Victorious

Ending a beloved, long-running series in a such a way that the final episode stands on its own yet pays tribute to the devotion of its audience is no easy task, even when that show is aimed at tweens with questionable attention spans. Some techniques that have been employed in the past include The Neat and Tidy (Friends), The Keep’em Guessing (The Sopranos), and the WTF (Roseanne, St. Elsewhere, the list goes on). 30 Rock, which also wrapped this week, actively engaged with the fact that it was airing the final episode, the typically zany situations (Pete faking his own death, Tracy continuing to expect a now fat cat Kenneth to do his bidding) directly related to the characters gearing up to say goodbye. Victorious went with the just-another-day-in-the-life approach, one that leaves fans with very little closure, though show creator Dan Schneider made it clear that the abrupt conclusion was hardly his choice, and hardly a surprise given Nickelodeon likes to bow out at 60 episodes regardless of a show’s success. This may be a vintage issue; was everyone else of my generation just as heartbroken when “Saturday,” the last episode of The Adventures of Pete and Pete, a series unceremoniously yanked from the Nickelodeon airwaves and forced to do a rush job, revolved around little more than Stu experiencing unlucky traffic and big Pete getting a bad haircut?

So the final episode of Victorious, not uncommonly for the unabashedly wacky comedy, leans on such plot point as tomato juice and back pimples. When his students start acting like a bunch of “negative Nellies,” Sikowitz challenges them to a day of saying yes to everything, within reason, then spends the rest of the episode following them around school in an inappropriate manner. Although the kids have a few strictures placed on them - it is not necessary to say yes to anything of a romantic nature, or anything illegal - they immediately see an opportunity to take advantage of one another. Robbie is sucked into buying a Pajelehoocho (a pajama/jean/legging/hoodie/poncho combo, obviously) from Cat, who has purchased a gross of them, tempted by free shipping, a nod to series-long references to her weakness for anything aggressively advertised and easily purchased by phone (like her addiction to shopping from Sky Mall-knockoff The Sky Store in “Robarazzi”). Beck tries to use the new regime to trick Jade into going to a drag racing show with him, but she gets out of it by tricking Tori into inviting her over to make pizza, then, infuriatingly, orders a pizza that Tori has to pay for. After all, she’s just a girl who can’t say no.

Although there were some longer plot-lines on Victorious, like the on-again off-again relationship between Jade and Beck, the show was never really about character development or gradual growth. Each character had the kind of personality that stayed firmly fixed while turmoil swirled around it, rather than engaging in the kind of change that makes a show evolve over multiple seasons. However, the show did succeed as a kind of extended, manic pop cultural spoof, a fast-paced series of allusive jokes with interludes of performance instruction thrown in. In this way it was not unlike a baby 30 Rock, though never reaching that dearly departed show’s greatness. Victorious would gently mock institutions like Facebook, which it re-dubbed (as many teen shows do) the unfortunately dirty-sounding Face Splash. In “Victori-Yes,” the Pajelehoocho obviously pokes fun at unnecessary clothing combos advertised on late-night infomercials, like the Slanket or Pajama Jeans, and comes complete with a fake commercial, SNL-style. There have even been concept driven episodes, like the aforementioned “Robarazzi,” in which Robbie forms a TMZ-style group of gossip hounds, the Victorious camera mimicking the distinctively stupid bobbing and weaving motion of TMZ’s "think-tank" scenes to perfection.

Some of the supporting cast members of this multiple Emmy Award nominated show have gigs already lined up. Ariana Grande, who plays Cat, the loopy Phoebe Buffay of the group, for example, will be on the upcoming Victorious/iCarly hybrid spinoff Sam & Cat. Although Victoria Justice was in Skum Rocks!, a film currently in post-production that features everyone from Kevin Bacon to Pauly Shore, this is not a clear indication of her future success. Her cute but terribly clean turn in Fun Size was hardly a permanent leap into movies or an adult career. She has yet to make that kind of eager-to-prove-she’s grown-up move that tends to fly or flop, running around doing drugs and robbing people in a bikini a la Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens in Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers. Victoria Justice has killer cheekbones, a nice singing voice, and a willingness to get silly. The question is whether she’ll be able to either rein it in, to move onto more dramatic roles, or make with the funny in an outlet that doesn’t come with a relentless laugh track.

As for final impressions of the show that made Ms. Justice (if you’re nasty) a star, early comments suggest that some fans enjoyed the lack of tearful farewells here. Although the casual mood of the Victorious finale is incidental to the show’s quick cancellation, the lightness may be more in keeping with the its slapstick, absurdist humor. Perhaps some would like to remember Victorious just this way, Tori and her frenemy Jade dressed as wedges of cheese on a low-rent Spanish language program, being chased around by children in mouse costumes wielding giant forks.

Stray observations:

  • Did the writers simply miss the giggle-inducing potential of the line “I will fist to that,” which Sinjin proclaims while bonding with Beck, or was this a just-for-the-grownups kind of joke?
  • Speaking of final pairings, I was saddened to see that Robbie never got the girl in the end. Even stripped down to their underoos, cowering behind a dumpster, her response to his suggestion that they “snoodle,” is “ew.” Poor weirdo.