The hi-jinks of the young and talented
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.
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.
The Bottom Line