In 10 Words or Less
Another entry from Dan Schneider's teen empire
Likes: Jerry Trainor, Jennette McCurdy
Dislikes: Most Teen Sitcoms
The Story So Far...
iCarly follows the comedic adventures of Carly (Miranda Cosgrove) and Sam (Jennette McCurdy), best friends and co-hosts of a popular web series, shot with the help of their tech-savvy pal Freddie (Nathan Kress.) Living without parents, with her flighty artist brother/legal guardian Spencer (Jerry Trainor), Carly is always getting roped into new situations, either through her own actions or those of her friends. The show has aired on Nickelodeon for several seasons, while there have been six iCarly releases to date, and DVDTalk has several reviews.
Remember the show Head of the Class? (And while I'm asking, why don't we have that show on DVD?) The guy in the back of the room with the computer, Dennis Blunden, was played by Dan Schneider, and though many of his castmates are "Where Are They Now?" candidates, he is probably the biggest success story, building an series of franchises with Nickelodeon, including Zoey 101, Keenan and Kel and The Amanda Show. (Though he did team up with fellow alum Brian Robbins several times on the way up, including their cult favorite Good Burger.) His biggest hit may be iCarly though, which has made a star of lead actress Miranda Cosgrove during it's relatively lengthy run on Nickelodeon. His shows tend to share a loosely connected universe, including things like the Pear computers the characters use (get it?), while he frequently re-uses actors again and again.
This show is probably the best of the Schneider bunch, a result of a fine cast and a very traditional sitcom structure, which compliment a very of-the-moment concept. As Carly and Spencer live without adult supervision (mom isn't mentioned, while dad works overseas in the military), there's a general fun-house feel to their world, which is enhanced by Spencer's child-like personality. Frequently, Carly has to be the voice of reason, though it never gets too serious for them. The world of iCarly is all about fun, even when the stakes are slightly elevated, like when Spencer is incorrectly reported dead, when Freddie is faced with a big fight or when the gang is tasked with reviving the career of a down-and-out pop star. Nothing is ever much more than an inconvenience to them.
While Trainor is tailor-made for a teen sitcom, with his goofy faces, silly voices and flailing body all garnering frequent laughs, Cosgrove is far more refined, playing the straight girl to her comedic sidekicks, though she's certainly not above a pratfall or spaz-out, two things she has shown the physical chops to handle. That's probably one of the more refreshing things about this series, as these girls are not your standard-issue teen mall divas, no matter how frequently they talk about hot guys. Though they'll freely jump around and scream like fans at a Jonas Brothers concert, they'll also freely dig into a rack of ribs. The key influence on this non-girly behavior is burgeoning criminal Sam, who brings a lot of tomboy to the party as the duo's nearly-sociopathic muscle, bullying Freddie and basically anyone else who bugs her that day. But she still has her teen-girl side, when her mouth isn't full of some kind of tasty meat product.
Though the two leads of the show are girls, and Freddie and their oddball friend Gibby (played by Noah Munck like a miniature William Frawley) are frequently abused by the ladies, this is no girl-power extravaganza, as it's more about the dynamic of three close-knit friends (plus occasionally Gibby) than any kind of female empowerment. In fact, you could almost swap the characters' genders without having to change a whole lot. It's nice to see teen girls treated as more than just constantly-shopping victims of peer pressure. In fact, they never engage in such behavior, in part because they are so busy with the web show, or because they are having adventures, like trying to go into space, attempting to win a beauty pageant or tracking down Bigfoot. Despite sticking closely to the idea of Carly and Sam hosting a show, there's certainly enough variety to keep the show from becoming formulaic, which points to some quality writing to go with the rest of the positive attributes the show can boast about.
Episodes 10-16 of Season Three (minus episode 14, which was a clip show) arrive on a single DVD, which is in a standard-width keepcase. The disc has a static, full-frame menu, with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras. There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
The disc delivers full-frame transfers that make the show look good, without any obvious issues with dirt, damage or compression artifacts. The show's bright color scheme is reproduced nicely, and the level of fine detail is pretty high. All around, a fine-looking presentation.
The audio is presented via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that sound just like the show's original broadcasts, with clean, clear audio, and nothing in terms of dynamic mixing.
Up first is the "iTrivia" version of "iSpace Out" which puts pop-up facts about the show on-screen. Too frequently there's too much time between facts, especially toward the end of the episode, but when they are there, there are some interesting bits shared, including little details on the set, the influence of ad-libbing on the series and just how involved Schneider is. More info about the production would have been appreciated, but the disc isn't really aimed at those curious about such matters.
The other extra is the first episode of Victorious, yet another sitcom from Schneider, which started on Nickelodeon this year. This one follows Tori Vega (Victoria Justice) who has to adjust to a new high school, which is made harder by the fact that it's a school for the performing arts, and Tori doesn't think of herself as a performer. This first episode sets up the concept, introducing Tori, her new friends and her rivals, including the evil Jade and her egotistical sister Trina. It's not a bad show, but it isn't as "fun" as iCarly and the personalities of many of the characters are a bit forced due to their status as performers.
The Bottom Line
The didn't have a high opinion of iCarly coming into this disc, despite my daughter's affection for the series, but after watching these six episodes, the show is a pretty solid example of a classic multi-camera sitcom, and even though it's aimed at young teens, it has enough to it that older viewers won't feel pain watching. The DVD looks and sounds like what you'd expect from a series like this, and there are actually a few extras, unlike many other Nickelodeon DVDs. If you've got a kid in the right age-bracket and they don't watch this show, it's your chance to introduce them to something fun to watch, and if they do watch it, here's your chance to get to know the iCarly gang.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or follow him on Twitter
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.