Friday, April 7, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Tomorrow Starts Today (Alternatively, '13' and 'Outside the Box' S1E1/2)

...and by the way, Amber Alerts are for kidnapped children, so kinda terrifying as opposed to cute. Just something, to, think about.

What is it? Single-cam(!) half-hour KidCom, with the first two episodes smooshed into a special premiere event.
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Peyton Elizabeth Lee (serious this is what the fifth Peyton the network's had?), Lilan Bowden, and Lauren Tom who at least used to be a fairly recognizable name and as far as I'm concerned lends some respectable cred here
Why are we reviewing this? Because it's on Disney Channel and our main mission statement is reviewing stuff on Disney Channel. Which is seemingly shockingly rare nowadays.

I was about to open up this review with a big deal about how this is Disney Channel proper's first single-cam in a long time...and then I remembered Stuck in the Middle exists. Wow, talk about a series that flies under the radar.

Also, in that process I remembered Kirby Buckets exist. We really need to do a review of that, I liked that show.

Anyway, is it just me or did Disney Channel hype Andi Mack more than even Tangled? I think they've been doing it since January, or at least February. Either way I've been getting a lot of inquiry as to when I'd finally review it and...things interfered so that instead of coming before the series it's coming after, but at least now I don't have to worry about spoilers.

Speaking of which one of the things Disney was teasing us early on was the big revelation between title character Andi Mack and her "sister" Becs (Rebecca) that there was a secret between them. Then a few weeks later they ruined it by loudly announcing it in one of their commercial previews. Nice going, Disney.

But yeah, that revelation is that Andi is Becs' daughter, not sister. One of this blog's followers (or at least someone I follow on Twitter) called it early on, more or less out of sarcasm no less (it wasn't the first time fans made accurate call-outs based on sarcasm). It's also legitimately a bold subject for Disney Channel to tackle, if they ever really bother to tackle it at all (I would honestly guess the answer is no).

It's not so much a drama revolving around the circumstances of Andi Mack's parentage as it is Becs trying to get back into the family and integrate herself between her own mom (which is I guess Andi's former mom? Now grandmom?) and her own daughter (whom I guess is also her former sister? Yeah...) and even more than that at its heart just a low-concept (or "slice-of-life" if you will, but this blog tries to use "industry terms" when reviewing shows) series following Andi around in general. Yeah, there is a tease about finding out who Andi's real father is, but it's such a small part of the series so far it's like, eh, sure, cool.

And in that regards, it's...outright shockingly good. I'm not sure what's happening - Good Luck Charlie did the low-concept thing before, Stuck in the Middle married the (low) concept to the single-cam format before, and Lizzie McGuire did it all back almost decades ago, and Liv and Maddie's had the fluid characters and dynamics like this, so it's hardly anything really new by itself. But - and as good as all those series are - Andi Mack really feels like next-level stuff. Seriously, if anything it feels more like an overhyped Netflix series (yes that is an actual compliment in this case) than what we've seen from Disney Channel in the recent past, or even the far past. The writing's very much on-point, the cinematography doesn't feel nearly as cheap as it does on SitM (as Mike has pointed out) and it feels really polished, both just looking at it and experiencing it as a sitcom. The characters in SitM, LaM and even GLC were exaggerated to at least some extent (ok, a big extent even in GLC's case) for the sake of comedy, but for the most part the characters here somehow feel...real. Real in that "this is how delusional GMW is if it thinks it's honestly being this 'real'" sense. 

Now this is coming with a huge "for the most part" because we get to Amber and...I'm, like, just...well.... Ok, Amber is weird. But not just Amber, the whole situation between her and Andi and Jonah is just...really, really weird. From the opening quote to...just...everything. I wonder if it's just Amber (or the actress they have playing her) and if it is it's probably intentional, to just how intense Amber makes these encounters be (and again, probably intentional). And I'm very much on the fence on it. I mean, it's a major source of the show's dramatic tension so far - in fact outside the family drama (which is surprisingly light, given the, you know, surprise sister-is-really-mom thing) it's the only real drama the show's had.

But man it's like something out of a movie Brad "The Cinema Snob" Jones might review. 

I guess I'll have some time to digest it between now and, well, some arbitrary point in the future I suppose as we see how it develops in future episodes.

Episode Grade: A-. Yeah, all the...intensity...of Amber aside, it's still really good.
Episode MVP: Peyton Elizabeth Lee because why not. Really I don't have any good reason other than "why not." And it's not a knock against her or the other actors in general - actually everybody feels really natural and on their game in this (yeah, even Amber I guess) so I just feel too lazy right now to really think through and see who deserves it the most.

Extra Thoughts

 - Yeah, the whole Amber thing. I mean...sheesh. I'm with Andi on that, the whole "Amber Alert" thing is creepy for exactly what's quoted from Andi at the very top of this review know, even if there's just a year difference the whole concept of a high school freshman dating an 8th grader is...kinda creepy. Why in Sam Hill would a high school freshman want to date an 8th grader anyway, unless they've known each other for a while and/or through other naturalistic means and they just happen to have a year gap in between? I mean, what kind of high school freshman intentionally hunts out 8th graders to date? Hopefully it turns out to be more the former than the latter, but's one of the things in this series that speaks more to traditional, live action cartoon Disney Channel than the much more serious tone of the rest of the show.

 - Oh, and the last five minutes of the second episode/hour-long special, where it seems like the show itself almost becomes self-aware of how weirdly intense and just weird the whole Andi/Amber show-down is in the middle of Andi revealing to her friends that Becs is really her mom. It verges straight into outright awkward territory which, as far as I know, is at least part of the point. And that whole thing last five whole minutes.

Trust me, I know. I fucking timed it.

 - The Mack Chats are actually a really adorable idea and it's something I can really get behind. I wish they'd do it for other shows. It's much better than the lame "Nice Memes!" crap they've done for the most part up to now.

- I know the Andi Shack is a play on Andi Mack, but I have to wonder if it's a dig/shout-out to the Harley Shack from SitM. Both shows are produced by the same studio after all (and by that I don't mean Disney Channel but rather Horizon, which seems to be Disney Channel's single-cam studio specialists, or perhaps the single-cam counterpart to It's A Laugh! Productions that did all the multi-cams for Disney Channel)

 - Yeah, we really need to give Kirby Buckets a fair shake and give it a review too. Now that's how you do a live-action cartoon, quite literally I guess. And maybe SitM too. Did I review Stuck in the Waterpark? I don't even remember if I reviewed Stuck in the Waterpark.

 - Fulfilling the Nickelodeon contribution of "Nick and Disney Channel Reviewed" this week: Hunter Street S1 review and recap, tomorrow. Barbie: Video Game Hero, some time in the next week (almost) guaranteed. Tangled: The Actual Pixar Movie and Tangled: Before Ever After The Kinda-Sorta DCOM, uhh...some time in the near future.

 - Yes, that was yet another dig at GMW there. I couldn't resist. We could perhaps turn it into a drinking game.

 - It seems Disney Channel is making at least some inroads to improving the Watch Disney Channel app and other "wherever you watch Disney Channel" apps in various forms (Disney OnDemand, Disney LOL which is, well...see previous "Nice Memes! Crap" comment, and I dunno, other stuff) or if not, at least helping to restore it to what passes for its former glory ever since Disney Channel gave into Rowan Blanchard's demands to gut the service into a big "why bother?" and "I'm just gonna record it off my DVR now and get back to it whenever I feel like it which may or may not be during the period where ads still remain relevant." And yeah, I'm not one to make digs at Rowan Blanchard and I believe in and support many of the same causes she does but here, she really, legitimately deserves darts thrown. Also this counts as another dig at GMW.

 - I wonder how many people "pirated" Andi Mack since it's been out on Watch Disney Channel/Disney OnDemand for a while now, compared to when GMW was "pirated." And if you're keeping score, that's now three, and two right in a row no less.


  1. Before JESSIE, the only Peyton I'd ever heard of was Manning. Now there's Peyton List, the other Peyton List, the guy on IDDI, the guy on GMW and DwaB, and now this one.

    I also wrote some stuff about the show, but the Preview button ate it, and I really don't want to type it out again. Maybe later.

    1. OK, we're going to type this out in Word this time and then copy it into the tiny, unreliable comment box....

      First, I will never see the title and not think of "The Secret World of Alex Mack". Never got past it with Allison Mack either. Larisa Oleynik forever!

      I don't think I liked it quite as much as everybody else. Clearly the idea and the aim is far above the standard Disney Channel fare. But I found the execution lacking in places. For one, I've seen a lot of praise for the acting, and yet, I found some key moments not particularly well-done, especially the big reveal. The writing could've been a part of that, of course. Andi's super happy mood the next morning is definitely on the writers, and it's not believable. Think about it, this is news that was devastating to Bobby Darin at 32, as an adult, and a 13-year-old's going to be all smiles within hours? No. As you said, they treat it as a small thing, when it would be the only thing. How they handle it going forward will certainly impact how much I at least enjoy the show.

      Other minor missteps, because I'm nit-picky like that: In addition to the "Amber alert" thing, calling back to "Bill Clinton charm" and including a joke that brought to mind Steve Levy's infamous "bulging disc" screw-up was somewhat cringe-worthy. Leaving the super-important, super-secret box out where it could easily be taken once is standard TV convenience; to do it three times is ridiculous. Also, they mention Andi should be wearing a retainer, and, yeah, no. (I don't like pointing it out, but they brought it up.)

      Now, all that said, it was still good, especially for a pilot. There were good laughs and they didn't have to go for the lowest common denominator, as some other shows on the network (*coughbunkdcough*) do regularly. It didn't have its characters commit violent felonies and laugh it off. It definitely has a different, better feel than the rest of the network. Maybe that's the single-cam? I don't know enough to figure out how many cameras are used and what it means. I just know Desi Arnaz came up with using three cameras to film "I Love Lucy". But I digress...

      I thought the scenes among the friends were really good. The Grandma-Bex "one-nice-thing" scene too. I didn't really mind Amber, aside from the "alert" line of course. Girls that age can be *evil*. I've known an Amber. My sister knew a bunch of them. I can't explain the details of the relationship that have been questioned, but being in that relationship nonetheless, I completely buy her every move. But yeah, the Beck kid should dump her and run. And IMDb says she's only in seven episodes, so maybe he does.

      - Notes on a Mole Card -
      Hot take alert: Spoiling your own show is bad. How does that happen? Who runs this network?

      It seems like this show is permanently at 8:30. So does that mean the 5:00 experiment is over, now that they've finished ruining LaM's run-in?

      Time Warner / Spectrum doesn't have Watch Disney. Which makes no sense, since they've had ESPN3 (owned by Disney) for years now. But I guess that puts me on Rowan's side out of jealousy. (*Deletes further comments on cable companies and the FCC.*)

      We have Bex and Jonah Beck. I would've renamed one of them.

      It's weird that Amy from Futurama is the grandmother, although it makes total sense that Amy's mom from Futurama is the grandmother.

      I really thought Cyrus was Stuart from JESSIE.

      Lilan Bowden is my new favorite crush.

      Can't we have Andi Mack melt down into liquid, just once?

  2. You know the drill:

    Not too much to add. It works so far, and the single camera stuff works since it's calmer than any single camera show they've done, since this is a tad more serious with it's use.

    It's very much a step in the right direction. We'll see if this keeps up. I was worried when they said it would from the creator of Lizzie McGuire, as that sounded like an attempt to get the Nostalgia crowd but thankfully, it's own thing and they hardly even mention that fact, in favor of that spoiler they spoiled.

  3. Resident Anon here.

    Yeah, I'm quite glad to see you liked this, as it'll likely be the next Disney show I latch onto now that GMW and L&M are done. I wasn't too big on the Amber stuff, either, and if anything that was the only remote misfire in these two episodes. Not only did they use Amber as her name (which is sort of the go-to Alpha Bitch name - but they sort of reference that in the show) but the whole situation is ridiculous. It seems Jonah is kind of uncomfortable around her so I feel like there's a story behind why they're dating in the first place. After all, if he really cared about her, why would he be making moves on Andi (or so we think)? And of course, there's the age gap nonsense that you already touched on. Kind of curious to see where that goes, but yeah, that little "showdown" at the end was a bit too drawn-out; at the same time, it seemed to sort of (ironically) soften the blow of the "Becs is my mother" news.

    Also, the lack of laugh track may be a big reason why I like this show. I know laugh tracks, despite all of their flak, actually have a purpose, but it just feels really refreshing to not have one for once. Stuck in the Middle doesn't either, of course, but this just feels like a better show overall. Oh, and Sabrina Carpenter does the theme song, so big plus.

  4. Shipping Wars Are StupidApril 8, 2017 at 1:27 PM

    I saw this when it was put on Disney's YouTube page.

    I honestly think this was better than every Girl Meets World episode that did not have Shawn.

    I have no real interest in seeing how it goes from here but I'm damn glad that Disney has the balls to take this show on and I hope they continue to do it with this almost felt like it didn't have sets. It felt like they filmed it like a movie rather than a crappy sitcom.


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