A few months back ago I was slagging off the hugely successful Superbad, and I mentioned that Laura Marano, who has a minor supporting role in that movie, would soon be starring in her own Disney Channel sitcom… the season premiere of which finally aired last night.
For those who don’t know, Austin & Ally centres around the sparky relationship that develops between the eponymous aspiring pop stars: ‘Ally’ (Marano) is a meek, dutiful girl who works in her father’s music shop, and is saddled with a crippling stage-fright that prevents her from performing any of her self-penned songs in public… while ‘Austin’ (Ross Lynch) is a brash, prodigious show-off, who becomes an overnight internet sensation after “accidentally” plagiarising one of Ally’s songs and performing it in a flashy YouTube video. Can these two crazy kids resolve their differences, and learn to work together to achieve their dreams? Will wholesome teen romance blossom between them? Will their respective wacky sidekicks continue to flail around desperately on the margins of the main plot? Does the pope poop in a funny hat?
Overall, I found the show a little too frantic and broad for my liking, but I understand that’s the “house style” for comedy over at the Disney Channel these days, and I have to admit I did find myself laughing several times during this episode… mostly at the absurd sight-gags, rather than the cheesy one-liners and OTT performances. I mean, seeing a mouth-organ get blown out of a sousaphone straight into the gaping mouth of an unsuspecting old lady is always going to be funny, and they milked it for a couple of good follow-up gags too! Although the sentimental moments were largely unearned and awkward, I guess if I had children myself, we’d probably be able to watch this together without me wanting to throw my slipper at the TV screen too often… even if I did keep grumbling under my breath, and secretly plotting to order the complete Powerpuff Girls boxset on import, to show them some quality children’s entertainment! Considering the eclectic career Marano’s had up until now, it’s a little dispiriting to see her reduced to this sort of juvenilia… but I imagine she’s pretty grateful to be getting some time in the spotlight for a change, rather than just playing the main character’s daughter and/or younger self! Presumably she’ll get to sing a different song every week too, so it’s a good showcase for her musical skills, even though it’s unlikely to stretch her acting skills too strenuously (if at all).