Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Tells the World

Wizards of Waverly Place: Alex Tells the World (Season 4, Episode 1, November 12, 2010), TV Program. Producer: It’s a Laugh Productions.  Actors: Selena Gomez, David Henrie, Jake T. Austin, Jennifer Stone, Maria Canals Barrera, David DeLuise.  Series dates: 2007 – present.

Plot Summary: The Russo family lives on Waverly Place in New York City’s Greenwich Village.  With an Italian American father, a Mexican American mother, and three lovely children, the family seems to be living the American dream.  Only, there’s a twist.  The three children, Justin, Alex, and Max, are wizards.  The father, Jerry used to be a wizard, but by marrying a mortal, Theresa, he was relieved of his powers.  Now his children are training to become wizards and they will eventually compete to be the receiver of the family’s magic.  Only one of them can get the magic and stay a wizard forever, the other two will become mortals.  They must keep their powers a secret from the mortal world.  In this particular episode, viewers join the family after they have just escaped imprisonment by the government.  They return exhausted, but safe, to Waverly Place.  But, other wizards are still being jailed, and Alex, the middle child and only daughter, decides she must tell the mortal world about the wizarding world in order to save the other wizards.  This revelation is against all wizarding rules, but Alex feels she has no other choice.  Will Alex become a hero?  Will the wizards be saved?

Review: This program has an interesting premise.  With the popularity of Harry Potter books, a TV show about wizards is a great choice.  This show is less like Harry Potter, and more like many of the tween comedies out there.  There are silly antics, slapstick jokes, outsmarting the parents, and, hopefully, a positive message at the end, in this case, standing up for what is right, even if there are unpleasant consequences.  The characters can be compelling.  Viewers could get caught up in the successes or failures of the wizard training program and relate to the sibling rivalry and friendship issues.  The parents are present, but not too hovering.  The big star of the show, Selena Gomez, has a recording career and has starred in several movies, likely a big draw for this program.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family, Fantasy, Adventure

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 12 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel, DVD, online at http://disney.go.com/videos/#/videos/tvshows/

Similar Programs: Good Luck Charlie, That’s So Raven, Hannah Montana

Subjects: justice, speaking out, secrets,

Selected Award: 2009 Emmy Award for Outstanding Children’s Program



Good Luck Charlie: Appy Days

Good Luck Charlie: Appy Days (March 13, 2011), TV Program. Producer: It’s a Laugh Productions and Disney Channel Original Productions for the Disney Channel.  Actors: Bridget Mendler, Jason Dolley, Bradley Steven Perry, Mia Talerico, Leigh-Allyn Baker, Eric Allan Kramer, Raven Goodwin.  Series dates: 2010 – present.

Plot Summary:  Good Luck Charlie is the story of the Duncan family.  The Duncan’s are parents Amy and Bob, teenagers P.J. and Teddy, 10-year-old Gabe, and new addition, baby Charlie.  The program is a comedy about life for each family member and how it is affected by Charlie’s presence.  This particular episode centered around Teddy and her best friend, Ivy, and their use of a cell phone App that allowed them to fake phone calls in order to trick their mothers into allowing them to attend a senior’s party.  Also in this episode, oldest child, P.J. finds out that his father praises all his children to his co-worker and that his father considers him, “nice,” which P.J. takes as an insult, as compared to his father’s descriptions of the other 3 kids.  Will Teddy and Ivy make it to the party?  Will the duped moms find out the truth?

Review: Good Luck Charlie is a cute family comedy, with likable characters and realistic, if somewhat superficial, storylines.  Part of Teddy’s role is as videographer and narrator of videos made of and for Charlie in which Teddy speaks to the Charlie of the future.  This provides a vehicle for some commentary and reflection at times, as well as adds a fun perspective.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel and online at http://tv.disney.go.com/disneychannel/goodluckcharlie/

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly

Subjects: friendship, perfectionism, jobs

iCarly: iSell Penny-Tees

iCarly, Episode # 74, iSell Penny-Tees (October 2, 2010), TV Program. Producer: Dan Schneider for the Nickelodeon.  Actors: Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Jerry Trainor, Noah Munck.  Series dates: 2007 – present.

Plot Summary: The premise of iCarly is that the main character, Carly Shay has her own online video show that she creates with her two best friends, Sam and Freddie.  Sam is her co-host and Freddie produces, directs and does all the technical work for the show.  Gibby, another friend, is also featured in the program performing odd stunts.  Carly’s older brother, Spencer, cares for her while their dad is away on military duty.  Carly was a tween when the program started in 2007 and is now a young teen.  In the iSell Penny-Tees episode, Carly and Sam realize that they can make money by selling “penny-tees” to the iCarly show fans.  The tees are basic tee –shirts with quirky sayings on them.  The photo to the right has an example of a penny tee on the mannequin with Carly on the left and Sam on the right.  Carly and Sam had heretofore made the penny tees themselves, but when orders start rolling in, they realize they need help to fill them Sam creates a sweatshop-like factory in the basement, while Carly and Freddie create a fun and supportive work environment for a group of fourth graders from a neighborhood school.  Who can get the fourth grade workers to produce more shirts?  Will the workers protest their harsh conditions or will they do anything to make a buck?  Will the iCarly show be able to fulfill ALL of the penny tee orders?

Review: This program is cute.  The plot was simple, without much depth and fairly predictable, but it was presented without a heavy hand and was funny and entertaining.  Carly is goofy, but clearly confident, smart and kind, a strong female character of the ones available on tween TV, and not a bad role model.  Sam is also a strong female character, though her behavior on the show and references to her visits to juvenile hall suggest she is not necessarily a great role model, though she is talented on the iCarly show and seems dedicated to the show.  Freddie is nice, smart, technologically savvy, and a great team member.  Spencer is a shallow character, a young man in his 20’s, interested in the superficial qualities of women.  In this particular show he is shown kissing his latest love interest, a stereotypically beautiful blonde woman, with whom he is unable to communicate, as she only speaks Uzbek and he only English.  An interactive website for the program parallels the interaction that fictional fans of the fictional iCarly show engage with, so tweens have the ability to do more than simply watch the program.  This particular show presented brief lessons about labor conditions for workers, leadership, the power of numbers, and entrepreneurialism.

Genre(s): Comedy, Family

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Nickelodeon, DVD, online at http://www.nick.com/shows/icarly

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, Good Luck Charlie, Hannah Montana

Subjects: Internet, online social networking, friendship, team work, labor rights, ethics, leadership, business skills, entrepreneurialism

Hannah Montana: Got to Get Her Out of My House

Hannah Montana, Episode # 83, Got to Get Her Out of my House (January 10, 2010), TV Program. Produced by: It’s a Laugh Productions, Michael Poryes Productions, and the Disney Channel for the Disney Channel.  Actors,Miley Cyrus, Emily Osment, Mitchel Musso, Jason Earles, Billy Ray Cyrus.  Series dates: 2006 – 2011.

Plot Summary: The premise of the Hannah Montana series is that main character, Miley Stewart, leads a double-life as a school girl by day and famous pop star, Hannah Montana, at night.  Miley’s hair is brown, and she wears a blonde wig when she is Hannah Montana.  This episode is about Miley’s best friend, Lilly, who is trying to work to earn money to buy a car with her boyfriend.  Lilly knows about Miley’s secret life.  Lilly’s perfectionism causes her to lose her job at a local sandwich shop, and she ends up becoming the housekeeper at Miley’s house.  Miley’s dad is thrilled with Lilly’s perfectionism with her housekeeping duties, but soon her rigid ways become more than Miley and her brother, Jackson, can bear.  How will they get Lilly out of their house without hurting her feelings?  Will Lilly earn enough money to buy the car she wants?

Review: OK, I have to admit that I could not stand this program.  Maybe I picked the wrong episode, but I found the plot irritatingly vacant of any substance.  The acting was way overdone.  This was the first episode of Hannah Montana that I had seen.  Before this, I had only seen a spoof of the fictional “Miley Cyrus Show” on Saturday Night Live.  When I saw the spoof I assumed (incorrectly) that the actress who was portraying Miley Cyrus was going over the top with exaggerated facial expressions and ridiculously over emphasized words in her speech.  But, it turns out that Miley Cyrus playing Miley Stewart is really that much of an over actor.  In fact I have a new appreciation for the SNL actress who portrays Miley Cyrus.  I am far from my tween years, and, maybe, I would very well have watched and liked this program if it been on when I was the target age, but I just can’t seem to find anything redeeming about this particular episode.  I know it’s supposed to be funny and over the top, but it just seemed cheesy.  I found it inane, predictable, totally unrealistic, simplistic, and parts of it, when Miley and Jackson pretend to be mobsters, were offensive and ill conceived.  I plan to watch another episode to see if I can “get it,” because right now, I just don’t.

Genre(s): Comedy

Viewing/Interest Level: 8 – 13 years

Available in: Cable TV Disney Channel, DVD, online at http://disney.go.com/videos/#/videos/&content=1085765

Similar Programs: That’s So Raven, The Wizards of Waverly Place, iCarly

Subjects: friendship, perfectionism, jobs

MythBusters by Beyond Televison Productions

MythBusters, TV Program. Produced by Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. Hosted by Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage.  2003 – present.

Content: Urban legends, rumors, and myths are put to the test by the “myth busters,” lead by hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, with help from co-hosts Tory Belleci, Kari Byron and Grant Imahara.  The myth busters are a multi-talented group with expertise in engineering, technology, geometry, science, firearms, explosives, physics, robotics, and more.  Each show features two to three myths that are brought to life, in the safest possible way, and tested for veracity.  Myths can either be confirmed, busted, or plausible, if they are not confirmed or busted with certainty.  The hosts are witty, intelligent, creative and hilarious (word provided by my tween son).  The process of testing myths is often tricky, as some of them are difficult to duplicate accurately.  The shows are often messy, sometimes dangerous, and occasionally gross (see MythBusters Double Dipping episode).   The hosts create elaborate props and settings with which to test the myths; they often provide controls for their experiments, and they try to think through what possible problems could arise to make the test inaccurate.  Some tests are more accurate than others, but the show is entertaining and enlightening every time.

Review: There is science to be learned in MythBusters and, even more, each show is a lively demonstration of problem solving skills.  There is a myth, and the hosts have to figure out how it is going to be tested.  The beginning of each shows gives the viewer some insight into the process the team used to figure out how to test the myth.  Then viewers watch the preparation for and finally the demonstration of the myth, this can include multiple iterations, if something in the original demonstration goes wrong.  In any given episode, viewers can learn about science, engineering, and physics, as well as learn creativity, reasoning and thinking skills.  Sometimes I find the test methodology to be flawed thus the results may not accurately measure the myth being tested, but there is always a valiant effort to do a high quality job.  This show is a great choice for tweens, as it is entertaining enough to draw them in and keep them attentive, meanwhile, there are many lessons to be learned, including the oft heard, “Do NOT try this at home.”

Bonus for Bay Area Tweens: this show takes place in and around San Francisco, so scenes of the area are often in the background.

Genre(s): Non-fiction, Science

Viewing/Interest Level: 8+ years

Available in: Cable TV Discovery Channel, DVD

Similar Programs: Dirty Jobs

Subjects: urban legends, myths, science, engineering, physics