Saturday, March 25, 2017

Holy New Layout, Batman!

EDIT: Nevermind, I miss having all the previous blog posts readily available to the sidebar at right.

Yeah obviously I'm still playing around with layout options. Going back to the old style is always an option if you hate the new stuff that much (I'm not sure if I'm in love with them, but I do think exploring new style options for the blog is important to make the blog look more contemporary and at least a little more professional, especially if they come conveniently pre-packaged so I can still be lazy about it). A note to Mike: you can click on the "Powered by Blogger" button at the very bottom to write new posts or make edits. The "Make a New Post" button was convenient, but I'll still experiment for the time being.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Liv and Maddie: Cali Style Reviewed: End-a-Rooney (S5E15; Series Finale)

Au revoir, Bits and Pieces. You were too beautiful for this world.

What is it? 24 minute multi-cam KidCom on Disney Channel, and after close to four years and at 80 episodes the series finale.
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Dove Cameron (and Dove Cameron), Joey Bragg, Tenzig Norgay Trainor, Kali Rocha, Lauren Lindsay Donsiz, with guest appearances by Ryan McCartan, Jessica Marie Garcia, Shak Ghacha and Chloe East
Why are we reviewing this? Well by now you guys should know my love for Liv and Maddie, if nothing else from the post immediately below and hey it's the series finale.

So, that's the end of Liv and Maddie: Cali Style! and, well, the whole thing period. No more adventures of Liv and Maddie Rooney or Joey or Parker or any of that crew from here on out, sorry. No spin-offs like with Jessie-to-Bunk'd, it just ends here. 

Now, of course it's hard to give "closure," so to speak, to a multi-cam family sitcom. With certain shows, and dramas in particular, there's a clear-cut end goal, and it's easy for a drama to simply conclude on whether or not that end-goal is reached for whatever characters (depending on who the characters are, most typically for the good guys vs. bad guys, the end-goals are diametrically opposed to each other, of course). But when you're just watching the daily shenanigans of a random family, it can be hard to define at what point the story should end short of whenever contractual obligations run out or when the network just pulls the plug and you're left with wherever the end happens to fall (ala I Didn't Do It and at least to some extent Best Friends Whenever and even Girl Meets World). About half a year ago I was lucky enough to drop by a novel con with Scott Westerfeld as guest speaker, who said something along the lines of "you get invested into these characters, and at one point the story ends and you're left hanging. The story ends there but the characters go on, and you're left wondering what happens to these characters?" No fictional story can go on forever so at some point it has to end, and it either has to find a natural end point or just settle on what seems to serve as best. So how well does End-a-Rooney serve with that in comparison to some other finales that have come and gone since this blog began?

Most of these Disney Channel multi-cam sitcoms, especially the low-concept ones like Liv and Maddie (and Good Luck Charlie) choose that natural end-point as being when the family pretty much blows up due to everyone leaving, usually when the main star's character leaves for college (again, as with Good Luck Charlie). Well, Liv and Maddie pulled a fast one on us and had Maddie go to college at the beginning of Season 4 and with Liv being busy with her show career, but nonetheless had been steadily building up and setting a point where indeed the whole family will be blown up with everyone going their separate directions - Maddie will be going to build tiny houses for the summer (hey! that episode ended up being an important plot point!); Liv's Broadway career will take place over the summer to not interfere with Sing-it-Louder! Season 2; Joey will go on a stand-up tour over the summer and Parker's going to spend an entire year at the BioDome with Val. Granted once summer is over most of them will be coming back to California - but Karen's coming back to Wisconsin once the house is finished right after summer, meaning there's no way the family will be together ever again. It's a very natural thing for most families, and it really does represent the end not only for the Rooneys but for any real cohesion for the show after that so a suitable finale point it serves.

Before it gets to that point though, Karen wants to spend one last Summer of Rooney, but since the kids' plans now take up the whole summer, yadda yadda just watch the episode to see how it resolves. The important thing is, it does manage to tie up all the loose ends brought throughout the course of the series and in the episode itself and it provides really all the emotional closure you can ask for.

So how does it compare to other finales? Yeah I think it's far and away the best one so far - the only one that comes close is the Austin & Ally finale with its random, dramatic time jumps that show us where the characters ultimately end up and even going so far as to show the families they start (if anything it went overboard in showing us how the characters ended up). The Jessie one was...well, I still maintain pretty lame with its insistence that it spend over half the episode showing us how much Pamela Eells O'Connell regrets she isn't working on Game of Thrones instead, and we all know how much the Girl Meets World finale simply fell into the same exact pattern and expectations that show had overall. 

So yeah, I thought it was pretty fitting. If you want to know any more thoughts I have about the finale or the series overall...I think I pretty much already covered that in my last post down below. So, uh, take it over Mike!

Episode Grade: A. It did what it needed to do and it did it rather well. I hesitate to say it did it superbly, but I feel very comfortable giving it that full A.
Episode MVP: Man, everyone is just expecting to give it to Dove Cameron automatically, aren't they? Yeah, it is, but I really want to give it to Joey Bragg. I'm really, really tempted to just pull one of those "I'll name everyone" bits because it's really become a whole ensemble with the cast which is more than I can say for other shows where you clearly have distinct, separate archetypes fulfilling roles rather than players and characters meshing together to create something bigger as is what I feel is the case for this show. 

...ah, what the heck. Episode MVP gets to be the entire core cast. Better in Stereo, and yadda yadda.

Series Grade: A-. Again, I hesitate to give it higher...but I really hesitate to go so low as a B+ even., heck with it. I'm giving the entire series a full A too. If you really want to know why, read the blog post immediately below this one, and after all that I can't see myself justifying going any lower. It really was a show that grew compared to what people might typically expect on this network (and indeed, like a lot of other shows). Stuck in the Middle might get to that point themselves, but not since Good Luck Charlie at least have we seen a show that's managed to really grow in such a natural, familiar way.

Extra thoughts

 - Interestingly enough, Liv and Maddie is joined by Austin & Ally as the only Disney Channel live-action series so far to go four seasons without an hour-long special anywhere in there, including the finale (though the final two episodes of A&A got arbitrarily mashed together into an hour-long special, but that doesn't count especially since they've aired separately in reruns since). The closest it gets to that is actually on a completely different series, with Jessie's Aloha Holidays With Parker and Joey.

 - Speaking of Austin & Ally they seem to be doing a A&A S4 marathon tomorrow right after the End-a-Rooney replay (you get to see pre-Ruby Lauren Lindsey Donzis again!) and yeah, they do list the two episodes that made up the A&A finale separately "Musicals & Moving On;" "Duets & Destiny"). Since this will actually be the first time I've seen them since the finale now over a year ago, I'll record them and take another look-see.

 - So we get an explanation about the so-called "confession cam" segments! And as dorky as I tend to be I think it's actually a pretty nifty one, and it even recalls the original pilot pitch for what would become this show.

- And in the process we get an explanation about the exact nature of Falcon's origin story. Wow they're really hitting it out of the park with closing all these loose threads!

 - By my count pretty much all the fan favorite guest characters were at least included by the penultimate episode, minus Benjamin King who has been a complete no-show this entire final season for reasons I simply am not privy to. We got the entire Dream last time (Andy and Holden) along with Evan and Artie and here we have Diggie and one of my favorites, Dump Truck (who gives us the top quote for this review). Actually, come to think of it, we don't get Josh although he did get his own episode and Dump Truck at least name-drops him.

 - And I see Bunk'd is trying to pull what GMW did to Jessie's finale with an upstaging featuring Lou (probably one of the best characters, or at least one of the ones that comes closest to being "good") potentially leaving the show, except it's a complete fakeout and the execution is less like the actual one single good part of Meets Texas and more like...well, like most of the rest of Girl Meets World

 - Yes I have a tendency to rag on Girl Meets World deal with it

 - So howabout that Disney Channel rebranding? I was kind of wondering why they were holding on to the winter bumpers a week longer than necessary and figured they'd probably wanted to debut the spring bumpers during the LaM finale and Tangled: the Series proper premiere, but I wasn't exactly expecting a complete new graphics language (well, I was, but only since last night when I read about it on Nick and More - which is an excellent resource, BTW, and I highly urge you to check it out). So who wore it better: the new Nickelodeon design language, or the new Disney Channel one? Personally...I swear they're ripping each other off as far as I'm concerned so I'd call it a draw, but it's better than the previous rather forgettable and sometimes even downright annoying (especially during Monstober and Dis The Season or whatever) graphics language Disney Channel premiered with the Girl Meets World premiere (and no this doesn't count as ragging on GMW yet again either) - though I did really like the season-specific bumpers and I'll miss them.

 - Yup, still no Tangled: the original Pixar movie and Tangled Before Ever After review, nor no Hunter Street review and we're already halfway through that series. Maybe...some...time.

 - For that matter we never reviewed Mako Mermaids, Backstage, The Lodge or Ride. Well guess what I still have all those episodes on my DVR, and I better get to actually watching them before they expire off it, so maybe one day too. We never reviewed The Other Kingdom either but...I think I still remember that series well enough. I know Mike isn't the biggest fan of it but maybe it means he just remembers it more!

 - Again, if this seems rather skimpy for a review of the finale of one of my most favorite series in the network's entire history, and what may very well be that network's absolute best, refer to the previous post where I think I ended up putting all the best emotional thoughts I really can already.

 - And hey, if Disney Channel and Nickelodeon are going to do major style revamps, why not this blog? Input, ideas, feedback blah blah blah.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Liv and Maddie (and Cali Style!) Unknown's Retrospective

How ya doin'? (Yeah I don't know why I occasionally like to steal that line from Christian whom he in turn stole/homaged from, of course, Boy Meets World. Or for that matter why I'm opening up with that)

Unknown here, obviously. I imagine Mike would want to do his own post on Liv and Maddie although he's certainly more than welcomed (actively invited, in fact) to add his own words here if he'd rather do that. We've retrospective'd Jessie, Austin & Ally and Girl Meets World (more or less) when those series ended (along with Gravity Falls which is probably the biggest animated series on the Disney networks to end during this blog's lifetime so far - with P&F coming to an end just before I started this), and those series certainly were the major series on Disney Channel since this blog started being a thing. And we've covered those series differently - both Jessie and Austin & Ally were mixed bags but in different ways, and Girl Meets World at least for me (though it seems like for most people, even) certainly had a tendency to be a frustration-fest with plenty of venting about it on my part. So it's nice to be able to dig into something that I've universally loved.

...except not quite much. Looking at some social media posts I seem to be alone in thinking this (though maybe not so much) but I actually think the first season of Liv and Maddie was more or less garbage. Yeah, really. Given how much I've fanboy'd and stan'd the series this might come as a legitimate shock but I was kind of hoping they'd cancel the series after just the first season. The first episodes in particular were...well, just not very good. There were more than a few exceptions to the First Season Sucks rule (Move-a-Rooney was a pretty good, solid episode - and lay the groundwork for a lot of the series later on including the very foundation of Cali-Style; Skate-a-Rooney and Brain-a-Rooney were decent episodes; Sweet-16-a-Rooney was a good episode and Switch-a-Rooney, Moms-a-Rooney, Flashback-a-Rooney and Song-a-Rooney are good enough that I usually completely forget they're first season episodes) but there's a reason why I keep talking about how no Disney Channel series is invulnerable to the First Season Sucks rule (except for the few shows that come swinging for the fences out of the gate - and then begin long, suffering slides into declining quality ala the aforementioned Jessie and Austin & Ally - or even just get stuck as overhyped garbage-fests throughout their entire runs ala the aforementioned Girl Meets World - ok so GMW wasn't that bad but still). Twin-a-Rooney was ok for a pilot - if anything it's slightly better than what the Wonky Pilot Episode Rule would dictate. Team-a-Rooney was something straight out of a KidCom writing playbook from a decade prior, at least, and even then maybe for nine-year-olds. Sleep-a-Rooney was the first real effort by John Beck, Ron Hart and crew towards the slightly off-beat, more cutting but still warm, family-friendly comedy the show would be known for but man, was it still pretty wonky. Steal-a-Rooney I maintain was just garbage through-and-through. I mean, you can really tell they had a lot of things to iron out as they were working on this (see First Season Sucks rule and Wonky Pilot rule, so it's hardly unique to LaM) and looking through it I think it really shows in the back half of Season 1 (starting, say, with the 2014 calendar year) which, again, so closely resembles Season 2 I actually thought most of those episodes were Season 2. Needless to say, Season 2 (and the backhalf of Season 1) is a massive improvement. I think Space Werewolf-a-Rooney ended the season on a still wonky note, especially given the season finales that were to come, but it even surprised me looking through IMDb to see how quickly this show's improved in that first season alone, and I already thought it was one of the biggest turn-arounds in Disney Channel history.

Now, some if not a lot of that (both in how horribly I assessed Season 1 and how high I've assessed Season 2) might be situational on my part - and I'll get to that in a bit - but Hart, Beck and crew absolutely need to be acknowledged for the great, raw talent they've shown throwing this show together. They've had a lot of experience throwing together many great, more adult and traditional-style sitcoms in the recent past, many of which were solid mega-hits, and at a certain point it was only natural for things to click again and for them to throw that full talent into Liv and Maddie once they got a handle on it. They're certainly not alone in this regard on Disney Channel either - Pamela Eells O'Connell who was a producer on both Suite Life series and the big creative driver on Jessie along with Debby, has an even more impressive resume behind her stretching all the way back to Laverne and Shirley and threading through Married, With Children..., Mad About You and Just Shoot Me. All four of those shows deserve to be in some sort of Sitcom Hall of Fame as some of the greatest ever (they'd be, like, the Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Joe DiMaggio and heck the Babe himself of sitcoms) and Just Shoot Me is one of my most favorite sitcoms of all time. Chris Thompson, who gave us Shake it Up, also worked on Laverne and Shirley and went through a string of one-and-done and two-and-through season wonders that nonetheless ended up being cult hits (Shake it Up would in fact end up being his very last show, even though he would live for one and a half years after SiU aired its finale and was actively shopping concepts and pitches around up until pretty much the moment of his death). And of course you had Micheal Jacobs and his crew who besides Boy Meets World gave us a string of notable sitcoms as well, most notably Dinosaurs (the one with the actors in the animatronic suits, the one who played Earl would later go on to berate Cory Matthews and the art teacher he hired and then get pretty much literally schooled by a hyper-active little pixie girl). 

But while Girl Meets World ended up being bogged-down in its own nostalgia-prison and Jessie slowly turned into a schmuck-fest until by its final season it had just become a pale, going-through-the-motions shadow-clone of itself living down to the reputation of all the other sitcoms on its network (and Bunk'd, I still maintain, is almost unwatchable), and while Shake it Up is still regarded as a cult hit well, let's face it, it (like many of Thompson's works) is a cult-hit rather than a wide-appealing mega-hit for a reason, Liv and Maddie is one of the few shows in the entire network's history to really grab onto that elusive, near-universal appeal and grab at least a little cred in the wider pop-culture world in the same vein as Dan Schneider's peak works and not at all unlike exactly what they were hoping to grab again near-automatically with Girl Meets World. So the question to ask is, why is that? And I don't think it's unfair to ask why did Liv and Maddie succeed where Girl Meets World at least kinda-sorta failed at? (And yeah, I know it sounds like I'm just beating up on Girl Meets World here, sorry for that.)

I think it's because, well...just guessing here, I think Beck and Hart are entering into this whole tween-com thing with fresher minds and attitude if nothing else. O'Connell had been in the Disney scene since 2005 with Suite Life of Zack and Cody and while the first two seasons of Jessie were still fresh and able to hit it with the best of Liv and Maddie, Girl Meets World or Good Luck Charlie, I just think there was a lot of complacency that worked itself in. The final season of Suite Life on Deck...well, if not the final season and a half in fact, were a lot closer to being Jessie's later seasons than Jessie's earlier seasons. Plus, Jessie's first season had Doug Tuber and Tim Maile on its staff, the duo that gave us the bulk of Disney Channel's earliest successes including Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens and Phil of the Future. As for Girl Meets World...I think Jacobs was just stuck in that Boy Meets World 90s mindset. I think there was just as much complacency and assumptions on things being automatic made on his part as there was on the fandom's and network's part. 

For whatever reason, Beck and Hart were just more willing to push things. If not necessarily boundaries (and while LaM didn't exactly flirt with what they acceptable envelope is, it's still a bit more edgy than the shows either still currently airing or having just recently ended - and yeah I guess that was a stealth-jab at GMW again but hey it shows I'm improving) they were at least willing to get outside the typical Disney comfort zone. In fact I think that right there describes exactly the problem with the earliest episodes - I think when they started out in this Disney Channel kidcom business they at first started playing it safe and just followed the typical network playbook - hence stuff like Team-a-Rooney and Steal-a-Rooney - but I think they quickly realized they have a particular style that's very successful and screw just following the kidcom playbook. If they had any reason to not have to worry about being too "edgy" for the network, I think they have no further to look than that edginess perhaps being the very reason why Disney Channel signed them on. 

Plus, I think you just gotta credit them for raw talent. I think O'Connell and Jacobs are perhaps just worn-out, while Beck and Hart can still pull more than a few tricks out of their hats. The least of these tricks being this uncanny, almost outright weird knack for getting serious star firepower onto their show, even if it's just in comparison to within the network. Laura Marano, Piper Curda, Jordan Fisher, Kevin James, even the ex-wife of a President now. And not just Patty Duke, but for what it's worth earning a footnote as the very last role she would do alive and as an homage to her most famous role no less. Even down to the show's main star, Dove Cameron, although it's debatable if she already was a rising star prior to LaM, if LaM helped her get there or if other projects mainly Descendants were more responsible. Sure, other Disney Channel shows were able to score some notable names here and there, but rarely were they able to outside of other mega-hits on the network and even then often in the case of network-wide and enforced special events. Liv and Maddie did it totally casual, and it not only boosted the quality of the show but gave it major cred too. And for that matter, it managed to get the best out of its regular cast too - I think Joey Bragg has the talent to pull it off at least as a real-life standup comedian but I don't think people are going to remember Tenzig Norgay Trainor like they do Parker Rooney. Just the way that character is written and perhaps directed, he's managed to really make an impression beyond the type of stock character of this archetype inhabits on other Disney Channel shows (see Ravi on both Jessie and Bunk'd or Bernie on Bizaardvark).

I know a lot of people are quite frankly butthurt over Cali-Style - they don't like the sudden addition of a new "sorta sister" in Ruby or the change of locale to literally right next to the Pacific Ocean (it does seem kind of OC-glamour-ish to be able to feel the sand between your toes right when you step off your patio compared to the down-to-Earth feel of the show's Wisconsin seasons) but I'm debating whether or not to consider Cali-Style the best of the show's seasons. They've managed to add many great dramatic moments to the show and add a lot of closure for the characters' plotlines along the way and answering a lot of questions the audience might have of their future after the finale, even before the finale even premieres - all the while not missing any of the comedic beats at all. I've been very, very impressed with Cali-Style and needless to say I have very high hopes for the finale.

That should just about wrap up this retrospective save for one thing - I've mentioned that there's some of my own situational attitude in play here, both that might've unfairly dinged the first season (or at least the back-half) while at the same time turning me into the LaM fanboy stan I am today. I mentioned how my own personal situation might've colored me into thinking that Jessie is a better show than it actually is in my retrospective for that show, and Liv and Maddie is no different. 2014 was a very stressful year for me and it was a big reason why I quit being a teacher and started pursuing a career in the book publishing industry instead, which was hard for me to do because I got into the teaching scene in the first place after soul-searching when I had cancer (see the Jessie restrospective where I talk about how that factored into my enthusiasm for that show) and I think a lot of that stress caused me to write a lot of the show off without seeing much or any of it at that point, especially since, again, I still maintain a lot of the first half of the first season was wonky at best if not outright garbage (at least compared to the show's turnaround). Come to think of it, I think I was already starting to get into the show by late in the first season, but I really didn't start to fall in love with it until early-mid in the second season in January 2015 when I was starting to come to terms with quitting and starting to not only have a lot of free time on my hands (again), but needing to use up a lot of that free time to destress and do some soul searching (again) and Liv and Maddie at that time provided a lot of that television comfort food necessary to help me get through (again). Which is probably why I have such a fondness in particular for the round of episodes that aired during that time - starting with Bro-Cave-a-Rooney and going through Detention-a-Rooney, Upcycle-a-Rooney, Gift-a-Rooney (which is probably one of the coziest episodes in the series' entire history) and especially Rate-a-Rooney which is not only one of the greatest episodes in network history but easily out-GMW'd actual GMW (yeah I'll quit that now) - and culminating through what I'll call "The Dream Arc" (Liv's band, not any of the characters going through a multi-episode dream sequence arc) and straight into and through the season finale, Champ-a-Rooney. And the show only continued to shoot further upwards from there. That whole situation and personal circumstance, just like with Jessie (and a lot of the shows airing during that general era on both Nickelodeon and Disney Channel too - which Liv and Maddie, incidentally and at least for Disney Channel, represents the very tail-end of) is probably why I'm not just so enthusiastic for, but outright emotionally attached to Liv and Maddie - and perhaps why I've found it so difficult to get into another Disney Channel series that's premiered since, like with Bunk'd and even Stuck in the Middle and Bizaardvark (though the latter two are starting to grow on me as I invest more into it) as fortunately (knock on wood) my life and health have been pretty stable since.

Yeah, cancer and a big emotional relationship break-up at the same time can do a number on you even after those events actually happen, in what's perhaps the greatest understatement I've ever made on this blog. 

But, I wouldn't have made those emotional connections if Liv and Maddie just wasn't a great show to begin with. Girl Meets World was well underway during that time, and despite being a fan of Original Flavor Meets World I haven't ever been able to make an emotional connection to it (in fact I think my rants against it are rather infamous now). Both I Didn't Do It and Best Friends Whenever outright lived and died during that time and while I think both of those shows are underrated they're still no Liv and Maddie. 

Disney Channel might be obsessed with trying to find the next Good Luck Charlie as Stuck in the Middle and even Liv and Maddie itself might show, but there will never be another Liv and Maddie. Perhaps just from dumb luck, a confluence of crew and cast talent collided to provide an all-too-few 80 episodes of wacky hijinks that just, somehow *sniff*...hits you right there in the heart.

Extra Thoughts

 - I really also have to give credit and special note to the rather large number of women on the production, writing and directing staff of Liv and Maddie, not the least of which include the pair that gave Linda and Heather their name. I don't know if this is really all that special for a Disney Channel series but given just how good this series is I feel maybe it'd be a service to make note of it.

 - This is also the very last surviving series (well, for the remaining week at least) on Disney Channel to have aired new episodes during the 2013 calendar year (save for perhaps some Disney Junior shows like, I dunno, Doc McStuffins) which means needless to say it's also currently the oldest. It managed to outlive a number of shows that premiered during the 2014 and 2015 calendar years. If you don't get why I make such a big deal out of the year 2013, go back and read the Jessie retrospective (or go back and read the paragraphs up above, for that matter).

 - I'm serious, if I didn't happen to have picked up both Disney Channel/Nickelodeon and young adult novels while recovering on the ample down time I had while under chemo, I probably would've gone stark-raving mad from boredom. It was helpful in that I could find ways to not only entertain myself but on stuff that I could perhaps at least somewhat literally stomach at the time, and I found out very early on how quickly I got sick and tired of overdosing on endless Pawn Stars marathons on "History" Channel and I just wasn't in the mood for more "adult" style entertainment for a long time coming. And it doesn't hurt that I picked up a new career path from it too even with a false start in between as it's how I decided to become a teacher and from there got into a career path into publishing. 

 - Speaking of Doc McStuffins, her voice actress is also the same actress who plays Priya!

 - Just as a piece of related personal trivia - this is also either the second or third show I've seen on Disney Channel that I've seen the premiere episode of during its first "live" airing and saw all the way through to its finale "live" airing that's managed to last more than two seasons (the fact that Girl Meets World entirely lived and died within the time frame Liv and Maddie aired complicated the exact nature of the order, although certainly Dog With a Blog is the first). It's also the first Disney Channel series I've seen period under such criteria that's lasted a full four seasons, even if it's way short of the magic 100 episodes.

 - And just in case John Beck and Ron Hart are reading this - yes, I did use the correct form of "premiere." I even double-checked with Merriam-Webster.

 - Oh, I promised reviews of Tangled the movie, Tangled: Before Ever After and even Hunter Street? Yeah, later. I can't even promise I'm going to review those before I put up a review of the Liv and Maddie Cali Style finale. Sorry.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

2017 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards Coverage

What is it? Yeah, this whole post is dedicated to answering that question and all the other answers we typically put here, so hang tight.

So we talked about the 2016 KCAs here with all the awful formatting that Blogspot loves to force on us and my incorrect assertion that Jack Black was a producer of School of Rock (and in retrospect I can understand why he wants to separate himself from that dumpster fire) and we talked about the 2016 Radio Disney Music Awards here with a lot of compare and contrast between it and the KCAs, and really how the KCAs absolutely take the RDMAs to school. But really, while both of them are "awards" shows it's clear the KCAs are much more a spectacle in their own right - we've got a hip hop battle between John Cena and Nick Cannon (with people being able to vote on whether it was a hip-hop battle, tutu dance-off or salsa dance-off - although more on that "vote-off" later - along with voting for who won the dance-off), Chris Pratt doing, uh, something in the control room and a lot of air-filling time before he just gets slimed already and that one girl from Game Shakers being turned into a Smurf and sliming Demi Lovato. We also get a lot more movie trailers and promotion (in fact I don't even recall any from the RDMAs at all) and of course the slime. 

The RDMAs don't really feel like being more than just an awards show, while the KCAs actively make you want to be there, even as just a spectator. For that matter there's a lot of audience participation in-studio and at-home, from the audience trying to find the power coins for the Power Rangers promotion, to the arm gauntlet thingies for the Wonder Woman promotion, to of course the online votes and choosing the showdowns against John Cena. 

Was it better than last years? certainly had fewer technical problems. John Cena, quite frankly, is a much better host than Blake Shelton (and John Cena didn't have to kill a guy on his way to the KCAs...which is odd because you'd think it'd be the other way around) and Cena actually feels genuinely enthusiastic to be a KCA host. And quite honestly the lack of being forced into Star Wars promotion makes it feel that much less obnoxious (sorry, but I think I've hit Peak Star Wars prior to The Force Awakens even getting an official title). But it also feels much, much more subdued compared to what I remember from last year. Last year we had the cast of Game Shakers very, very clumsily trying to recreate a level from Super Mario Maker using on-stage props and set design, which is still miles of effort better than seeing the cast of School of Rock get roped into a Nintendo Switch commercial. Last year we got a close-out performance by one of my most favorite bands at the moment, DNCE, with one of my most favorite songs from the past year or so, Cake by the Ocean - while this year we got, uh, Cena stand on a slime platform that, uh, shot out a bunch of slime and yay. In previous years we've had slime car washes, slime rodeos, slime drones (though I think the slime drone malfunctioned before it could actually come to fruition during the awards); this year we have...a slide. Not even a slime slide, just a regular freakin' slide. Last year we had Sarah Hyland and Debby Ryan dig through a cake; this year we had the cast of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn beat John Cena arm-wrestling over gelatin molds.

...I'm not quite sure which one is weirder.

But I still promise you it's going to be more entertaining and engaging than whatever the RDMAs will cook up in about a month and a half's time from now.

Extra Thoughts

 - I did really like the intro into the KCAs where it transitioned straight from the Henry Danger credits to the Henry Danger set to Jace racing to the KCAs (you only got to see this if you saw the live airing immediately after Henry Danger - it was cut from the rerun, so you only got to see Jace run into Kevin Hart as the KCA kickoff if you missed the live airing). As far as these things go it was halfway clever, not nearly as forced as last year's Star Wars-themed opener and managed to avoid having Blake Shelton kill a guy.

 - Yes, I will always bring that up from now on. It's been a year counting and I've never skipped a beat on bringing it up since.

 - One of the more actually impressive promo dealies was when they had the little girls as Wonder Woman and the little boys as "aviator" (yeah someone needs a lesson on less awkward nouns to use) come out on the stage during the Wonder Woman promo, and had the audience participation to boot - it really drove home the whole "kid power" theme that's been at the very base core of the KCAs from its inception way back in the late 80s. That said, the obvious post-prod effects of the lasers bouncing off the gauntlet thingies that only the TV viewer at home got to see was a little pushing the cheesy side.

 - Well if there's any question about 100 Things to Do Before The Last Knight...though I honestly didn't even know Benjamin Flores Jr. was in it, and obviously it hasn't effected him being in Game Shakers.

 - Speaking of which, I really like how the massive commercial they aired just before the big reveal ended up being a much bigger reveal than the reveal itself. I also like how Micheal Bay took the biggest complaint about Age of Extinction - that it was too grimdark and  how everybody hated humanity treating the Autobots as the bad guys in that movie - and just fucking double-downed on it, because oh you, Micheal Bay! Of course these movies keep earning literal billions so fuck it I guess.

 - Why do I have a feeling that the actual quality and awesomeness of a movie is going to be inversely proportional to the quality and awesomeness of the actual promotion it got at the KCAs? Which means hopefully Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 will indeed be awesome, and if this is a trend I'm hoping Wonder Woman will buck it (as having the most awesome movie promo of the whole night).

 - Also I hate giving sequels "Vol x-number"

 - About the whole viewer voting thing - I just kind of find it interesting that both John Cena and Nick Cannon were backed up by highly choreographed hip-hop dancers during their dance-off, but rumors of these votes being gamed - both the event votes and the actual blimp awards votes that really matter - are nothing new.

 - Once again, the actual viewer-at-home participation portion of the KCAs was a dumpster fire through a disaster of a website. I would say it's probably a consequence of the web developers prizing sheer laziness above all else, but I'm pretty sure the site got worse this year than it did last year, which implies actual effort. In fact I've never been able to see any true smooth operation of the KCA site during the actual live events during the entire time I've been using the site/app since the '13 KCAs, and it's become a bit of a running joke among informed and experienced viewers. Also, I'm pretty damn sure the KCA live site bricked my freakin' phone. Hooray.

 - Speaking of bricked phones, the Verizon commercial about getting kids to choose STEM careers instead of more glamorous careers is well-meaning but extremely problematic for a large variety of reasons so numerous I have trouble keeping track of them. It really deserves its own blog post but perhaps that's for a different blog entirely.

 - I wanted Thundermans to win best show, but to be brutally honest I'm just glad it's not Girl Meets World.

 - I did like Jace's acceptance speech, but honestly the jokes about Moonlight and La La Land are a little overplayed by this point. It'd at least be better and make more sense contextually if he used another Nick show instead, like say Thundermans or NRDD.

- I was really surprised Miranda Cosgrove was at the KCAs especially given how she was a no-show during the '14 KCAs where nearly everyone associated with Dan Schneider showed up when he was presented a lifetime achievement award. Even Kenan Thompson, who had a valid excuse for being a long-standing SNL host (fun fact: the longest-standing SNL host in that shows' history in fact - yes, longer than Chevy Chase, Will Ferrell, what have you!) was at least able to tele-conference it. In fact the only real no-shows were Miranda (who had taken a break from acting to pursue higher ed at the time and thus didn't have much of an excuse not to show up, especially since the KCAs were taking place adjacent to her UCLA campus anyway) and Jennette who really didn't have an excuse seeing as how her show Sam & Cat was up for awards and she herself was up for best actress, leading to some rather nasty rumors (you probably have an idea exactly what kind of rumors at this point, given Dan Schneider and all). 

 - This is the first time I realized Naomi Scott is going to be in the new Power Rangers movie. You don't remember who Naomi Scott is? Sure you do, she was in Lemonade Mouth!

 - Hunter Street will get its own review later, maybe Monday?

 - Oh, and in case you're wondering, yes I did see the "DCOM" (biiig quotes there, but more on that later) Tangled Before Ever After and expect a review of that and the original movie soon. I was kind of hoping to maybe put it up before the KCAs but...eeeehhhhh. Really at this point Nickelodeon deserves higher priority over Disney Channel anyway, and for a bit of a light spoiler on my thoughts on Tangled Before Ever After...yeah, it doesn't do any favors to Disney Channel to change that.

 - Also Walmart is giving out free cupcakes tomorrow for some reason. Thanks, Jace!

Yeah, I'm responding to this really late and it's possible that no one will ever see this, but just in case, I want to let the world know I participated. Hopefully, when Kids Choice Sports comes around, I'll be more interested in taking part.

I'm honestly surprised that this is John Cena's first time hosting the KCAs. As someone that's been following his career for almost ten years, this role seems tailor made for him. Of course, some of the lines he was given sounded way too rehearsed and unnatural (what he said about The Loud House at the beginning was just horrible), but it's not that different from the lines given by the WWE creative team so what's really the harm?

I definitely agree on the whole thing with Jace's Moonlight joke. The problem with stuff like that in this day and age is that everyone makes fun of these incidents like, the day after they happen. So for him to get on stage in front of a bunch of kids that have either heard the joke before or have absolutely no idea what happened at the Oscars, and then make that same joke is just weird. He didn't even get a reaction when he said it. It's the same thing as a recent awards show where they made the joke and I was just questioning why. But to be fair to him, his actual speech was really good.

I found it funny how JoJo Siwa was talking about how most people there probably don't know where Nebraska is. Way to talk down to the people who voted for you and got you out of Nebraska in the first place. It's not like you live in Guam or something.

Isabela Moner looked.....weird. I can't even put my finger on it, but with the haircut and what she was dressing like, it's almost like I was looking at a whole new person. I just hope she doesn't become another one of those actresses that Hollywood pimps out due to her losing her sanity.

Overall, I thought this awards show was much better than the recent ones I've seen. Enough to make me interested in watching it next year? Nope, screw that.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Girl Meets World Reviewed: Girl Meets Hollyworld (S3E17)

I will not be handcuffed to a radiator!

What is it blah blah blah It's Girl Meets World, but I still feel self-obligated to put something here

So I held off on this episode for a while - a few months, in fact, after it had originally aired and now coming up on about a month and a half on the series finale itself. Maybe it's precisely because the series finale has come and gone and I've vented my frustrations I feel like I can return to these episodes at a piecemeal pace of my own choosing without any pressure to either keep up with the series itself or Christian and Sean and, well, just do my own thing. Of course the very premise of the episode (or at least how it was promoted) didn't help either as it presented it as a very throw-back "the cast inexplicitly goes to Hollywood because high-concept sitcom plot" kind of thing, and hey it almost went that direction. In fact the actual directions it went was...kind of weird.

This Arkansas woman can seriously get away with being French, and people buy it? Riley and Maya just up and decide to handcuff her to a radiator? That literal last part of that last sentence is the actual title of the movie she's being cast in?

Yeah this episode is pretty fucking weird, but at least it does something with that weirdness.

For starters Sarah becomes a real character! In this case she's a budding scriptwriter and Hollywood producer/director just like her dad, who's trying to cast Frenchie McFakeFench in I Will Not Be Handcuffed to a Radiator! And all that jazz. And Katy Hart just happens to be a frontrunner for the lead with Frenchie's disappearance, blah blah blah spoiler alert: this episode is about friendship. Like literally every. Single. Episode. Of. Girl. Meets. World. Ever. Made.

And like a lot of those other episodes too, it goes off in some fucking bonkers directions (though not the greatest offender by a longshot - yeah I'm looking at you Tell-Tale Tot and a few others too). What really makes the episode stand out is, well, what ended up making a lot of Seaon 3 and even Season 2 episodes stand out - yup, forget the Love Triangle, we're talking the Power Triangle of Lucas, Zay and Farkle. They just completely nail it with their would-be Hollywood dopplegangers and their genre-savviness. And yeah, asking Topanga about her lawyer skills were funny scenes too.

And, um....The Power of Friendship.

Episode Grade: B-
Episode MVP: Amir Mitchell-Townes in a rare "I don't feel like multiple MPV ties" moment.

Extra Thoughts

- Yeah you probably noticed a lot of reviews suddenly going up at once, that's because I had a few back-logged while trying to live up to my promise and find an episode of Drake ad Josh to review.

 - Also, I totally get Sean's thing with Sarah. I mean...without sounding too misogynistic and objectifying about it (because Lord Knows I push it a lot on this blog as it is, especially as someone who identifies as an SJW)...yeah.

 - And speaking of, she really does not like the Core 5 cast at all. Dukas? She doesn't even disguise her contempt with Farkle; her Farkle character is literally named "Farkle Poopypants."

 - Come to think of it, I haven't gotten to Christian and Sean's review of this episode. Maybe I should get to that.

Yeah, this episode was a......little disappointing. 

I was expecting more of a parody of the show when this first aired. You know, like a modern-day "Eric Hollywood" where they make fun of themselves for 22 minutes. You know what? Considering this show's track record with referencing the original series, maybe it's for the best that it didn't happen. Besides, nothing in an episode like that could ever come close to "How could I learn so much every week...AND STILL BE SO STUPID?!"

Oh, cool, it's one of those episodes where Riley and Maya don't believe that two best friends can stop being best friends. You know, because friends forever and bay windows and all that junk. I already talked about why this line of thinking irritates me so I'll just say that yeah, best friends can stop being best friends at some point. People grow apart, lives take different twists and turns, you know the signs. It is pretty hilarious how Maya kidnapped a big-time actress with Riley as an accessory and nothing happened to them. Nothing at all. I mean, of course, they joked about it in the beginning, but to have Riley and Maya get in trouble would be like acknowledging that they did something wrong. And we can't have that. Also, that actress sucks. Her fake French accent was driving me up the wall. I don't know if this is just a foreign thing, but have you ever noticed that a fake American accent can be done very well by foreign actors? Like, it's downright creepy how Hayley Atwell can slip into an American accent and then go back to her British one like it's absolutely nothing. These Americans need to step their game up.

The most disappointing thing about this episode is that Mackenzie Yeager wrote it. She had two really good scripts to her name before ("Jexica" and "Bear") and the fact that this one wasn't up to par was a shame. So she ended up going 2-1, which really isn't that bad considering the fact that she was a new writer for season three and she made a big impact so quickly. 

This episode was aight. Not really all that meaningful or especially good/bad about it. It was just there.

Maybe the Christmas episode could be next on the list. I haven't even seen that one yet. 

Original Movie Review: April and the Extraordinary World

Placeholder quote

What is it? Original French animated movie a little over 90 minute in runtime or so
Where did it air? Well I got it off DVD, so you'll either have to really hit the programming guides (I'd probably guess IFC or whatever network likes regularly airing Miyazaki movies would be your best bet to find it on-network) or just see if it's on Netflix or another streaming service
Who stars in it? Fun fact: Marion Collitard (yes that one) was April in the original French dub. Given her long background in American films it'd make a lot of sense to see if she can reprise her role, so of course they didn't do that at all. Instead the cast includes Susan Sarandon, J.K. Simmons, Tony Hale and Paul Giamatti, so either way they have some pretty heavy hitters with this one (which is actually pretty par for the course where a lot of animated imports are concerned) 
Why are we reviewing it? Well, I guess I could either say "because foreign animation something something appreciation" or I guess I could say "because I say so." Another fun fact: I was (and still am) a pretty big anime fan; Kiki's Delivery Service is one of my most favorite movies of all time.

Speaking of which, how does it stand up to the great Miyazaki?

The similarities are surely going to be there between Miyazaki along with Steamboy (another movie that's sometimes compared to his works). If you've seen any French animation - and you probably have, between Totally Spies!, Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug and Cat Noir; even the current CGI run of Alvinnn! And the Chipmunks on Nick and PJ Masks (although that's based on a French comic but produced in-house by Disney Animation Studios) - then you've no doubt noticed that French animation has a lot of resemblance to Japanese animation. I really don't know how this came to be - if they were deriving from the same influences (Japanese animation hails Disney as an influence, especially with the large eyes), if the French were influenced by the Japanese or if it happens to be a massive, massive coincidence - but it does mean there's a large crossover fanbase. In fact, in the making of bonus feature the creators admit the Miyazaki comparisons will be inevitable, both in animation style and plot.

That plot following a family of scientists in an alternative version of the 1940s where, due to nearly every scientist disappearing over the past 70 years from mysterious circumstances (circumstances that, naturally, work their way into the main plot pretty quickly) the world's been stuck in the steam age and run on coal and wood-power rather than oil. Our eponymous heroine April has been working on a super-serum that could make people live longer but it could also potentially turn animals into super-soldiers, blah blah blah and there's a talking cat in it. Not to give too much away since I do think it's worth watching., yeah, I more or less spoiled the review there but you come reading these things to get straight to the point, don't you? But is it as good as a Miyazaki film? Ehh...I'm tempted to go on a limb and say no way. It's like comparing the best of Girl Meets World (psst it's She Don't like Me, at least in Unknown's opinion) to, I don't know, an above-mediocre Boy Meets World episode (man I really need to get reacquainted with that series on TeenNick). The basic idea is there, and it's great, but it still feels like a facsimile of the true master.

Of course, the real question is, can it just stand on it's own? And that, it does.

Movie Grade: B. Again, pales in comparison to the master work, but very good on its own.
Movie MVP: It's hard for me to choose between Angela Galuppo who does all the heavy work as April, Tony Hale as Darwin (that aforemtioned talking cat) and Susan Sarandon and J.K. Simmons. But of course if I have no problem with four-way ties in the past, what's stopping me now?

Extra Thoughts

 - final fun fact, Angela Galuppo also co-starred as one of the mean girls (I forgot which one exactly since, well, yeah) opposing Ashley Tisdale in Picture Perfect so making me aware that this movie exists is one good thing to actually come out of that.

Superior Donuts series so far review

Oh gosh darn, you Millennials!

What is it? 24-minute length multi-cam sitcom
Where did it air? CBS, or as it's increasingly becoming, the Those Darn Millennials! Network
Who stars in it? Sitcom legend Judd Hirsh, near-equal legend Katey Sagal, and ummm.... Is that Ken Starr from Austin & Ally in this?
Why are we reviewing it? Oh gosh darn, you Millennial blog readers!

I'm not even kidding you can easily tell what the primary age demo of CBS is from their sitcom programming alone. It's kind of embarrassing. Yeah I know CBS has the highest ratings of the four/five main broadcast networks by far my baby-boomer dad likes to say, that's like bragging about being the greatest surfer in the middle of Pierre, North Dakota.

As for the series itself it's pretty much just a string of "observational comedy" about Millennials being pantomimed by Judd and cast. Hosted in a donut shop because I'm guessing one of the writers once visited one in Portland or Seattle.

Series Grade (after two episodes): D+, aka The AV Club Gentlemen's F (I will never get tired of saying that)
Series MVP: Well, it's kind of hard not to give it to Judd Hirsh at least. I mean he is legendary for several good reasons.

Extra Thoughts

 - Just like the laughs, pretty empty here.

 - In the second episode a joke revolves around Hirsh trying to compete with Sriracha-donuts with Dill-Donuts. And my thought was, yup, aptly describes the writing staff. 

Original Movie Review: Picture This!

OH MUH GAWD I have buttface!

What is it? A movie, specifically (at least I'm convinced) a direct-to-DVD/Streaming movie
Where did it air? Well my DVR randomly recorded it off the MGM channel because I have my DVR set to auto-record Ashley Tisdale (yeah...) but you'd probably either have to search your programming guides or break down and rent it (or get it from the library, I suppose).
Who stars in it? Ashley Tisdale and a whole bunch of Literally Whos?
Why are we reviewing this? Because, um...Ashley Tisdale....

Wow, talk about a movie that takes the safest path in its storytelling.

Movie Grade: C+. It has its moments but...see above. You offend no one, you entertain no one.
Movie MVP: Uhh, Ashley Tisdale by default I guess.

Extra Thoughts:

 - as middle of the road as this movie is it does have some outright bonkers moments too, like how waaaay too possessive/protective the dad is and how the designated Mean Girl Alpha Bitch has a vile of..what other characters think is Marilyn Manson's blood, and it's never explained what it actually is and what it's actually for?

 - The opening quote concerns how Ashley's character suddenly has a massive allergic reaction and while trying to hide she falls into a mall fountain. I think at that point the makeup just washed off and the director just said, "yeah, we'll go with that, Ashley's instantly cured!"

Drake and Josh reviewed: The Great Doheny (S4E6)


What is it? 30 minute (~24 minutes sans commercials) multi-cam kidcom, and one of the greatest of all time in that genre
Where did it air? Nickelodeon as one of the series that really cemented Dan Schneider's greatness, before he got all lazy and shit
Who stars in it? Hey remember back on Kenan and Kel when they'd do that skit about asking who the stars are on the Kenan and Kel show? But seriously, it's Drake Bell and Josh Peck, who you might remember in that episode of Grandfathered I reviewed (in fact being the whole reason why I reviewed it).
Why are we reviewing this? Because I promised my next review would be Drake and Josh and I still even managed to blow that by inserting a Girl Meets World review in between, but hey at least it's not another "Let's See How Low Sammi Hanratty's personal conception of dignity goes" fest on Lifetime Movie Network. 

So yeah, here we are finally reviewing perhaps the greatest multi-cam live-action kidcom of all time, or at least one of them. So what makes this show so great anyway?

I don't think with any doubt that Bell and Peck have a lot to do with it - Peck especially has impeccable comedic timing and he and Drake have excellent comedic chemistry together. So much so, in fact, that it actually makes it hard to tell if Schneider really was in his prime during this series or if the two leads simply elevated it to comedy nirvana. There are plenty of episodes that demonstrate this (remember, I wanted to review Foam Finger at first) and The Great Doheny just happens to be one of a very many. Not to say that there aren't bad episodes in this series, but they're few and far between and even then they're better than, say, Meets the Tell Tale Tot or Capture the Nag or the entire existence of School of Rock on Nickelodeon combined so far.

But there's a case that maybe Schneider was on top of his game with this one after all. For starters, you still have to argue iCarly and VicTORious (although in those cases I would again argue the cast plays at least as much of a huge role as the actual writing), and in the case of this particular episode, Drake and Josh are upstaged by the eponymous guest star Part of the unique specialness of this particular episode is how they not only completely avoid squandering their guest character but do an excellent job of actually building the episode around him, so it really does feel like this is about The Great Doheny, not just another wacky Drake& Josh adventure where the guest character could be a stand-in for anything.

Speaking of which, that eponymous guest character just happens to be Josh's favorite magician, and he just comes waltzing into the Premiere (yes, with an -e in the case of the theater's name, Liv and Maddie co-creator John D. Beck) one day. Immediately he starts performing magic tricks, and this is where the clever writing comes in. Being aware of the greatest magic trick of all time - the television medium itself - it's not afraid to severely doctor basic tricks into the blatantly impossible, but does it with a flow so that it doesn't come off as cheesy at all (much of that coming from in how they restrain themselves and keep it somewhat subtle at least). Of course our characters tire of it quickly, and it's revealed that, surprise, The Grea Doheny hasn't been so great as of late. It's standard trope stuff, but it goes to show that, well, as they say on TVTropes, Tropes Aren't Bad.

Episode Grade: B+. It's one of my favorite Drake & Josh episodes of all time, but it's still just sitting there on the border of A/B territory. Trust me, there are even better ones.
Episode MVP: You know, usually it'd be either Drake Bell or Josh Peck, maybe even Miranda Cosgrove - but not in this one! MVP solidly goes to scene-stealer Steve Tom as The Great Henry Doheny himself, and if you watch the episode how he does it is just brilliantly obvious.

Extra Thoughts

 - Interestingly enough while Megan (Miranda) does get to be in this episode a bit, she doesn't actually appear all that much, which probably explains the characteristic mean-spiritedness.
 - You know, the transparent trousers bit really is all Josh's fault.

I'm not sure if this is the first Drake and Josh episode I would have chosen. In fact, when I think about how great the show is, I go to something like "Pool Shark" or "Football" or "Movie Job" or "Driver's License." Or, if we're going to pick from season four specifically, "I Love Sushi" and "Josh is Done" are both wonderful episodes, but for very different reasons. "I Love Sushi" gets by through stellar comedy, and "Josh is Done" is the kind of episode a Dan Schneider show would never make today, because it relies on emotional investment in the characters. And as we all know, none of the Schneider's Bakery characters are meaningful enough to make an episode like "Josh is Done" work for them.

Fun fact: I chose The Great Doheny simply because I felt it was the best episode then-available on TeenNick OnDemand. The funny thing about Drake & Josh as it stands right now is that it's a real feast-or-famine situation: you get either spammed with a bunch of episodes on a daily basis, or you go a long time (several weeks if not months) with complete bupkis. 

Now, granted, I Love Sushi was actually on there when I did the review (along with The Great Doheny it was, like, of four or so episodes available - yeah, they're not doing the series any favors in reruns or OnDemand). And...yeah, it is a good episode just...not a great episode. Maybe I'm just saying this only because I'm familiar with both 1.) the I Love Lucy show that this episode is obviously paying homage to (and when freakin' A.N.T. Farm did it, I was starting to think maybe this gag from one of the literal first shows on television might be a little played out) and 2.) the episode of Kenan and Kel where they get their house robbed and they're trying to get a job to buy everything back, too.

I'm with Mike on Josh is Done though. That is a great episode and stands as one of the best episodes in this whole live-action multi-cam KidCom business. I also really like The Gary Grill which I also consider a solid classic. Fun fact about that episode: it was the very last acting role of Richard Briggs (one of the FBI agents, and best known for playing the doctor on Babylon 5) before he suddenly died of congenital heart failure, which occurred right when the episode was in post-production (if you pay attention to the end credits, the episode is dedicated to his memory). 

But yeah, here we are, Drake and Josh. I'm going to come right out and say it, this is the greatest Nickelodeon sitcom of all-time. Of all-time. I can't think of another show on this channel that has ever had such consistent laughs, or pitch-perfect chemistry between leads, or endless quotes. Even in episodes like these that aren't even that memorable, there's still moments you laugh at and want to go back to. Like Drake constantly flapping his wrist, Doheny saying his name so much to the point where Megan tells him to stop, Drake wanting to call the cops when Doheny shows up at night, and Drake and Josh being given yo-yos at the end for their trouble. It's not a top ten episode, but it's just merely funny and at least 85% of the stuff is beyond what you'll see on Henry Danger and Game Shakers. 

Drake and Josh wrote the book on what it takes to make an enjoyable sitcom for kids. All That was a sketch comedy show that could always reinvent itself, Kenan and Kel started to become really repetitive and idiotic in season three (although "Attack of the Bug Man" is one of the series' best episodes), and a lot of other shows just came and went. None of them left a mark on kids shows like Drake and Josh did. You're guaranteed to get a good laugh at least twice an episode, and the best part is the show never complicated humor. It used character-based dialogue to great effect, and took advantage of the relationship between Drake and Josh to create entertaining situations that worked because of how well-written the characters were. Nobody but Drake could mispronounce South America, while only Josh could repeat words for emphasis or yell at Drake for making fun of his grandmother's hormonal imbalances. I'm getting teary-eyed writing this because this show was true comedic gold, and kids may not see another show like this for years. Drake and Josh was not only hilarious and charming during its run, it has held up especially well, and laid the blueprint for future Dan Schneider shows. 

While iCarly and Victorious came out later and had decent runs, and Zoey 101 was pretty entertaining in its own right, D&J is undoubtedly the best thing to come out of Schneider's Bakery. It never fell off (at least not to the extent of a lot of other shows) and its influence can be seen in every later show that Schneider made. So why does it continue to be his best show? For one, Schneider's writing has fallen off a lot, possibly from doing too many shows. And the character types have been used up and passed around through so many shows, it's like it doesn't even matter who delivers what lines anymore. It's all the same now. Drake & Josh is still different from all these other shows in that.....well, it was actually funny. And the characters and actors were entertaining enough to handle whatever was written. Sam & Cat and Henry Danger and the rest treat comedy like some kind of advanced science. Drake & Josh knew what it wanted to be and stayed on that path for four seasons, no matter what.

-The only thing I really don't like about this episode is how Doheny treated the boys at the end. He kept hanging around them because he had no one else, he was given the opportunity to get back in the limelight after not having found work in years, never let Drake and Josh in on the trick that made them believe they killed him, and doesn't let them share in his newfound fortune. Of course, in a way, I guess that's what the show was about: Two boys who were often screwed over by life in the end. 

-I wonder how Blaine Darvey might have felt about Doheny's death since the man was his mentor and all. Maybe they could have showed him at the funeral?

-Wait, I just realized how screwed up the ending of this episode was. Doheny performs a trick that makes everyone, including Drake and Josh, believe he's dead. Megan is the only one who knows about this, and decides not to let the boys know they never killed him. Doheny is presumably "dead" for several days, and no one questions where he was all that time? Was he just in the magic box where the trick took place and no one noticed him breathing? How was he able to make it seem like he had no pulse? And why did he let Drake and Josh think they committed a murder in front of an audience, after all they did for him? What a jackass.

The next D&J episode will hopefully be something Unknown and I both see as a classic.  I'd love to make it Josh is Done, but unfortunately that seems to be in Nickelodeon's own hands. Or heck we can do I Love Sushi.

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Let's talk about The Thundermans....

This Friday, The Thundermans is coming to an end with its final four (technically five, since the last one is two parts) episodes. Originall...

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