In 10 Words or Less
The hi-jinks of the young and talented
Loves: Good sitcoms
Likes: iCarly, Ariana Grande
Dislikes: Most Teen Sitcoms
Against my expectations and better instincts, I've come to enjoy iCarly and I now have definite admiration for Dan Schneider and his teen-comedy empire. He's found his niche and he serves it well, and has created yet another entry into that area with Victorious, a sitcom take on the world of artistic teens previously seen in Fame. While there are things in common with his previous hit, namely they both star attractive, talented teen girls in school settings, centered around a website concept, Victorious is very different, to both positive and negative effect.
Here, the show centers around Tori (Victoria Justice), a girl who gets drawn into the world of Hollywood Arts, a performing arts high school, when her high-maintenance sister Trina (Daniella Monet) can't perform at the school's big showcase. Stepping in, she shows tremendous singing ability and gets recruited to attend the school, meeting a new group of friends and learning about life amongst the artistic. The stories tend to focus on some school project or foray into the entertainment industry by Tori and her pals and how they go awfully wrong, giving Tori a challenge to overcome, like letting her friend practice special effects make-up on her, only to find out she used permanent glue. It's straightforward sitcom material, and it's done well (though not as well as the obnoxious laugh track would have you believe.)
The strongest part of this series is the cast, which is uniformly good, starting with Justice as the lead. Supremely composed, musically talented and capably silly when needed, Justice is quite good as the core of a sitcom, though she's a bit too sure of herself to play a girl trying to make her way in high school with anything but utmost confidence. It's easy to make comparisons with Carly, but when you stack Justice up against Miranda Cosgrove, it's no contest, as Cosgrove is more vulnerable and simply goofy, making her a more enjoyable, more accessible heroine. It's true she's a bit of a straight man to her sillier castmates, but her occasional freakouts show she could hold her own.
The supporting cast each get some time in the spotlight throughout the 10 episodes on this DVD set, though geeky Robbie and his ventriloquist puppet Rex get an inordinate amount of focus for such a gimmicky character, sitting at the center of six shows. That's not to say the other characters deserve more episodes, as Leon Thomas III's Andre and the show's power couple of Jade and Beck (Elizabeth Gillies and Avan Jogia) don't have much to their characters outside of good attitudes and bad, but with so many faces walking around, to focus on Robbie is just too much. The same can't be said for Ariana Grande, whose Cat is a lot of fun, exuding happiness and naivety, in the vein of Brittney Murphy's Tai from Clueless, and Eric Lange's wacky drama teacher Sikowitz. Smartly, they don't overdo it with these two, so each time they're on-screen, it's joyful and more than welcome.
In a clear single-width keepcase with a two-sided cover (featuring episode descriptions on the inside), this two-disc set offers up the series' first 10 episodes (as produced.) The discs have static, full-frame menus, with options to play all the episodes, select shows and check out the extras (on the second disc.) There are no audio options and no subtitles, though closed captioning is included.
Paramount, can you explain why you continue to deliver your Nickelodeon DVDs with letterboxed full-frame transfers when the shows are broadcast in anamorphic widescreen in high-definition? The resulting presentation on a widescreen TV is a smaller rectangle that's hardly optimal, though the actual video looks good, with appropriate color, a nice level of fine detail and no obvious digital artifacts.
The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that offer the usual sound of a Nickelodeon show, keeping things right down the middle. It's all clean and clear, making the dialogue and music sound very good, but you won't get anything dynamic out of it.
Sometimes, when the extras provided are so pointless, it would almost be better off having provided no extras at all. Here, all you get are a pair of promos and a pair of music videos. Combined, the two promos run about 1:20, giving a brief intro to Tori, then the rest of the cast. The music videos for "Freak the Freak Out" and "Beggin' on Your Knees" are a touch more substantial, featuring Justice with cameos by the other actors. Neither song is great, but "Beggin' on Your Knees" is pretty catchy pop music and Justice has a fine voice.
The Bottom Line
Victorious is no iCarly, but it's got an entertaining cast and some fun stuff going on, which makes it an amusing enough show to sit down and watch with your young ones. Unfortunately, Nickelodeon doesn't do the greatest job with its DVD releases, presenting the show in both letter- and pillar-box format, instead of the widescreen format it airs in, while slapping on a few promos it had laying around. As is usually the case with Nickelodeon DVDs, you can get much of the same benefit from recording the shows off TV, so you're buying this for the clean presentation and meager bonuses.
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 his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*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.