Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Official Actress of the TCR

I like it when blogs have the Official Something or Another for their blog. Also when they repeatedly hit on the same topics as if in some insane quixotic quest (like ChartRigger with Jojo). Well in that vein, here is the official actress of the TCR, about whom I will be providing more updates as the life of this blog continues.


I've written about Kay incidentally in a few of my previous posts (see for example my posts on Read it and Weep), but I've never had an entire post dedicated to her, so here it is. First let me start by saying that my love for Kay is entirely platonic, she's like the little sister that I never had. Anyways, Kay is definitely the best young actress in Hollywood, in my opinion, assuming you define young in such a way as to exclude all the legit dramatic actresses such as Scarlet or Keira, and my personal favorite Amber Tamblyn.

Anyways, Kay P. just leaps off the screen, with an amazing, charming screen presence even greater than any of my other previous favorite teen actresses, e.g. Aly Michalka or Hilary Duff. Even my friend Rich, who hates teen movies and teen actresses had to admit her charm and cuteness! Her performance in Read It and Weep was by far the main reason I found it to be one of the most enjoyable DCOMs, although even her performance in Life Is Ruff couldn't save that movie from mediocrity (full review forthcoming? Don't count on it!) She was also the best part of Phil of the Future, which remains one of my favorite Disney Channel original shows, only possibly trailing Even Stevens. Anyways, the show declined substantially in season 2 after she left, although it was still a good show. Also, she was the best part of the instantly and correctly cancelled WB show Summerland (which also starred Zac Efron and Jesse McCartney). The fact of the matter is, she hasn't done a whole lot of acting that would normally be considered substantial, but she instantly and markedly makes any project she is in better, which is the best mark for a great actress. Her comedy is amazing, and I think in Summerland she showed that her dramatic chops are up there as well. From what I can tell from this far away, she also seems to be a genuinely likable and admirable person in real life as well.

Kay's older sister Danielle is an actress as well, and she's an excellent actress to, but she doesn't seem to have quite the charm that Kay does, though she appears to be a better dramatic actress from a technical standpoint. Look for Kay in the 2007 movie version of Nancy Drew where she plays Nancy's BFF George (Emma Roberts of Unfabulous plays Nancy; Kay's ex-Phil costar Amy Bruckner plays their other BFF Bess). I obviously am very excited about that project, and so will be providing more thoughts on it the closer we get to its release.

Anyways, congratulations Ms. Kay Panabaker on being named the Official Actress of the TCR. A few pointers:
1) Work on more projects.
2) Do more dramatic work.
3) Do more work with your sister. You two are so cute together!
4) Get a new website or at least update the one you have now. Your official website is so pathetic!

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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Raise Your Voice

The Plot:
Terri Fletcher (Hilary Duff) is a normal young teen, who sings in her high school choir. However, she has aspirations to attend a prestigious summer program for singing that is located in Los Angeles, which her overprotective father totally doesn't want her to attend. Unfortunately for all involved, her brother (Jason Ritter, from Joan of Arcadia) is involved in a fatal automobile accident shortly after his high school graduation. However, Terri is accepted into the program, and, knowing her father will not allow her to go, her mom and her hatch a plan where she will go to the program but lie to her father by saying she is spending the summer at her aunt's house, in San Diego (a rather ridiculous contrivance that you just have to accept). Then, she goes to the school, has to overcome a case of stage fright, gets a boyfriend, has a rival, etc. The movie is pretty predictable, and I think you can mentally map out the plot beyond this point.

Greg's Comments:
First, before I discuss the film, let me give a little context. This film was released in 2004, right after the (to now) peak of Hilary Duff's popularity. Lizzie McGuire had ended in 2003, the same year her first album was released with a couple big hit singles. All of the movies she had starred in post-Lizzie had flopped. Basically the Hilary wave had crested, and the backlash had started up, hard. The backlash has as of yet still not ended, as it is now far more fashionable to rag on Hilary Duff than it ever was to actually like her. And, wow did the critics hate this movie. I went to Rotten Tomatoes to investigate the general reception to this movie, only to find out that it sports a hearty 15% fresh rating, which is one of the lowest fresh ratings I've ever seen for a major studio feature film.

Anyways, like I said, I read the reviews and man they are so unfair. The majority of them are just a long, continuous series of cheap shots against Hilary Duff. Most of them scarcely mention the film at all, and about 80% contain unfavorable comparisons to Fame and all of them say or imply that Hilary is a bad singer (specifically mentioning her overprocessed vocals). Most of the reviews also fail to mention, or slough over, the sad emotional core to this movie. It's very sad when her brother dies. She doesn't even get to the music school until about 40 minutes into the movie, the rest is about 15 minutes of set up and about 25 minutes of grieving over her brother's death. Very heavy stuff. The way her reactions to all the subsequent events in the movie are shaped by this event is dealt with in a very heavyhanded way, but I think it works, and at least it tries to deal with more substantial issues than other films of this type. I give it some credit for that.

Well, I like Hilary Duff. I think she deserves her celebrity status. She's not a bad singer, in my opinion, and she's a good actress. I know she might not hold up to the more serious work, like say Scarlet Johannson, but I guarantee that if you put Scarlet in Lizzie McGuire, or, say, this movie, it would decline in quality. Nobody brings the sweet, good-natured charm like Hilary, and that's what this movie calls for. She has the kind of warmth and on-screen chemistry that most actresses would kill for. This film is extremely formulaic but the formulas exist for a reason! Sometimes I find it very comforting and satisfying to watch films where I know what's going to happen and how. Apparently, I'm the only person who is able to discern the differences in quality of films like this, but in this case, the film executes very well. Hilary, like I said, is basically the perfect actress for this movie. The adult cast is mostly filled with accomplished supporting actors, who do very well with the parts they are given. The script isn't great, but it's not a disaster, and the characters are plently likeable. And, hell, the ending, even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, kind of hit to me emotionally. What can I say, I'm a softie.

Final Rating: 8/10. Not as good as High School Musical, but if you can appreciate a film that's slightly unoriginal, and very formulaic, this is as good as these kinds of films get. Hilary's best film by far; substantially underrated. In other words, I liked it because it was cute (I've noticed that this is what all of my movie reviews basically boil down to).

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Sunday, September 17, 2006

News in the World of Teen TV


The new Discovery Kids season is starting up, according to some promos that I've seen on the channel recently. I'm not totally sure what date the shows are starting up on, and what shows are getting new seasons, but I will obviously keep you updated on this as more info comes out. I do know that it features new seasons of Flight 29 Down and Endurance, which are the only two shows that matter on the channel other than the already cancelled Strange Days at Blake Holsey High. And really, who cares if there are new seasons of Saddle Club or Trading Spaces: Boys vs. Girls or Darcy's Wild Life.

Capsule Summary - Flight 29 Down: A group of high school kids are stranded on a desert island when their plane crashes. OK, a direct rip of Lost, but a reasonably entertaining show. Noteable as the show that features Corbin Bleu of High School Musical fame.

Capsule Summary - Endurance: Kids are divided up into teams of 2, one guy and one girl, and put into an exotic location where they engage in physical missions and are progressively removed from the island. OK, a direct rip of Survivor, but still a reasonably entertaining show. Interesting point: instead of being voted off, the winner of that week's mission selects two teams to go up into "the temple". While in the temple, they decide who gets eliminated by A GAME OF ROCK PAPER SCISSORS.

Capsule Summary - Strange Days at Blake Holsey High: More than a capsule.


Disney is rearranging their daily 6PM-8PM lineup to incorporate their new animated series The Replacements into it. As it currently stands, that lineup is That's So Raven -- The Suite Life of Zack and Cody -- Phil of the Future -- That's So Raven. The natural thing to do would be to remove Phil or one of the airings of Raven since those shows have been cancelled, but it's not exactly clear how they are gonna readjust their schedule at this point. Note to Disney programmer in change of Phil of the Future: stop showing "The Giggle" and "Broadcast Blues" every week and start showing more Debbie Berwick episodes.

Capsule Summary - The Replacements: The first few episodes of this show have been reasonably entertaining but I'm not sure how this bodes for the Disney Channel. After years of Nickelodeon ripping off Disney, this show is a direct, obvious bite of Nickelodeon. And not only that, they are moving it to their daily night-time lineup? I guess Disney wants to grab some of that kid's cartoon share that it is currently getting blasted on.


Cory in the House, the new spinoff of That's So Raven starring Rondell Sheridan and Kyle Massey, has been announced as premiering on November 10. In this show, Rondell gets a job as chef to the President, so they move to the White House and certainly much zaniness ensues. I'll be reporting on that once it premieres, it will be interesting to see if the audience will follow the show sans-Raven.

The Amazing O'Malleys will premiere earlier next year. The show centers around two fraternal twins who are wizards and use their magical powers to save people, but live the lives of normal teens! This is the obvious successor to Phil of the Future and hopefully it will be as good. Note that the stars of the show are not actually fraternal twins.

More information upcoming on the future Disney Channel original movies (Disney has truly hit a new low) and other stuff later.

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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The TCR Field Guide to Underrated Teen Pop

My non-comprehensive guide posted earlier cribbed heavily from Cure for Bedbugs and the ILX Rolling Teenpop thread. In order to show that my independent spirit is up and kicking, in this post I will point out teen pop songs that I like but that I've never seen repped by any teen pop fans. For all I know, they're all teenpoppers favorite songs ever, but I'm gonna go ahead and call them UNDERRATED TEEN POP SONGS. I'm gonna link YouTube videos for all the songs that I can find on there. Any that aren't YouTubed I own versions of, so just ask me and I can host them or send them to you or something.

1. Play - "I Must Not Chase the Boys"
DISCUSSION: Play doesn't seem to be very well liked by teen poppers, as they were from Sweden but marketed to the US and mainly made a career off of shamelessly covering other European hits. Actually I agree with all of that, but this is a really, really good single in my opinion. Easily relatable lyrics for any pre-teen girl or guy (or any girl or guy who was a pre-teen), and really catchy music. Follows the "Everywhere"/"Since U Been Gone" model musically, but still sounds fairly original. A classic. (I mentioned this in the previous non-comprehensive guide, but wanted to highlight it more here).

2. Hilary Duff - "Jericho"
DISCUSSION: I was surprised at the Hilary love I've seen from the teen pop community. Nevertheless, while I've seen "Come Clean" and "Fly" promoted numerous times, and even seen "The Math", but I've never seen anybody praising this song. It wasn't a single, but it was featured prominently in Raise Your Voice. Anyways, this is my favorite Hilary song apart from "Come Clean" and "Fly" (Dioguardi + Shanks appear to be unbeatable), and is yet another song that is perfectly matched to her uniquely thin voice. Say what you want about her voice, but it is quite distinctive, and so far her writers/handlers have done a really good job of matching song to voice.

3. Avril Lavigne - "He Wasn't"
DISCUSSION: Avril was obviously one of the more influential teen pop artists of her time. The pop fans in general don't seem to like her very much. But, since her time has kind of passed, there isn't too much discussion of her these days, and what discussion there is seems to center upon her biggest hits: "Complicated" and "My Happy Ending". Well, I kinda like Avril, and those are good songs, but this is definitely my favorite Avril song, and I haven't seen any discussion of it really. Great confessional lyrics, plus high energy and catchy chorus. Also seek out the solo acoustic version of this song, which is really good.

4. Katelyn Tarver - "Undeniable"
DISCUSSION: Katelyn Tarver is a new artist (and American Juniors grad) that not much has been written about. This is perfectly understandable, as her music is all really generic, and her first single "Wonderful Crazy" isn't a very good song at all. Even though "Undeniable" may not be too great, I feel the need to rep for it, as it sounds like a pretty good song to me. I think something deserves to be written about it, so here you go Katelyn. Katelyn was on the Disney Radio IncubaTor, which hasn't done too much for most of the artists so far, and certainly hasn't done much for her. Anyways, she's moving on to her next album now, so I guess this will never get a single release, which is a real shame, as it is my personal favorite of her songs.

5. Kelly Clarkson - "Just Missed the Train"
DISCUSSION: All the KC love seems to be (justifiably) centered around her excellent second album. Even though her second album was obviously superior to the first, the first did have it's highlights, and none higher than song, which is a cover version (of a Danielle Brisebois tune) that I definitely prefer to the original.

6. Simon and Milo - "Get a Clue"
DISCUSSION: The movie Get a Clue, starring then Disney queen Lindsay Lohan came out on DC right when I was in my original kick of watching the Disney Channel a lot. They played this music video nonstop for about 2 straight months. At first, I hated the song but it really grew on me, and I could never really turn the station off when the video came on. Really, really cheesy, but also really catchy; like the Katelyn one above, not the best song, but worthy of some rep.

6. Ivanushki International - "Tucci"
7. Ivanushki International - "Gde Ti"
8. Ivanushki International - "Topoliniy Puh"
DISCUSSION: I have known and enjoyed this Russian boy band since 2000, when, through a series of rather bizarre contrivances I won't get into here, I received a copy of their first album for free from somebody I barely knew. It's unfair to include these guys, since they are so old even if everybody loved them nobody would talk about them any more. Nevertheless, I love these three songs so much, and I would be remiss not to mention them here. These three songs can all stand toe-to-toe with any American boy band songs. All extremely catchy, and though I can't understand any of the lyrics, based on the videos I get the impression that might not be a bad thing...
"Tucci" -
"Topoliniy Puh" -
"Gde Ti" - N/A

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Monday, September 11, 2006

Teen Culture: A General Discourse

I've been thinking a lot lately about what exactly it is about teen culture that fascinates me so much. Also, what exactly does it imply when I "love" a teen pop star so much? Complicated questions, and probably related questions, ones that would be best left to some psychiatrists out there. Nonetheless, this post will attempt to quantify what it is I love about these things.

Teen Pop Stars

When I think to my favorite teen pop (used in this post herein to refer to all teen culture, be it movies, TV, or music) stars -- and I'm thinking here of Aly Michalka, Kay Panabaker, Brie Larson, etc. -- the first thing that strikes me is that all are female. Part of this is opportunity - I've always been a Disney Channel guy, and almost all of the DC stars ever have been female. Then again, there was at least one DC show I watched regularly where the main character and breakout star was a male, that being Shia LaBeouf on Even Stevens. But when I think back to what I loved on that show, I immediately think to the female stars, e.g. Christy Carlson-Romano, Margo Harshman, and Shia only comes in later. Not only that, but for those female stars I feel a it a certain warmth towards them. Not a sexual attraction, of course, not by any means, just a certain warmth, like I would feel towards a friend or a (hypothetical) sister, but of the kind I would never feel towards a male star. This has always creeped me out, so I've always just kind of tried to ignore those feelings and tried to appreciate the teen pop on a more detached basis. The more and more I get into teen pop the more I realize how basically impossible this is.

I'll use Aly Michalka as an example. Aly & AJ have a huge, really rabid fanbase. They absolutely love them. I have to say that, despite my better judgment, I would have to count myself a fan of the group. And it's not all about the music. It's never all about the music, of course, image always sneaks itself into the picture, especially in pop music, and really especially in teen pop music. Aly Michalka is just so warm, so funny, just so downright loveable on Phil of the Future that it's nearly impossible for any POTF watcher to separate out that persona. Dave from Cure For Bedbugs learned this when he made a post that quite correctly pointed out the oddly dark lyrics on the Aly & AJ album. He has been assaulted with e-mails and comments from enraged Aly & AJ fans since. They (and me too!) just associate a certain warmth with Aly the actress that it's impossible to separate from Aly the musician.

I guess the point is, that warmness and loveable-ness is what causes me to enjoy the genre so much. In fact, take the adult version of actresses who try to be cute and loveable, and you get the modern romantic comedy, another of my favorite genres. But then again, of course, as regards music, there's plenty of teen pop acts I like that have nothing to do with the image and everything to do with the music. I'm thinking here of Lillix, Meg & Dia, Amy Diamond, etc. Surely all perfectly likeable people, but not much to recommend them to me but the music. When it comes to teen TV and movies though (which I've loved longer and more than teen pop) I can't really think of any that I really loved where I didn't also love the main female star.

I've often been concerned about my love of female teen pop stars, most of whom are far too young for it to be societally acceptable, but I've just come to accept that they project a kind of cuteness and warmth is a super distilled form that just isn't available in most "adult" entertainment. When I think to my favorite mature movie actresses, they are the ones who have preserved that kind of warmth into their projects, e.g. Reese Witherspoon.


1) "Cute" is generally sufficient to be "good" for me
2) Sugary pop hooks are and always have been my favorite part of music
3) Cuteness and warmth is and always has been my favorite part of watching TV and movies

4) The reason I love teen pop is that it distills into one package all of the things I love about tv, movies, and music, without trying to make it more mature, or more insightful. Truth be told, I'll laugh more at the average episode of Phil of the Future than the average episode of The Office, that's the way it's always been for me. When done well, this pure distillation can make for a better emotional experience, and just a downright more fun package than any of the more deep forms of entertainment. I love romantic comedies for much the same reason

5) I think most people who scoff at these things don't give them a real chance, and even if they did, they wouldn't really understand HOW to enjoy them.


You may have noticed that I changed the title of my blog. It's basically been this way for a while, but I'd like to go ahead and officially convert this blog into nothing but a teen culture blog. I'm also going to really try to make a concerted effort to up the posting frequency, most likely by decreasing the length and intensity of coverage of each post. I'm not really sure what the readership potential for something like this is, but my teen pop posts have generally been the most popular ones I've done. Anyways, it's what I've been into lately. Sorry to say, but if you haven't been a fan of the recent teenpop kick on my blog, then adios, thanks for the readership.

Look for upcoming posts on Raise Your Voice and the Powerpuff Girls soundtrack. In addition, I'm going to continue my non-comprehensive guide to teen pop and probably start up some more series of posts, because those give my blog more structure. If you know me at all, that's something I do so love.

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