Netflix review: ALEXA & KATIE (Season 1) review

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By God, boredom can be a killer if you’re not careful. Look what happens? You end up watching a show that is clearly not meant for your demographic… unless you’re a teenage girl, in which case, maybe this will appeal to you. But speaking as a near-thirty year old, boredom caused me to watch this.

Here’s the cast. Starring, we have Paris Berelc (stuff I’ve never heard of) and Isabel May, making her acting debut; congrats, miss. In support, we have everyone’s 90s crush, Tiffani Thiessen (BEVERLY HILLS, 90210 [1990 – 2000] and SAVED BY THE BELL [1989 – 1992]), Jolie Jenkins (1 episode of 2 BROKE GIRLS [2011 – 2017]), Emery Kelly (stuff I’ve never heard of), Eddie Shin (1 episode of ENLISTED [2014], 9 episodes of MEN OF A CERTAIN AGE [2009 – 2011], 1 episode of TERMINATOR: THE SARAH CONNOR CHRONICLES [2008 – 2009], and the upcoming PEPPERMINT [2018]), and Finn Carr (2 episodes of FULLER HOUSE [2016 – ongoing]).

Now for the crew. Too many directors, so I’m skipping that, but there are regular writers that have been on board for all thirteen episodes. The series creator is Heather Wordham, who previous wrote a few episodes for HANNAH MONTANA (2006 – 2011). Other regular writers include Ray Lancon, Todd Linden, Kamon Naddaf, and Erin Wagoner, all known for stuff I’ve never heard of. Co-composing the score are Matt Mariano (stuff I’ve never heard of) and Zach Stretten-Carlson, making his compositional debut. Congrats, sir. Finally, the editor is Kirk Benson, known for THE CLEVELAND SHOW (2009 – 2013), AMERICAN DAD! (2005 – ongoing), and KING OF THE HILL (1997 – 2010).

This is my honest opinion of Netflix’s: ALEXA & KATIE

 

(SUMMARY)

Alexa Mendoza (Paris Berelc), a well-meaning but often makes trouble, and Katie Cooper (Isabel May), thoughtful and well-mannered, are a pair of teenage girls who are excited for their freshman year of high school. But there’s one hurdle. Alexa was diagnosed with cancer, but it appears that the chemo-therapy has been doing it’s job really well and her cancer is in remission. But now this means she has to take extra precautions in taking care of herself so she continues on this path of healthiness, which directly contradicts her desires to do things that she’s always enjoyed doing.

(REVIEW)

I am clearly not the target demographic for this show, so I have no idea how much of my words can be accepted as viable. Having said that, I kind of like it. I don’t know if I would stick around for a second season, but it has enough charm that was worth binge-watching in three or four days.

For one thing, I guess I’m a sucker for sitcoms about a pair of friends. Not that this is new to television, but as a 90s kid, I grew up with the likes of KENAN & KEL (1996 – 2000) and eventually DRAKE & JOSH (2004 – 2007), before fading away from TV in general that wasn’t the current trend of superhero shows. My interest was piqued when I saw that this sitcom was about a young girl with cancer and her friend is constantly protective of her. Or at least, that’s what was going through my head. So I thought it was going to be really heartfelt and mature for a sitcom aimed at kids and teens. This is, and isn’t, the case.

If the show wanted to go all the way with its ideas, I would say that the first season would be about her diagnosis and that struggle to cope with this ailment that she has. Of course, that might be a little too dark, but teenagers certainly get cancer, and not all of them are happy endings. Granted, I’m sure that was never going to be intention of this show, but dealing with your mortality at such a young age, while also trying to maintain a sense of normality could have been a tremendously powerful thing to tackle if done well. But that’s obviously not what the show is, and I definitely have to tone down how dark I expected this show to be.

But that’s not to say that this show doesn’t take its own material seriously and doesn’t talk down to its audience. When Alexa is confronted with someone who is nice to her, she’s afraid it’s because of her condition and not because it’s genuine. In episode 4, UNGROUNDABLE, Alexa gets a D on a math test, but her mother, Lori (Tiffani Thiessen), seems unusually calm about it. In the past, she would flip out and treat it like the biggest deal in the world, but responds with nothing more than a, “do better next time.” She also spills coffee on her mother’s cashmere sweater, but she didn’t get in trouble for that either. So Alexa acts out even more by causing some harmless vandalism in order to prove that she’s, well, ungroundable. The payoff of this episode is actually pretty heart-warming. And I do really like the conclusion of the pilot episode, BAD HAIR DAY, where Katie shaves her head so Alexa wouldn’t feel so self-conscious about losing her hair.

And that’s really the heart of the show, no duh, which is the relationship between Alexa and Katie. There does feel like a genuine friendship between the two ladies, and do have quite a bit of fun back and forth. I can’t proclaim that every episode is funny. In fact, the first couple aren’t funny at all, but both Berelc and May have enough charm and chemistry to hold their own and carry through to the end of an episode, and in retrospect, this season. Oh, and Thiessen and Jenkins slay me every time. I love these women. They bring the best performances to the table.

Is the show especially funny? Not really. While I do think the comedy picks up after the first couple, it truly is a hit and miss system. For every joke with good timing and reactions, there’s a bad joke just waiting around the corner. Honestly, I thought the worst jokes came from Lucas (Emery Kelly), who’s entire personality is how he looks. Look, I know good-looking teens can be tools, but this is a personality type that seriously needs to die out if the character isn’t supposed to be likable. Thank God for episode 11, SECRET SLEEPOVER, or I would have needed time away from this show in order to cool down from how much of a cliché Lucas is.

Also, there is a lot of recycled plotlines. UNGROUNDABLE and episode 6, PICTURE DAY have the exact same plot: Alexa is treated unusually nice, she takes advantage to correct the situation, the situation is eventually corrected. Just replace Lori with classmate Gwenny (Kerri Medders). Same with episode 7, THE PLAY: PART II and episode 8, SUPPORT GROUP. These episodes are side-by-side, no less. One of the girls gets involved with something that makes the other feel left out. Seriously, with as dramatic as this show can get, there’s no other avenues to explore other than the same ones that have already been tackled? Come on, guys.

Overall, as a dude who was bored and just wanted to kill time, I surprisingly found myself engaged in this show. I do like the lead actresses when they’re not trying too hard, or directed to over sell it, and of course, Thiessen and Jenkins were always great, and the tender moments are surprisingly effective. But for every good moment, there’s a less than effective moment in line waiting for its turn. There are way too many bad jokes, repeated plots were annoying, and by God did Lucas annoy me. So as a final verdict, I say if you’re a kid or a teen, then you’ll probably enjoy this show well enough. As an adult, unless you’re a fan of Thiessen, there’s really not much for you here. It’s serviceable for its target audience though, so if you’ve shown an interest, have at it. This friendship was cute enough medicine to stop my boredom, but it’s not long-term.

My honest rating for Netflix’s ALEXA & KATIE: 3/5

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