In 10 Words or Less
Love amongst the teen web phenoms
Likes: iCarly, 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 several iCarly DVD releases to date, and DVDTalk has several reviews.
Season three (or four depending on who you ask) is one of the show's highest profile runs to date, with several special episodes and guest stars, and the longest "film" since 2008's "iGo to Japan", as well as the first official crossover episode between two of creator Dan Schneider's shows, along with some other cameo crossovers. But it's also the shortest season to date, with only 10 "episodes" (one of which is a two-parter, and one with three parts.) So there's only so much iCarly to go around, and if you don't like a few, it's a decent chunk of the package down the drain. That said, what's here is pretty good across the board.
Illustrating the show's rising profile, this season features appearances by Jane Lynch, as Sam's oft-mentioned, but never-before-seen mom, and Jack Black, in a role he was born to play, as a cosplaying video-game fan who sings epic rhymes in battle. Neither is coasting on stunt casting, though they certainly aren't stepping too far outside their comfort zone, as Lynch displays the caustic sass of her popular cheerleading coach, and Black brings the bombastic theatricality of his best Tenacious D work. Despite their familiar performances, they deliver and fit in well with the established world of iCarly. (For those who like playing "Isn't that...?" there's also yet another member of the Glee cast aboard iCarly in a small role (making five in all.))
There are some rather enjoyable stories here featuring old favorites, like Carly's fey, evil foe Nevel, who gets his comeuppance thanks to a viral video, only to turn to Carly and company for help, while Spencer gets a headlining role in "iGet Pranky" which sees him succumb to an old addiction to pranking people.And though he's never been your reviewer's cup of tea, somehow coming off as too weird even for this series, the team's odd pal Gibby (Noah Munck) is elevated to a starring role this time around, getting more screen time, with his little brother/clone Guppy tagging along as his sidekick. But like most of the show's best entries, the best in this season center around Carly, like when her bedroom goes on fire in "iGot a Hot Room" and when she travels to Wisconsin in "iDo."
The big event in this season has to be the crossover between Schneider's two big shows, iCarly and Victorious. The logic behind the two shows meeting is tenuous at best, as Carly and Victorious star Tori (Victoria Justice) are both dating the same guy, who alternates homes between Seattle and Los Angeles on a monthly basis. When Carly becomes suspicious because she sees a picture of Tori and her boyfriend online, the crew heads down to L.A. to check things out in person. Though there's a lot of Tori and her pals in the episode, including a cute plot involving ditzy Cat (Ariana Grande) and her lost voice, it is an iCarly story at its core, and it manages not to drag too much, thanks in part to the presence of both Spencer and his spiritual relative, the Victorious crew's teacher Sikowitz, as well as a cameo from Schneider alumnus Kenan Thompson. (Unfortunately, the extended four-part version of the "movie" is not included, as it explains one of the episode's mysteries.)
The thing that's standing out in these recent episodes is a real focus on the characters' romantic interests, with the last four episodes built around who is dating who, in particular "iStart a Fan War," where the show's "shipper" fans fight, split between Creddies, who want Freddie and Carly to get together, and the Seddies, who want Freddie and Sam to date (note the progressive times we live in, where there are no Cam or Sarly "shippers.") Now, this is a natural development for a show about kids becoming teenagers, but it feels like the silliness of the show is taking a bit of a backseat to the dating drama. In fact, drama on the whole has become the norm, with Sam's battles with her mom, Nevel's battles with public perception and Spencer's battles with several foes, including his own sister. This has been building for a while and doesn't seem to be going anywhere in season four. Hopefully, the fun is there to balance things out.
In a clear single-width keepcase, this two-disc set offers up the 12 episodes that made up the show's third season of production (three of which make up a three-part special.) 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.
Once again, the episodes are presented in a mix of full-frame and letterboxed widescreen (on the last few), which makes no sense, since the show is shot in widescreen. It's very disappointing that a better quality version of these episodes exists and is unavailable to fans. Either way, the image we get is free of obvious concerns about dirt, damage or compression artifacts, though the clarity does reveal digital special effects, like the many computer screen inserts into the show.
The audio is presented via clean, crisp Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that deliver standard balanced sound, as you'd expect from a basic cable series. Nothing will impress, but you won't be disappointed either.
All you're getting is three very short promos for the show, including a tour of Carly's new bedroom (with McCurdy instead of Cosgrove for some reason), a look at Lynch's appearance on the show with interview clips and a peek at the battle between Trainor and Black in "iStart a Fan War." Though it's somewhat interesting to hear from Lynch and Black, these are too fluffy to be of any true value.
The Bottom Line
With this latest release, the iCarly DVD releases have caught up with the iCarly airings, so it should be a while before another set comes out. For the fans who will have to make due, there are some good episodes included, as well as the big iCarly/Victorious crossover. The discs look and sound fine (though they are not in anamorphic widescreen), while the extras are quite limited, and these episodes have been on heavy rotation in recent months, so they are likely to be fresh in fans' memories. You're paying for convenience more than anything else.
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.