For the most part—Up All Night notwithstanding—television networks take that “if it ain’t broke” adage about 100 times more serious than the rest of the world. If ABC has a success with a singing reality show, then they’re going to green light ones about dancing, rapping, a cappella, the music industry, and, hell, maybe even celebrity diving. Since Friends was such a success, why not spin-off dim-bulb Joey into his own show? And wouldn’t everyone want to see what Dwight Schrute’s life was like on his beet farm, surrounded by a cast of wacky characters.
That same conservatism holds even truer with kids TV. Don’t rock the boat, don’t shake things up. You can make a brother disappear, but the kids will notice if, weirdly, the main female character stops wearing boots with her leggings. That’s why, when kid TV Svengali Dan Schneider found two of his most successful shows—iCarly and Victorious—ending in the past six months, he made the calculated decision to take the two wacky female best pals—Sam and Cat, respectively—and wackily mash them together in their own new show. Sam just happens to be riding her motorcycle through L.A. when she sees Cat get dumped into a garbage truck after diving into a garbage can after some lost gum. The two decide to hang out, babysit some kids, and eventually move in together because, hey, why not? Sam’s sort of famous and doesn’t really have any place to go, and because Cat’s Nona just moved to Elderly Acres, Cat can use a little help around the apartment.
On its surface, Sam And Cat isn’t all that (get it? All That? Zing!) offensive. Yes, there’s a horrible laugh track, even though the show is clearly not recorded anywhere near a live studio audience. And yes, as Cat, Ariana Grande is way too thin-voiced and airy-fairy to not be teeth-grindingly grating 95 percent of the time. But Jenette McCurdy is great as Sam Puckett, all leather jackets, sass, and dirt compared to the pink-clad, false-eyelash-wearing Grande as Cat Valentine. Sam walks all over Cat, both on the show and on the screen. She gets all the funny lines, great outfits, and brain cells.
Then again, maybe that’s just what I think because, as a self-sufficient, non-romantic grown-ass woman, I’m drawn to Sam because she represents, to me, what strong women should be. I’m sure a lot of girls would be into Cat, even though she’s so stupid that she can’t even figure out how to make canned soup. Putting such diametrically opposed characters together in a show could work. When they (surprise!) decide to become roommates near the end of the show, Cat even tells Sam that she thinks they have a “fun Odd Couple dynamic” with “built in conflict” and “lots of potential for more adventures.”
While that’s probably true, that doesn’t mean that Sam And Cat is going to be a show that adults will really enjoy. While there are some funny lines in the show and some slightly dirty jokes (The girls babysit for some kids while their mom is out “dancing by the airport, for instance.), it’s just too sickeningly sweet overall to really grab a real-life adult’s attention. Plus, with Sam and Cat now babysitting for a living, viewers can probably look forward to any number of wacky “toddlers on the loose” situations. In the premiere alone, the two lost their three charges, including one infant, who Sam bungee-corded into the basket of the Rascal scooter his siblings drove out of Elderly Acres. Not cool, Sam and Cat. Not cool.
That kind of wacky chicanery will probably make Sam And Cat a success, but that doesn’t make it a good show. As it stands, it’s unfortunately more Hannah Montana than iCarly, and that’s a bummer.
- The first shot in the whole show is that of a food truck. God help us all.
- Cat’s neighbor’s name is Dice. He appears to be about eight and he is making extra money by selling celebrity hair.
- One of the gags in the show involves sleepwalking Nona folding Sam into the sofa bed. Then Cat comes out, saves her, gets in bed with her to talk, and then the Nona folds them both back into the couch. Why wouldn’t they jump out the second they saw her approaching? Pratfalls in kids’ TV can be so frustrating.
- There’s also a scene where Sam and Cat save a fat, exhausted restaurant manager’s life by alternately bouncing on his chest and pumping his legs. Kids: Don’t try this at home on your dying relatives.
- Cat’s one funny line is when she says she’s going to “fuke,” which is a combination of fainting and puking.