Monday, May 29, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: Dad Influence (S1E7)

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

What is it? It's totally whack yo!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extra Thoughts:

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

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

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

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

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 Movie Mini-Review

It's called a Zune. It's what all the Earthlings are listening to these days

What is it? Only the greatest movie of the SUMMER! Yeah and all that.
Where did it air? Well it's a movie that's actually out now, a first for this blog actually, so your only choices to see it are to either pay a ridiculous price like $17.31 for a ticket (and don't go out with a chatty, text-y date who might piss you off enough to sue) or try to look for it online and be satisfied with some really dodgy, shoddy phone rips (trust me, just pay the ticket price or wait for it on DVD if you're as cheap as me).
Who stars in it? A Raptor Wrangler, an American Sniper, Spock's girlfriend, a (former?) WWE wrestler, a baby tree who only has enough time to live life a quarter mile at a time, a Gladiator, and Amy Pond, the greatest Doctor Companion Of. All. Time. 
Why are we reviewing this? Because it legit rocks ok?

I mean, I know it's hard to tell given that it's a bunch of text and I really, really suck at drawing a line when I'm sincere and sarcastic but I loved the first one, and the second one didn't disappoint in the slightest bit. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 earns Unknown's endorsement as the one movie I really think is worth watching this summer, if you only had to choose one (though I'm hoping to catch Transformers, Pirates and Cars along the way at least).

Movie Grade: A. It was a bit slower in some parts than the first one which did hurt it a bit from getting an A+ score, but the parts where it counted did almost make up for it. It's a more developed movie than the first one, that's for sure, even if the first one managed to have a lot of extremely fast pacing behind it.
Movie MVP: Oh yeah, sure, I could go the obvious route, the route everyone expects me to take and just pick someone like Zoe Saldana because blah blah blah oooh she's so pretty - and don't get me wrong, even under the Gamorra makeup she's hot as hell (and a redhead! Well, sorta) and believe me she's more than enough talented to justify an MVP award, but it's absolutely going to have to go to David Batistia, hands down, bar none. He strikes me as having some serious acting chops and I can easily see him as taking on more serious, much more heavy-hitting roles than say Dwayne Johnson (and don't get me wrong, I think he's a very talented actor too).

Extra Thoughts:

  - Speaking of Zoe Saldana though, if there is one other movie I highly recommend you go see it's...Center Stage. Even if you're really not into the ballet scene it's an extremely excellent movie. I mean it. It was one of the best movies I've bothered to see in 2014 (keeping in mind I only saw the original GotG on DVD early the next year).

 - And one other thing, I noted in my review of Emma's Chance (way back in February or so) that two of the actresses in that movie are a blonde and redhead even though their natural hair colors are the reverse (the blonde dyed her hair red and the redhead dyed her hair blonde, for whatever reason). Well we kind of have that case going on here with Zoe having red...ends, on her hair, at least and Karen...I guess being very much religiously opposed to skullcap disguises or something? I mean, not to criticize or shame her or anything it just kind of strikes me as extreme for a single role.

 - Yeah, I'm resisting to go the other obvious route and just quote I am Groot! for the opening intro, because yeah everyone's doing that.

 - Speaking of which I don't see much of a reason to go in-depth since you can go just about anywhere for that, but I just wanted to share my opinion real quick.

 - Yeah this is probably the best movie with Vin Diesel in it right now, and I'm actually a pretty big fan of Fast & Furious.

 - I'm actually watching Henry Danger "Hour of Power" as I'm writing this and I just noticed the similarity between Drax and Drex

 - yeah yeah expect a full Andi Mack review later this evening.

 - Oh, and I was going to share one other particular detail about my thoughts about Guardians of the Galaxy but...I decided it was too easy, and maybe instead we'll make it into a contest! If you can guess the specific detail I've left out of my review, you win a prize! At first I was thinking, let's make it something relatively big - like win a copy of Guardians of the Galaxy on DVD, or even Vol 2 when it comes out, or like win a DVD of that aforementioned Center Stage movie - but then I started thinking and I'm, like someone's probably gonna guess it and now I'm going to have to pay for a DVD for someone, dammit! (maybe later, when this blog gets bigger or I get a promotion, but...yeah, I'm too busy running this blog on the cheap for the five of you who read it). But then I remembered that I got these free GotGVol2 digital comic download codes for the movie, and I have one more than I need, so howabout I make that one of the prizes?

So there you go, guess the one very specific detail I left out and you can win a digital comic code I got for free anyway. I can't give you any hints (because then people will guess it right away anyway) and besides you know me and you know where to look for those hints anyway. 

Also, the contest ends June 4, 2017 (National Hug Your Cat Day!) and the code itself expires June 30, 2017. Marvel user account and Internet access required. And not that it matters, the five or so of you who bother to read my blog only pay attention when I'm reviewing Girl Meets World or Andi Mack anyway but meh.

Oh, and I want to add - you're not trying to find a missing detail of the movie, you're trying to find a missing detail about my thoughts about the movie. So yeah, you're pretty much going to have to literally read my mind.

Good Luck!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Bunk'd Reviewed: The Great Escape (S2E21)

Just give me one more try and I can get all my stuff back!

What is it? Multi-cam half-hour kidcom, Disney Channel legacy killer, you know.
Where did it air? Disney Channel
Who stars in it? Peyton List who as of this episode makes her exit from the network and thus reduces the Disney Channel Peyton Count by one; Skai Jackson, Karan Brar, Kevin Quinn, Miranda May, Nina Lui, Nathan Arenas, whoever the hell plays Griff.
Why are we reviewing this? The real question you should be asking is why did Disney Channel greenlight this? (oh, did we already make that joke in our last Bunk'd review? I forgot and I'm too lazy to look it up)

So, um, yeah, this happened.

And by this I mean a brand-new premiere of a Bunk'd episode...out of order...on a Wednesday night...way late in the evening (if you're stuck with the West Coast feed, and if you don't have a DVR you're stuck watching this thing damn near midnight depending on where you are - not that it really matters because Watch Disney Channel access is near-universal and it was released this morning on there). And it's the very last episode of Bunk'd's 21-episode second season order and the way things are looking the very last episode, period, forever. In fact the very circumstances of this premiere strongly indicates a throwaway extra episode burnoff - something that I flat-out haven't seen before on Disney Channel. I mean, hell, they gave I Didn't Do It a better sendoff than this and that series had become persona non-grata at the end! 

So yeah, the very scheduling and network treatment of this "premiere" itself is a strong indicator that this series is dead and ain't coming back for Season 3, which means this is pretty much how the Suite Life/Jessie legacy ends (unofficially, I suppose; officially that legacy ended almost a month ago with We Didn't Start The Fire which we reviewed earlier). And how does that legacy end? Ehhhh...on the balance I guess it's meh-tastic. I mean, what else are you going to expect from this series anymore? I mean, there's a reason why they're unceremoniously burning off the last episode so late on a friggin' Wednesday evening and so painfully obviously out of production order, what with the camp being friggin' burned down and the campers leaving for the fall in the previous episode.

The A-plot...is actually pretty solid, shockingly enough. Zuri and Griff decide they have feelings for each other, Emma and Xander feel they're a bad influence on each other and try to separate them, Zuri brings up the obligatory Romeo and Juliet reference and Griff brings up the equally obligatory "I'm an uneducated dumbass and I don't know WTF Romeo and Juliet is." They just keep it simple, and while it's not exactly a neverending train of belly laughs at least for this show it ends up being a great, solid effort. At the very least, it's a lot better then when Jessie tried it with Zuri and Stuart in Where's Zuri? Sometimes, keeping it simple and avoiding making it complex works, even if it only works adequately and scarifies any chance to work superbly or even just greatly. And you know what? When you're already struggling as much as this show is maybe shooting for adequacy is better than shooting for greatness.

The B-plot...is not even worth mentioning beyond the fact that it's a flaming wreck of a dumpster pile and for one specific point that I'm going to bring up immediately next.

Episode Grade: Well it would've gotten a C+, maybe even this series' first and now definitively only B-, by far the highest grade the series has achieved on this blog...except that flaming wreck of a dumpster pile of a B-plot was so awful it actually drops the grade down to a D+. So, yeah, you might want to take some of those lessons to heart Pamela Eells O'Connell, assuming the network even still wants to have anything to do with you and your crew.

Again, this woman is at least partially responsible for chances are whatever 90s era multi-cam sitcom you can immediately think of off the top of your head. Oh, how the mighty have fallen.

Episode MVP: Miranda May because, well, she was the best actor in this. I mean, what other reason am I going to give it for and to who else would I give it? The only other option would be Peyton List only because she looks like she was specifically genetically created to be a Disney Channel Princess and at the age of, what, 19 or 20 now?, she looks hot as all hell but I promised to cut back on that.

Extra Thoughts:

 - You know speaking of which, is it just me or do they end up dressing up Peyton List more provocatively than other actresses on the network, and if I am the only one that notices, what does that say about me as a guy who should be locked up and very much kept away from women and society in general?

 - Also I believe they refer to that thing I mentioned just right above specifically as "pulling a Dan Schneider." 

 - Right immediately after the airing of this episode they aired Jessie's "Karate Kid-tastrophe" - the one with Mr. Moseby, where he mentions his being involved with The Suite Life for a total of six years. It just occurred to men then that the Jessie legacy itself has now lasted just as long, though granted still at least one year short than what they were hoping for. Also I can't believe that episode is already over two years old now, and it was a middle Season 4 episode!

 - You know, I think I've pretty much cracked the code on what a good Bunk'd episode actually is - or rather, what a bad subplot is. If it involves either Ravi, Jorge, Tiffany, Hazel or Gladys and sometimes Griff, chances are the subplot is going to be a real stinker. Unfortunately I just named the majority of the cast right there which virtually guarantees at least one of the plots of every episode is going to stink and a good chance that multiples of those characters will be involved in both plots (or all three plots, if they go an A-B-C structure) which, well, again probably explains why the very last episode premiere of this series is being buried and burned off like this.

 - I'm reminded of Zuri's love of country music, and it's one of the things I'm going to miss the most about the Jessie legacy. Not as much as Milly the Mermaid, though.

 - Oh, and Happy Birthday Brec Bassinger, former star of Nickelodeon's Bella and the Bulldogs! Which incidentally also turned out to be a two-season wonder but oh well, that's the new normal I guess.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: She Said, She Said (S1E6)

Amber Alert! Amber Alert! That's right, I'm still saying it!
And it's still wrong!

What is it? It's Andi Mack and you should know that by now!

Well, that was certainly interesting.

So first thing's first, Buffy is absolutely right about how Amber's just going to keep doing this to Jonah until Andi puts a stop to it, so there at least.

But...ok, here's a problem though - and it has nothing to do with the show itself or even reviewing this specific show per se as it is just a problem with the issue of reviewing period...and, umm...compounded by statements I've made in the past on this blog, concerning a particular other show and certain comments I may have made about how I might've resolved to, you know, shit on GMW less.

The only problem with that is, well...Andi Mack absolutely is the show GMW should've been, the show we all kinda deluded ourselves GMW was going to be. And so it's hard to accurately convey the quality of Andi Mack and what it does so well without having to go back to GMW and, well, kinda take a massive smelly dump all over GMW and how it kinda sorta failed at what it was trying to do.

I mean, the confrontation between Andi and Amber and Jonah racing to find Andi - that's real drama. Bex being all hung up with CeCe - that's real drama. Even the competitiveness between Buffy and Marty - I don't know if it's drama per se, but it at least feels real or at least more entertaining than what we ended up getting for most of GMW. I mean...I really liked Girl Meets She Don't Like Me, awkward syntax in the title and all. For me that was about as "real" as the show got. And that was hardly, far away from being the only good episode that show had.

But man, Andi Mack completely and totally blows GMW out of the freakin' water.

I mean...is Andi Mack better than Liv and Maddie for example? I'd argue that those two shows are so tonally different that they're hard to compare (Andi Mack still is a comedy, don't get me wrong, but it's working hard the charm and even drama angles a lot harder than L&M ever did) but...yeah, if push came to shove and you demanded I give a yes or no answer, I'd say, yes, it's better than Liv and Maddie.

Is it better than Good Luck Charlie? Again, I'd argue that there's tonal differences that make it hard to compare, though GLC is at least a bit closer to Andi Mack than L&M is. But again, yeah, if push came to shove I'd say yes.

Is it better than Jessie? Now I know I have a reputation of being a Jessie fanboy but...yes it's better than Jessie.

But enough of that, back to this episode, and while it certainly had comedy moments it's chock full of that delicious drama - although it also means the episode kinda peters out after Jonah finds Andi. The Buffy v. Marty-slaying action also lasts about a total of two whole scenes, and the rest is filled out by Bex and CeCe which ends up fulfilling most of the episodes' comedy. Bex's lines about trying to get the keyboard to work almost made the episode's quotable opening for this review and hey, it's always funny when old people try to work technology, amirite? 

Episode Grade: A. Yup, the streak still continues. I have to say, Andi Mack is probably one of the hardest shows we've been regularly reviewing here because it really is something you need to see for yourself, and I really don't want to turn these reviews either into spoiler-fests (despite the fact that this episode aired a few weeks ago already) or just massive recaps (which especially for a show as plot-heavy as this can make said recaps a bit of a chore).
Episode MVP: Peyton Elizabeth Lee all the way.

Extra Thoughts:

 - yeah I totally forgot the drama from the last episode leading into this one and, hey we meet Dad! (though if you've been actually keeping up with this show...yeah you probably already met him a while ago).

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Andi Mack Reviewed: It's Not About You (S1E5)

That's it? After 13 years, just "Hey"?

What is it? Blah blah blah yeah yeah by now you pretty much know what Andi Mack is just like you know what Girl Meets World is.

So Bex tries to write to Andi's dad and bonds with Buffy the Hair Slayer.

You have no idea how hard this review's been to write, and I don't mean in terms of anything related to the episode itself - it's just pure logistical reasons. Now I've been able to write a few reviews in the meantime but Andi Mack is complex enough to really justify a careful watch-through to really do a review of it justice. If that makes sense for you, given it's still a tween-ish sitcom. But whatever, that's my story and I'm sticking to it, so there.

Up to this point the dramatic tension has been centered around two things, and those two things in turn revolve squarely around Andi Mack. Now granted when we're introduced this third thing in this episode it still revolves around Andi Mack but, hey, that's to be expected, the show is literally named after her after all. But what it also does is bring more people into that dramatic tension so the whole show doesn't have to be about Andi wrapping her head around the fact that who she thought was her sister is her mom or butting heads with Amber Alert, uuughhhhh.

...and, so, ok, so it still revovles around Bex too, and Andi's fears that her friends and her mom are going to steal each other away from her. But, again, the show does it very naturally or at least it really makes the viewer feel it's progressing naturally. Bex is new at the motherhood thing, despite seeing her daughter (very) off and on for the entirety of Andi's 13 years, and now that the cat's out of the bag it's only natural she wants to branch out and use Andi's friends to learn how to be a better mom (and friend) to Andi herself. 

So, yeah, that part was well done, what about the rest?

We've got Buffy's Bad Hair Day, or rather some kid is complaining about her hair being too big so she straightens it, but since we learn that her mom's in the military and on deployment the next best mom figure she has at her immediate disposal ends up being Bex, which causes that tension in the A-plot above. 

Oh, wait, that isn't the A-plot (or is it? It's a bit hard to keep track of with all these plotlines, and really who cares what letter of the alphabet gets assigned to these plotlines anyway). Bex is trying to reach out to Andi's dad and some awkwardness ensues, and as we learned from the last episode Andi's dad is at least aware that Andi exists, even if not necessarily that she's her daughter.

And then we have Cyrus and, um, what is it, Cindi? One of Amber Alert (uuuugggghhh)'s friends no less, and they hit it off. Like the parts with Buffy's hair problem before it suddenly got serious and awkward with Bex, it's there for comedy, but also for character development and hey the show does well with it. And then we have the "carousel incident" which, well, just makes me feel sorry for him...but in a good way, the way the writers no doubt intended.

Whew....well there you go, that's the review! Well...uhhh...gee, for all this delay that ended up being pretty simple. Heck I probably could've done it as a mini-review. So, ummm...hey howabout those

Episode Grade: A-. I think this show's been doing a really great job of mixing humor, character development and other things I'm just going to file under what I'll call "honest moments" (I'm sure there's probably a more industry-accepted term out there, maybe listed under TVTropes, and as soon as I find out what that is I'll start using it) that immensely contribute to the show's charm and beliveability. So yeah, Andi Mack's A-streak has yet to be broken at least for me.
Episode MVP: Joshua Rush for being just so darn awkward and pulling it off.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Well, umm...yeah. By the time you're reading this Andi's dad has apparently managed to work himself in as a semi-regular no less so, umm...yeah. Keep in mind this is still the latest episode I've seen so far so...yeah. I'm gonna have to do some binge-watching in my future.

 - And on that note this is also the first review of Andi Mack we've done in May. With about a week to go in the month. Yeah.

The Talk Reviewed: "5/17/2017" (S7E163)

So good job they got the extra credit!

What is it? Hour-length daytime multi-camera talk show just like the billion others that are out there.
Where did it air? CBS, which if you sound it out will tell you exactly what it is (yes I never get tired of that)
Who stars in it? That one actress from Rosanne who looks burned out as fuck (Sarah Gilbert, who is also credited as being The Talk's creator), Julie Chen, Sharon Motherfucking Osborn who as far as I'm concerned is rock and roll royalty, even if only adjacently through her (ex?) husband, umm, Cheryl Underwood, Aisha Taylor who I had to look up but we'll get back to her.
Why are we reviewing this? Because Debby Ryan was a guest host for this episode and...yeah, that's the sole reason why I even fucking watched it.

I had actually seen this episode a while ago, around the time when it originally aired (again, see "Why are we reviewing this?" above) and at first I didn't really think of bothering to do a review on a friggin' talk show of all things, but then I reread our Undateable review and I was like...yeah, I watched and reviewed that piece of shit only because of Bridgit I guess I can bother to write a review of this thing, so there.

The topics discussed about were a viral video of kids being pepper sprayed for class, Miley Cyrus, a Lifetime movie on Micheal Jackson and Ice Cube was invited talk about his new On3 League (it's a basketball "league" where they get 3 big-time retired NBA players to form half-court teams and play together - it strikes me as a bit too stunty and exposition-y to really make it as a league as opposed to basically a multi-season television special but whatever, seems like a fun enough concept to watch). Debby pointed out that her very first TV or movie acting role was as "Popular Girl #2" in the movie The Longshots starring Ice Cube and Keke Palmer who played his daughter, so she felt like it was kind of a reunion for her and that she was really excited for being in an Ice Cube movie with Keke Palmer and excited about the upcoming new Friday movie (yes they're making yet another one of those) and that's really the greatest extent that's worth mentioning about.

Now you'd think both of them being really big, super-huge Disney Channel princesses Debby would have a lot to talk about Miley Cyrus but...the conversation was rather disappointing. Debby didn't even mention the fact that she's worked with Miley, on the episode Starcrossed, which was the last third of the Wizards On Deck With Hannah Montana mega-crossover (probably the biggest live-action crossover in Disney Channel history so far, coming up on a decade later). In fact it...honestly kind of felt that she really held back on any actual insight and didn't really want to talk much about it beyond the pat, super-prepared PR statements everyone caught with a microphone in front of their face would say for fear that she might accidentally reveal some skeletons out of her own closet or something. Like how there's an unknown Sprouse triplet and his rotting skeleton is hidden in a storage locker rented out to both herself and Cole, and the whole experience is what prepared Cole for the Jughead role in Riverdale (which is still tied for the worst thing we've ever reviewed on this blog, BTW, but I have to admit Cole's really digging into and owning the Jughead character).

Oh yeah, and the Micheal Jackson Lifetime movie which isn't even worth mentioning beyond that, and talking about Zac Efron being Ted Bundy. Debby had freakin' more to say about this and Disney than she did Miley, but whatever. It's stupid. Charlize (or however you spell it) Theron wasn't hurt in the slightest damned bit playing a somewhat physically disfigured serial killer who preyed on both men and women in the dozens in Monster (also supposedly based on a real life killer) - she's been in tons of fashion magazines, shoots, commercials and of course movies in the already decades since. Hell friggin' Prometheus was much, much more damaging to her career if anything. Now that was a legitimately bad movie.

I'm sure there's other stuff too but I really don't feel like rewatching the whole nearly 40 minutes on CBS' website. Anyway let's talk about that last thing (which was actually the first thing they talked about), the whole students getting pepper-sprayed thing. Just quick background: a bunch of students in an Ohio high school are taking a criminal justice elective and for extra credit they signed a bunch of permission slips and waivers so that their teacher can pepper spray them in the goddamn fucking face.

So in between all this opining from Sharon and Cheryl and even Debby about how it's somehow good to have kids volunteer themselves to be pepper sprayed in the goddamn fucking face because, well, they signed the permission slips and waivers and they knew what they were getting into!, let me just say that just because a school prepares a permission slip and just because the kiddies volunteer for it knowing what they're getting into, doesn't prevent it from being a really stupid, horrible, fucking moronic thing to pull off. And what qualifies me to say this is that not only do I come from a family with a law enforcement background (so yeah, I know pepper spray hurts without even having to try it) but I myself also come from an actual teaching and education background so I know a fucking stupid idea when I see one and I know when teachers and school administration starts acting like dumbfucks, and this certainly qualifies. I've linked to "The Third Wave Experiment" and the book and movie it later inspired before so...here it is again. See, that was an idea that a whole bunch of teachers and school administration thought would be a really good idea to turn their classrooms into quite literally The Third Fucking Reich, and needless to say it ended as a horrible clusterfuck, so even well-meaning teachers and school administration can put their students into very dangerous situations due to a severe lapse in judgement.Spraying your students in the goddamn fucking face with pepper spray, even if it's for a specific point and even if they signed all their permission slips for extra credit, represents a severe lapse in judgement.

I'm also reminded of Maddox, aka The King of the Universe and proprietor of The Best Page in the Universe. Very early on when his website started even being a thing (so we're now talking already decades ago too - man, I really do feel old) one of his early fanmail responses involved some idiot knucklehead serial rapist in the making who asked Maddox to talk about the "injustice" of the Army not allowing soldiers to freely rape women (I cannot even think of an emoji or any words to described how fucked up this individual must've been). But then again I guess I don't have to think of the words because Maddox did a pretty satisfying smackdown of this extremely disturbed individual for all of us when he pointed out that you shouldn't need empirical evidence to be able to figure out on your own that raping women is bad, and a very bad crime that will see you locked up in jail from 25 to life.

I would tend to think that being sprayed with pepper spray in the goddamn fucking face tends to qualify along similar lines: you don't need empirical evidence and experience it first-hand to know that it's fucking goddamn horrible.

Episode Grade: Uhhh...how can you really evaluate a talk show though? I guess I'd give it a C- because if nothing else seeing freakin' Debby talk about the virtues of being sprayed in the goddamn fucking face with goddamn fucking pepper spray, and then the audience applause, is going to be yet another one of those things I'm going to file under "reasons why I want to permanently leave America."
Episode MVP: Sarah Gilbert because it seriously looks as if running this thing is literally sucking out her life's soul.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Fun fact: I think I shared before that my family has some law enforcement background, and one day (this was, well...already decades ago too...I hate being old) my brother found an expired can of pepper spray that my dad forgot about and he wanted to know if the expiration date meant anything.

Spoiler alert: turns out it doesn't, really. I also told him even back then (I was like, seven or so?) that spraying your own goddamn fucking face with pepper spray is really stupid. See even back then I didn't need fucking empirical evidence to know that that shit sucks. Duh.

 - Debby's, Cheryl's and Sharon's arguments were that kids who want to aspire into law enforcement for a career need to know what it feels like to be sprayed in the face to know what people who protested and fought for Civil Rights experienced before. And my response is, no, we should be cutting back on the use of pepper spray and weapons use overall, lethal or non-lethal, rather than just attacking protesters with pepper spray and tear gas as a fucking first resort (or even second, third or fourth resort).

 - Oh and speaking of which I believe the state of Massachusetts requires you to register pepper spray as a firearm as if it were actually a big piece of an overcompensating shooting-thingie.

 - I was actually really tempted to give Aisha Taylor MVP (and continue to break my New Year's Resolution) because I actually find her to be really, really incredibly attractive and alluring and yes those two "reallys" are necessary, but moreover for kind of a weird specific reason - because as strange as this sounds she really strikes me as looking like an older version of Debby, and seeing her actually right next to Debby only helped drive home that fact for me. In fact every time I look at her I think "hey she looks like an older version of Debby." Yeah, I guess I need to get my eyes checked or something.

 - And yes, I know, I am super, way behind on Andi Mack. I'll get to it.

 - And I originally wrote this yesterday morning, I was almost finished on it, then I got distracted and I literally forgot about this. In the meantime some...really bad stuff happened concerning a venue involving someone very relevant to this blog. I'm still debating about making some sort of statement on this blog, even if it just amounts to just a single sentence along the lines of "terrorism, violence and Daesh are really, really bad."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

16 Wishes DCOM Reviewed

22 today, happy birthday sweetheart!

What is it? Well, that's actually an interesting question.... It's classically thought of as a DCOM...even though strictly technically speaking it isn't (yes, that's right, it means Disney Channel's official Facebook page is wrong on this!) It's really a direct-to-DVD movie that Disney Channel just happened to pick up on very, very early during the production stage (before they even decided on a lead, hence how Debby became involved) due to Disney Channel's previous relationship (and ongoing relationship, for that matter) with Mar Vista studios through a number of actual DCOMs before and since. See folks, only on this blog will you learn new facts and grow your brain right in the introductory minutiae of each and every blog post!
Where did it air? Well, again, continuing the above it's actually a bit complex. Technically it did indeed premiere on Disney Channel first, but it was originally intended for DVD sales/streaming to be the primary means of distribution. Of course now it's as closely associated with the network as any other DCOM and other than directly streaming it or getting the DVD it's the only place on "traditional" television you'll find it.
Who stars in it? Most prominently, Debby Ryan, who became attached to the project as soon as Disney Channel decided to throw money at it. Jean-Luc Bilodeau plays second-billing Jay - you may recognize Jean-Luc (no, not that Jean-Luc) from not only the later Mar Vista-produced DCOM Zapped! but also from the somewhat short-lived Canadian/UPN (remember that network? Probably not) production Kyle-XY as the title character. Anna Mae Routledge is Celeste "the birthday fairy" and...yeah, this is actually the biggest role she's been in (she's been in another movie we've done a mini-review on...Eurotrip, maybe?) The only other notable role is Karissa Tynes as Krista. Abby's mom is played by the same actress who played an FBI agent in...Snakes on a Plane. Yeah, really. The principal is also "Chevron Guy" from Stargate: SG-1. There's also this really gorgeous ginger with these Marianas Trench-deep blue eyes but...uhh, we'll get to that at the end I guess.
Why are we reviewing this?

...well, see, there are three or so key events that lead to the creation of this very blog, and 16 Wishes is one of them.

One of those events would be of course the creation of GirlMeetsWorldReviewed.Blogspot.com which directly inspired the creation of this blog. But of course there'd be no point or even capability to make this blog without material to fill it up with. That's where 16 Wishes and other things come in.

Another of those events, by far the most important one, is Phineas and Ferb - or more specifically, when I just happened to chance upon Phineas and Ferb (The Chronicles of Meep specifically - I need to, like, send flowers to Povenmire and Marsh for that one, it was a real chance of fate that happened to be the first episode I saw as it was superbly excellent if not outright sublime) one night when I was desperately searching for new programming to watch. And as I describe in both my Jessie and Liv and Maddie retrospectives, this was actually critical timing because at the time I was just a few weeks off from having my ex-fiancee break up with me and less than a week from recovering from cancer-removing surgery. And not only was Phineas and Ferb the perfect TV visual comfort food at the time, but it was an immediate gateway to more visual comfort food on the network and by extension Nickelodeon (the first episode of anything I've ever watched on Disney Channel aside from The Chronicles of Meep - immediately after the Chronicles of Meep, in fact - was the second replay of the then-premiere episode of Good Luck Charlie's T-Wrecks and given the emotional state I was in, I was actually really blown away by just how well done an all-inclusive family multi-cam sitcom it was - and that was immediately followed up by the second replay of the premiere of Jessie's Gotcha Day which, well, if you want to delude yourself that Jessie is a better show than it is there are few better episodes than that to dive into).

Now, here's the thing - even at that point after about a month of watching I was still on the fence about the actual quality of Disney Channel shows and Jessie especially. By that I don't mean I would've given up watching the network forever and never ever speak of the great embarrassment of being an allegedly grown-ass adult watching Disney Channel, but my viewing habits probably would be a lot like they are today - oh hey, Good Luck Charlie's on, yeah I like that show. Oh hey it's Phineas and Ferb. Oh, hey Jessie's on...I wonder what Rick on Pawn Stars is trying to rip off today. But what ended up being the real tipping point to being dedicated as an allegedly grown-ass adult to this network and becoming a Jessie super-fan (or at least the closest thing that passes for it) is this movie. 

I think what really resonated with this movie, again given my emotional state, is the back half where Abby finds herself turned into an allegedly grown-ass adult. Even when you're in your early 20s (as Abby finds herself), well...I'm just going to quote the speech Abby's dad gives:

But being grown up is different than dreaming about it, isn't it? We understand. Of course! You're scared that your childhood is over and with it all the best times of your life! You probably wanna turn back that clock and start over? Boy I know how that feels!

...and being in my 20s...and already having been engaged in marriage, and then seeing all that blow up in my face, and then finding out I have cancer, and then dropping out of school over it...yeah, that shit gets overwhelming. You spend a lot of time thinking about how not long ago all you needed to do was wake up and go to school and everything else is provided for you, and you all of a sudden find yourself in that same situation, just minus the school, and at least just old enough so that it all feels familiar but at the same time a bit weird. 

Nostalgia is not perfect, and it can even be a dangerous thing - I've dedicated very large portions of this very blog about how nostalgia effectively stunted if not outright ruined Girl Meets World from its very conception. But we keep coming back to it because it's comfortable. Girl Meets World was greenlit and conceived, arguably, because it was a return to a very comfortable concept, a concept that was successful in its heyday and it was thought would be successful because that previous success had grown itself into its fanbase to provide comfort (again, Christian and Sean have talked about the comfort aspect of the original show). And when you're in a position where comfort starts being medicine, nostalgia is a very powerful thing to go back to.

My point being, girls who were 16 but accidentally wish themselves to be 22 as they walk out of a store dressing room and wishing they can just go back to school and live with their parents again and guys who actually are 22 (well, older than that even) but got kicked out of their fiancee's life so hard they apparently literally got cancer over it and had to move back in with their parents have a lot in common with each other.

Of course, that's just my perspective. But also keep in mind that apparently this little movie gave Debby enough clout, at least on the network, to where Disney Channel ultimately decided to greenlight her own show which of course became the 101-episode (not 98!) long series Jessie. No, really, it got one of the highest adult demos of its night.

It's really my theory that this message about childhood nostalgia, whether intended or not, proved to be a big hit with Millennials. I mean, think about it. We're supposedly the "never grow up" generation - we have high unemployment, low independent housing, yadda yadda. Abby's words about feeling like we're 16 and then suddenly 22 and needing a job and a means to afford our own place and take care of ourselves have become themes of a generation. And I'm not saying this as an insult to Millennials (being one myself of course) but that no doubt it happened to previous generations too - Gen X'ers, Baby Boomers, what have you as they suddenly find themselves transitioning from a school-focused work ethic to suddenly being in the actual work force. It's an increasingly universal theme as the world marches towards mechanization and now digitization, but it's a theme that's been rather under-represented in all but tween through young adult media.

But enough of me waxing nostalgic and complaining about my personal life again, how does it rate as a movie? Well, Abby's a brat through the first part (then again that's the point) and then we kinda see her cartoon-mature and she grows up, yadda yadda. Debby's not bad at all in it, Jean-Luc captains his way through it equally respectably, Karissa is very much underappreciated, Chevron Guy makes for the second ultra-nerdy sci-fi reference in this very sentence and again if you've seen the movie you probably know who I'm talking about when I talk about this curly-hair ginger girl with these sapphire-forged eyes who's, like, so gorgeous I'd go through another round of chemo for, like I will forget about my lousy ex for her, yadda yadda. Even when trying to emotionally divorce oneself it's a pretty competent movie, and Lord knows there've been quite a few official DCOMs that don't measure up to this one (the vastly overrated Cowbelles, Teen Beach 2, yes Invisible Sister)

Movie Grade: B-. Like I said, it's at least competent and enjoyable enough it deserves this.
Movie MVP: That ridiculously gorgeous blue-eyed ginger, of course, for completely memorizing me in the two or three scenes she's in including the one scene where she gasps, which is the closest speaking role she has. 

...just kidding, although I really do think she deserves more recognition (seriously, I don't think gingers get enough recognition for how beautiful they are, as I've again shared on this very blog before). But really, it's obviously going to be Debby, duh. This is the performance that convinced the network to give her Jessie, after all.

Extra Thoughts:

 - Of course after mentioning that last part I guess I'm obligated to again remind you that my ex-fiancee herself is a ginger so I'm biased (and again, Debby became a fake ginger for the Jessie role so, there).

 - Speaking of Cowbelles, both that and 16 Wishes feature the song Don't Wanna Grow Up by the band Willknots

  - Uuugggh Disney Channel commercials from April leading up to the RDMAs are soooo laaaaaame. But I probably only think this because the RDMAs themselves are after-the-fact old news now.

 - here's a bit of trivia for you: after wishing to become popular, Abby claims that the dads of some girls are planning her birthday party in Las Vegas as they happen to own half of that town. This implies that they're direct descendants of Howard Hughes who quite literally owned half of Vegas (though it's honestly doubtful the writers really knew this at the time).

 - Abby's driver's license information is the following: ID #073 477 657; Class D (do note that most 16 year olds start off with a Class C license which legally permits them to drive most normal passenger cars - being too lazy to Google it, I don't even know if "Class D" is a thing); no endorsements (minor fun fact: yours truly, the author of this blog, has one endorsement: M, giving legal permission to operate motorcycles); no restrictions; Code 776-36A (whatever that means) and lists her DOB as 7/7/95 (which implies that the movie takes place very specifically on July 7, 2011 - almost exactly 11 months into the future of its original Disney Channel premiere date - and is also contradicted by the fact that in parts of the movie everyone's breath is obviously visible and many trees remain bare as they probably shot it in late February or early March of 2010) and her height as being 5'6" (which is Debby's actual height) and just as Celeste the Birthday Fairy says, the license doesn't expire

 - The design of the "Coastal State" license plate on Abby's car also implies this takes place in Oregon even though her license actually refers to "Coastal State" as the actual name of the state.

 - Abby's school, Walnut Grove, is a real school in the Vancouver area where the movie was shot. It's a private school and you can see on their website they're very proud of being the filming location for 16 Wishes. Their mascot actually is the Gators, BTW (as displayed on the school bus and Abby's lifetime lunch pass, which is modeled after the actual Walnut Grove lunch pass. Yes, I go deep into this for you - only on this blog!)

 - Yeah, I am waaaay behind on Andi Mack. I was hoping to binge on the backlog of episodes up to the latest today for my birthday but...yeah, forget that. We'll be resuming Andi Mack reviews tomorrow. Hopefully.

 - And obviously this is Part 2 of our Birthday Blog posts today, so, Happy Birthday Debby! (And Happy Birthday Me!)

Confessions of a Teen Nanny Young Adult Book Series Review

She has displaced anxiety, and she used me as a surrogate for releasing her misplaced emotions of hostility against her mother. Alternatively, yeah, we do young adult book reviews now!

What is it? A set of three young adult novels published between 2005-2006 under Simon & Schuster, and now I bet you're really appreciating we do this info introduction bit because you'd probably be lost without it and this is why I keep insisting we do this.
Where did it air? Well, ummm...it's a book series. I managed to find all three books through my local library system, and you can no doubt find them on Amazon, used book specialist sites and maybe your local used book store.
Who stars in it? Well, ummm...a bunch of words on paper, but it's written by Victoria Ashton who describes herself as being of the same cloth as the ultra-rich socialites she writes about.
Why are we reviewing this? Haven't you heard? Yeah, we do young adult book reviews now!

Happy Birthday, Debby Ryan! And, umm...oh, yeah, Happy Birthday ME! Welcome to not one by two special Birthday Blog posts! Our first one will look at, well, you can read the blog post title and the infodump we just did above.

Confessions of a Teen Nanny had been on my reading list for a while now (I'll get into a little bit in the next post about why I'm so into young adult books - besides the fact that, yeah, it's literally my job now with my position and specialty in the publishing industry, yay!) and given the external plot similarities to the series and Debby's best-known series so far, Jessie, I figure it's natural to reserve reading it for her birthday. I mean, teen nanny has to take care of bratty family in an ultra-posh Manhattan penthouse? Check! The eponymous teen nanny even has red hair, so check that! Going into it my hopes weren't exactly high, but I was still hoping for an enjoyable if not ultra-fluffy, light read that'd still swim in my mind for a little bit as the world (hopefully) relaxes and chills for the upcoming summer months. Even the covers in particular represent a certain irreverent yet carefree, child-like whimsy that was a big draw for me:

...I dunno why it's upside-down like that.

Yeah, just about the only thing I got right was the light reading part. I zoomed through all three books in less than four hours (though keep in mind I'm also a speed reader, something that's been pretty helpful in my profession, needless to say).

But man, what a disappointment. 

See, during the mid-2000s young adult/teen lit was dominated by empty lifestyle-worship. One of the most infamous offenders was The Clique which...well, you best perhaps just read the TVTropes link (or you can do what I did and spend half a month reading all 24 books). Rather than the whimsical Mary Poppins-but-21st-century-teen story I was expecting I got...pretty much The Clique but they're teen babysitters instead of, uh, teen non-babysitters. The interactions between the two protagonists and their charges are interesting enough (and indeed there are a scary number of parallels and similarities to this series and Jessie - the aforementioned ginger nanny in charge of a girl named Emma, the Manhattan penthouse complete with stuffy butler and direct-access elevator, and so on) but it's clear the dominating narrative is between the older (as in even older than the nannies) half-sister who butts in in the worst way possible, flitting inane love interests that don't go anywhere other than "if you fall for a guy who's a jerk, you're going to discover that that guy is a jerk" and pretty lengthy descriptions of fashion choices. The narrative also randomly weaves in and out between the two protagonists which, while there are clear breaks it does make it somewhat disorienting and even jarring as very rarely the two narratives are connected beyond the fact that they involve best friend nannies. Yeah, sure, I'd love to have the action between Liz and her charge Heather see if they can perform during their equestrian competition be broken up right during its climax so we can meet up with Adrienne just learning that her rich boyfriend is indeed a droll jerk.

Overall Series Grade: C+. Look, I'm all for promoting media with ginger heroines in them (more in that in the immediate follow-up post) but...this is about the dictionary picture of a C+ here. Unsurprisingly this is Victoria Ashton's only fiction foray (that probably should've been my first hint) and her only other published work is a memoir about...lap band surgery? I don't mean to shame people who undergo this more often than not absolutely necessary procedure but...it just strikes me as a bit too Dr. Phil for my usual tastes, as buried in teen chick lit as they are.
Favorite Character: Probably Adrienne by default as she's halfway developed, maybe Emma or Heather, the latter of which actually manages to be rather quite adorable and precocious all things considered.

Extra Thoughts:

 - again, Happy Birthday to Debby Ryan, and Happy Birthday to me!

 - as you can see we've replaced "Episode/Movie MVP" with "Favorite Character" for our book reviews, and our previous book reviews will be changed to reflect that (which is exactly one, when we reviewed The Swap ahead of its DCOM adaptation).

 - So here's something I consider to be an early birthday present: Last Man Standing got canceled! I wouldn't have such ill-will against the show itself if it isn't for the infamous response we got from the one time we reviewed the show (where we gave it a positive review!) that pretty much convinced me that this show's fandom lives down to every stereotype liberal comedians can possibly throw at Trump voters. So to the LMS fandom I say: suck it down hard, bitches.

Yeah, there ain't no fuckin' love lost between me and the LMS fandom.


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

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