Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Drake and Josh reviewed: The Great Doheny (S4E6)

Doheny!

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.

EXTRA THOUGHTS
-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.

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for finally reviewing Drake & Josh! I'm the anon that asked if you could do it on the Sweet Sixteen review. Do you think you might do any of the other shows I mentioned, such as Hannah Montana or Zoey 101?

    This episode was definitely a classic, but I need to re-watch it. I do remember the famous scenes where he teleports Drake's girlfriend and he starts snoring in the brothers' room.

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    Replies
    1. That really depends on whether or not I can find the episodes - which won't be a problem with Zoey101 since they've decided it deserves daily episode spams on TeenNick now, so maybe in the upcoming week some time?

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  2. I certainly quite like Drake and Josh although it is bogged down by the same problems that would plauge Dan's works later on. (Just watch Sheep Thrills or Theater Thug for proof of that). But these problems were mostly controlled at least.

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