The 5 Most Disturbing Tween TV Show Universes
I imagine there are few things more difficult in the world than trying to appeal to tweens -- if for no other reason than that "tween" isn't even a real word and no one on Earth has a legitimate reason for caring about what appeals to them, as their opinions are meaningless. No offense, children. They are, arguably, a lucrative market, as they are at the age when irresponsible and harried parents are willing to throw money at them to make them shut up, and some of that money can land in your pocket if you do something that appeals to them (such as make lunch boxes or home pregnancy kits, branded with the imagery of tween idols Leif Garret and Lewis Black).
TV is the easiest way to get to kids these days because it rules their lives like a flashy, soulless sultan, overseeing a harem of pudding-fingered angels who only say "shit" when their parents aren't around and can't pass a math test because they spend all their class time doodling ninjas and texting gibberish to other illiterate tweens -- all of them too embarrassed to admit they can't read what the other is saying. But the problem with most tween TV, beyond the obvious, is the depressing and unfortunate world each one presents and never acknowledges. It's weird, is what I'm saying.
iCarly and Family
On the surface, this show is easily three full loads of fun. It's about a girl and her friends and brother -- and no parents at all. That's fun. Parents are a total drag. To not have to explain parthenogenesis to kids, Carly technically has a dad -- he's just in the military and opted to leave his children home alone while he serves an ever-ongoing term overseas. If Carly has a mother, no one cares to mention her at any time. Ever.
Carly lives with her seemingly mentally-impaired artist brother and has a weekly webshow. The nature of her show seeks to defy all you know of the internet and how it works at every turn. Bandwidth? Servers? Costs? These things do not concern us. Instead, it's two teen girls who are not doing anything illegal, while another nerdy teen uses one of those 1980s omniscient computers to control everything with one or two button clicks that make sounds and lights and visual effects appear. The show is live-streamed because editing is for assholes and fuck-faces.
Carly's two friends are Sam, a felonious tomboy who also has no parents, and Freddie, the computer nerd whose mother seems like one of those types who might shower with him. He has no father. No one is allowed to come from an unbroken home; that's a rule. Also, there's a fat boy named Gibby who takes his shirt off all the time because boy bosoms are hilarious to young and old alike. Next time you're at the beach, look for a fat kid and just enjoy the rest of your day.
Regardless of whatever weekly hijinks are presented from episode to episode, at the end of the day, this show is about 3 kids whose parents don't even have the time to pencil in thinking about giving a shit about their kids in any real, helpful way. The only character with a mother is harassed and nagged by her insanity at every turn. When that kid is 18, he'll be hate-fucking so many pillows and calling them "Mom," you don't even know.
A.N.T.Farm and Achievements
A.N.T.Farm is hard to watch. Harder even than iCarly, and that's saying something. The main star of the show is affable enough, but every supporting character seems to be designed to make you want to hate children. Except for the adult characters who make you hate in general.
The plot of A.N.T.Farm is that there are a group of kids in an Advanced Natural Talent class. They're like savants or something, except how most of them are insufferable little pricks. Chyna, our heroine, is a musical prodigy. We know this because we're told this and because she occasionally sings cover songs or forgettable original songs. Her genius friends include a girl with a photographic memory and an artist. And a fat computer nerd because computer people are fat. I'm typing this article with a wand held by a monkey that is chained to my fork truck. He feeds me cashews. I call him Tandy.
These kids have their own class, taught by an abject moron whose behavior and motivation is never adequately explained, though he seems medicated. Kids love junkies; that's a fact. Put a guy on PCP in front of a baby and it's like Disney World distilled into the human form.
The basis of this show is mostly focused around how special these kids are for having any talent whatsoever. It's presented on the surface as though they were savants, natural experts in their field, but they're all typical idiot kids, which makes them easy to relate to, but also assures the viewers that they're probably geniuses so long as they can get from point A to point B without getting their heads stuck in the banister or swallowing sharp rocks.
You'd think maybe the message behind the show would have something to do with what you can achieve through study and hard work but instead these kids spend their time trying to anger me to the point where I curse at fictional children and change the channel because no comedy article is worth this.
Wingin' It and Popularity
This show is Canadian so that probably explains why it doesn't have much of a concept of how to achieve popularity. No offense to Canada but we've all heard Nickelack so, you know, back off. The concept of this show is that this kid is a loser so he has a guardian angel-in-training tasked with making him the most popular kid at school. Jesus wept.
I have to assume the show is non-denominational and intends to abuse all Christian theology equally since it's basically taking the New Testament and scurrying it away deep within a humid mound of shit -- the likes of which, zookeepers would be baffled by.
The concept of an Angel-in-Training is silly enough for a show, I suppose, but the idea of celestial beings tasked with improving the social status of a Canadian high school kid who wears too many plaid shirts is offensive on a deep, philosophical level -- like finding out Gandhi sometimes gave orphans ex-lax, pretending it was chocolate. This indicates that either everything in Canada is so well in hand that even God can't find anything more to do than help the socially awkward acquire prom dates or, more likely, that Canadians are so socially backward, only divine intervention can improve their standard of living.
Wardrobe provided by Grungy Shitique
The show teaches us two important, yet impossibly awful, lessons. The first is that popularity is everything, which every social outcast will learn through their own curtain of rejection without the help of forced jokes and a talking raccoon. The second is that achieving popularity is as easy as showing people the real you. Wait, no -- achieving popularity is as easy as spending several years in the company of a magical being who will continually alter reality for your benefit until people like you.
Austin & Ally and Fame
The record industry is known for vindictive mockery of good taste and greediness. Probably once it was known for something to do with music but, man, let's not be naive. There are record execs who would give your grandpa a record deal if the sound of him passing kidney stones could sell a few albums, then they'd screw him out of most of the profits and blame it on pirates. Yarr!
Austin and Ally is a tepid glimpse into the world of teen idols, except that in no conceivable or even attempted way does it broach anything bordering on realism. And that's fine. Children shouldn't have to be exposed to the soul-crushing realism of what it takes to make it in the music industry. Let's face it. If Justin Bieber hasn't paid to watch a homeless person be murdered in front of him for his own amusement, then I'm the Pope. And I am not the Pope. I don't even have a hat.
The show is about Austin, an overnight internet sensation who gets a record deal and becomes a recording hearth-throb, or what we can now refer to as Pre-Hobo Murder Bieber. The hilarious twist is that the song that made him famous was written by this girl Ally who has terrible stage fright and can't perform herself, so they become partners. Oh, man! Hijinks! Or just the way 90% of all singers work, whatever.
The kids in the show are 16 and, predictably, have no parents. The crime committed by the show, therefore, is not the proliferation of yet more bubblegum pop, poorly-rendered characters or predictable story lines. It's that it's fooling a generation of children into thinking they can upload videos of themselves singing onto Youtube and expect not to be mercilessly fucked, both metaphorically and literally, by hordes of sleazy record execs without any parental involvement whatsoever. It's never a bad idea to give kids hope, but all hope needs to be tempered by reality and for every Justin Bieber success story, there are probably about 300 of this guy.
Jessie and Child-Rearing
Someone has likely written a paper in a sociology class on the nature of children's shows and the irresponsibility of the parents therein, but I bet it's a boring-as-shit read and no one in it gets called a "twat." Why bother reading that? Instead let's learn about the emotionally bankrupt lives of people in the show Jessie.
Jessie is a show about a nanny. Her name is Jessie. It's quite clever. She cares for an ethnic zoo of children for reasons my research never adequately explained. Nonetheless, there's a little Indian boy who Apu would find slightly over the top, a sassy little black girl, a spoiled white girl and Danny Zuko. Unlike our other shows, these kids do have parents -- they're just so hateful and brimming with neglect that they are literally never home, thus leaving the children in the care of a teenage girl and an ill-tempered fat man of a butler. He's fat because fat is funny. Ask any Disney executive. Then chuckle at the hijinks of Pumbaa or that fat-ass potato from Toy Story.
You can almost feel the creators of this show congratulating themselves for having an ethnically diverse cast and for showing kids that being unwanted crosses all cultural boundaries. Wikipedia tells me it was hatched by someone who wrote for both Charles in Charge and The Nanny who is not Rain Man, so there's no legitimate excuse for not being able to come up with a single new idea. But at least they present a family that loves children so much, they adopted them from the terrible squalor of India, Uganda and Detroit, and then never spends any time with them. I would have made that Detroit joke on my own if one kid in the show hadn't legitimately been adopted from there.
For most people adopting children is probably a serious decision based, at least in part, on the desire to actually see the children you've adopted every once in a while and maybe raise them in some way. But on TV that's bullshit.