Stars: Debby Ryan, Kevin Chamberlin
Network: The Disney Channel
Airs: Fridays at 9PM EST (New Episodes)
My Grade: B-
My 10-year-old’s Grade: A-
Disney Channel alum and fan-favorite, Debby Ryan (“The Suite Life on Deck” & 16 Wishes), is making quite the cute little career for herself on the flagship channel. Aside from her regular appearances on “The Suite Life on Deck,” and her starring role in the Disney TV-movie, 16 Wishes (2010), she has made regular appearances on popular Disney shows such as “Hannah Montana” and “Wizards of Waverly Place.” Now, Ryan is being thrust out of the supporting-cast shadows right into the starring role limelight with her new family sitcom, “Jessie.” The show is classic Disney Channel, which is both a blessing and a curse. Obviously Disney knows how to produce a family friendly show that is entertaining to young children, teenagers, and in most cases, parents too, while still remaining age-appropriate for the Disney brand. Negatively, however, it gets redundant at times, and “Jessie” feels a lot like many other programs that have aired on the channel with very little uniqueness to show for it.
The basic plot of “Jessie” centers on Ryan’s character, Jessie, who has moved to New York City from a small Texas town and landed a pretty high-profile Nanny gig. She is hired to be the Nanny for the Ross family. The Ross parental figures are wealthy, NYC moguls who are rarely in their upper class, penthouse high-rise apartment. The four Ross kids are always there, it seems, and they are each adorably charming in their own way. Emma (played by Peyton List) is the eldest child (13), a bubbly but often reserved tween who is the only biological child of the Ross’. Luke (played by Cameron Boyce) is a 12-year-old “ladies man,” who is extremely fond of Jessie, and by that I mean he has a crush on her, which leads to some pretty hilarious scenes. Ravi (played by Karan Brar) is a 10-year-old Indian-born boy who is extremely proud of his heritage, but considers his new adoption and life in America as the greatest thing that could have happened to him. Finally, Zuri (played by Skai Jackson) is the youngest of the bunch (7). Her intelligence is well-advanced for her age, and she is also highly creative and imaginative, often introducing us (and Jessie) to new and interesting “imaginary friends and pets.”
The show has a couple of recurring supporting roles, as well, in the form of Bertram (played by Kevin Chamberlin) and Tony (played by Chris Galya). Bertram is the rich couple’s butler, who is always finds himself acting as a “tour guide” for Jessie in the Nanny job. Bertram’s character is very reminiscent to someone like “Mr. Moseby” (“Suite Life”), because he is always trying to straighten the kids up, but he can’t seem to help allying with them at the same time. Tony is the 20-year-old doorman who works in the Ross’ apartment building. He is the “dumb hunk” of the show, and he may also be Jessie’s eventual love interest, as the two have already shared their first date just four episodes into the series, so we’ll see. The best supporting cast member on the show is NYC, even though you won’t see it in the credits. The show was taped in Los Angeles, but the producers have done a nice job at recreating the cityscapes. Regardless of the physical attributes, the show benefits from using the “fish out of water” angle with Jessie’s character, because believe me, any teenager in her shoes that moved from the middle of nowhere to NYC is going to feel culture shock, and in a TV format – that is pure gold. Oh yeah, and look out for Mr. Kipling who is the family’s 7-foot-long monitor lizard. He is often showing up as the unconventional pet supplying us with plenty of the show’s most improv’d moments.
“Jessie” has charm. To me, it is a little bit of classic shows like “Charles in Charge,” “Mr. Belvedere,” and “Different Strokes” all mixed together. Even still, it is more like the Disney favorites, including some as recent as “The Suite Life” and “Good Luck Charlie.” Debby Ryan is as cute as a button, and she is bound to be the next big Disney Channel name. Do I think she will achieve Selena Gomez or Miley Cyrus fame? Probably not, but that may not be a bad thing. I consulted my daughter for this article because she loves this show, and you can see the grade that she gave it above. Also, I’ll leave you with this – my daughter also said that “Jessie” was the best Disney Channel program on the air right now, sharing that declaration with “ANT Farm.” Basically if your kids like any teenaged based show on Disney, they will probably also like “Jessie” – airing new episodes every Friday night at 9PM (EST).
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