I stay relatively up to date on television for kids, tweens, and teens. I want to start recording thoughts about various programs out there. It won’t be a “synopsis” — instead it’s + or – why the show works. Feel free to jump in too if you agree/disagree!
[This will be slow to get going. I am going to add a show every few days or so.]
- Avatar – Nickelodeon. One of the most sophisticated, well-constructed, GORGEOUS cartoons to ever hit a small screen. Every episode is played out like a chapter in a series of books. Each episode has it’s own story, while at the same time lending a valid piece of the giant puzzle. The animation is fantastic- the characters have “bending” powers which look like various styles of martial arts (water bending is more fluid, earthbending = heavy, big motions, firebending = fast, harsh movements, etc). It’s clear that Nickelodeon put a lot of money into top-notch artists. Toph is my favorite– the blind girl who is the strongest earth-bender because she uses all her senses to make up for her lack of sight. Character Arcs are well-planned and suspenseful. And the exploration of friendship and family relationships (and yes, love too, if you’re willing to acknowledge it) are brilliant. More than anything– I just want to see (heroine) Katara & (enemy) Zuko be together, and what (main character) Aang’s growth as Avatar while battling his deep love for what he can’t have– Katara. Side note: I’ve heard rumors of M. Night Shyamalan’s attachment to a movie-version, but that could be a rumor.
- Chaotic – 4KidsTV!/WB. The art direction & style of this cartoon make it really appealing to the eye. I wasn’t sold when seeing the name or the description (Chaotic being the same name of Brit-Brit & K-Fed’s ex-show of love, and the plot of boy plays intense mmorg-ish game by turning into creatures felt a little BEN10 meets Yu-Gi-Oh). However, they did a really good job of giving it a different feel/tone. Cute characters (what tween girl doesn’t like a cute boy to watch– even if it is a cartoon?), so-so personalities. They aren’t as developed for appealing as Danny Phantom, but they’re cool. To me its the actual game & art styles that get the A+. Everything else is like a solid “good.”
- Emperor’s New School – Disney. An adaptation from the movie Emperor’s New Groove, it’s fun, light, and totally Disney. If you were going to give me a choice– I’d go with the movie. David Spade’s voice/tone was right on par, while J.P. Manox’s version of Kuzco (main character) seems a bit rushed and off-beat. I don’t really get the whole “school” plot– seems like a device to make Disney happy (something for kids to identify with). Minor characters– Pacha (John Goodman in movie, Fred Tatasciore in tv) and his family don’t make sense with the show, they feel tacked on. For me– Eartha Kitt’s Yzma and Patrick Warburton’s Kronk make it worth watching. As the writing/lines, you can tell whom the writers favor on the show, and whom they’re not so fond of. This isn’t one of the shows I seek out to watch, but if I find it while channel surfing, I feel lucky and tune in.
- Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends – Cartoon Network. The writing on this show is brilliant. Fosters manages to blend kooky young w/ kooky adult. Jim Henson did this brilliantly. They manage to make annoying funny (even endearing– more so than Dextor’s Laboratory!). They take kid-stories, spin them so that kids and adults can relate, and then sprinkle it with insanity. It’s fresh, funny, and completely unique. It reminds me of USA’s “The Office” on ABC– re: each character bounces into the favorite category, and it’s hard to really pinpoint which is the best. Minor Character’s Goo (the over-imaginative girl with the ‘don’t inhibit her creative!’ upbringing) and Cheese (the most ANNOYING, yet somehow enjoyable character OF ALL TIME) are well constructed. I like how Mac is a little man trying to hold onto his youth, and Blue is soooo self-centered, yet likable. Every character has a true heart of its own. Very, very cool.
- Hannah Montana – Disney. At first I was very “meh” about this how. Miley/Hannah felt like a 2.0 version of Amanda Bynes… and Billy Ray Cyrus’s hair confused me. I wasn’t too wild about the cliche brother either (he bounces between the bumbling “Ron Possible” from Kim Possible to the sly-ruthless bro “Alexander Cabot” from Josie & The Pussycats). Plus, there’s something about the characters that make them interchangeable with ANY tween live-action Disney show. However, recently I’ve really taken a shining to the show. Miley’s 50-50 life with Hannah Montana creates really great problems. Her friend (who reminds me of Six from Blossum, and basically any of the kids on Zoey 101) has grown on me too. They’re a goofiness to it that’s sweet and appeals to anyone wishing they were popstars. Even Billy Ray Cyrus’s awkward-actor charm has grown on me. I realize that HM is a HUGE mega-uber-powerhouse for Disney Marketing. Wannabe popstardom is “so” now with tween girls. As the show continues to air, and the story-lines grow… I find myself liking it more and more.
- Josh & Drake – Nickelodeon. I’m sorry- but you cannot find better buddy chemistry & comedic timing than from Josh Peck and Drake Bell. They’ve grown together as actors, and it’s clearly worked to their advantage. Josh’s actor arc has been TREMENDOUS in comparison to Drake’s (who depends on his good looks and charm). And if you were going to compare Josh’s appearance when the show first started to his appearance now– it’s like night and day. Puberty & Maturity will do that to you, I guess. The shows follow the basic story spine– point out how different they are, Josh wants to do something, drake bungles it, Josh gets in a pickle (or frustrated), Drake makes out with girls, Drake tries to find a way to make it up to Josh, Something wacky happens, and Josh and Drake reaffirm how they need each other as friends & bros. And even with that basic storyline, the writers find a way to work in charm & fun & a unique approach to goofiness. My ONLY problem with the show is how often Drake is portrayed as a male slut. All he does is make out and jump from girl to girl– making girls look like silly twits desperate for a hot guy. Ugh. It’s his one-trick pony. Other than that– I am going to really miss these two once they part ways… adulthood is approaching with new career paths. I highly doubt they’ll stick together… comedic goofballs never do (Kenan & Kel, Conan & Andy, etc). It’s a shame– because they could really revive the vaudevillian duos in the entertainment biz.
- Leagion of Superheroes – WB/4KidsTV. This show is like a Teen Titans, part 2, following the lead of a young-Superman as opposed to Robin (of Batman). If you like Teen Titans, you’ll love this. The difference? This team feels new– like they’re trying to form a group and build relationships (instead of the pre-existing relationships of Teen Titans). It doesn’t have the same complex/life-or-death feel of Teen Titans yet, but that could be due to it’s young nature as a series. Besides, who doesn’t love Superman? It will be fun to see the man-of-steel tackle a youthful team.
- Naked Brothers Band – Nickelodeon. Awkwardly Hilarious! I’ve not paid very much attention to who the writers are, but they’ve done a really great job of making young kids act like teens/adults while still reminding us that they’re just silly young kids. And these kids are not the best of actors– which is part of the charm. I must say… for who they are & the age their at… these kids do a great job trying to honestly embody their characters. Nat writing love songs from an early age (talk about emotionally developed)? Alex battling individuality & fame while wanting to beat his older brother to puberty (who knew it was such an exciting idea!)? It’s goofy, good-natured, and makes light of fame & being pretending to be adult-like as a kid. Of course there are things I raise my eyebrows at– the babysitter/nanny/tutor’s skirt length & low tops, the reference to pop/soda-addiction. But those are simple enough to be at the discretion of a parent.
- Teen Titans – Cartoon Network. Awesome. This is a great show of complex characters who could totally have spin-off shows, but due to their inner-relationships, you WANT them to stick together. The plots & twists are rarely predictable and they have complete respect for the intellegence of the audience. Every episode could have been made into a movie– nicely done, TT writers. It also appeals to both boys and girls of the kid to tween variety (and older in some cases… is loved by the subculture teens).
- The Tribe (Series 1 – 5) – Australia’s Cloud Nine, USA’s WAM!, UK’s Five. I started watching this show in the UK simply because their make-up & style and the mere fact babies were having babies intrigued me (the way that bump in the attic makes me want to investigate). It actually turned out to be a great fantasy-soap for tweens/teens… teaching them about choices and consequences and WHY you want to stay a kid as long as you can. The Tribe is about kids who survive a devastating plague that killed off adults… kids are broken up into tribes based around moral principals– friends, power, bullies, etc. They consistently pay attention to such problems as Body image, illness, addiction/addictions, empowerment, politics, friendship, loyalty, betrayal, etc. I don’t know why (considering I’m weirded out by babies having babies), but I love this series.