weaker ones and that this episode makes up for it. Well that's why Mike's here to make sure I don't get any backwards opinions (and Spongey too, I guess, in the commerateri...which is made up of like two of you, counting him).

 - Seriously though, Mike's awesome and his opinions are awesome and they really are there to help check my bizzaro opinions and what not. And I really wish you people would comment more!

 - ...like, the five of you who read this blog. Yeah I'm looking at you, Patrick. As in the Starfish. Yeah I know you're there on your couch eating Cheerios or something. And Matt. Uhhh...eating...Spongebob-Os. Or something.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

So It's Come to This II: Nickelodeon's Sizzlin' Summer Camp Special

You ever thought about killing a bunch of kids at a campsite?

You may or may not remember this, but in December 2015, I did a review of Nickelodeon's Ho Ho Holidays. It was a Christmas special where Nickelodeon stars (playing themselves for some stupid reason) get invited to a holiday party and end up being trapped inside the house by Modern Family's Rico Rodriguez because all he wanted was to sing with them. I'm not kidding. That was actually a thing that happened, and we all deserve a serious beating for letting it happen. It was one of the most vile, asinine excuses for children's entertainment that I had ever seen in my life. At the time, I thought about bludgeoning myself with some kind of weapon, or stabbing my eyes out with a fork so I would never have to witness something like that ever again.

But here's the thing. I hate myself, and I'm trying to get that review count up again so I thought it would be a great idea to talk about another one of these horrifying specials. Apparently, there have been four of these specials in total, and I never want to subject myself or anyone reading this blog to the unholy rant that will ensue if I ever gaze upon the other two. It actually pisses me off that the network decided to keep making these. Are they cheap? Are they openly admitting to us that they hate their audience? Are they letting us know that the end is near? Probably. I'm not counting out any of those possibilities. But before I begin, I just want to leave you guys with the following lyrics so I don't get accused of watching this crap out of enjoyment:

Mike is back, blog posts told like that
Comments acting like I love these shows
Like I told you "watch the shows," no, Mike did that
So hopefully, you won't have to go through that

Anyway, this special takes place during the summertime at Camp Nickelodeon, where a group of Nickelodeon stars (Jack Griffo, Jade Pettyjohn, Mace Coronel, Lizzy Greene, Casey Simpson, Kyla Drew Simmons, and Maya Le Clark) go to have some everyday, vanilla, all-American fun. However, they start noticing strange occurrences around the campsite like an enormous glove being left behind and their supplies destroyed. They believe it to be the work of the monster Bighand (played by Daniella Monet for some reason), but once they realize Bighand is not the enemy, they team up with her to stop........the Skunk Monster.

Okay, I feel like I just embarrassed myself by writing that. The weird thing is that I expected everything about this special to leave me in tears and waking up in the middle of the night screaming, but only half of it did that. I'll explain later. The main plot wasn't anywhere near as aggravating as the Christmas one, but it was just excruciatingly slow and boring. That's pretty much it. The plot just starts with them going camping, unfunny jokes are made throughout, they think Bighand is out there, they find out who the real monster is, and they get them. Not much else happens. It's just you waiting for something to happen that might be remotely exciting and it never does. Kinda like waiting for Bill Maher to actually be apologetic that he used the n-word on his show.


I find it bizarre how with a plot like a strange monster lurking around the campsite and some kids having to figure it out, it would be this uninteresting and depressing. Maybe it's the people they chose for this. I mean, I like Jack, but it's just him messing around with the Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn guys for 44 minutes, and none of them have that kind of charisma or stage presence to make this work. Oh yeah, they also have Jade from School of Rock and Maya from The Thundermans but they don't elevate this plot at all. They try really hard to give Jade the role as the funny guy but it doesn't work at all because her material is awful. It's just a bunch of jokes about how she packed way too many unnecessary items with her (look for the Kenan & Kel episode "Doing Things the Hemingway" if you want to see an entertaining version of this). Maybe if they put Jace Norman or something here, it would be funnier. But seriously, of all the actors and actresses at your disposal, you chose these guys? I don't get it.

Okay, so the main plot didn't really make an impression on me. But it was the segments, the absolutely offensive segments, that made this special go all the way to the unforgiving depths of hell. You know what I'm talking about. The parts where the mentally disabled elves transition into a completely different story that is unrelated to the main plot, kills time, and just serves as a constant reminder that this is seriously what qualifies for children's entertainment in 2017. I'm beside myself trying to figure out why they thought these segments were so hilarious, they brought them back in every other special. And I know they are in the other specials too, but unless I'm getting paid or taken out to dinner afterwards, I'm never disrespecting my eyes like that. Every segment here is just relentlessly terrible, and I'm having a hard time figuring out which one was the worst. The first segment involved Jace Norman working at an ice cream shop and trying to scoop up a sample for JoJo Siwa (I'm still not entirely sure how she was able to acquire enough fame to get to this point) to try. The ice cream is really hard and Jace can't get through it, to the point where he has to use dynamite to make the ice cream melt. JoJo then says that she doesn't have taste buds so everything tastes exactly the same.

The next segment is called "Are You Smarter Than a Coconut?," and involves a woman unable to answer the same question multiple times when asked, because she's stupid and the only joke is that it's stupid. The third segment made me wish I was dead. It was definitely one of the absolute worst things I have ever had the misfortune of watching, and made me long for the day that Nickelodeon was taken out back like Old Yeller. It involved Kira Kosarin rapping/singing about her brother being a complete nuisance at the beach. Did you ever want to hear Kira Kosarin rap? Or sing such an awful tune like she did? I know I didn't. The worst part is that Kira actually can sing, so why give her such garbage like an annoying guy at the beach and make it into some EDM/hip hop dumpster fire? You want to hear a good rap song about the summertime? Go listen to "Summertime" by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. It will make you forget that this special existed.

The last segment is probably the least infuriating, but at that point, anything it did would have made me want to spit on it. It involves a cook off that has absolutely nothing to do with the actual plot or summer in general. The joke is that Kira Kosarin's character keeps making these elaborate dishes and should win first prize, but the mayor just says that everyone's a winner and gives everyone (even the host of the cook off) a blue ribbon. These segments are the result of people wanting All That back, but they have no idea what made All That work or how to write for sketch comedy in any way, shape, or form.

Ummm...hi. Anyway, it seems like Mike's done with this and to avoid the problem we've been having with posts being deleted I'm going to go ahead and publish it now. Besides, it's fun to have a running dialogue while in progress! Just look at our friends at Girl Meets World Reviewed!

And honestly...I'm actually a little confused as to why Mike's even reviewing this. Really, and let me explain myself with this one. I mean, don't get me wrong it's an awesome, very well-written review, so I appreciate that he did go through the trouble and the torture but after the Ho-Ho-Holidays Special, after the Valentine's Special whatever that was called, I think it's pretty clear what you're getting into. And that is: ...pretty much what you'd expect from a typical Henry Danger episode or Game Shakers episode, except Jim Bellinger (It's Artie!) and Audrey Whitby are in it because, I dunno, Liv and Maddie ended so they need to be on kids' TV somewhere? I mean I like them so I'm not complaining, but it's really a current-era Dan Schneider show in vignette form where all the actors play the characters they're mostly associated with except they use their real names for some reason.Which is weird because it's a Heath Seifert and Kevin Kopelow show, and our second-to-most-recent review besides this one was Kenan and Kel so, um...well that also had Dan Schneider so.


Also how appropriate that they have both actresses (Daniella Monet and JoJo Siwa) who apparently spend so much time at Nickelodeon Studios I'm convinced they literally live there. And hey, I laughed here and there.

But hey, there's always Andi Mack, right? And we'll always have the imagery of Aiden Gallagher dragging his tongue all over Isabella Monier who's now a major movie star - I'm not making this up, kiddies, this is something Nickelodeon actually aired, though dialogue only - and we'll always wonder if Siebert and Kopelow didn't just let Dan Schneider have that one bit to himself.

I'm only a few years older than Isabela Moner and I'm already a little disturbed by how adult she looks now. I don't know, I saw her at the Kids Choice Awards and I was having a hard time figuring out who that was.

I saw a commercial for this special and knew it would be terrible. Like, absolutely, soul-crushingly terrible. But I knew it would make a great review and I wanted to see how it compared to the first special. I think this one is worse because it feels like a ripoff of the first one. I don't know how low the bar is that you have to feel the need to rip off something so horrible, but it definitely felt like they were out of ideas and put all their energy into making you want to blow your brains out with the segments. At least with the first one, it was deliberately trying to piss you off. This one is just more of the same, and with that, I will never waste my time or yours by doing another review of these.

I need to bring back the Quest this summer. There are still plenty of other subpar shows out there that need the attention.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: She's Turning Into You (S1E9)

I know that smell...like a cat smoked a cigar!

What is it? Well it's obviously a Disney-esque euphemism for that distinctive smell of weed. I live in Colorado, so trust me on this.

Ugh. I really really hate myself right now.

Remember how I was lamenting about how much I love this show and how much I hate that for review purposes? Yeah....

So here's another A episode. Out of like a billion of them so far.

If you guys are bored with reading these Andi Mack reviews I can't blame you. There are two things that always suck reviewing: something that's always middle-of-the-road mediocre in C-territory or something that's just so consistently good. In either case, there's just...not much new to talk about. The C show is going to be bland and boring and the consistently A show is...well you already know why it rates an A so why bother? Seriously?

The typical dress montage was veering dangerously into typical Disney Channel territory...and it never really changed course, but they looked like they were having such fun with it I don't care. And from that moment on there was hardly a bad beat to this episode. Yes, Buffy's way too over-competitive but they have fun with it (not unlike a certain twin of a very recently departed and beloved show). Andi's punk fake-out was pretty clever too. Uhhh...Amber's a bitch. I mean, "she's really great at giving second chances?" Wow, talk about passive-aggressive there. Reminds me of my mom, hey-oh!

Umm...struggling to come up with stuff to keep this from being in mini-review territory...yeah, so we get kinda a new thread here with the exact circumstances of how and why Bex left in the first place and the exact nature's still kept mum until at least the next episode (yes that's me falling behind again). And, ummm...well the Jonah stuff is pretty light in here, but again I thought Bex's intervention to get Jonah to fall for Andi was pretty great and clever too, and shows that Bex really wants to be involved in at least certain points of Andi's life, even though those particular, exact certain points might be stealing a lot of the focus on the bigger picture for Bex (and indeed, the show overall. I mean, do we have any idea what kind of student Andi even is?)

So...how's the weather? Hey, Mike, since you're back what do you think of this show?

Episode Grade: A. I'm holding back on giving it an A+ mainly because of disappointment in my personal integrity to hold back my fanboyism.
Episode MVP: You know what I'm giving it to Lauren Tom because she really nails the whole "Asian Mom" thing (trust me I know).

Extra Thoughts:

 - Other potential quote openers are I'm trying to make a point! A very disgusting point! and I'm very bad at coming up with ideas! Exhibit A! Man, this is such a quotable show.

 - On the offhand chance that there are middle-schoolers reading this blog, well there you go: how to get a date as answered by Mack Chat. Just tell her she's pretty. Judging by the looks of those girls' faces, apparently this actually works.

 - Our Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 digital comic download code contest has concluded and we've indeed found a winner...kinda-sorta, but as close as we're ever going to get. The winner's already been notified and given his code, and we'll have a more detailed follow-up post.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Kenan & Kel, Reviewed

Kel, get me a can of spray cheese, a phone book, and an electric guitar, and meet me at the swimming pool. Now, come on, Chumpy!

But....but, Kenan? How am I supposed to find a guitar that's electric? And why are you calling me Chumpy? It's demeaning, Kenan! KENAN?! AWWWWWWW, HERE IT GOES!!!!!!

This would have come out earlier, but for some reason, everything I originally wrote down was deleted. Anyway, my reviewing break is over and now I have to relearn how to do this. I don't really know where to go from here except reviewing Raven's Home when it premieres on July 21. I mean, I have to do that. It would be illegal not to and I wouldn't even be able to forgive myself if I didn't. Maybe Unknown has some ideas for what I could do. I figured I should ease my way back in by reviewing a show I know very well, Nickelodeon's Kenan & Kel.

Normally, with these reviews, I would just focus on a particular episode, but a lot of what I say about "The Tainting of the Screw" or "The Lottery" or "Attack of the Bug Men" could be said about 95% of the series. So, for the first time, I'm going to analyze a show as a whole and name some of my favorite episodes and favorite moments along the way. For those of you who are unaware, Kenan & Kel was the original Drake & Josh, right down to the four seasons, the TV movie where everything is darker for some reason, and Dan Schneider's involvement. The show starred Kenan Rockmore (Kenan Thompson) and Kel Kimble (Kel Mitchell), two teens from Chicago who constantly got themselves in ridiculous situations. Whether they were being held up by a psychotic clown with a weird sneeze, getting locked up in a restaurant freezer, or climbing the Sears Tower, Kenan and Kel were always together to get in some kind of mess. You can refer to the theme song (performed by Coolio because back then, Nickelodeon knew how to cater to their audience without pandering to them) for confirmation of this. The show ran from 1996 to 2000 and is now remembered as one of Nick's most iconic shows.

Watching this series now, it is really alarming how much of it is better than pretty much all of Nickelodeon's current live-action content. And it's not like the show was aiming for much to begin with. Kenan & Kel had a simple concept, with simple characters and simple stories. But it was what Kenan and Kel did with those stories that made the series so memorable. The two had a genuine chemistry that they originally developed on All That, and it was that same chemistry that won the network over and scored them their own show. The series never needed anything more than Kenan and Kel playing off of each other because they were so skilled at it: Kenan was wisecracking, a schemer and someone wanting to get an advantage in life any way he could, while Kel was dimwitted and hyperactive enough to want to go along with Kenan's schemes. If Kenan needed to skip training the new employee at his job so he could get the last issue of Skunkator to complete his collection at the annual comic book convention, it was happening no matter what. Both actors also capitalized on their comedic strengths: Kenan was more deadpan and frustrated while Kel was louder and accident-prone. When these two personalities collided, it created many memorable episodes.

It is really something how these two were able to do what very few shows can do now, including Dan Schneider's current work: Be funny. I know that isn't a foreign concept, but with everything you see these days, you would think comedy is rocket science. But with this show, it wasn't. The premise was simple, but Kenan and Kel's charisma, their stage presence, and their comedic timing elevated the series to something special. Another person that deserves a lot of credit here is Schneider himself. When I was younger, I didn't realize it, but looking back, these Nickelodeon shows with Dan's name in the credits had a special air to them. They weren't like the average kids show. They had wit and charm and the comedy would remind you of something you would see on The Simpsons or Seinfeld. It's that kind of writing style that helped influence my own, and when it was used to its fullest potential, it became instantly memorable. "Wherever we go, I don't want it to be France." "Why not?" "Because it's full of French people." I'm paraphrasing here and that exchange isn't even from Kenan & Kel, but that's the kind of dialogue that you would never hear anywhere else but a Dan Schneider show. Maybe in Scott Fellows' shows, but I don't think Nickelodeon has ever liked him as much.

Okay, there are a lot of positives with Kenan & Kel at the end of the day. Despite that, the very reason the show worked is the very reason why it became infuriating by the end of season three. Shows tend to lose a lot of their charm after a couple seasons because the writers/producers realize they can only tell the same stories so many times. You know what happens. Characters become broader and less human, plots start becoming more ridiculous, cast members are added, some cast members are reduced to smaller roles. As good as Kenan & Kel was when it was on its A-game, it could be downright awful to watch at times when it was having an off day. And I have the facts to back this.

For whatever reason, the writers thought it would be hilarious to have Kel become mentally retarded. You know, to the point where he is aware he screws things up but doesn't really care enough to fix them, or even question himself as to why he does them. There's this small moment in the season three episode "Skunkator vs. Mothman" where Kel says Chris' name backwards. Chris (Kenan's boss, played by Dan Frischman) tells Kel he makes his head hurt, and Kel says that this is what makes his head hurt. He then proceeds to hit himself in the skull with a bottle and fall to the floor. That's the joke. It's just Kel intentionally hurting himself. It really sucks when shows begin to emphasize the stupidity of characters after a while, because then they stop being exaggerations of everyday people and turn into exaggerations of themselves. A lot of season three episodes are like this because Kel's stupidity goes way too far, to the point where I'm not even convinced that he knows what his name is. The first episode of the season, "Fenced In," is a bad sign of things to come. In this episode, Kenan and Kel scheme to be ahead of time for their dates to the movies with two girls, who are tired of being stood up or waiting too long for their dates to show up. Along the way, Kel drops his yo-yo that he bought for his date through the bars of a fence, and Kenan decides to get it. Kenan ends up getting his head stuck in the bars (which are clearly made of rubber) and after some initial struggling, Kel walks around the fence to get the yo-yo. When Kenan asks Kel if he knew he could do that the whole time, Kel says that was his plan in case putting Kenan's head through the fence didn't work. See, if Kel just realized that he could have walked around the fence, it would have been funny. But him being aware of that the whole time, and deliberately inconveniencing his friend for something that wasn't even worth it to begin with is just dumb.

At some point, Kel just stopped getting into trouble with Kenan and became the cause of it. Or, in some cases, he would make the problem worse. And in some cases like "The Raffle," probably the worst episode in the series and a discount version of "The Lottery," he did both. Stuff like that makes it harder to laugh because you're just wondering why Kenan hasn't killed Kel, or didn't listen to his father when he talked about how destructive Kel was all the time.

Speaking of destructive, that's a trend that would pop up in later episodes: Kenan and Kel somehow destroying everything in their path whenever there's some kind of task. You know, things like Kel breaking things at the bakery or the jewelry store when the job is just to get stuff for Kenan's mom's birthday party. This wouldn't be a problem if it wasn't such a recurring theme but they did it so much, you wonder why anyone trusted Kenan and Kel with anything. At one point, they were just two people who life screwed over no matter what happened. After the first two seasons, there was a shift in which Kenan and Kel screwed themselves over, and they would deserve consequences because it was impossible for them to accomplish anything without getting in trouble. Granted, this is mostly because of Kel, but it's not like Kenan ever tried to take matters into his own hands. Even the look of the show changes after season two, since it was filmed at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando for the first two seasons and then moved to Nickelodeon on Sunset in Hollywood. Just something to keep in mind.

Despite those problems, Kenan & Kel is still a very entertaining show in 2017. The jokes, on-screen chemistry and performances by the two leads were more than enough to make the show age well. These days, it seems like everyone is just throwing material at the wall and seeing what sticks. It's not really about making timeless entertainment and taking kids seriously. It's just dumbing down the product because this is what people believe kids want to watch. And when there aren't many choices, kids will end up watching these shows and they will make the ratings spike, which will make network execs believe they are doing something right. The pilot episode of Kenan & Kel is enough to put most kids shows today to shame, and that was 21 years ago. At the end of the day, this show is not only one of the best things Dan Schneider's name is attached to, but also provided many memorable moments, iconic catchphrases, and served as the prototype for shows like Drake & Josh (which is Schneider's masterpiece by default because as far as I know, he didn't create Kenan & Kel himself). Not many live-action kids sitcoms get to leave behind any kind of legacy because a lot of them come from the same mindset, but Kenan & Kel remains as a shining example of what someone could do when they treat young audiences like they matter, and remember to actually entertain them. There is a reason why Game Shakers would be completely unwatchable if it wasn't for Kel Mitchell.

Here are some of the show's best episodes if you've never seen it before, or maybe you want to revisit the show and find some episodes you never paid attention to before:

"Pilot" (season one; July 15, 1996)
I'm serious about this. Most pilots are meant to establish the show's world and because you have to get to know who everyone is, things can get awkward and slow-paced. But some pilots not only set the tone for the rest of the series, but present the series in its best form. This is one of those pilots. Everything about the show (you know, minus the trends that would pop up later) can be found in this one episode. You could tell they had a clear mind of what they wanted to do with from the beginning, and the comedy never stops. The scene near the end where Kenan and Kel have to remember the code line the police gave them ("The chipmunk has pneumonia") is one of the funniest scenes in the whole series ("The cricket has........a, petunia!!!" "Mama say mama ma mamakusa.").

"The Tainting of the Screw" (season one; August 17, 1996)
"I......DROPPED THE SCREW......IN THE TUNA!" Enough said. This episode is just plain fun to watch. It's not even like you're watching a TV show, it's just your best friends screwing around and someone was recording it that day. Moments like Kenan doing a rendition of "La Bamba" and Kel's ham fantasy ("I enjoy ham") are things that take a certain amount of talent and style to pull off. Imagine Henry Danger doing scenes like that. Are you throwing up in your mouth yet?

"Doing Things the Hemingway" (season one; August 24, 1996)
Okay, these are literally the first three episodes but they truly are some of the best the series had to offer. At one point, Kel actually had a brain and he wasn't a complete moron, just eccentric. And Kenan actually questioned why he spent so much time with him. Kenan and Kel deciding to walk up the steps of the Sears Tower is a really classic story in my eyes, and once again, full of great jokes.

"The Lottery" (season two; September 20, 1997)
This episode reminds me a lot of the kind of stuff that the show would run into the ground later on. But the difference is that Kenan and Kel are human beings with realistic reactions to what's going on around them, and it's straight comedy for a good portion of it. Kenan dancing around making references to The Jackson 5 while Kel is trying to tell him he lost the winning lottery ticket is absolutely hilarious. Actually, that whole scene where they go with Chris to cash in the ticket is fantastic. All three of them are so happy and excited to get the money, only to have all of their hopes and dreams shattered within a few minutes.

 "Who Loves Orange Soda?" (season two; September 27, 1997)
I could recommend a lot of season two episodes, honestly, but I think this one has always been one of my favorites. Kel's unnatural love for orange soda is dealt with for the first and only time, and I love how Kenan is so smug that Kel won't be able to last a week without drinking it. It would have been interesting to see Kel become addicted to another soda, and then Kenan and Chris have to snap him out of it before it's too late but it's not a big deal. Kel's nightmare of having his soda frozen and getting attacked by an orange monster is both bizarre and hilarious. Actually, there's this one scene where Kel is sitting next to a bottle of orange soda and he proclaims not to like it, then he throws it across the room and acts like he just committed spousal abuse. That was hilarious too. The whole episode's hilarious, let's just leave it at that.

 "Bye Bye Kenan: Part 1" (season two; December 20, 1997)
Part two of this episode is actually just a standard episode of the show, but I picked out part one because it was the most emotional episode the show has ever done. Yeah, actual emotion and drama in this episode. The plot involves Kenan's dad getting a new job as a forest ranger in Montana, requiring the entire Rockmore family to move. Of course, Kenan was never going to move for good, but this episode really tugs at your heartstrings and makes you think that things are going to change forever. You know, if you had never seen the episode before. The last scene with Kel looking for Kenan in the empty house, unable to reach him through the walkie talkie, and being forced to leave his farewell gift behind (a blown up picture of the two from their All That days) while a slowed down version of the theme song plays in the background is unbelievably sad. I even felt like crying typing this. The fact that the show was able to pull off serious material like this lets me know that the creative direction really did change at some point, and if it was allowed to mature as it went on, it would have been an even greater show than it already was.

 "Attack of the Bug Men" (season three; November 28, 1998)
Yeah, this is the only episode I'm recommending from the last two seasons. There are others where I had some good laughs or enjoyed some of it, but this is probably the only episode where I felt like everything worked. Actually, "Skunkator vs. Mothman" was pretty damn good, but this is an instant classic. It's just a masterclass in comedy, and for once, the problem was caused by Kenan himself. Becoming too immersed in a board game with Kel, he ends up leaving his living room door open and two burglars take everything. Kenan's facial expressions and attitude throughout the whole episode are absolutely hilarious, and Kel actually didn't piss me off since he was just as hilarious. I don't want to spoil everything, but this is an exact example of what happens when everything's working for an episode. If you don't laugh at Kel's dancing in the empty living room, or Kenan causing an accident at the pizza place to keep his family from coming home, then I have to question who really reads this blog.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Mike. Here I am thinking I'm an expert on Nickelodeon and Disney Channel, but you really blow me away. You may be 50% of the team but you make this blog 2,570% better with you. Trust me, after cruising on a string of unbroken A-grades for Andi Mack I should know at this point.

As for the review being deleted...I really don't know what's going on. I've had dozens of reviews bite the cyber-dust without warning, it's something I'm not very happy about with Blogspot. If you remember all the talk about migrating to another service, well that was the main reason why.

And as for options other than Raven's Home...hey, have you heard of this thing called Andi Mack? Apparently I like it so much I keep giving it A-grades.

Real quick follow-ups - yes, I've been trying to keep up with Andi Mack, speaking of which. Yes, we have a winner for our Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 contest (yeah that's another thing that happened while you're gone, we had a contest) and the winner has already been informed that he won. I didn't want to distract from Mike's post by making new ones though so...let's have this one hang at the top for about another day or so.

Thanks, Unknown. I really appreciate it. I was looking at some of my old blog posts here (one of my favorites is the one I did for "Girl Meets Gravity") and even now, I still feel grateful for this opportunity. It's definitely one of my favorite activities.

I saw one of your Andi Mack reviews so I did some research, and I was surprised when I found out that the creator of Lizzie McGuire was the creator of Andi Mack. Knowing that, and seeing your positive reviews, makes me interested in checking out the show for myself.

I missed the contest? Um, I guess all I can say is.....I am Groot? 

Happy National Hug Your Cat Day! And GotGVol2 Contest FINAL UPDATE!

Image from Nerdist.com even though I think they kind of suck.

It's National Hug Your Cat Day! I just thought I'd point that out because I love hugging kitties because they're so cutesy! But you didn't come here for that, even though, well, this is a Nickelodeon and Disney Channel Review Blog so, um, there.

But what you really came here for (uh, I guess?) is our final update of our Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 contest where you get to win a code for a digital copy of Guardians of the Galaxy 2015 No. 1!

Fun fact: this is the very first thing I ever created using the new "MS Paint 3D" that came with the recent update of Win10. Expect a review of it soon. Spoiler alert: I'm not reviewing it because it's actually *good*.

All you gotta do is provide an answer (either in response to *any* review/post on this blog or on my twitter account - you'll know which account because chances are you came here from there) regarding "which personal detail did I leave out of my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 mini-review?" (If you're wondering where it is, it's later in the month of May so you can look there - c'mon man it shouldn't be that hard). I thought it was going to be a lot easier to guess than it is so I'll have to add a few more hints, because quite frankly this spare code doesn't do me a lot of good just sitting around doing nothing being unused:

 - I left a big hint hidden in the GotGVol2 review. Apparently, I did a very good job hiding it.

 - What is this hint? Quite literally, you'll know it when you see it.

 - You'll also probably groan as soon as you see it. Hopefully. I hate to think of anybody reacting to that pic in the way...umm...I do.

 - I've already probably said way, way too much TMI.

 - The hint itself only provides about half the answer.

 - The closest answer so far is "I didn't mention Debby in it." So uh if nobody comes up with the correct answer I guess that's the winner.

 - Answer with the soonest timestamp regardless where posted or closest answer by 11:59 PM tonight wins.

So there you go, happy, uh, guessing!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Terms of Embarrassment (S1E8)

I have a duck tape addiction. It's nothing I can't handle!

What is it? Is it duck tape or duct tape? That's a very good question indeed! I'm going with duck tape to cross-promote with the reboot of DuckTales coming...sometime. In the future. And you bet this blog will cover it! (if things don't interfere because I'll actually be taking a summer course during that time)

But for at least the second time in a row now I have to talk about how difficult this show is to review. Really. I'm just going to flat out say it: I hate reviewing this show.

Now don't get me wrong, it's not that I hate it. In fact I love it, if the unbroken string of A-scores are any indication. Spoiler alert: I'm giving this episode an A+. I hate doing that.

Why? Because it's honestly making writing these reviews a chore if you're just going to come in here and expect a forgone conclusion. And to just talk about how great this show is, and why it's so much better than Girl Meets World, blah blah blah blah blah. I can't just keep giving it A's all the time because then I start seriously losing my cred as a reviewer. But I can't not keep giving it A's when it's justified because that's just a disservice to the show. And I can't just stop reviewing it and just sit back and enjoy the show because so many people (well, the five or so of you who read this blog) just simply expect me to review it. It's truly become our new GMW.

Now, with GMW, the sheer volume of episodes incoming (sometimes on consecutive days) made it logistically difficult, and the quality of the show itself just started making it a chore. Watching Andi Mack is hardly a chore, again I freakin' love it, but it's becoming increasingly hard to find new ways to talk about how much I love this show and not just have it come off as fanboyish gushing (which it probably is anyway).

I guess at the end of the day that's a good problem to have, as it certainly beats having to review a really bad show on a regular basis (there's a reason why we've only reviewed three episodes of Bunk'd in that show's entire run). But at a certain point a solid unbroken string of A's starts looking as much of a disservice to the show as being outright dishonest about its scores, good or bad. For readers, especially new readers (I'm very optimistic that we'll actually have some) it's hard to distinguish a line between trying to convince them this show is that good and, well, fanboy gushing.

Maybe I'll come up with a way to fix this problem. Maybe I'll come up with new ways to convince people that this show really is all that. Maybe the show itself will just solve the problem for me and the next episode will turn out to be a real stinker, or at least in B territory. I don't know. At least I only have to worry about crossing this bridge again on Friday, at the earliest, if I don't just slack off again.

But to this episode - and actually, for a while it was skirting into B territory itself. Cyrus' storyline was seriously coming off as an inane time-filler, and maybe Bowie was being a bit awkward not only for Andi but the audience. So what saves this episode, and in fact launches it all the way into the stratosphere of A+ territory? It's because those things actually ended up having some really satisfying payoffs. Bowie's awkward "I just found out I had a daughter!" stage didn't even persist for that long before it started to have serious narrative and even emotional heft, to say nothing of that ending, tho. And even at the end of Cyrus' storyline, we can see hints that despite all of this exercise in personality gymnastics being over a stupid misunderstanding, and how Buffy absolutely is in the right that Cyrus shouldn't let it bother him and be comfortable himself, it wasn't a total waste because he still found something of personal value in that and was able to grow from it.

That's good children's television right there. And yes, that's something Girl Meets World had trouble executing (hell, it's something have trouble executing in my own creative writing) - it's gotta pay off

Episode Grade: A+. Again, no big surprise especially since, you know, I flat out told you this very explicitly several paragraphs ago. 
Episode MVP: Joshua Rush, and for some reason I have a feeling that this is his second MVP win in a row. I have to go check but I'm too lazy. But my point being, it's because of, again, how Cyrus shows personal growth in this. This easily could've gone to Peyton Elizabeth Lee, Lilan Bowden, Lauren Tom or even, uh, guy who plays Bowie for the same reasons.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Interesting that they have the outdoor shot of Buffy and Cyrus in the gazebo when it's snowing, especially since it's obviously a mid or even late spring snow with so much green outside. They also realized they could take advantage of it and shot it beautifully down to how they chose to transition into that scene. That's something TV shows in general usually forget to capitalize on. Incidentally, this episode aired during the last time it snowed here, (hopefully) the last snow of the season but then again it was already the latest I ever remember it snowing and at this point I could just about expect anything. Usually you could expect absolutely no snow in May, but now the last few years have seen quite a bit of snowfall at least in the early week of May. And here we are, having just elected a major climate change denier President.

 - I suppose I really should be spending more time talking about that payoff thing. But what it boils down to is that you need to show how your characters grow. And again, related to Joshua Rush's MVP win, it's not just the writing or the directing (well, the directing is a huge part of it) but the skill of the actor to make sure that shows, even subtly. In that regard you need to rely on both the actor's on skill and the director's ability to bring that out of the actor or even just to remember to include it in. For a writer, it can be difficult or easy depending on not so much the writer's skill but rather the context of the scene, and of course if the writer even remembers to add those details in.

 - One thing I forgot to include in my Radio Rebel/Shrinking Violet review is this weirdness from the bonus features:

...this isn't it, I'll have to see if I can actually encode it off the DVD and see whether or not I can "Fair Use"-it on YouTube.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Radio Rebel DCOM vs. Shrinking Violet YA Novel Review: The Ultimate Showdown of the Ultimate Century Edition!

Disruptions like today are only temporary. But I can enforce disciplinary actions that can last forever!
...like diamonds? Or rice cakes?

What is it? Well, Radio Rebel is a DCOM based on a novel by Danielle Joseph called Shrinking Violet, and as you can probably guess from the title of this review we're reviewing both here so hold on to your hats, the five of you who regularly read this blog!
Where did it air? Disney Channel for Radio Rebel and as for Shrinking Violet...Amazon? A used bookstore near you?
Who stars in it? For Radio Rebel it's of course centered around Debby Ryan as her official DCOM vehicle (16 Wishes doesn't count for reasons we already got into for that review, and neither does The Suite Life Movie as she was very much second-fiddle at best in that one) along with Sarena Parmar who you'll know from How to be Indie if you've ever had access to a network that aired that; Allie Bertram who was on later seasons of Mako Mermaids (well after the first season that aired on Disney Channel last year) if you've ever had access to a network that aired that; Adam DiMarco and Atticus Mitchell who you'll recognize from the DCOM Zapped! and the My Babysitter's a Vampire series respectively, Merritt Patterson and Nancy Robertson who you'll recognize from...*insert shrug emoji here*. For Shrinking Violet it's...a bunch of words printed on paper, but it was written by Danielle Joseph as I mentioned above, based on her own experiences as a radio station intern and DJ and you might find it additionally interesting that it was originally published through MTV Books (I don't know if that's much of a label or not - which given my occupation is probably something I should be more aware of)
Why are we reviewing this? Because I think it's about time we start comparing DCOMs to their source material.

So along those lines, let's see how Radio Rebel stacks up to Shrinking Violet and whether or not the tired cliche of "the book is better" holds out to be true, along with what's been changed.

...and now that I've put actual thought into it, I've realized I've run into yet another review roadblock as it's hard for me to really talk about the differences between the two without just flat out saying first that, yeah, the book really is going to be better in this case. It's more hard-edged and does way more stuff that Disney's Standards and Practices will never, ever allow (as evidenced by all the changes they made to their DCOM adaptation).

Let's start with the character Tara (or Teresa as she's called in the book, or Sweet-T as her DJ persona's called as opposed to the rather unimaginative Radio Rebel). She has major body image issues that are never touched upon in the DCOM (which is odd because she's actually described as looking pretty much like Jessie-era Debby Ryan so they scored well on casting at least, but it's also a missed opportunity to incorporate how body-negative images are often imagined based on pressures and forces that don't recognize how beautiful women actually are) and it's entirely the source of her shyness. She also doesn't know who her father is, quite simply because her mother doesn't even have a clue either and her mom describes herself as largely having successfully recovered from being a "wild child" in her teen years, much more extreme than Bex Mack which is probably the most extreme the network's ever going to allow (in the DCOM her dad's simply separated and off to Taiwan on a business trip). 

There's also no plot by the principal to try to destroy all forms of fun on-campus - in fact the principal is literally mentioned generically in a single line in the entire book towards the end to award prom king and queen - so yeah Principal Moreno, her little war/Bonfire of the Conniptions and her takedown of prom as an expression of how seriously unstable she is are total fabrications for the DCOM. The actual plot concerns Teresa's internship at her stepdad's radio station - she doesn't have a podcast at all here, probably because the book was written just before podcasts were really a thing - and how she's battling her own shyness trying to fill in DJ'ing on an emergency basis and overcoming a deluge of serious full-contact workplace sexual harassment/assault (yeah that's another thing that won't pass Disney S&P, needless to say). And while her temp DJ position turns out to explode in popularity it's her own stepdad who tries to keep "Sweet-T"'s true identity a secret for the sake of ratings and a contest (hey speaking of which did you know this very blog is running a contest to win a download code of a Guardians of the Galaxy digital comic? Did I mention that already?) Gavin, Stacey, the triangle conflict Teresa ends up with them and having her alter-ego run for Prom Queen against Stacey are there in the book though, but in modified form given all the other plot changes.

The main conflict drivers in the book are, again, the sexual harassment/assault Teresa has to put up with at work and how she stands up to herself to put that to a stop, and how she stands up to Stacey and her own shyness to become the voice she wants to be at school - so in that respect it's somewhat like the DCOM but much more introspective and inner-character-focused as Gavin and even Stacey are pushed more in the background in comparison, and the novel really does concentrate on that intimate, introspective nature that's at the core of Teresa's thoughts.

And then we have the DCOM which is certainly much more upbeat and fun in comparison (or hell, even compared to 16 Wishes which isn't exactly "Doc Holiday on his death bed at the end of Tombstone"). It's got...the crazy principal and her war against fun for some reason, and the end result is that it feels more disjointed and random compared to the novel and the motivations aren't exactly as clear or for that matter just appear out of the blue, again namely with Principal Moreno. Not that that's necessarily a bad thing given the more upbeat and goofy nature of the DCOM. But it does also end up introducing parts that break up if not outright pause the action, especially the outdoor scenes at Stacey's party (save for Tara's confrontation with Stacey). 

So which one is better? From a strict qualitative standpoint it's going to be Shrinking Violet, hands down. It's legitimately well-written, tackles issues teens and teen girls especially would find relevant, and readers who are not teen girls can still appreciate the character introspective, inner monologue and intimacy of Teresa's character. But Radio Rebel's certainly a good DCOM for a casual or even party atmosphere...if you happen to be surrounded by a bunch of other people who are also really into Disney Channel, for some reason. Or if you just feel like a DCOM that's goofy and fun and not at all serious to watch.

If you ever happen to be in that mood for a DCOM specifically, for some reason.

Shrinking Violet Novel Grade: B+. Again, it's decently well-written and if you're a fan of novels that are very character-focused and especially on the narrator/viewpoint character, you might like this one.
Shrinking Violet Favorite Character: It's probably going to be Teresa by default since, again, she ends up being dominant in her own world.
Radio Rebel Movie Grade: C+. It's not a bad grade all things considered; not the best DCOM and it's got some pace-killing scenes but it's still fun to watch.
Radio Rebel Movie MVP: It's actually really hard for me to decide between Nancy Robertson and Allie Bertram just because it seems like they actually had the most goofy fun making this movie, and it really spills out into the movie itself. If I really had to choose I'd probably go with Allie if for no other reason because she was in Mako Mermaids and...I really like mermaids. Yup.

Extra Thoughts:

 - The "party atmosphere with a bunch of other people who are already really into Disney Channel, for some reason" would probably include myself, Mike, Spongey, the guy who runs the Zetus Lepodcast, "Adult Disney Male" from Twitter and maybe Shipping Wars are Stupid if he just lost all his sanity.

 - Speaking of which, again, go check out the Zetus Lapodcast, it's excellent. Maybe when I get famous he can invite me to talk about this movie, if he hasn't already done so with someone who will be far, far more famous than me.

 - For whatever reason it doesn't seem as if Danielle Joseph really wrote many more books before or since Shrinking Violet which I think is sad, but it's hardly uncommon. I do know she has other "color"-themed books that I probably should hunt down and pick up that are also apparently music-biz themed, Indigo Blues and Pure Red, the most recent of which was published already six years ago (Shrinking Violet was published back in 2008 or so, like a lot of YA novels-turned-DCOMs in the post-HSM era - and again like said DCOMs, there's a pretty sizable gap between the publication date of the book and the premiere of the DCOM).

 - Though I did end up checking her Twitter as I was tweeting this very review and based on her account (it's still pretty active!) and her tweets from the last two months it indicates she's still writing.

 - So yeah, just to remind you we have a contest going on. If you can guess a very specific personal detail I left out in my Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 review, you win a download code for a Guardians of the Galaxy digital comic book. Now you're pretty much going to have to be a mindreader here because I'm looking for a very specific answer. Wrong answers so far include failing to talk about the soundtrack and failing to mention Debby, so no, it's not those admissions. I was also briefly considering having it open only to direct replies to this blog but I think I'll leave it open to Twitter submissions too, since it's clear the people who are responding to it on Twitter are reading the review.

 - Speaking of Debby, let's talk about her puppy dog eyes:

Images captured by the author from original Disney Channel recording. Also, damn I miss that old logo bug.

 - oh, and I believe the telescope-looking thing Barry uses to look for Radio Rebel is actually a rangefinder for hunting, which isn't really all that great for what they're trying to do. Barry's cheap-ass binoculars would actually be better for that. And yes, a principal can expel an entire class, though I don't know if it's actually happened. But certainly not for reasons as stupid as what Principal Moreno insists.

 - I forgot to mention that the actress who plays the gym teacher in 16 Wishes comes back in this one to play Tara's drama teacher.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Dad Influence (S1E7)

Mack! That is whack! Whackadactyl yo! I mean, double-whacker with cheese!

What is it? It's totally whack yo!

Yeah, I was going to launch into a big rant about how the very first thing we hear from Bowie is an incoherent string of inane That 90's Kid stupidity but...at least it gave me an excuse to be somewhat clever with sidelining our usual introductory info dump so I guess I should show some belated gratitude.

But we really need to talk about something, and that I'm actually finding it to be exceedingly difficult to properly review Andi Mack to the point where I feel it's practically impossible - without comparing it to Girl Meets World and the potential awkwardness contained therein. See, fundamentally these two shows are the same - they're trying to lay down very fundamental observations of tween girls growing up in the modern world. It's just that, well, Andi Mack does it very successfully with reverence and with craft and skill and Girl Meets World...did not. At best it came up with equally charming episodes, don't get me wrong, but at worst it was an absolute clusterfuck, and at times took potshots at the network and other shows on the network that weren't really warranted (or at least, it's rather poisonous fanbase did so - and believe me, as I've outlined many times before the show did a lot to actively cultivate that poisonous fanbase). In fact it really does seem Andi Mack's success lies much in taking Girl Meets World's lessons to heart - go for broke in the single-cam format, but also really trying to just start from ground zero and build a new show and a new story instead of just trying to rely on a pre-existing legacy to try to coast to success.

This episode's brightest moments are entirely around Andi and her dad and meeting for the same time - and yeah, it's very hard if not practically impossible for someone writing a script for a show to not make that show through somehow. Showing people absolutely 100% naturally is exceedingly hard - and much more often than not, gives you very boring television if not footage that's completely, utterly unusable anyway because when people view it, they aren't viewing a story they're viewing a very confusing, boring look at people doing boring things. But Andi Mack does indeed tell a story, and I feel it's very effectively communicating exactly what the writers want to show between Andi and her dad. Girl Meets World tried that...with Meets Father, Meets Popular, Meets Game Night...and did it in exceedingly awkward fashion, where at times maybe I would've preferred to just watch real, boring people do real, boring things.

Or compare Lucas to Jonah. Now, I'll give you that the Jonah thing on Andi Mack is really starting to dangerously veer into Rucas territory. But it's still better. At least it's a believable weirdness that's trying to tell a story instead of just insisting that Rucas is a thing and being really, really awkward when the writers realize they actually need to tell a story behind it instead of just having Lucas fall into Riley's lap (or other way around, if you want to be literal). 

Anyway, as for the exact advice between Cyrus and Buffy when they're trying to deal with the Jonah fallout - yeah, Cyrus is right, Jonah needs to follow his heart. You can't pull a Buffy and just try to force people to react in expected ways because people aren't uniform. I know when I broke up with my ex I wanted to rebound immediately and I floated through a bunch of awful one-and-done dates on OkCupid until I just gave up, and it's been hard to rebound since - but I'm not Jonah, and not everybody wants to rebound immediately. Some people just take it as a sign that they need a break period (like Jessie and Tony in Break-Up and Shape-Up). But...at least Buffy and Cyrus are well-meaning, even if it backfired in spectacular fashion.

Episode Grade: A. It's getting to the point where this unbroken string of A-grades is making me question my own integrity, but I stand by it. It's another solid episode and again, it's becoming very awkward to review these because what it does well is what Girl Meets World was trying to do well and what people just automatically assumed what it was going to do well back when it was announced in 2013 (hey, including myself in all fairness). It's utilizing the single-camera format well (perhaps incorporating lessons from Stuck in the Middle? Because Mike's right, that show does feel a little on the budget side compared to Andi Mack) and it feels like a massively, desperately needed breath of fresh air on the network, down to the Mack Chats at the end which are incredibly adorable and much better than the near-clueless, awkward attempts of the GMW crew to reach out on social media.
Episode MVP: The guy who plays Bowie, uhh, what's his name? Yeah, let's go with him. 

Extra Thoughts:

 - I'm tempted to hold another contest for people who can prove they actually remember and still follow Linkara

 - And speaking of contests - yeah, of course the Guardians of the Galaxy contest is still running (hey I just posted it like less than two hours ago after all). Remember, you have to guess one very specific detail I intentionally left out of my review - like, you're almost going to have to literally read my mind here. But don't worry, because I've sprinkled clues in this review! Remember, the prize is a free Guardians of the Galaxy digital comic, the contest runs through 11:59 PM Pacific Daylight Time June 4 (National Hug Your Cat Day!) and if you do end up winning this code you have until 11:59PM EST June 30 to use it and must have a Marvel account and Internet access, blah blah blah blah blah.

 - Using a water-soluble marker to color a fake pineapple prop, Cyrus? Really?

 - BTW cars that run on converted grease like that really do smell like French Fries. True.

Bunk'd Mini-Review: Cabin vs. Cabin (S2E18)

Aside from not wanting to be around you or see your face, I thought he was totally into you! What is it?  Simply the worst KidCom this blo...