Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Bunk'd Reviewed: We Didn't Start The Fire (S2E20, Series Finale - dot dot dot?)

Pretty soon you'll be wishing you were sucking on some of that beaver butt secretion!

What is it? 24-minute-ish multi-cam children's "sitcom" on Disney Channel, and it wears those quotes with infamous pride
Where did it air? Disney Channel, where ratings and multi-season runs go to die
Who stars in it? Peyton List, Skai Jackson and Kara Brar who probably really, really regret being so quick to jump off from Jessie onto this boat that barely floated to begin with. Miranda May who probably really, really regrets that her stint on Liv and Maddie wasn't longer now. Kevin Quinn who probably really, really regrets he couldn't get on The Thundermans or even Best Friends Whenever now. Nina Lu and especially Nathan Arenas who probably really, really regret being on the show too - not because it's such a sinking ship but because their casting agent thought it would be awesome to be cast in roles that require them to stand around and do nothing but be the butts of some excessively cruel, out-and-downright fucking racist jokes. GG, Disney Channel, the self-proclaimed official network of the empowered action princess and pint-sized feminism.
Why are we reviewing this? The big question that needs to be asked is why would anybody want to watch this?

...and indeed, looking at the raw ratings...not a lot of people have. A lot of Twitter chatter indicated that this is probably the quasi-intended series finale, yet another two-and-through season wonder on Disney Channel which sadly seems to be increasingly the norm. 

Then again, unlike some other shows like Best Friends Whenever which hey at least had its moments and I Didn't Do It which...was bumpy, especially in its second season but hey - Bunk'd's short run, if it indeed comes to that, is entirely of its own making. We've reviewed exactly one other episode of Bunk'd in the past, and when I say "in the past" I mean it - all the way back in November 2015, the fifth episode of the entire series, when this blog was still spankin' brand new. I gave that episode a C+ and that would be an extreme high for the series. I've since described the series as a "dumpster fire," little knowing how appropriate that would turn out to be - but more on that later.

I've said in recent reviews and postings that I'm slowly coming to re-evaluate my lionization of Jessie, probably one of the strangest series in the network's entire history to do so. I still maintain that it isn't the case although...I think I'm starting to see. I've said that the first two seasons almost seem like a different show compared to the last two and especially the very last, but since Disney Channel seems to have a liking to airing first season episodes, it's shocking to me especially just how much the first season seems like an almost different show to the second season. I mean, don't get me wrong, the second season still had some really, really great and terrific episodes that I think can punch in the same weight class as the best of Girl Meets World - The Trouble With Tessie, Why Don't Foils Fall In Love, Kids Don't Wanna Be Shunned, Break-Up and Shape-Up, even Throw Momma From the Terrace and Punch-Dumped Love especially if you removed the incredibly inane B-plot and the specific Adam Sandler weirdness from the latter - but still, there's a very noticeable jump in quality to the first season compared to the second (or is that a noticeable decrease in quality from the first season to the second?) 

But for whatever troubles they were having by Jessie's conclusion (and especially given her long resume of classic shows in the past, including the one we just most recently covered - yes, Ellen, take a look over here if you don't believe me because I know you don't believe me because I can hardly believe myself) it's clear Pamela Eells O'Connell and her crew just lost the plot right off the bat with Bunk'd's pilot. For someone with such a bevy of classic shows in her resume, for someone who was involved in a show in an age where just having both an actress and character as openly gay was so revolutionary it outright sparked a massive cultural revolution in its own right, for both Suite Life series, for - for crying out loud, for just making the first season of Jessie so good, you had ONE job to do, just keep doing the Jessie Season 1 thing, Bunk'd was just an abject disaster of incredibly bad, awful punch lines that would make even the most juvenile joke doctors on A.N.T. Farm and Austin & Ally feel ashamed and embarrassed (well, except for the fact that the joke/script doctors of all three shows are literally one in the same which explains a lot), characters that are pretty much the walking personifications of fingernails being drug across chalkboards, and again just an outright onslaught of blatant racism which is really the type of thing Disney Channel, under the umbrella of one of the most LGBTQ and family-tolerant and openly welcoming entertainment outlets out there (well, at least that's there reputation) certainly would want to be proud of.

In fact, Bunk'd gets to defy my rule of the Second Season Improvement/Second Season Slump in the worst way possible - it starts out as an awful show, and instead of vastly improving in the second season, it just gets worse. Way worse.

But how does the episode mark the series exit, at least the exit the rumor mill is abuzz about? To my great and incredibly shock it's...pretty decent. Exactly as what an average episode of a typical Disney Channel multi-cam KidCom should be in fact. It starts out with an unbroken string of...actually pretty funny jokes, especially if you've been following these characters along since all the way at the beginning of Jessie (with some detours and complete sabbaticals along the way of Bunk'd's journey) and I'm not afraid to admit I laughed out loud at all of them. And part of the reason why these jokes are actually funny is because they're mining and actually paying attention to the mythos they've created with Jessie even though the main character that lent her name to that show remains persona non-grata. The plot - Emma and Ravi take their last exam to become full counselors and Zuri, Tiffany, Jorge and Griff try to summon the spirit of the camp's original founder - is pretty throw-away but I've just grown used to that for Disney Channel in general and this show in particular. In fact it's actually when the plot kicks into high-gear that the string of jokes gets broken and while the episode doesn't get bogged down in the same problems that's been keeping it in ratings quagmire land (well, for the most part) it gets bogged down nonetheless. Hazel is still obnoxious, but not quite as obnoxious as she usually is and it's much tempered by her getting her comeuppance. The other campers are still disturbingly mean-spirited to Jorge but at least the racial jokes are toned down. Tiffany gets to keep her violin and not have it just be smashed by Zuri in a fit of jealous, petty rage. Ravi tries to get his own sister to literally lick beaver butt. 

And then - spoiler alert - the boys' and girls' bunks get accidentally burned down but Emma and Ravi prove their worth as counselors in the process and are promised full promotions when they come back for summer next year, Hazel is demoted to CIT and, uh other stuff. Meanwhile, the smoldering remains of said bunks serve as a fitting visual metaphor for this show as a whole.

Episode Grade: C+, and trust me that's a high mark for this show, absolutely. The cream of the crop of what this show can give us, potentially the show's very finale in fact, is what the middling average of an equally average Disney Channel show should be.
Episode MVP: I'm actually giving it to Skai Jackson because I thought she had the best delivery of the jokes in the episode.

Series Grade (so far at least): D-, congrats Bunk'd you're just above failing. It's way too bad that they couldn't prove themselves still capable of at least delivering entertaining content until it was way too late and gave us a bunch of shit-schlock for two whole years instead.
Series MVP: Peyton List because why not, it's not like I've actually seen a lot of the show (every time I make a point to watch an episode to see if it's improved at all, I immediately regret it) to really decide on actual merit so let's give it to that one Disney Channel actress everyone's so obsessed with because she happens to be the hottest right now (well, hottest right now this side of Zendaya at least)

Extra Thoughts

 - I've been paying so little attention to Bunk'd that I didn't even know this was the last scheduled new episode premiere of the season, perhaps even forever, until my Twitter feed blew up about it and especially regarding the lack of respect to Debby Ryan for at least not acknowledging her hand in the creation of the show via Jessie. I had to watch it OnDemand because I didn't even bother to set my DVR to record it.

 - Not that it mattered because a snowstorm knocked out my satellite feed - but we'll get to that.

 - It's also an indication that the television landscape Disney Channel's used to has vastly changed, but that's another blog post (and indeed one we've been continuously covering).

 - I want to extend a big, big thanks and an equally big round of applause to our guest contributor Shipping Wars are Stupid (you'll no doubt recognize him from the comments section of Girl Meets World Reviewed) for our anniversary piece on Ellen's The Puppy Episode. It's not so much that he did it way better than I could have (which is certainly true) as so much as I didn't even know where to begin with something like that, considering how truly revolutionary it was, and I'm really glad and thankful I have someone who's willing to step up and freely volunteer his services for that :D

- and I'm going to introduce one of two segments that we'll be occasionally tacking onto the ends of these reviews here, segments that you'll no doubt recognize if you're a follower of Jim Sterling's The Jimquisition because I've blatantly ripped them off from there: it's time for our inaugural segment of Fuck DirecTV News. Our first installment concerns their complete and utter lack of ability to transmit a signal through less than a quarter inch of snow accumulation on the satellite dish, wish is probably not news to you and it certainly isn't news to me, but it's all the frustrating all the same, Fuck DirecTV.

 - in case you're wondering, yes it'll be Fuck Xfinity whenever we have a news segment with news that makes you want to say, Fuck Xfinity.

 - Oh, and in case you're wondering the latest episode of Andi Mack will be reviewed tomorrow or Thursday along with our other new segment, Oh, Disney Channel!

4 comments:

  1. I stopped watching after the first couple episodes, so i have no idea how the show's been going, aside that it looks like it's still mediocre. I've been looking to tackle it on my blog, so i may marathon a bunch of eps like i did with Game Shakers last year.

    I like that each season is a different summer, to explain the cast aging and such. Most summer shows don't do that so that's one thing this show got right. One.

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  2. To answer the opening question, the only reason to watch this is that you were a massive fan of one of the stars, and even then, I've seen a bunch of those super-fans bail. Somehow I never did, even though I bailed on Kat and Shadowhunters's cringe-worthy dialogue after one season plus one episode. ("Somehow", of course, being Pey's wardrobe.)

    Aside from that, the show doesn't deserve a detailed write-up. It deserves a Jay Sherman review. It stinks.

    For this episode in particular... well, the series could've redeemed itself at the end if, instead of singing the horrible theme song, they had starting singing, "Harry Truman, Doris Day..."

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  3. Pls review Andi mack it's been too long it's may 10 😢😢😢😢😢😢😢😭😭😭😭😭😭😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😲😱😱😱😱😱😱😱😩😩😩😩😩😬😬😬

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    Replies
    1. Well you're in luck because we have not one but two Andi Mack reviews! Sorry for the delay, uh, life got in the way.

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So we might be sparse on updates/posts for a while (also Andi Mack mini-review, whatever the hell episode # it is)

I'm taking a month-long summer course as a prerequisite for career advancement, and well I don't know what Mike's doing but if h...