iCarly, just with a lot less Carly
The Story So Far...
Following on the "shocking" finale of the previous season, where Sam kisses Freddie, the early going in this season is dominated by the "Seddie" storyline (which is the core of the first four episodes (or nearly half the season.)) (It's worth noting that the episodes in this set are presented in production order, which messes with the story, as the first episode on the set has the duo dating, while the second has Sam dealing with her feelings for Freddie, while they aren't a couple.) Considering how awful Sam was to Freddie for 80-something episodes, it's really weird to see them together, and it does disturb the show's dynamic, turning Carly into a third wheel. The storyline expands to include the increasingly self-assured and creepy Gibby (Noah Munck), who sees his chance to form a relationship with Carly, and Freddie's mom, who doesn't know what's going on and doesn't like Sam.
This focus on all things not Carly continues throughout the season, with increased airtime for the smoothie-shop manager T-bo, who moves into Freddie's apartment, and two episodes that sit Carly on the sidelines. For Sam's birthday, the gang gets her a tour of the Canadian production plant for her favorite snack cake, a version that's banned in America, and everyone but Carly goes with here, as the star of the show gets stuck in the bathtub, with her toe in the faucet. Meanwhile, in the oddly-named iBalls, Carly's sent away to care for her grandfather, leaving her web show in the hands of Sam and Freddie, who's been struggling with the public's perception of his role on the series. Looking at the 11 episodes, Carly is maybe the star of four episodes overall, and history has shown that the show is at it's strongest when Cosgrove is front and center with her quirky charm.
There are a few memorable episodes this time around, thanks to a special guest star, a return from the past, and a questionable carryover from the world of Victorious. An episode about the gang setting up a long-distance birthday party for Sam and Spencer's perpetually-travelling father opens up the opportunity for a visit from First Lady Michelle Obama, whose daughters are a fan of the series. Her youthful, go-for-it appearance on the show serves to remind viewers that she's probably the coolest First Lady in the country's history, but also shows just how dowdy other First Ladies have been, especially when contrasted with the last memorable First Lady sitcom appearance, when Nancy Reagan met Arnold Drummond on Diff'rent Strokes. Man, it's been a while. (Joining Mrs. Obama is SNL-star-in-waiting Taran Killam, in an odd straight-man role as a Secret Service agent.)
One of the odder and more enjoyable past episodes of iCarly was "iPsycho," where the group meets Nora Dershlit, a crazed superfan who locks them in a basement prison so she'll always have them. Well, in the two-part "iiStill Psycho," Nora's up for parole, and Carly's a big softie, so she suggests Nora's released, which, predictably, is a bad idea. Another trip to Nora's basement leads to more criminal imprisonment, and some disturbing performances, which is a bit in contrast to the show's usual tone, but somehow the madness works, and, for the first time in the show's history, Freddie's mom is an entertaining character.
On the downside, someone thought it was a good idea to bring over the blooper episode concept used on Victorious, where the British "actor" who plays the puppet Rex on that series hosts an interview show, and shows the actors' bloopers. It was awkward on that series and it's awkward here, as he's abusive to the actors, with the exception of his favorite, Gibby, and the episode spends more time on the bit than the extertaining screw-ups. Going back to the well did nothing to improve the idea.
The audio is delivered via Dolby Digital 2.0 tracks that are crisp and clean, with standard balanced sound, as you'd expect from a basic cable series. It's nothing to test your sound system, but there's nothing negative of note either.
The Bottom Line