Through all my research on children’s TV, I have noticed a common thing--adults like iCarly. Not only do they like iCarly, they are ashamed to admit they like it. After all iCarly is on Nick and isn’t exactly aimed at the adult demographic. But despite being a “kids' show” adults seem to really attach themselves to it, and there’s a good reason why.
There are many kids’ shows out there. Most of them are super cheesy...just simple shows that kids can easily understand. Occasionally though, a kids’ show comes along that appeals to adults too, a kids’ show that has phenomenal acting and writing, a kids’ show that well…doesn’t really seem much like a kids’ show at all. Currently I feel like there are two kids’ shows on the air that meet these criteria--Wizards of Waverly Place & iCarly. I’m not going to go into my adoration of Wizards of Waverly Place right now because this post is supposed to be about iCarly. But I do want to give a shout out to the awesome Disney show: Hey Wizards, good work! Keep the 80’s references in your spells! “Please please tell me now, is there something I should know, Duraniam Duraniam” will forever be one of my favorite phrases!
Okay now that I’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about what I originally intended this article to focus on--iCarly. iCarly is one of many shows created by the tween TV king Dan Schneider. Now when I say tween TV king I really do mean it--Mr. Schneider has had many hits over the years (All That, Kenan & Kel, Drake & Josh just to name a few). I grew up with Schneider’s early shows, so I understand that I am a bit biased regarding his work. There are many types of shows/books/movies/etc. that I loved as a child but grew out of as an adult. I always assumed that Schneider’s shows would fit this formula--something to laugh at when I was younger, but then grow apart form. Well long story short, I was wrong. When iCarly premiered I was already an adult. It was definitely not a show geared towards my demographic, but I loved it anyways.
iCarly has always been an extremely funny show. There are always jokes for kids and adults, witty dialogue and relatable plots. While a lot of kids’ shows have these types of traits, iCarly possesses something that catapults it far above other children’s shows--the cast’s chemistry.
I remember reading an article a few years back, about a little TV show called Friends. The creators were saying that they really lucked out in the casting department. Granted the writing for the show was phenomenal, but it was the cast that made the scripts reach their full potential. And why was that? The creators had an easy answer for that question: the cast’s chemistry. Ever since I read that article I’ve paid very close attention to the chemistry between actors. I think as a result I tend to favor shows where the cast really clicks. To me, iCarly is one of those shows. The actors just go together and everything just works perfectly.
What’s interesting about iCarly is the complexity of the show’s characters. Most children’s shows have very flat characters. For instance a kids’ show might have a “good” character, a “funny” character, an “evil” character and so on and so forth. It makes sense that children’s shows would create such flat characters because these types of characters are easier for a child to understand. In iCarly however, the characters are not flat at all. Each character is very multi-dimensional and this is seen through the way they act with one another.
The show centers around four characters: Carly, her older brother Spencer, and her two best friends Sam & Freddie (a fifth main character, Gibby, was added this season, but the main plots don't really center around him). When iCarly first started it was pretty typical as far as kids' shows go. Carly was the lead girl, Freddie was the lead boy, and Sam was the sidekick. Each character had certain quirks that made them entertaining. Carly was typically the moral compass of the show, while her best friend Sam was the complete opposite. Freddie was the “token boy” who was in love with the main character. As the show went on though the characters began to develop more and more and Schneider kept pushing the boundaries of how dramatic he could make his show.
Finally in season 2 there was a pretty emotional episode—“iKiss.” In this episode Carly & Sam discuss their first kisses. While Freddie doesn’t talk about his, he finally opens up to Carly once Sam leaves the room. He explains that he has never kissed a girl before, and while he was comfortable saying this to Carly, he made it very clear that he didn’t want Sam to know. Well like all sitcoms, Sam of course overhears Freddie & Carly’s private conversation. Earlier on in the episode Freddie had pulled a prank on Sam, and she had told him she was going to get him back. This was her golden opportunity, the perfect way to embarrass Freddie. She keeps the info to herself, and then the next week when the gang tapes their next episode of iCarly she shares Freddie’s secret LIVE on iCarly.
Freddie is devastated and stays home from school to avoid being made fun of by the other kids. Eventually Sam realizes how badly she hurt him. Carly freaks out at Sam and tells her that she did something awful and that she went “too far this time.” Now Sam is in no way ever made out to be a vulnerable character, but she does something very interesting in this episode. She tells everyone on the web that actually she has never been kissed either, and that they should leave Freddie alone. She then goes to find Freddie so she can apologize in person.
Had this been any other kids' show, I doubt the writers would have put this much thought into the resolution. On another kids' show Sam would be seen as the “evil character.” Because viewers are not emotionally invested in evil characters, writers are able to use an easy way out of situations like this one. They simply have something bad happen to the evil character, which allows the good character to rise above. However, Schneider did not go this route at all. Instead he gave his viewers a deeper look inside Sam’s character, and in that moment really made Sam a multi-layered person. When Sam apologizes to Freddie he accepts, and after discussing how neither of them had ever kissed anyone, they decided to kiss each other. Again, in a normal kids' show this would have never happened. Why would the “boy with the heart of gold that belongs to the main character” ever kiss the “evil sidekick.” And that is what makes iCarly so special.
As I was saying before, all of this comes back to the cast’s chemistry. Jennette McCurdy plays Sam on the show and Nathan Kress plays Freddie. The two of them are very close in real life, so it’s understandable that they would have great chemistry with one another on set. I really admire that Schneider didn’t ignore this factor. Many creators might have thought “Well yeah Jennette & Nathan have chemistry, but Sam is supposed to be evil. She isn’t supposed to get Freddie. Freddie is a good boy and deserves to end up with Carly. That’s just the way these shows work.” Rather than taking the easy way out, Schneider decided to make the most out of Nathan & Jennette’s chemistry and went for it. He began to have episodes where the audience was able to see Sam in a different light (“iKiss” being one of them). And through all of this he was able to produce very three dimensional characters, which for him has really paid off.
“iKiss” aired 2 years ago, and since then the characters of Carly, Freddie and Sam have really evolved. There have been other emotional episodes that have focused on relationships and character development (in fact the most recent episode, "iOMG", really showcases just how much the characters have changed). Because of this even adults have become invested in iCarly. iCarly isn’t just a silly kids' show; it genuinely tells a good story and has an awesome creator and cast to back this story up.
Recently iCarly won the Kid’s Choice Award for best TV Show. This was their third consecutive win. It is easy to understand why this show has such a following and garners so much praise. With all of Schneider and the cast’s hard work, this show has evolved into a truly a great TV program. iCarly is the real deal, and they recently just got renewed for a 5th season (something very unheard of with kids' shows). Hopefully with even more episodes coming, iCarly will continue to be given the credit it deserves and adults won’t be ashamed to say they like a kids' show--because when it comes down to it, it’s really much more than that.