Friday, September 8, 2017

Amazon Kids 2017 TV Pilots Review | Which One Is the Best?

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here today with a quick look at the three new pilots for Amazon Kids TV shows that were recently released online. Now for those that don't know: Amazon over the last few years has developed this format of releasing multiple pilots for television shows all at once. But instead of going through the usual Hollywood route, they go straight to the public to get feedback and get the regular viewers' ratings on the show versus just the high rolling backers' opinions. Now in recent years, these pilots have contained mostly shows aimed at just adults and shows aimed at just children, with only a few programs designed for all ages to enjoy together mixed in. But those few all age friendly shows wound up being critical hits including The Kicks, Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street, and definitely Just Add Magic. So this time around, Amazon has released a batch of programs featuring just shows aimed for the whole family to watch together. It's only three, but all of them do have good potential. So lets take a look at them.

The first of the pilots is: Skyward. A show about three kids trying to investigate if alien life exists. The only other way to simply explain it is: it's a kid version of the X-Files. You've got the character who believes in aliens, the one who is a skeptic, and you've got the super smart tech genius. And of course the main girl has a father who is the town sheriff who has no idea what's going on. The whole setup is pretty cliche and overdone. However what makes it work is the actors and basic character traits they work with. For example: the main girl feels like a very real preteen girl who has a flawed but very realistic relationship with her father who is trying to build a close relationship with her since the girl is all that the father has left of his now deceased wife. Plus: the way all of the characters talk gives the show a nice modern feel in all the right ways. The pilot ends in a very open ended way in that you really don't know where this show is going. The pilot is a bit cliche and somewhat predictable, but the good characters are pretty interesting.

The next pilot is: A Kid Called Mayonnaise. This series is about a kid named Mayonnaise (or Mayo for short) whose mom owns an old motel and a few odd animals. Now the look and feel of the settings in this show feel very grounded in reality. You feel like you're in a very real and lived in environment while watching the show. All of the characters though feel a bit odd. They all exist in the realm of reality, but are all far from ordinary. The show is light hearted with some of the jokes but many of them feel a little too odd, and not all land that well. But for every one or two bad jokes in the pilot, there is always a good solid joke around the corner. And despite feeling odd, every kid character in this show does feel very real. Now this does feel like a show where every episode is gonna be stand alone. Because the pilot does feel like it tied up every loose end from the story's beginning at the conclusion. The drama in this show isn't anything high stakes, but it's not meant to be. The show just feels like a slice of life from a somewhat bizarre corner of reality.

And then there's the last pilot: Will vs The Future. This series is about a seemingly ordinary boy named Will who likes to invent stuff. But then he encounters a time traveling girl from the future who is... out to kill him... because according to her, Will  as an adult is going to be responsible for killing millions in the future. What!? Yeah. This show is pretty much like Terminator, but instead of a tough time traveler trying to kill the savior of the world, they're trying to kill... the killer. However Will right now is a good kid. He doesn't stick up for little kids getting picked on, but he's not a trouble maker. So after he pleads with his would time traveling assassin: Athena, she decides to help Will change the future by helping him change his character for the better. It's an all around fascinating concept. It's like the classic hypothetical scenario: if you met Hitler as a child, would you kill him or try to make him better? Can a future killer of millions be saved? It really plays with the nature vs nurture concept like very few stories have ever done. Plus it presents a scenario that teaches children that the simple ethical choices you make while you're young, can have a dramatic shaping of what you become as an adult. Plus the show also feels a bit like Back to the Future with this seemingly epic time travel story taking place in a simple town. But instead of the story focusing on the time traveler, it's focused on the one meeting the time traveler. And speaking of Back to the Future, Tom Wilson who played Biff in that movie is actually the principal of the school in this show. So that's pretty cool.

So which of these three TV pilots is the best? Well Skyward and A Kid Called Mayonnaise have good aspects and good potential, but Will vs the Future just has a lot of intriguing concepts that really deserve to be explored with more than any other pilot presented. That show just has the greatest amount of potential here. However, all three shows really do deserve to be given a chance. The pilots alone are far better than the majority of other child and family friendly TV shows out there. Definitely higher quality stuff versus 90% of any new stuff you see on Disney Channel, Nickelodeon, or Cartoon Network  I honestly hope Amazon turns all three of these pilots into series. Because I remember seeing the pilots to Amazon's other hits: The Kicks, Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street, and Just Add Magic, and honestly: the pilots of those shows were my least favorite episodes of all of those series. They all showed potential, but what came after was much superior. These new pilots though are all solid. So it be amazing to see how they could improve. So if you're interested: during the month of September 2017, go the official Amazon Pilot Season website and watch these three pilots that are actually free to watch for a limited time. Give constructive feedback afterwards, and maybe we can get one, two, or all of these shows back for full seasons.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Top 10 Spider-man TV Series

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here. Now for people who have watched every single one of my comic book based reviews on my Youtube channel, you should know by now that Spider-man is my all time favorite comic book super hero. And like many great heroes, he has been adapted into television, with a new one that has recently begun airing on Disney XD. But before that series took off, there have actually been 10 (yes, exactly 10) Spider-man series that have aired on television. So since there have been exactly ten past Spider-man TV series, it seemed very appropriate to count down these ten Spider-man TV series from worst to best. Now we will not be counting guest appearances Spider-man has made in other TV shows though, as this list has been designed to solely focus on the actual TV series that feature Spider-man prominently. And so, here we go...

10. The Amazing Spider-man (1977)
This almost never mentioned TV series was the first live action take on Spider-man. Now upon watching this series you must remember that it is 1970's television, thus good special effects to present Spidey were non-existent at the time. But even if you are forgiving to the bad effects of the time, the one thing you can't forgive this series for is the very bad pacing and lack of good characters. And the biggest crime of all is, this series didn't even feature Spider-man's actual comic book based origin in this series. Yes, we see Peter Parker get bit by a spider. But there's no death of Uncle Ben, no with great power comes great responsibility speech, and no adaptations of well known comic stories. Plus, this is the only Spider-man series that Spidey's co-creator: Stan Lee has gone on for record saying he doesn't like (and Stan Lee usually likes every Marvel thing ever made). It was simply a bad time and bad take for America's favorite web slinger.

9. Ultimate Spider-man (2012)
This is a terrible Spider-man cartoon. A very, very, very terrible Spider-man cartoon. Now the biggest reason being that this 2012 Disney XD Spider-man cartoon is disappointing... they made Spider-man an idiot! Spider-man is not supposed to be an idiot!!! In every other version of the Spider-man mythos: Peter Parker is an intelligent student with good grades, respect for authority, impressive creativity, and is respected by many other heroes. In this series however: he's an idiot who doesn't respect authority, gets himself into trouble, acts like the silly kid who misbehaves in the back of the class, and is the least respected of the Marvel heroes. And the jokes in this series just aren't that funny. The only thing I'll give this show credit for is that unlike the 1977 series, they at least kept the original Spider-man origin intact. And I would like to go on record by saying that Drake Bell isn't necessarily a bad actor to play Spider-man (as he wasn't that bad when he voiced Spider-man in other Marvel and Disney shows). And I will admit, the series did get a little better in the later seasons. Especially when they brought in alternate universe Spider-man: Miles Morales, and with that character: they actually kept him very true to how he is in the comics. So I was pleased they did one very good in that series.

8. Japanese Spider-man (1978)
This Japanese TV series which departs very fan from the American concept of Spider-man is surprisingly not the worst Spider-man series. While it is strange to see a Japanese man "morph" into Spider-man and fight aliens with a giant robot, at the time: it worked in Japan. As a 1970's action show, it is very fun. For it's time period: the fights were very good, Spider-man's abilities looked good on camera, and the fun campiness of it all isn't that bad. If you're a fan of old Japanese super hero shows, it's a fun think to check out. Sadly, the show does not age well with time. To modern eyes, this show looks very unimpressive when compared to modern super hero movies. Plus, the differences with the original comics will turn away many fans. But for what it is, it isn't too bad. And Marvel seems to feel the same as the show has been released on Marvel's official website, and actually brought the character in the official comic book universe in the 2014 event story: Spider-Verse.

7. Spider-man (1967)
The first Spider-man TV series ever made is the first show on our list to actually be much closer to the stories of the original comics. While the show never gave a well done portrayal on Peter Parker's normal life, it does present the battles between Spider-man and the villains more closer to the way the early 1960's comic books felt. While the plots never were the most intellectually written scripts ever, they still understood who Spider-man was. Plus, the episode: The Origin of Spider-man actually gives the most faithful translation of the first Spider-man comic ever to television. And most importantly: the theme song of this show gave American pop culture one of the catchiest theme songs ever created. Now except for the theme song, the cheap quality of the show has not aged well with time. But for what it was at the time, this was the best possible take on Spider-man any one could hope for.

6. Spider-man and his Amazing Friends (1981)
While providing viewers with a slight departure from the standard Spidey mythos, Spider-man and his Amazing Friends does present viewers with a pretty fun show. In the show, Spider-man starts a super hero team with fellow super heroes: Ice Man and Fire Star. The show essentially tells very young kid-friendly versions of the famous comic book stories, with the only major difference being: Spider-man now has help. While Spider-man does work best as a loner, it is fun to see Spidey have two good friends to constantly talk to and relate with him. The look and feel of the show however has not aged well with time, but it still does get consistent TV reruns so to casual TV viewers it must not be that bad.

5. Spider-man (1981)
At the time: this series was the closest anyone had gotten to doing a well done version of Spider-man. Compared to the 1967 cartoon series, the fights were now looking more impressive, and the scenes depicting Peter Parker's normal life were much better done. The series was never too complex, but in this show: you never doubted that this was Spider-man you were watching. As a simple Spidey cartoon series aimed at young children, there really isn't anything that wrong with this series. Unfortunately, the production quality of this show hasn't aged well with time and since adults won't want to re-watch it, and children today probably won't find it to be too interesting: it shall sadly become lost to time.

4. Spider-man Unlimited (1999)
In this departure from the standard style of Spidey stories, Spider-man/ Peter Parker finds himself on another world where beast like creatures have oppressed humans, resulting in Spidey getting caught in a "class war". Many people over the years have despised this series since it features Spider-man in an environment that's completely different than the comics. However what the series handled well was the Spider-man character himself. Despite being in a completely different environment, Spidey continues to be a perfectly selfless hero. But he still faces some new emotional drama, as he grows to care about his land lord: a single mother, and feels conflicted about his growing feelings towards her. Meanwhile: the series has some well written analogies to prejudice, with the interactions between the beast creatures and the humans being very similar to real world racism. The show may be a major departure from what people expect from Spidey, but for what it is: it's a very fun show to watch.

3. Spider-man: The Animated Series (1994)
Finally: a Spider-man TV show that feels like it came right out of the comics. This long-lasting cartoon features adaptations of many of the comic book's most famous stories translated to television extremely well. The animation is nice, the voice actors were well chosen, and the plots were well crafted. Plus, this show finally presented us with a very realistic Peter Parker. He has rough days, he still has to go to school, he still has bills to pay, and he has lots of bad luck at romance. Plus: this show had lots and lots of ongoing plots, meaning that many stories would flow into the next. Plus, just like the comic books: Spider-man has lots of team ups with other super heroes. Lots and lots of team ups. In fact, this show could be viewed as the perfect method to introduce TV viewers to many of the major Marvel super heroes all at once.  The only real solid complaint you could make about his show is: we never get to see Peter Parker as his more commonly seen young nerdy teenage self. In this show: Peter is more often seen as a more confidant young adult is his late 20's who is only sometimes confused when it comes to romance. But while the show has received some criticism in recent years for minor flaws like this, at the time: this was the absolute best Spider-man cartoon one could hope for.

2. Spider-man: The New Animated Series (2003)
Designed as a continuation of the Spider-man (2002) film, this series presents us with a very realistic, edgy, serious, and yet still fun Spider-man series. The first thing to note about this series is that it wasn't aimed for children, it was aimed for teenagers and young adults. And that's what Spider-man is: a teenager growing into a young adult. So this was the first Spider-man series to actually show a more realistic version of Spidey living a young adult life featuring elements that you don't normally see in a children's show. However this only makes Spider-man more interesting. Now you've got a version of Spider-man that can bleed, see people get killed, have guns pointed at his face... but still show more than ever what kind of strong super hero he is. Plus, the scenes that feature Peter Parker hanging out with his friends and taking classes at college feel more realistic than before, complete with teenage flaws and all. And the major highlight of bringing this realism to life is Spider-man's voice actor in this show: Niel Patrick Harris. This man is perfect as Spider-man. He gets the silly and serious sides of Peter Parker and Spidey down perfectly. And his supporting cast does a commendable job as well. While the animation is either loved or despised by fans, this series is definitely a must see for all teenagers and young adults!

1. Spectacular Spider-man (2008) 
This is it. The perfect Spider-man TV series. Now you all may think you know the Spider-man story. But the way this show does it is better than any other on screen media out there. And with the exception of the first two movies created back in 2002 and 2004, Spectacular Spider-man is better than the films and far better than any other Marvel TV show ever made. The writing takes this show very seriously but still has fun. While adults may find some plots a bit predictable, the execution is extraordinary. You see first off: in the comics, Spider-man makes a lot of jokes. And the movies never seem to pull that off well. This show though, does it very well. But it’s not all jokes. Like the comics and first two movies, this show pulls off the realistic human situations very well. There’s lots of heart and amazing voice over acting. And you really have to give the medal of acting award to Spider-man's voice actor in this series: Josh Keaton. Neil Patrick Harris did a perfect job voicing Spider-man in Spider-man: The New Animated Series, but Josh Keaton's voice simply is Spider-man. Keaton gets the seriousness, the comedy, and all around spirit of Spidey down more than anyone else. In fact all of the actors capture the spirit of their comic book characters perfectly, but still add more dimension to it all. The only negative thing that can be said about this show is it’s a little too "cartooney" looking. While watching, there are times that you wished the quality of the writing and acting could have instead been given to a better animation studio, or better yet: to the live action movies. But even still, the writing of this show treats the Spider-man mythos in a very intelligent manner and treats the audience and fans watching it with respect. Everything is well paced, well acted, and well presented. This Spider-man TV series is simply... SPECTACULAR!

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Top 10 Boy/Girl Meets World Crossovers With Other Shows

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here today with some fun trivia that all Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World fans out there will hopefully appreciate. This trivia relates to the fact that on ten separate occasions, the Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World franchise had crossovers with other shows. But before we move forward, it should be specified what a crossover means. Now to most people: a crossover pertains to specific characters from separate TV shows meeting each other. However, crossovers can also to pertain to specific stories by the same writers crossing over and being used again in another show, along with an actor who played a specific character in one show bringing everything they used from that role over and playing nearly the exact same character in another show. Now what we won't be counting here is appearances of real life people and places, along with super quick cameos. For example: Boy Meets World had an episode where Cory and Shawn went to watch a WWE wrestling match. But that was less of a crossover, and more of just a way to show Boy Meets World did take place in the "real" world. Plus: another Boy Meets World episode featured actor Dave Madden showing up as a character similar to the one he played on the classic TV series: The Partridge Family. But that was just for a quick throwaway gag. And also: we will not be looking at basic similarities shows had. For this list: the crossovers have to have had more substance than just a quick stand alone cameo, or reference, or theme. They either had to feature actors playing the same exact same parts on different shows, and/or feature stories and actors playing multiple characters that are extremely similar to each other, for multiple scenes. And by the way: these crossovers aren't going to be in order of most interesting, but rather just the chronological order of when they happened. And so... here we go.

1. Lee Norris and Jason Marsden Playing the Same Characters Twice. For those that don't know: both actors' first main TV roles in the 90's were in the Michael Jacobs' produced show: The Torkelsons. A very underappreciated show very similar to Boy Meets World about a low income family trying to get by in the world while learning important life lessons. Now in The Torkelsons: Lee Norris played a preteen nerdy boy who would sometimes try to act like a ladies man. Then as soon as that show got cancelled, he moved onto Boy Meets World playing Stuart Minkus: a preteen nerdy boy who would sometimes try to act like a ladies man. Yeah, these two characters played by the same actor are completely identical. I mean, they speak exactly the same and even both wear big glasses. Then you have Jason Marsden who played a silly and often very sarcastic boy named Gregory in The Torkelsons. And then he showed up in Boy Meets World playing Eric's silly and often sarcastic best friend. Yeah, these two characters are pretty much the same. Now you could just argue Jason Marsden was playing to his strengths, but later acting roles he's had do show he has a wide range in his talents. But since both The Torkelsons and Boy Meets World had the same producers, writers, and actors: it seems more likely that just like Lee Norris, they simply had a fun character they wanted a second go around with.

2. The Boy Meets World and Step by Step Crossover. For those that don't know: Step by Step was another 90's sitcom aired in the same block Boy Meets World was on for a couple years about a typical blended family. However on May 3rd, 1996: the show aired part 1 of a two part mini-series featuring the Step by Step family going to Disney World. But then shortly before part 2 aired on May 10th, 1996: Boy Meets World had an episode featuring their characters going to Disney World. And characters from both shows meet up briefly in the Boy Meets World Season 3 episode: The Happiest Show on Earth that was sandwiched in between the two Step by Step episodes: We're Going to Disney World Parts 1+2. What makes this crossover even more important is how it helps set up a greater sitcom universe. You see in the second episode of Step by Step: the character of Steve Urkel from Family Matters showed up. But he also had a crossover where he showed up in an episode of Full House. So yeah: Full House and Boy Meets World (along with by default: Girl Meets World and Fuller House) all take place in the same universe. That's pretty cool.

3. Cory and Shawn Appear in Maybe This Time. In the 90's: Michael Jacobs made another family sitcom called Maybe This Time about a single mom and single grandmother raising a single girl while running a coffee shop. The show was simply a typical sitcom that was cancelled after eighteen episodes; with the only really stand out aspects of the show being performances by Betty White, Amy Hill, and a young Craig Ferguson (yes, that Craig Ferguson). Although he isn't seen in the fifteenth episode of the series: Acting Out, where the young girl of the show Gracie is dealing with a friend who is hanging out with the wrong crowd. So in order to help think of the best thing to do, she starts watching a lost episode of Boy Meets World. Yeah, it's actually a never seen anywhere else scene featuring Ben Savage and Rider Strong playing Cory and Shawn on the Boy Meets World set. Although it's definitely not a typical crossover. Now even though this might not be viewed as a 100% pure crossover to some, it is still a lot of fun to see a young Cory and Shawn acting silly together just one more time.

4. The Magical Crossover with Sabrina the Teenage Witch. So in the same hour block that contained Boy Meets World in the 90's, there was also Sabrina the Teenage Witch; a sitcom with a supernatural twist being that it starred obviously: a teenage witch. This was before Disney and Nick started doing sitcoms with tons of supernatural and sci-fi elements. So in the 90's: this was pretty much an acceptable variation of the sitcom concept. Now in the Boy Meets World Season 5 episode: The Witches of Pennbrooke, the series has an odd story about Eric and Jack fighting back against evil witches. Only to have a silly gag cameo by Sabrina the Teenage Witch at the end. But, the crossover was much more than that. Because the very next week in Sabrina the Teenage Witch Season 2: Episode 8, Sabrina's cat: Salem swallows a magical time ball (because it smelled like food) and temporarily gains the power to change reality around him so that everyone thinks they're in a different decade. This provides typical wacky hi-jinks for the Sabrina episode.

But then literally seconds after that episode ended, Salem the Cat runs away to John Adams High School where the characters of Boy Meets World are (in the Boy Meets World episode: No Guts, No Cory). There, just being present with the magical time ball still inside of him: causes one of the oddest Boy Meets World episodes to happen where all of the characters are suddenly existing in the 1940's. Luckily everything goes back to normal. But, the story didn't end there. Salem eventually ran over to the other two 90's sitcoms that had supernatural themes called You Wish and Teen Angel that same night (which were two sitcoms trying to emulate what Sabrina did but got cancelled pretty quickly in their runs). The Teen Angel part of the four show crossover though does feature an actual appearance by Sabrina. And it's in this portion of the crossover where she finally gets Salem back. The whole four show crossover concept was kind of odd, but it is an interesting part of 90's sitcom history that is note worthy.

5. The Car Wash Story. Now as many fans know, back in Boy Meets World Season 1: Mr. Feeny gave his class a math lesson related to how long a car wash works, but it resulted in the students realizing that a real life job (along with real life in general) is more complicated than a simple math equation. Now keen fans have noted how this car wash problem was next presented in the Girl Meets World Season 2 episode: Girl Meets the Secret of Life. But that's wrong. It was actually first followed up in the other Michael Jacobs' show: Lost at Home. This four episode long series in 2003 was a more adult centric sitcom about a hard working business man named Michael who has spent over a decade not focused on family, now starting to learn to be more intentional with them. It wasn't the funniest show ever, but it still had some decent life lessons. Including the second episode of the series: where Michaels' daughter has a math problem about a car wash that is near identical to what Mr. Feeny gave in the classic Boy Meets World episode.

So Michael then has his kids actually wash a car, but the situation results in a chaotic mess. The episode actually ends with the message of how real life and real interactions with real people is more complicated than a math equation, and how it's hard to truly measure the length of how long people work because in a world full of many individuals, people do change people. A mantra that was actually carried over into Girl Meets World Season 2. And if anyone thinks this could still be a coincidence, well guess what? Both this episode of Lost at Home and Girl Meets the Secret of Life were written by the same guy: Mark Blutman. Yeah, I see what you did there. The second episode of Lost at Home is worth checking out if you simply wanna see a rough draft version of the Girl Meets World episode. From a behind the scenes standpoint, it's pretty neat to see.

6. An Old Teacher Returns. Still sticking with the short lived show: Lost at Home, the fourth and last episode of the series featured the appearance of a famous Boy Meets World character. In the episode, flawed father Michael is trying to teach his son a lesson about selling plant seeds to the neighbors. But in the middle of the episode we find out one of their neighbors is... FEENY! It's Mr. Feeny! Okay, technically it's actually actor William Daniels playing a different character. But the thing is: he's in a Michael Jacobs show playing an old teacher who is the neighbor to the young characters, has a garden, and gives great life lessons. Yeah, this is pretty much a 100% carbon copy of Mr. Feeny. But the episode is worth checking out if you simply are looking for one more life lesson from one of the greatest television teachers ever.

7. A Torkelsons Story is Reused. Back in 1993, the final season of the Torkelsons had an episode called: To Date or Not to Date which featured one of the girls: Molly wanting to go out with a boy who was three years older than her while he's hanging out at a college dorm. Her friend Dorothy Jane doesn't want her to go since the party starts so late at night, but she goes anyway and they find the guy and his friends hanging out, but the girls get in trouble in the end. And if you're a dedicated Girl Meets World fan, then you should realize by this point: this sounds near identical to the episode: Girl Meets the Tell-Tale-Tot. And it is. Now the big difference is: in the Torkelsons episode, the story spends a lot of time at examining how truly dangerous it is for two underage girls to be sneaking onto a college campus. And just for that one factor, the Torkelsons version of this story is superior. But if you want a funnier tale or want to see a better played out take on what it feels like for a teenage girl to have feelings for an older guy, stick with the Girl Meets World version.

8. Austin and Ally on Girl Meets World. Yeah, we're getting closer to the present now. In the Girl Meets World episode: Girl Meets World of Terror 2, the story features three short tales with one of them featuring the title characters from the other Disney sitcom: Austin and Ally (a show that features an incredibly unrealistic depiction of the music business). And since this is one of three Girl Meets World Halloween specials that could maybe not be considered canon because of how wacky they got, you could argue this means the two shows are not in the same universe. Although if they are, then that means the greater sitcom universe is way bigger than we thought. Because the same weekend this episode premiered, Disney Channel had all of their sitcoms have little crossovers with each other. Which means many of the classic ABC sitcoms and every Disney Channel sitcom takes place in the same universe. But this is where I"m gonna stop connecting dots and leave it to someone else to explain how they all connect. But they really do. So lets just move on now.

9. Riley and Lucas on Best Friends Whenever. Yeah. This really happened. You see, back when Sabrina the Teenage Witch premiered, it started this trend of sitcoms incorporating supernatural and sci-fi elements despite having the type of low budgets most sitcoms have. And Disney Channel has really run with this trend, with no worse example than Best Friends Whenever. A show that featured two girls with the power of time travel... just doing simple wacky shenanigans on a low budget set. This was a real low point in quality for the channel. And sadly, they had a crossover that many people don't wish to admit exists with Girl Meets World. In the ninth episode of Best Friends Whenever, the two time traveling girls go to New York City and visit a haunted house that Riley and Lucas are at. The sad thing about the crossover is that it's not a good story, and Riley and Lucas could've been replaced with any teen boy or teen girl from any other sitcom. The only redeeming qualities the crossover has is that Rowan Blanchard and Peyton Meyer prove they can still be entertaining with whatever material they're given. It's best to pretend this isn't a 100% pure crossover though and that Rowan Blanchard and Peyton Meyer simply happened to play two characters that just happened to have the same names as their Girl Meets World characters in a completely separate show.

10. Carl Winslow in Girl Meets World. Back in the 80's and 90's, actor Reginard VelJohnson played Carl Winslow on the sitcom: Family Matters. In the show: he was a tough but caring father that was also a police officer. Then in the Girl Meets World Season 3 episode: Girl Meets True Maya, Reginald VelJohnson shows up as a tough but caring police officer. And he pretty much acts identical to his Family Matters character, and feels exactly how Carl Winslow would've turned out years later. Now technically his Girl Meets World character isn't the same as his Family Matters character. But unlike the other close but not quite pure crossovers on this list, you could argue that they just got his name wrong and that he didn't wish to correct them because it wasn't the biggest issue of the moment. They probably did this because Disney didn't have legal access to his character because Family Matters is owned by Warner Brothers. So they simply thinly disguised the character under a false name. But that being said, it's still a fun and enjoyable crossover story. As were most of the ones on this list. Sometimes crossovers can be ridiculous and forced. But they are all still worth noteworthy moments in television history. Because... sometimes the concept of a crossover... does indeed work.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Spider-man (2017) Series Premiere Review

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here with a review for television's newest super hero cartoon: the latest Disney XD reboot of Spider-man. Now I'll be honest: I usually don't review super hero TV show premieres here. Why? Is it because I don't like them? No. I love super hero shows. But there are so many other people online that review them, that it just seems ridiculous to do my own. Plus: I'll just wind up saying what so many others already have. But after the premiere of this new show, I found that many people's reviews for this new show were negative. But the thing is... I liked this new show's premiere. And lets be clear. Spider-man is my favorite costumed super hero ever. I have four book shelves and two large boxes of Spider-man comics at home (including every Ultimate Spider-man book) and I have more Spider-man DVD's than any other comic book based properties I own. So I love this character, and I gotta say... so far I like this new show. It is different than past versions. It's not exactly like the classic comics. But the thing is... we've had so many TV shows and movies try to be like those classic stories. This show however really plays around with familiar characters and settings. It really is a full reboot of the Spider-man concept. However it works because the main characters still feel true to their comic roots. Especially Spider-man himself. And I like that.

Now lets be clear. I think Spectacular Spider-man was the best Spider-man cartoon ever. And a continuation of that series is what I'd want more than anything. And yes, I really hated the 2012 Ultimate Spider-man cartoon Disney XD made. It was completely untrue to their character and the Spider-man mythos as a whole. And I think because Disney's first full fledged Spider-man series was very much hated by hardcore Spider-man fans, they just didn't give this new series a chance. However I did, and I liked it. What's very interesting though is that the series actually started with a series of internet shorts featuring the full origin of Spider-man. And unlike the main series that started later, these internet shorts are actually very close to the original comics. They feel like a true modern update of the Stan Lee and Steve Ditko story. But with one simple change. Spider-man doesn't let the burglar kill his uncle because he's a jerk in the moment. He actually lets him get away because he's just completely absorbed in being a wrestling celebrity now and doesn't care. And I think it's nice to teach young viewers that being too wrapped up in fame and fortune, can lead to serious consequences. And in the scene where the burglar runs by Spider-man, I think actually having a camera man voiced by Stan Lee included in that scene was a very nice touch.

Now the main series premiere is where the story does diverge from classic Spider-man lore. Peter Parker, who is still new to being a super hero, helps stop a catastrophe when a science experiment that's brought over from the private school: Horizon High, goes haywire Peter impresses the school head: Max Modell and gets admited into Horizon High. From there, Spider-man battles various villains while using his resources at Horizon High to improve his costume and gadgets. Now as keen Spider-man fans might realize, this isn't an adaptation of the classic Stan Lee era, but rather than modern Dan Slott era. You see back in 2010, adult Peter Parker actually got a job working at a place called Horizon Labs. In this series, Horizon Labs has simply become a gifted and talented school. But the environment along with Max Modell and Peter's interactions with him are pretty much the same. With the only real difference being that Max is starting to become like a new father figure in Peter's life. And you know what, it's probably for the best that the series adapted more recent Spider-man stories for this show. We can only adapt those classic Stan Lee stories so many times. So it's nice to see a Spider-man era that hasn't been adapted yet appear in animation.

Plus, the series is fun to watch if you're familiar with past Spider-man stories. Every character that shows up is someone who has appeared in a Spider-man comic before. But because these are very different versions of the characters, you're not sure which direction the show is gonna go in. So you start watching more carefully. A young Otto Octavius appears who isn't evil, so you're wondering what may drive him to become a villain eventually. Miles Morales and Anya Corazon appear who in the comics are the new Spider-man and Spider-Woman but since they're just fellow students of Peter now, we don't know what will lead them to becoming heroes. Plus, we hear Aunt May talking to Anna Watson which makes you realize: wait, is Mary Jane going to appear? And then the students mention someone named Gwen Stacy goes to this private school and you realize: wait, what is Gwen Stacy gonna be like in this show? And did Peter mention Iron Man existing in this world? Will he meet the Avengers eventually? As someone who has seen so many versions of these characters before, it feels kinda fun to see new versions of these characters and wonder when others will show up.

But none of this new stuff would feel right, if Spider-man didn't feel right. And at his core, he is who he has always been. A true super hero. He's flawed and makes mistakes. But he's always trying to be helpful and kind. He makes a few jokes, but he's not dumb. He's a highly intelligent and caring teenager. And that is exactly what we need to see more of in television. Now I won't lie though. The dialogue in this show is pretty simple. Except for some of the stuff Peter/Spider-man says, these characters don't feel complex at all. It's kind of like an old 80's Saturday morning cartoon. Plus, the animation is pretty simple too. Kind of a throwback to 1980's Japanese animation. But the thing is... it's kind of nice to watch something that feels like an old imported Saturday morning cartoon. These stories are simple. But they work. Spider-man is still a great role model to young viewers watching at all times, and that's what young viewers need. But he's still a fun character. Especially with this new recurring gag that the show has made where Spider-man changes his voice when he's around people he knows as Peter Parker.

But unlike modern cartoons that have to have lots of action and jokes all over, this show does still take it's time to let the characters breath and just be themselves. So even if the characters' dialogue is pretty simple, you at least really understand them. This is especially true in the moments Peter has when he flashes back to lessons his Uncle Ben taught him, which are actually some of the best emotional scenes in the series thus far. Plus, the voice acting is definitely superior to old Saturday morning cartoons. Actor Robbie Daymond who plays Peter Parker/Spider-man in particular really nails exactly what young Spider-man should sound like. Now I can't say he's as good an actor as past Spider-man performers, but the thing is: it took me time to accept other actors when they took on the role of Spider-man.

But as soon as I heard Robbie Daymond play Spider-man, I didn't hear a new actor playing Spider-man. I heard Spider-man. And I think as a big long time fan of this hero, that should mean something. So there you go. The new Spider-man cartoon may not be too complex or true to the old source material. But it's still a story of a young hero who is easily a good role model for young viewers watching. For long time Spider-man fans, it may not be your favorite Spider-man cartoon. But this show so far does stand as a pretty good alternative take on the Spider-man concept. I'd still recommend young viewers check out earlier Spider-man cartoons that were made before this first (especially Spectacular Spider-man) but as a fun new super hero cartoon for young viewers (or older viewers that want to go back to the days of simpler cartoons) this is definitely something to check out.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Torkelsons - Series Review

Hey everyone. Captain Sean here with a special review for the classic 90’s sitcom series: The Torkelsons. A show that was actually developed and produced by Michael Jacobs, best known as the creator of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World. And just to say it right off the bat: if you are a fan of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World, then the Torkelsons is a must see show you should check out. It really does fill in the gap and give off the same feels Boy and Girl Meets World had. Similar to those two series, the show focuses on a realistic family trying to get by in the world, dealing with realistic situations, all the while learning important life lessons. Only in this series, it’s about a single mother with five children in a lower class environment. Now even though the series focused on the difficulties that those in poverty encounter, it still delved into timeless morals and true to life human emotions all types of people deal with, fueled with amazing writing and great acting.

Now what’s pretty interesting about the history of this show is: it’s the first sitcom Disney Television, ever made! Yes. This is the predecessor to every Disney sitcom out there. So, how does this Michael Jacobs’ produced show hold up to his bigger hit: Boy Meets World, along with future Disney sitcoms out there including Girl Meets World? Well, there’s actually quite a lot to talk about with this series. So, today we’ll be having a special in depth retrospective on this series. This will involve analyzing every episode from the shows’ first season, taking a look at how things went in the shows’ second season, then list the similarities this show has with Boy Meets World (trust me, there are a lot of them), and then finally discuss why this great series was cancelled after just a short run of 33 episodes. And yes, there will be spoilers. So if you’re just remotely interested in this show, stop watching this review and start watching the series now. But, if this quick introduction hasn’t convinced you to start watching the show, then stick around. Because by the end of this review, hopefully you will be. And so… here we go.

The first few episodes of the series focus on a family including five kids and one single mother, just trying to get by in life. Of the five kids, the one that is given the most screen time and character development by far is Dorothy Jane Torkelson: a highly articulate old soul with a love of poetry and dreams of a better life. In the first few episodes, a lot of time is spent with the characters going through many of the day to day difficulties that come from living in poverty, and more specifically: having no money to buy simple every day necessities and much desired luxuries. The first episode focuses on the family having their washing machine getting repossessed, while Dorothy Jane has to deal with the embarrassment that comes from letting her new neighbor: Riley (played by Michael Landes) learn of what kind of home she lives in. Then the second episode deals with Dorothy Jane trying to hide the fact that she got her school dance dress from a thrift store and dealing with the ridicule that comes when people realize she did. Then in the third episode we get a pretty complex story that reveals how the Torkelson family is a spiritual and religious family, but they don’t often go to their local church, with the reason being: the church has often donated things to them. And they didn’t appreciate that since: they want to be viewed as a family that can serve the community, rather than be solely served by them. It’s a pretty interesting story that does parallel with what some adults that do live in poverty face. They don’t want a free hand out. They want be viewed as independent and capable providers, and to not be viewed as that just brings more pain to the already difficult realization of what kind of life they’re living.

Now the only character in the show to receive just as much screen time as Dorothy Jane is her mother: Millicent. Now in the first few episodes, Millicent acts way too silly and happy sounding for a woman with five kids living in poverty who claims her husband has left her not too long ago. You at first think this is a sign of bad acting. But then you eventually realize, it was actually meant to look like bad acting. Because early on, in a scene where Dorothy Jane confronts her mom about how frustrated she is with her mom’s behavior, Millicent reveals it’s only an act she’s been doing in order to help her family feel better, and it’s only when she’s alone with Dorothy Jane, do you start to see her true traumatized emotions come through.

Now even after this scene, Millicent does continue to act a bit silly. But as the season progresses, she does start to calm down a bit and act like a realistic mother more often once she stops denying the emotions and stress she is feeling, and begins to talk more openly about how she feels with other adults around her. Most notably with Mr. Hodges; a kind old man who begins renting out the family’s basement starting in the first episode. As the show moves forwards, he slowly but surely evolves into a grandfather like figure to the family. He never boldly intrudes on any of the family members’ personal lives, but gives just the right simple and to the point advice that many of the children and even Millicent need at just the right time. A great example of this is in the fourth episode when Millicent gives up her business from home doing odd jobs career to take on a job outside the home where she’ll make more money (but with the negative side effect of now being with her children much less). However when Millicent tells Mr. Hodges how this new job she makes allows her to get: just seventeen dollars more a week than she used to, Mr. Hodges nudges Millicent to go back to her old work from home business, and helps Millicent realize… seventeen extra dollars a week, just isn’t a price worth paying if it keeps you from your children.

The fifth episode: Poetry in Motion, is when the show starts to really show it’s truly good quality. Dorothy Jane has been having a huge crush on the boy next door: Riley. However, he’s a bit older than Dorothy Jane and it’s realistically a relationship that will never happen. However Dorothy Jane is a poet and a dreamer who can only see the fantasy she’s created of her and Riley being together as the only true outcome in reality. She even gets incredibly bold and throws herself (literally) at Riley kissing him, and runs off hoping he’ll eventually chase after her and do the same. And despite every realistic thing her mother tells her is probably going to happen, Dorothy Jane holds true to her dreams coming true. But when Riley does return, everybody but Dorothy Jane can only dread what is to about to happen. Now the episode cleverly doesn’t even show the scene of Riley letting Dorothy Jane down easy. Because you know how it’s going to play out. Instead, it just cuts to Dorothy Jane being all alone outside. And when she comes out, all Millicent can do now is silently hug her daughter. Because what words can quickly help a young girl, when for the first time in her life, she has experienced feeling her dreams, and heart… break.

Now the sixth episode isn’t as strong a story. But it does feature a nice tale in which Dorothy Jane is trying to enter a contest to win a trip to Paris, but the contest judges wish to meet her at her house. Dorothy Jane has been very embarrassed about allowing anyone to meet her family up until this point, but this is the episode where she finally accepts her family as they are. A change in her character that lasts for the rest of the series. Yes, that’s right. This is actually a sitcom with actual ongoing character development. Now sure, many other classic sitcoms had special turning point stories for certain characters. But once you get past the first four episodes, The Torkelsons actually features many turning points in the characters’ development. This might be commonplace for drama shows, but it’s actually quite refreshing to see a sitcom actually have strong continuity between most episodes. And by the way, that’s episodes in airing order. Despite online wiki’s saying these episodes were aired out of production order, the Season 1 episodes were apparently actually aired where they were supposed to story-wise.

And the season long story hits a major turning point in episode 7: Men Don’t Leave. In this story everything seems to start off like a normal day, but suddenly the kids’ father: Randall just walks in out of nowhere after not seeing his family for a year and a half. The drop in takes everybody by surprise. The younger kids are happy to see their father, but both Dorothy Jane and Millicent are very cautious as this tale progresses. Randall claims to want to be a part of the family again, and he’s very upset Millicent wants to finalize their divorce. Now on one hand, you hope Randall means what he says since you want to see a broken family get back together. But then through some well-timed dialogue where the characters naturally talk about their past (rather than just exposit about it), its revealed… Randall has been with his family on and off for the last fifteen years… and he’s actually never even stayed at home for more than 36 days at one time. But here’s where the story gets very complex. Millicent is a deeply spiritual and religious woman who wants to stay loyal to her husband. She’s spent the last fifteen years hoping things would get better, and has let him done anything he’s wanted to do to her out of love and commitment to him, even having a total of five children with him despite his wrong-doings in the past… which include being with other woman. You can tell while watching their interactions together in this episode, Millicent does love Randall… but yet she knows if they continue to remain married… it will only bring further pain and misery… and you can tell when Millicent speaks, it’s hard for her to admit this realization that took over a decade to realize.

But despite all this, Millicent goes out of her way to not speak negatively of Randall in front of the children. She even keeps trying to get Dorothy Jane (who resents her father more than any of the children) to spend time with him, or at least simply give him a hug. Now one would wonder why Randall is acting so kind and sweet during most of the story despite the very awful things he’s done. Well the episode doesn’t explicitly say it, but he does have many of the signs of bipolar disorder, that being he can have very positive feelings related to how he feels about his family one day, and then have very uncaring and negative feelings the next. It’s something that does happen with some families of all socioeconomic statuses, but it unfortunately happens all the more often in low income and very poverty stricken areas, since people in those communities are less likely to be able to properly identify the behavior and prescribe and afford proper medical assistance.

But you can tell Millicent might be aware of this, because as soon as Randall proclaims he’s truly going to stay for good, she realizes he will soon change his mind. So Millicent sternly encourages Dorothy Jane to hug her father. Because… she knows it might be the last time she gets the chance. And then sadly, Randall does leave in the middle of the night, only leaving behind a set of signed divorce papers. The final scene of the episode features very little dialogue. It’s simply Millicent silently looking at the divorced papers. She knew this was coming… but because the reality has finally cemented… it only hurts all the more.

The next story, episode 8: Thanksgiving Me Something: while being a lighter tale, actually plays off of the previous episode perfectly. Millicent is now completely single, and since her ex-husband was the only person she dated long ago, she honestly has no idea on how to move forward with the dating scene. With some nudging from Dorothy Jane though, she invites the single church pastor to have Thanksgiving dinner with them. They also invite a local Native American to have Thanksgiving with them as well. Now the story features Millicent actually starting to freak out at one point when she sees herself surrounded by two single men. She retreats to Dorothy Jane’s room, and Dorothy Jane starts to comfort her mother. Despite their wide age gap, the two both only have had experience loving one person. So they’re both moving forward with a potential second romance at the same time now. So from this point in the series moving forward, the two become more like sisters when talking about and dealing with many issues in their lives. Now Millicent doesn’t start dating either of the two single men she invited over, but by interacting with them and doing a little bit of flirting, it does show that she is ready to move forward with her life.

Then we get Episode 9: Return to Sender. Another really good story. Mr. Hodges has been getting a lot of “return to sender” mail being sent to him throughout the season thus far. And in this episode, he finally feels comfortable enough to reveal his back story to the family. He had only one child: his son; who grew up and had one daughter named Molly. But then Mr. Hodges’ son died, but his daughter-in-law married another man and they haven’t responded to his letters since, assumingly because his granddaughter’s new family wants to sever ties with any part of her past that comes from a poverty stricken community. But then Millicent and the kids arrange for Mr. Hodges’ granddaughter: Molly and his daughter in law (played by Patty Duke) to come visit him, and we learn there’s more complexity to this story. Little Molly’s new step-father may not be a big fan of Mr. Hodges, but Mr. Hodges still was invited to live with the family. But he declined. Because even though he would love to live with his granddaughter Molly, seeing her be loved by a father that is not his son, would only bring Mr. Hodges the all too painful memory of losing his son back to the forefront of his mind, which would just be too much for him. The episode is really the only one that gives sole focus to Mr. Hodges, and actor William Schallert who plays him, expertly carries this very well written tale. The episode ends with Mr. Hodges parting ways with his family, followed by him having a meal all alone. But then the final moment of the story reminds us… even if you don’t have your real family, you still are never alone.

After a long string of much more dramatic stories, we get episode 10: I Fought the Law, which features a much lighter story about the family trying to run a little food stand business, but the law gets in their way. So Millicent goes full on rebel without a serious cause against the police, until Dorothy Jane of all people is able to work out a deal where her mother can do her food stand business at a grocery store on Saturdays. Its pretty much standard sitcom stuff, but not that bad. The next story in episode 11: A Sigh is Just a Sigh, finally gives the other kids in the family some character development where they have to deal with some bullies. It’s your standard 80’s/90’s sitcom plot of dealing with a bully. Nothing too much to say.

But things get much better in episode 12: Educating Millicent. The story starts with Millicent for the first time ever, finding herself having a hard time helping Dorothy Jane with her math homework. And why is high school math hard for Millicent. Well upon discovering some of the local high school’s old yearbooks, the kids learn… Millicent didn’t finish high school when she was younger. Now at first both her kids and the audience think she dropped out simply because it was too hard for her. But then Dorothy Jane who was never 100% sure of her mother’s age, looks at the old high school records, does the math and realizes… Millicent’s real reason for dropping out of high school when she was a teenager. She became pregnant while she was a teenager. Yep. Andi Mack wasn’t the first Disney show to tackle teen pregnancy. It was this one. Now this shocking bit of the past that gets revealed, doesn’t just rattle Millicent, but it also shakes up the entire way Dorothy Jane now views her entire existence.

But upon feeling like she is the one that prevented her mother from finishing high school, Dorothy Jane pushes her mother to finish it now, by getting her GED. Millicent begins studying hard but the pressure really gets to her, and she even declares that she’s considering quitting. But luckily she gets helpful encouragement one night when she’s visited by... Sesame Street's Elmo! WHAT THE HECK!?! Um… so we’ve got a deep story about teenage pregnancy and the importance of a high school education, also having a crossover scene with Sesame Street. What? The scene is obviously played up as a hallucination Millicent is having, and despite how… odd it is… it does provide some very comedic moments to help balance out the more dramatic parts of the story. The episode ends with a very optimistic and well done scene where Millicent is able to show off her newly acquired high school diploma to Dorothy Jane, and have one of the best mother daughter bonding scenes of the series.

Now Episode 13: Double Date, features a lighter yet still well done tale. Both Dorothy Jane and Millicent are still having problems really getting onto the dating scene. So Dorothy Jane calls a local radio personality: Kitty, AKA: The Love Professor for help. And she actually takes a house call, and just immediately begins helping set the two ladies up on dates. And Kitty is incredibly entertaining in every scene she is in. What makes her a great character overall is: she’s kind and caring, but she’s also loud and crazy. She has no sense of how far she’s getting mixed into peoples’ personal lives, but is always still putting peoples’ best intentions at the forefront of her mind. Now both Dorothy Jane and Millicent go on dates with new respective guys they’ve met. However the dates don’t go that well. But the two do recognize how the experience will help them move forward.

Now the rest of the season winds up having mostly simpler stories. Not bad stories. Just simpler. One episode features Dorothy Jane trying to change her personality too much in order to get guys to notice her, but in the end: learns the simple message of being herself. Another episode features Dorothy Jane trying to shoo away an annoying boy named Kirby who likes her. And there’s later a tale featuring Dorothy Jane and Kirby taking care of an egg baby. Although in that simpler tale, where she has to pretend to be married to Kirby for an assignment, Dorothy Jane does start to finally realize why she’s pursued older guys and has had so many poetic like fantasies involving them.

Things get a little more complex again though in episode 17: The Long Goodbye. In that story, Dorothy Jane’s father: Randall is back again. And despite being divorced, he’s suddenly trying to win Millicent over again. But he also tries to help Dorothy Jane try to feel better after she gets upset that a boy she liked moved away without saying goodbye. Randall tries to tell Dorothy Jane that if a boy leaves a girl for a long period of time without saying goodbye, it actually means they really like them. Yeah, if that sounds really twisted and wrong, then it should. Randall is obviously trying to paint his actions in the past as right, and is trying to convince his daughter that those type of actions are appropriate as a means to validate what he’s done before. This causes Millicent and Randall to have some pretty serious arguments about how Dorothy Jane is being raised. In the end, Randall leaves again. The family is no better off and life doesn’t improve. However, this time Randall does say goodbye to his family rather than sneaking off in the night. So at least there’s hope that he, and anyone, can start to grow and improve… even if it’s just in one simple thing at a time.

The second to last episode of the season: It’s My Party, actually brings Dorothy Jane’s character arc full circle. After being the least popular girl in school in the second episode of the series, circumstances have now allowed Dorothy Jane to become very popular now. But as a means to keep her popularity at a high standard, she excludes a girl from an every worse poverty stricken environment than herself. She obviously learns her lesson in the end, but it’s good to see after a years’ worth of character building adventures, she has indeed grown a lot.

The final episode of the season: Aunt Poison, focuses on Millicent inheriting her late aunt’s dog. Millicent is not happy about this because her aunt always despised her for taking the married and mother life, over the career driven and single life she wanted her to take. However via video message, Millicent learns her aunt did realize late in life, that a life of successful career without family or loved ones around you, isn’t a life worth living. It causes Millicent to feel more proud of the life she now has, that being raising a family. She may have made some bad choices along the way, but every choice she made was out of love for others. And that’s something that should: be celebrated.

The Torkelsons Season 1 is a very fine piece of television. But that being said, it does suffer a bit from season 1 syndrome, in that: it does feel like a show that’s trying to figure out its voice and what really works early on. For example: Millicent is given a rotation of adult friends to talk to throughout the season. First it’s some guy trying to date her named Butcher who only shows up in the first episode, then it’s her mother in law for a while, then it’s some other mother her age in one episode. Finally the series did settle on Kitty. And she really worked the best. Her interactions with Millicent were very funny. But so were her interactions with Mr. Hodges. The two were just so different personality wise, but strangely enough: they actually get along very well. Resulting in them becoming a bit an odd comedic duo.

But speaking of characters, the show didn’t always know how to use them. Most notably: the four younger Torkelson children. You see, none of the four younger kids have been named in this review thus far because… none of them received much character development. Aside from two or three stories arguably, they didn’t grow much. They had individual personalities, but at many times: the kids could’ve switched half of their lines with each other and it wouldn’t have affected the story at all. They were really just there most of the time to remind you: Millicent has five kids and raising five kids is hard. Probably the most stand out performance of the four younger kids though was the youngest: Mary Sue. Her interactions especially with Mr. Hodges were always nice to watch.

But even with fun moments like that, the shows’ comedy wasn’t always the best. Outside of Kitty, despite there being a handful of good silly moments, the show wasn’t that funny. The first few episodes especially tried really hard at throwing out tons of jokes. But none of them stuck well. But apparently, the shows’ writers realized this. Because as the show moved on, the amount of comedic moments decreased… a lot. To the point where there’d be five to eight minutes of screen time with no jokes being said or laughter being heard. Thus: The Torkelsons at times became more of a straight drama show. And when they were doing that, they actually pulled off some great stories. The show was excellent at never talking down to viewers, and just simply showing true to life tales that show viewers of all ages real problems real people in the world do go through, and how to navigate through them.

And the two main leads always pulled off their dramatic stories incredibly well. After the first few episodes, Connie Ray as Millicent became the perfect representation of what so many hard working mothers dealing with serious stress and hardships really do go through; complexity, flaws and all. And Olivia Burnette who played Dorothy Jane carried every scene she was in with expert skill. Very few young actors at any time in television history have been able to pull off the kind of very elegant and intelligent style of speaking she often had. Plus, only an actress of her high quality could consistently pull off the monologues she did in every episode. These being when she looks up the sky and talks to the mysterious man in the moon every night. Which is eventually revealed to be her nickname she’s given to God as a means to simply make talking to the Lord more informal. So basically, nearly every episode of the Torkelsons features in depth prayer. That’s cool. The Torkelsons Season 1 is by far one of the most underappreciated sitcom seasons in all of television history. Unfortunately though, the network it was on didn’t like the rural setting. So the show was dramatically retooled in the shows’ very different second season.

Season 2 of the Torkelsons featured Millicent losing her home and moving her family into a new house in the city where she has been hired to become a nanny to an upper middle class single man raising his two teenage kids. Now in this season, the show was actually retitled: “Almost Home”. It could be considered a sequel show, but Disney in reruns would put both seasons together under the Torkelsons banner so… yeah Disney considered these two seasons one show so… yeah. The show actually begins with the revelation that Millicent just didn’t make enough money to pay the mortgage in time and is being kicked out of her old house. We actually get to see the family say goodbye to the old set one last time before… wait. There are only three kids now. Yeah, apparently two of Millicent’s’ kids have just: disappeared. And they didn’t run away or something. They act like they’ve never existed now. I’m just gonna guess aliens interfered the timeline and the two kids were retconned out of existence. I mean it’s happened before in sitcoms (the little sister of Family Matters anyone?). Now the transition to the new format might feel a bit rushed (we don’t even get to say goodbye to Mr. Hodges), but it’s still pretty well played out. 

Now the new family dynamic does have exactly the type of conflict you’d assume they’d have. The teenagers that Millicent is supposed to be a nanny for don’t like Millicent and her kids. But they slowly learn to get along. The more surprising moment though is Millicent’s interactions with her new employer: Brian in their first episode together. Brian at first seems like he’s the typical bad parent who only cares about business and not his kids. But we eventually learn Brian is so busy because… his late wife started a clothing company shortly before she died, and so Brian chose to continue it; even giving up his former law practice; simply because he couldn’t bring himself to shut down something his wife loved so much. But to keep the company afloat, he has to work hard at it. As the season progresses though, Millicent is actually able to encourage Brian to spend more time with his children. And he actually does. He even eventually winds up being able to stay at home with the kids just as much as Millicent.

Now the majority of the rest of the season is much more standard sitcom stuff. It’s not bad. But the thing is: The Torkelsons Season 1 was such a unique format. This is just standard seen it a million times sitcom situations. You have a couple of kids and adults living in a simple middle class home in the city. They go through wacky shenanigans, but learn a lesson and grow a bit. Seriously: many of the sets, plots, and guest characters just feel recycled from so many other 80’s and 90’s sitcoms. And the show goes from having comedy mixed with a lot of drama, to just being a standard sitcom with tons of comedy in every scene. But that being said: this is still better than average sitcom stuff here.

First off: the two new teen characters are pretty entertaining. Brian’s youngest child: Molly, played by Brittany Murphy, does a good job at playing the typical slacker girl while still infusing plenty of personality. And then there’s Gregory played by Jason Marsden. And if you are an animation or sitcom enthusiast: you obviously know who Jason Marsden is, and how great his acting abilities are. Easily, he was the best new addition to the series. Every time Jason Marsden speaks, he is just purely entertaining to watch. Even if his lines aren’t the best, just the way he delivers everything he says in this season feels like solid fun. Plus, the writers must’ve known how good a comedic line deliverer he was, because almost every episode has him saying nothing but silly one-liners and very witty dialogue.

But he does get some good emotional moments too. For example, he has a best friend named Sam. But he doesn’t realize his tomboy friend actually has romantic feelings for him. So we actually get a good episode called “The Dance” that actually features Jason Marsden at his best playing a teenager who is trying to sort his conflicting feelings of friendship and romance he is feeling towards his best friend. It’s actually a great story.

Meanwhile the only other really ongoing plot in this season is the relationship between Millicent and Brian. They tease in a few episodes that they could have romantic feelings for the other. But it doesn’t go anywhere. Instead they sort of evolve into each other’s simple companion. They start to become co-parents together, spending time with both their own kids and the others’ pretty equally. By the end of the season, they’re actually do everything a typical married couple does except do anything romantic. This might be because they both are a year in from losing their respective partners from past marriages but aren’t ready to go steady romantically yet. But they have some pretty good emotional scenes together still. Although they do have one really funny moment where Brian takes Millicent to a dinner meeting he is having with a client of his.

Aside from that, there is a few good stories mixed into the simple standard sitcom plots of the season. In the episode: “Is That All There Is”, Dorothy Jane finally gets a steady boyfriend in her life, played by Ben Affleck. No, I’m not kidding. Young Ben Affleck plays her boyfriend in the episode. Seriously. However Dorothy Jane not feeling like they’re compatible, breaks the relationship up. It’s sadly ironic though. The one thing Dorothy Jane wanted more than anything, is the thing she winds up giving up. Later episodes feature her and Molly becoming sister like best friends, and they slowly start to care for the other. And in the final episode, we see the non-traditional family being closer than ever as the parents truly now see value the other brings to the table, plus the kids really do now care for both parents and every fellow child in the household now.

It’s obvious the show would’ve eventually had them all become more a real blended family in the end. But sadly at episode 33, the series was cancelled. Thus ending Michael Jacobs’ time creating a traditional sitcom for Disney Television… until he immediately began work on Boy Meets World which premiered months later. And now it’s time for the inevitable. Comparing this show to Boy Meets World.

The most immediate thing that comes to mind when comparing the Torkelsons to Boy Meets World is: both series were excellent at showing viewers just how difficult life can really be. Both shows expertly did tales that would pull the rug out from young peoples’ expectations of how they thought life turns out when you get older, and instead showed the more realistic things that probably will happen as you get older, no matter how dark it is. Now Boy Meets World did tackle a wider range of relevant topics for young viewers, but that’s mostly because they had more episodes to do so. But something the Torkelsons did that made them stand out more thematically was… they got darker at times. Yes, Boy Meets World had some dark episodes. But most of their darker moments were followed up by the end of the episode (or a later story) indicating that things would indeed get better. The Torkelsons actually had a handful episodes where something bad happens and… that’s it. The situation stinks and there’s nothing that can be done to improve it. It’s almost depressing at times. Although, one could argue this makes the show more relatable for people that are currently going through serious problems. But the stories over time would show you how even though some problems (such as broken relationships and broken marriages) may never be fixed, you still can move forward with your life and forge a better tomorrow. So it is optimistic in that sense.

Another interesting thing about analyzing the Torkelsons is when you realize how some of the elements of this series actually wove their way into Boy Meets World. You see, the Torkelsons was about a family living in poverty. But when the show got cancelled, in order to still tell tales about those living in poverty, Boy Meets World while having its main character Cory Matthews live in a middle class home, would have one of its supporting characters (that being Cory’s best friend Shawn) be an individual that lives in a poverty stricken environment. Thus, the writers of Boy Meets World were able to bring over stories they could’ve used for the Torkelsons over into plot lines focusing on Shawn in Boy Meets World. In fact: the relationship Dorothy Jane has with her negligent father does have some similarities with Shawn Hunter’s relationship with his negligent father. And you can even argue that story concepts from the Torkelsons were brought over into Girl Meets World in stories that focused on Maya and her single mother Katy. Katy in fact could be viewed as a more modern version of Millicent’s character; as a modern single mom living in a poverty stricken area of a city would’ve had no choice but to spent more time working away from home, as Katy had to do back in Girl Meets World Season 1.

And of course, you can definitely tell the final season of Boy Meets World carried over the same societal themes the Torkelsons did. In the final season of Boy Meets World, both Cory and Topanga find themselves in a living situation where they have very little money, and finding good work and basic necessities is hard for them. This kind of story was all over the first few episodes of the Torkelsons, so you can definitely feel the writers were re-using ideas from that series at this point. Although you could argue Boy Meets World did it better because in that show we got to see what people from a middle class environment getting their first taste of what poverty feels like.

However, Boy and Girl Meets World never actually re-used specific plots from the Torkelsons. Except one. In the season 2 episode: “To Date or Not to Date”, we learn Molly is really into this guy who is a few years older than her. So she and Dorothy Jane sneak out and go to a college party late at night that’s in a dorm room in order to see him. Yeah, this is almost identical to the Girl Meets World episode: “Girl Meets the Tell-Tale-Tot”. Only in the Torkelsons, the story does delve deeply into the dangers of two underage girls visiting a college dorm room without adult supervision. So it’s actually much better than the Girl Meets World story.

But aside from stories, the Torkelsons did share some cast and crew with Boy and Girl Meets World. Aside from Michael Jacobs, many of the crew members (including writers and directors) from the Torkelsons wound up doing work in Boy Meets World, and a few even carried over into Girl Meets World. And of course amongst the actors you have Lee Norris who plays one of the younger Torkelson children going on to play Stuart Minkus in Boy Meets World. And what’s interesting is how Lee Norris’ character in both shows, pretty much acts the same. The same also goes with Jason Marsden who would later play Eric’s best friend in the first two seasons of Boy Meets World. His character in both shows was pretty much the same. Also, Brittney Murphy who played Molly in the Torkelsons wound up appearing in two episodes of Boy Meets World, albeit playing a very different type of character.

But now comes the big question: if this show was so good and so similar to Boy Meets World, why was it cancelled? Well in an interview done with Michael Jacobs during the lead up to Girl Meets Worlds’ premiere, he did speak highly of how good the Torkelsons was, but admitted that the network didn’t like the idea of a rural show. The idea just seemed old fashioned and backwards to TV executives. Another similar reason may also be that: in the 90’s - post-Cold War American pop culture was trying to move forward and address new societal problems, and just wanted to live in denial that long standing American culture issues such as poverty still existed, and a show like the Torkelsons didn’t help with that mentality. Plus, while the show was obviously very relatable to low income families, it obviously wasn’t to upper class families who were less likely to watch the show. And evidence over the last twenty years in TV history has suggested that mainstream channels are more likely to let a show with not the best ratings survive if it has a more wealthy demographic watching it (which can thus spend more money on things being advertised) versus shows being watched by just low income audiences. Now the show did move to a city environment in the second season. But by that point, it was just another typical middle class sitcom just like all the other ones on TV.

Now it could’ve survived with this revamp. But… the other issue with this show was, the episodes premiered on Saturday nights. And the 90’s was when Saturday night was slowly turning into the night no one watched network TV. Virtually no family shows that got their start on Saturdays in the 90’s ever survived. Now the show was later rerun on Disney Channel on weekday afternoons. But it was only rerun in the 90’s when Disney Channel was a premium cable channel and thus less people had access to checking out this show back then. Plus this was back when network channels still offered plenty of children’s shows to watch on weekday afternoons. So sadly, the Torkelsons just never got a proper chance for people to check it out.

And honestly, it’s really sad that’s how it all went down. The Torkelsons is really a great timeless show that deals with serious and relatable issues both people in poverty and people that live anywhere have to deal with. It didn’t hide how harsh growing up was, but did show how to properly do it. Again, if you’re a fan of Boy Meets World and Girl Meets World, this really is the show that gives off the same feel as those two programs. So check it out wherever you can, build the buzz and support for this show, and maybe we can convince Disney to get this show back on TV, or DVD, or some official streaming service. Because this really is one of the most underappreciated family shows that anybody, should check out.