Friday, April 14, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Shhh! (S1E3)

It's called "Shhh!"

What is it? Single-cam(at this point it's not really exceptional enough for the exclamation point plus it's just gonna look dumb if I do it every single review) 24-minute (minus commercials) KidCom
Where did it air? Disney Channel, where as it stands right now and especially looking at Bunk'd's latest numbers, ratings go to die. Now Bunk'd is, as I said before, an unwatchable flaming pile of garbage, but let's hope this trend doesn't continue with a show that actually deserves to be watched, ok?
Who stars in it? Same as last time, Peyton Elizabeth Lee (someone pointed out this is Peyton #5 for the network on Twitter), Lilian Bowden, a bunch of other peeps. And of course Lauren Tom, though we'll get back to her (and if you've already seen it, you probably already know exactly what I mean).
Why are we reviewing this? Because it's good and at least it needs more love than Bunk'd.

So, that was another satisfying episode. See what happens when you don't take what's meant as a means to alerting the general populace that a little girl's been kidnapped and turned it into something creepy, which is exactly what stuff like Amber Alerts are supposed to help combat in the first place?

Anyway, so we've got Buffy (not the Vampire Slayer, though they did lampshade that in the first episode because We Live In The Time of Millennials Obsessed With Referential Humor) trying out for the relay team, Cyrus trying out for water boy, and Andi trying to claw her way out of her worst nightmares while Bex tries to claw her way back into the family. And Amber is left sitting on the benches where even Cyrus can't see her, right where she belongs (at least for now).

Make no mistake, Andi Mack is already shaping up to be a superb series, but I can't quite put my finger on it. Stuck in the Middle - as charming a show as that can be - shows that the single-cam format isn't a magic fix-all straight to sitcom greatness (a lesson ABC seems incapable of learning as they'll seemingly greenlight anything as long as it's single-cam) and Liv and Maddie and Good Luck Charlie have shown it's not an automatic hindrance either. It's just as easy to chalk it up to great writing too, and that's certainly a necessary ingredient...but it still doesn't seem enough to account for the entire menu. I guess I have to give the directors and actors a lot of credit here, they really come off as very natural (or at least, pull it off for the show). And props to the cinematography. The way the shots themselves are framed and composed make the show seem a little more ephemeral than your standard sitcom without it going into overly sentimental, sappy, glurgy territory - striking a right balance between child-like wonder and goofy comedy.

...wow, now that I've actually read that I'm starting to wonder if I'm coming off like a fanboy stan already.

At first I wasn't too hot on the idea of a scary movie plot, but if nothing else it was, like, what, the C-Plot? In just about 99% of all other shows the focus would be on some moralistic lesson on why little kids shouldn't watch scary movies (*coughGirlMeetsWorldcough*, but in all fairness they literally all did it - Good Luck Charlie, Jessie, Shake it Up, etc) and at this point it's become so pat it's literally just a punchline - but here it's just a side-effect of Bex's and Cecelia's parental battle. See, this is how you write "realistic" television - you don't boil everything down to morals, you explore family dynamics when it comes to these KidComs. That's a big reason why Good Luck Charlie but to a lesser extent Liv and Maddie and even (early) Jessie were so successful, and it's no wonder Andi Mack is getting a lot of buzz because it's got that family dynamic already nailed down so far, in about as much as all four of those shows (counting GMW) combined

And this is just Episode 3 out of the entire series so far.

I think that's one of the key missing ingredients now that I think about it - character dynamics. I think this is what GMW was trying to go for - and frankly, what a lot of people deluded themselves into seeing. I think this is what people mean when they bitch and moan about why GMW should be moved to Freeform, and to steal a phrase from an IMDb troll because I've just grown fond of that phrase (and apparently from an LP'er from YouTube to begin with), they've just demonstrated themselves to be all a bunch of pathetic useless super-stupids.

Take Andi with Buffy and Cyrus. All three of them together don't act like archetypes, though they can still be boiled down to such, but they act natural within playing those archetypes. Cyrus doesn't seem like an actor pantomiming KidCom tropes when he's completely serious about being a waterboy, and Buffy acts realistically when she takes being super-competitive into a lifestyle (rather Maddie Rooney-like, I'll add). She doesn't take glaring down the opposing team member as some key that said opposing team member's some sort of evil Maleficent-like monster-slash-Commu-Nazi who must be taken down at all costs like this type and genre of show is prone to doing. I wouldn't go so far as to say it's hyper-realistic, but it certainly avoids being boring.

I imagine I'll have much more to say about the actual plot come the next episode (or maybe not), but really, I think it's clear we all come to see the dynamics in play here. It's like a really good show on AMC or on premium cable - it's got those gripping character moments people spend a lot of time obsessing over, but for once it's not part of a backdrop of constant backstabbing or gratuitous bloodshed but in a frickin' family sitcom centering around a frickin' middle schooler for once, Thank God.

Episode Grade: A. See the whole damn review if you want to know why, I don't really have anything else to say.
Episode MVP: Lilian Bowden because she's doing a lot to bring those dynamics to the table, though she's not really all alone as far as heavy-hitting in that department goes.

Extra Thoughts

 - See that's how you do a scene with an overly-aggressive player trying to knock everything out of her way, not like in Invisible Sister where you've got girls exploding into the air like it's a goddamn cartoon/someone's sick idea of metaphorical sexual release (yes I went there, if you don't like it sue me/bitch about it in the comments section).

 - Speaking of Invisible Sister I sure bitch a lot about GMW still. That's like, what, six times or so for those of you playing the drinking game at home (drink responsibly) (and yes, a dig at Invisible Sister counts as a dig against GMW in my book)? I probably should resolve to cut down on that too.

Let it go, Unknown. It's all over. It's not like Girl Meets World ran over your cat and kissed your ex-girlfriend at Prom Night.

 - Speaking of Jessie and Bunk'd and what a flaming pile of unwatchable garbage the latter show is...after seeing a bunch of Season 2 episodes lately especially, I might have to...re-evaluate the whole Jessie thing. Like I said, when I first saw that series (in Season 1, still) I was more or less watching it in a state of duress and now that that's been already a few years behind...I think the glasses are starting to lose their rose-coloring.

Moreover, I think exposure to actual good KidComs (KidComs that might stand to be classics, albeit very short-lived ones) might have to do a lot with it too - Drake & Josh (and even Victorious, although I think it might be getting a little bit of the Jessie syndrome itself), 100 Things to Do Before High School (RIP), Good Luck Charlie, Stuck in the Middle to at least some extent, even Every Witch Way as incredibly rough around some extremely jagged edges as that show was, and now especially Andi Mack which has almost done nothing but completely blow me away. The age of the cheesy, zero-effort KidCom may be practically forever, but it goes to show that it doesn't have to be the rigid status-quo.

 - I really want to know what fellow partner-in-crime Mike thinks of this show. I imagine, given the timing, he's busy with freshman midterms and not long after that already finals, so this blog would officially like to wish him luck on those.

 - Speaking of which, you may remember a while ago he published an outline of his idea for a sitcom/horror kinda-mashup thingie. It leads me to believe if the Andi Mack-style of single-cam dynamic-focused quality could really breathe a lot of life and street cred to say the fantastic formula made popular by Wizards of Waverly Place and Phil of the Future or even say Jessie. I've actually wondered what a single-camera version of Jessie would've been like and even outlining how I'd probably do it, and Andi Mack really gives a lot of hope. In fact I have enough of an outline that if I really have completely given up concerning First Publication Rights maybe I'll share them some day.

 - Oh, and uh, how about that Raven's Home? Obviously it's hard to judge a KidCom that's in the extremely early phases of drafting but high hopes! Of the absolute early, first-generation Disney Channel multi-cams That's So Raven isn't quite in a run-away for favorite with Suite Life of Zack and Cody not far behind, but it's #1 in my book all the same.

 - Damn I've said "in my book" a lot in this review.

 - I'm not sure what kind of motorcycle Bex rides, but being a motorcycle rider myself I'm curious. I'm guessing maybe a big-bore 20-year-old Kawasaki cruiser since they give off a "close enough to a Harley" badboy/girl look (especially after years if not decades of hard riding, which 20-year-old motorcycles are prone to) and they're pretty dirt-cheap at this point.

 - And speaking of AMC and premium cable...I don't know if Westworld was ever mentioned on this blog by Mike or anyone else. After watching the first season and being initially amazed by it...I think I'm going to drop it. Upon further reflection, much of what amazed me about Westworld was the result of cheap narrative tricks like piling up plot twists as fast as the script possibly can, often within literally minutes of each other, and now that the hype's died during the off-season the cheapness of those tricks has really settled in. And it didn't take me long to at least find out I'm not alone in thinking this.

But that said, I'm not one to shy away from violent shows but it helps if the violence serves a narrative point, and while this doesn't necessarily apply to Westworld per say (though really, as I was just getting at, that show ended up quite all over the place with about as much care, attention, direction and subtlety as Trump's defense of his Supreme Court nominations - or for that matter any given episode of Last Man Standing) I feel there are a lot of shows that gorge on violence for its own sake (I really feel The Walking Dead is such an example, and although it's not the only reason why I don't feel it worthwhile getting into that show, it's a big one). So, again, it's nice to see there's actually a sitcom, a family sitcom no less, really trying to bring that same character dynamic quality into a slice-of-life, low-concept format.

Just about the only drama I can name off the top of my head (other than say The Fosters and other like-shows on Freeform, though those seem to be rarities too, even on Freeform) that fits that mold is Suits on USA which is an excellent show. I do not hesitate to say it's my absolute favorite drama on television right now. Seriously, if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out.Is it as great as Mad Men? I haven't seen Mad Men but based on impressions...probably not, and Suits has been oft-accused of being a Mad Man clone, but whatever. It's just excellent.

Plus it stars a freakin' future princess in it. Really.

 - And yeah this blog has now gotten to taking digs at Last Man Standing now. This is not related to any bitterness I feel when the comments section of this very blog started to get massively trolled as well as on that show's IMDb board. Nope, not in the slightest.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, this episode kept up what made the premire good. Slightly uneven in terms of the plots but not a big deal. They took a cliche set up and used it well instead of the way every show does. It was nice and of course we get a cliffhanger.

    (speaking of, that staring contest must have not ended memorably given they just start elsewhere here).

    It's true that that your show having a laugh track or not doesn't equal good or bad, although laugh tracks do make horribly unfunny shows so much harder to sit through.

    ReplyDelete

Raven's Home: First Impressions

Something had to replace Girl Meets World, right? You might remember That's So Raven as one of the most popular and long-running series...