Thursday, August 10, 2017

Raven's Home: First Impressions

Something had to replace Girl Meets World, right?

You might remember That's So Raven as one of the most popular and long-running series in Disney Channel history. Ten years ago, the show aired its final episode. Ten years later, it's returned as a spin-off featuring a divorced Raven trying to raise her two kids with the help of a divorced Chelsea and her son. They are all under one roof in Chicago.........Raven's home.

Just a few things before I get to the review here. I don't know why this spinoff is happening or who asked for it. And that's not to say I wasn't happy with seeing Raven on my screen again, in her element getting back into the character that entertained me so much as a kid. Because I was. But there are some things that really don't need to be revisited. In this day and age, reboots and spinoffs come off less like genuine creative endeavors and more like sly marketing strategies. Disney Channel wants its old audience back. So what do they do? Announce the return of one of its most recognizable characters. But they still have to appeal to the kids, right? Give her two kids that she couldn't have possibly had at such a young age, unless they were ten years old or younger which they clearly don't seem to be. And also, make her and her best friend divorced with children because we have to cash in on the success of Fuller House, a very similar show that didn't need to be made either but has won over viewers in spite of the critics.

What I'm saying is that right off the bat, there's something calculated, something manufactured about Raven's Home that doesn't make it seem like something the network actually wanted to do because they wanted to reintroduce Raven and Chelsea to a younger generation. They just needed something to fill the void of this one particular show that ended earlier this year and got cancelled because they no longer had any use for the show. With all of the problems that Girl Meets World had during its run, it really did seem like Michael Jacobs and the writers wanted to give kids an enjoyable product, and give parents something they could enjoy with their kids. With Raven's Home, the only thing that stands out so far is Raven herself. It's almost like Disney just wants you to remember this one thing that was popular for a couple years and water it down to whatever the hell else airs on their network. Seriously, I'm really going to have to do reviews of Bizaardvark and Bunk'd?!

Anyway, I decided to just condense my thoughts here in one review because honestly, the show isn't worth reviewing individual episodes yet. It's not at that point where they differ wildly from each other, and after three episodes, why would it be? We're not talking Rick and Morty here, this is a live-action kids sitcom on Disney Channel in 2017. I know exactly what the game is at this point. When I find that one episode that stands out, either for being incredibly good or offensively bad, I'll make it into an edition of Mike's Quest. The show deserves that much.

Honestly, after three episodes, I can say the show is decent. It's just decent and I don't have strong feelings on 85% of the stuff that the show does. It hasn't done much to separate itself from the rest of the Disney pack. When Girl Meets World arrived, there was a very distinct tone. Good episode or bad episode, it gave me material that a lot of other shows couldn't. Raven's Home is just paint by numbers so far. It kinda reminds me of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn, but at least with this show, I understand why it exists, why people would watch it and what appeal it has. Raven is really the only bright spot so far. She's the one that's going to elevate the show beyond just being another robotic Disney sitcom. If there is one thing I noticed, it's that in terms of jokes and dialogue, it's not That's So Raven. I don't know what these network heads put in the water (it was probably in 2010/2011), but all of the shows they have now share the same comedic DNA. A joke that Raven's Home would use is the exact same joke that a show like School of Rock would probably use. I wish I could figure out the problem, but all I know for sure is that the shows made in 2005 and the shows made in 2017 are cut from a different cloth. It's almost as if there's this constant desire to be funny. Which I find ironic because a lot of these shows aren't funny.

You know what? I'm losing my train of thought. Raven's Home, if possible, has the ability to do great things. Show the hardships of being a single parent, develop Booker's character and his relationship with Raven as they try to hide the one thing they can actually bond over. Mature Chelsea's character as she becomes more responsible and self-reliant while keeping some of her original charm. And, if possible, get some good comedy out of Raven in this new position of parenthood. Unfortunately, the only way that can happen is if it goes to ABC. Let's be honest, the fans of the original show are older, less interested in the new generation of kids shows, and are only here to see two characters. A more mature That's So Raven deserves a more mature home. The younger generation won't understand the connection with the original show because they didn't grow up with it, so who is this supposed to appeal to and what does the show want to be?

That's the problem with a lot of these reboots. They don't really understand what they're supposed to be. I saw the sneak previews for the upcoming Hey Arnold! and Rocko's Modern Life specials, and it's obvious from the jump that they were made for the older generation who grew up watching the shows. Anyone else wanting to watch it can, but we all know who these specials are supposed to appeal to just from short clips. I'm not sure where Raven's Home is supposed to be going, but after what Disney did to Girl Meets World, I'm worried it won't live long enough for us to find out.

Hey, it's Unknown! Well, he's not so Unknown anymore...but that's for later.

But...well, Mike really hit the nail on the head here. I think pretty much every reader here understands that.

Let's make no bones about it: there's only one reason why this show exists, and that was that by early 2016 Disney Channel saw itself in a real downturn, if not an outright death spiral. I Didn't Do It (remember that show?) was two and through, Best Friends Whenever soon followed, and Mike already brought up Girl Meets World. Disney Channel needed anything to keep viewers coming back, and there's no way to hide that desperation working its way into Raven's Home's very concept. The same circumstances are likely what brought Andi Mack about too but...well, one's been an admittedly better execution than the other. Andi Mack was a desperation ploy in that they actually dare risk quality and high production values as things to attract viewers with. 

If you thought Girl Meets World was a blatant nostalgia grab (and make no mistake, I absolutely do), well then Raven's Home kind of forces the cynic out of all of us.

That's the one thing I have to disagree with Mike on - I don't think GMW and R'sH are all that different. Maybe I need to give Micheal Jacobs more credit than I do but it's clear he was struggling to bring that craft and vision to the screen, and that's why after three seasons the network was done with the show. If anything R'sH has a real advantage in that the producers and writers just want to bring something to screen and not really care specifically - and I think with the pressure off creatively, R'sH has actually shined.

I mean...don't get me wrong I liked some episodes of GMW which is why from what we've seen so far unless they do a big reveal of Raven Baxter being a lesbian (and quite frankly, I fully suspect that's exactly what the show's going to build up to as the specific reason why she and Devon broke it off) I don't think this show's going to deliver a Girl Meets She Don't Like Me, let alone some of the Season 2 episodes that are regarded as classics (or what passes for them). But that doesn't mean R'sH isn't entertaining so far. It's just...exactly that. Entertaining

TSR was a legit great series. Last year I reposted an article from AV Club where they talked about exactly why that show was great. Yes, 80% of the episodes were for the most part just...entertaining. But it's that part aside from "the most part" that really made it rise. It was as much about Eddie, Chelsea and Cory as much as it was about Raven, and it really gave it a close-knit ensemble if not outright familial feeling. I think that was Cory's in the House's main failing - it wasn't that Cory didn't justify his own show it's just that it didn't have as good a cast surrounding him as Raven had in her parent show. And I think that's what's really holding R'sH back - Chelsea is nice (redhead!) but the show really feels like it's missing something without Eddie (unfortunately it doesn't seem likely that Orlando Brown will be returning to the Mouse network ever...or any network, for that matter) and I can't be the only one screaming why won't you cast Kyle?!?! at the screen.

Seriously, Cory was my favorite character. I...see a lot of me in him when I was that age.

As for the kids...well...we already saw this in Jessie. That was another show that managed to have a great part aside from "for the most part" before it just spiraled down into patheticness during the final two seasons. Right now I'd compare the kids to say...Jessie Season 2, when it was still holding onto that great family close-knit feeling from Season 1 but the Flanderization (look it up) creep that would define Season 3 and especially Season 4 already started to make its way in.

It's a good series so far but...I can tell it's a good series while passively watching it even when doing something else. Something that I've done, which is how I know this.

But if that's what it takes to stop the viewer hemorrhage, then all the more power to it, I guess. And hell yeah it's nice seeing Raven Symone and Annalise Van Der Pol back (they look like they've aged probably because they're just, well...legitimately older than their TSR characters, but I don't think Raven's aged badly at all, actually). And she still has that timing down.

-I want to continue Mike's Quest (maybe finish it by the end of the year), but I don't know what show I should tackle next. Here's the list of targets: K.C. Undercover, Raven's Home (I need to get material from this show soon), Andi Mack, Stuck in the Middle, Bizaardvark, Bunk'd, Game Shakers, and School of Rock. If I'm not careful, one of these shows is going to get cancelled before I review it. But anyway, which one of these shows do you want to see me take on first?

Don't worry about it, I still need to move onto actually reviewing Descendants 2 beyond just "there's nothing really indicating Harry swings either way until he just flat out macks out with another dude." Or, speaking of macking out I haven't even touched the S1 finale of Andi Mack. As a review, or even on my DVR.

And the first show on that list to be canceled certainly ain't gonna be School of Rock. That thing's proving to be a cockroach among KidComs.

-I don't know about the theme song. I like it and at the same time, I don't. It's weird. Obviously, it's not as memorable as the That's So Raven theme song but it's still pretty catchy. I think the opening sequence is what's keeping me from liking the song more. If there was one clip I could use to highlight the decline of Disney Channel and live-action kids television in general, it would be this one. Bright, in your face, and it reeks of wanting to be liked. That crazy blended family and their shenanigans!

-If there's one character I don't like so far, it's Tess. She annoyed me in the first episode and it hasn't changed since. You know how everyone was complaining about Farkle in season one of GMW and talking about how irritating he was? I get it now. Tess speaks in a stereotypical Brooklyn accent with all of her lines (despite the fact that the show's based in Chicago and as far as I know, she didn't move from New York), and so far, has contributed nothing to the show but just being a wacky next door neighbor. In the last episode, for no apparent reason, she hit Levi's drone with her baseball bat, and when asked why she did it, she said it's because she had a bat. I'm dreading the episode where she's going to reveal how terrible her home life is and we'll all have to feel sorry for her. Like, her mother can't afford Christmas presents this year or some shit like that.

-I feel like Booker and Levi are the kind of characters that are funny now, but as they get older, their shtick will become annoying because they'll get taller and their voices will change and we'll all feel a little more dead inside. I don't know. I was watching some of the Thundermans "Thunder in Paradise" special and when I heard Billy's voice change, I felt like I was in the fourth dimension of hell. When did that even happen? He has the same voice for three and a half years and all of a sudden, the shtick he was doing before is now automatically grating because of his voice change. It's like the actors mature, but the characters don't so once again, dead inside.

-I guess I'll just use the rest of my time to talk about other shows. I saw the Wizard of Oz episode of Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn this weekend. I finally realized that this show is all about Dawn and her brothers are just the sidekicks. I should have noticed this before, but the episode was treating Dawn like the leader and her brothers as collectively peabrained morons. Has it always been like this? Also, this episode had a rare instance of Dawn making me laugh when she tried to cover up her crappy audition by stating that she was doing an Australian accent. It's really easy to amuse me sometimes.

-I also watched some of School of Rock and I honestly don't know why Unknown hates it so much. I mean, if it had Dan Schneider-type writing, I could definitely understand it, but at worst, it just seems bland and robotic. I need to watch more though so I can fully embrace the hate like my partner.

 - Mike's right about one thing, the shows made by Disney Channel for 2017 aren't like the ones they made back in 2005, especially if you disclude Liv and Maddie from the 2017 shows. Hell, the shows on Disney Channel now aren't like the ones back in 2012 and 2013 when Good Luck Charlie, Austin & Ally, Jessie and Phineas and Ferb and even A.N.T. Farm and Dog With a Blog were in their prime, the world was just introduced to Gravity Falls and Liv and Maddie and Wizards of Waverly Place and to a lesser extent Suite Life on Deck were still very fresh in people's minds (especially since they still reran endlessly on the network at that point). And both I Didn't Do It and Girl Meets World were still on the horizon, if that counts for something. The only exception is, again, Andi Mack precisely because making a conscious effort at quality is this show's very gimmick to begin with. But Bizaardvark is legitimately entertaining in the same way R'sH is, and so is Stuck in the Middle. KC Undercover...honestly its action is getting in the way of its own entertainment, which wasn't something that happened in S1 and S2. Bunk' seriously how did that get a season 3?

 - Oh Mike, you'll see the reason for my vitriol for SoR. You'll see.


  1. I'm kinda indifferent so far. It's fine, but it's clear it exists for Nostalgia-biating. By the way, this has different show runners than the original (It's the same guys who created Best Friends Whenever) which may explain why it can can be off.

    1. Really? If that's the case, then that's exactly why some of these spinoffs and reboots don't work. At least with Fuller House and Girl Meets World, they got back people who worked on the show originally. Rocko's Modern Life and Hey Arnold are being resurrected by their creators. Why would they hire people who probably never watched an episode of the old show before they started working on it?

    2. I /think/ some of the Raven crew are writers but that's about it.

  2. Resident Anon here....after a long hiatus of commenting.

    "Give her two kids that she couldn't have possibly had at such a young age, unless they were ten years old or younger which they clearly don't seem to be."

    Numerous people have been pointing this out, I'm noticing. I think what we have to assume here is that the gap between shows was longer in canon than it was in real life (in other words, longer than 10 years).

    1. That actually makes a lot of sense. Plus, they could get away with it a little bit since Raven and Chelsea have definitely aged a lot in the past ten years (Raven more so, but they definitely look the part).

  3. I want Henry danger to be cancelled I want to tweet Disney channel CN and Nick and creators start some petition s mike can I talk to you on I want teen Titans go to be gonesomebokd shows brought backe

    1. If we do petitions to bring back shows that didn't have a chance cancel too soon tweet some creaters will it help? Will anyone listen to us?

    2. James selmon is my dad name I also use it I'm joy davis

    3. Petitions to bring back shows are problematic. There are literally entire websites dedicated to talking about how petitions to bring back canceled shows often fail. Family Guy was truly exceptional, although increasingly not a lone case.

      Petitions to actively cancel shows are just stupid.

  4. Holy Sweet Jesus we actually got 8 comments on this one!


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