Amazon offers up another 5 strong offerings for kids
B+

Amazon offers up another 5 strong offerings for kids

Is Amazon learning? Its latest batch of Amazon Originals pilots is a cut above the last group—both on the adult and children’s side—with several shows that would make for enjoyable additions to the TV landscape. Here, we take a look at the pilots intended for kids.

Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street: As if created on a dare to merge The Adventures Of Pete And Pete, Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins novels, and Pan’s Labyrinth into a children’s series, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street arrives with a surprising amount of low-budget charm. The three elements it’s trying to force together shouldn’t really work in the same universe, but creator David Anaxagoras somehow makes everything play in this sweet, laid-back series that may be too low-key to gain serious kid attention. The key here is that Anaxagoras and his child stars don’t push the show’s fantastical elements too hard—those elements include a frog that may or may not have something to do with granting wishes. Instead, the show treats the fantasy as simply a natural outgrowth of life in the American suburbs. There’s also a charming throwback quality to the show, as Gortimer (Sloane Morgan Siegel) and his friends Ranger (Drew Justice) and Mel (Ashley Boettcher) have adventures that could have largely stepped wholesale out of Cleary’s books. There are places where the story seems almost too laid-back, and Siegel sometimes lets his moments slip too far toward the leisurely. But in its closing moments, Gortimer Gibbon feels like little else on kids’ TV right now.

Hardboiled Eggheads: Duane Capizzi’s animation career reaches back to the Saturday-morning heyday of The Real Ghostbusters and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, episodes of which he scripted before bringing various Disney, DC, and Hasbro properties to TV. Hardboiled Eggheads is Capizzi’s first shot at working with characters of his own creation, but the show is a decidedly post-Phineas And Ferb affair. The eggheads are Kelvin (Jessica DiCicco) and Miles (Tara Strong), two playground Ned Brainards kept in check by their less absent-minded (and only?) friend, Pilar (Nika Futterman). The pilot expresses a brains-over-brawn philosophy, but that makes Kelvin and Miles—who spend a third of the episode deducing the source of an insectoid threat—oddly inert as heroes. Pilar is more dynamic, but in a self-defeating decision, she’s out of her league in the areas of her buddies’ expertise. Capizzi’s pop-culture-seeped past informs some decent riffs on The Fly from John DiMaggio’s evil Professor Zam, but for Hardboiled Eggheads to truly work, it needs crackle for more than four minutes per episode. (And it needs to not accidentally reinforce the notion that females have no interest in scientific or mathematic disciplines.)

The Jo B. & G. Raff Show: From part of the team that wowed toddlers (and bugged parents) with The Wonder Pets, The Jo B. & G. Raff Show concerns a show-within-a-show hosted by the eponymous bear-and-giraffe team. In the pilot, however, that vaudevillian showcase suggests that future installments might instill “When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?” fidgets in less patient viewers. The Jo B. & G. Raff show is more about the journey than the destination, as adventurous G. Raff coaxes homebody Jo B. out of their small-screen domicile and into a submarine for an undersea excursion. The strengths here are the texture of the animation—giving the illusion that the leads are well-loved denizens of the playroom—and the jingle-like refrains of Emmy-winning Wonder Pets composer Larry Hochman. The earworms might grate on adult ears, but there are worse places to learn about compromise and fearlessness than a show that combines the gentle imaginativeness of Blue’s Clues with a framing device straight out of the old ABC The Bugs Bunny Show.

Maker Shack Agency: Two best friends, Merle (Gregory E. Freeman) and Wolfie (Kalama Epstein), make inventions to help solve everyday kid problems—probably what The Goonies’ Data did outside of underground adventures. In the pilot, a bully kicks candy pusher, Sweet Lu—who uses latchkey kids to sling the low-grade sweet stuff so Principal Downey (The Office’s Brian Baumgartner) doesn’t catch him—out of his turf. At the same time, the boys want their band, Total Fail, to be in the talent show. Their main competition, a girl group named the Tone Cold Foxes, features the comely Jo, a mini-MacGyver herself. The show is about failing forward—that it’s okay to be wrong, as long as lessons are learned. Maker Shack excellently blends the more fanciful flights of creative genius with normal problems of middle school life, grounded by Merle and Wolfie’s friendship.

Wishenpoof!: Bianca is a little girl with wishing powers. With the help of her magic-wish wand (and fast-talking teddy bear friend, Bob), Bianca can make anything she wishes come true, whether it’s a quick costume change into “a rock star outfit” for a talent show, or a wish to become a temporary mermaid. While the idea that anything can be wished into existence may not be the best message for kids, Wishenpoof! isn’t The Secret for children. Bianca’s not an A-grade wisher, like her mom, just yet—but the moral of Wishenpoof! is Bianca will get better at wishing the more she practices. Wishes may be the catalyst for Bianca’s adventures, but it’s still practice that makes perfect. Bianca herself looks like a computer-animated Zooey Deschanel, with big eyes and bangs. The animation is simple, all brightly color and sparkles in the same vein as other little-girl staples like Lisa Frank and My Little Pony.

Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street
Grade: B+
Created by:
David Anaxagoras
Starring: Sloane Morgan Siegel, Drew Justice, Ashley Boettcher, Robyn Lively
Format: Half-hour single-camera children’s comedy

Hardboiled Eggheads
Grade: B-
Created by:
Duane Capizzi
Starring:
Jessica DiCicco, Tara Strong, Nika Futterman, John DiMaggio, Kal Wahlgreen
Format:
Quarter-hour animated children’s comedy

The Jo B. & G. Raff Show
Grade:
B+
Created by:
Josh Selig
Starring:
Koda Gursoy and Charlie Jones
Format:
Quarter-hour animated children’s comedy

Maker Shack Agency
Grade: B+
Created by:
Geoff Barbanell, Arland Digirolamo
Starring:
Kalama Epstein, Gregory E. Freeman
Format:
Half-hour children’s comedy

Wishenpoof!
Grade: B
Created by: Angela Santomero
Starring: Addison Holley, Allison Augustin, Scott McCord
Format: Quarter-hour animated children’s comedy

Filed Under: TV

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