Um. I have a confession. *cough*
Frequent readers will know that we here at Tweenage seriously dislike Demi Lovato -- and we really, really hated Camp Rock. And, well, you know how hard it was for me to admit that I kind of enjoyed Wizards of Waverly Place?
I actually enjoyed Sonny With a Chance, Disney's new Demi vehicle.
In fact, of all the various Disney sitcoms I've seen, Sonny has the most coherent pilot, and is surprisingly decent overall. Like, enough so that I almost mistook it for a show on Nickelodian, a network that actually understands how sitcom plots work! But then, that could be because it's really clear that someone at Disney sat down, watched a crapload of Dan Schneider programming, and stole blatantly.
So Sonny, the protagonist, is the new girl on a weekly kids' sketch comedy show called "So Random." And it seems like every episode of the sitcom about said show opens with a "So Random" sketch. Both of the sketches we've seen so far were probably supposed to be parodies, but actually just seemed like they could have been real -- albeit short -- sketches directly from Schneider's All That. And one of them was genuinely funny! Though that was only because the whole premise consisted of throwing food at Demi Lovato.
Speaking of Demi: she is definitely the weakest link. This is not exactly a surprise. But Sonny as a character is pretty much exactly Demi's public persona: she is desperate for people to really, really like her! And maybe if she smiles enough, we will! Which would be fine for a character but, unfortunately, Demi sucks as much at playing that character as she does at living that persona, because every line she squeaked (all but a few, which were yelled) was grating and irritating. She was supposed to be the sympathetic nice girl, compared to the standard cliche blond mean girl on the show, but... Well, the mean girl was better acted, with better comedic timing, so (even though she was probably the second-weakest actor on the show) I was kind of rooting for her. But in the few moments where Sonny was angry and not actively trying to befriend the whole wide world -- and also when she was covered in ketchup -- she was mildly tolerable. Almost.
The rest of the cast was pretty decent! I could easily picture this show suffering from Hannah Montana Syndrome: the main character is horrible (poorly acted, poorly written, and obnoxious) but the peripheral cast is quite amusing. The writing itself was a bit of a mixed bag; there were plenty of elements that didn't make sense -- well, that's standard on a kids' show, and triply-so on a Disney sitcom -- and a lot of really flat "laugh" lines. And there were a few obvious punchlines they just somehow missed. (When you have a protagonist who puns, who's writing a sketch about bees, who's been told she should leave something alone, her line should be, "I guess that's none of my BEESWAX," not "None of my bees-ness!" because BEESWAX IS ALREADY A THING PEOPLE SAY, zomg, punchline: ur doin it wrong.) But there were also a few decent laugh lines throughout, both within the parody sketches and the show at large.
Conclusion? To my surprise, I will probably watch this show in spite of its star. Of course, while I'm watching, I'll keep thinking it really would be a better show if it had a different star, a different writer, and was on a different network... But for Disney's original sitcoms, that's actually a step up in terms of quality.
Now excuse me. I need to go look for my sense of shame; I think I've lost it somewhere.
E-T-Freaking-A: Following trackbacks to our blog -- hi! thank you, we also think Ryan Evans is gay and the Jonas Brothers suck! -- I found a thread about Sonny over at TWoP, which points out that, while Schneider isn't involved, Sonny's executive producer Brian Robbins also produced All That. So there you go then. My gut instinct: pretty darned close!