Talented kids? Lame jokes? Singing, dancing and a strong thirst for fame? It must be time to review the latest show on the Disney Channel.
Austin & Ally is the story of two cute but over-the-top teens who become an unlikely team set on fame, fortune and fun. They're talented. They tell lame jokes. They sing, dance and crave insta-stardom. Is it possible that they might fall in love too? Perhaps … after getting three or four seasons and a lucrative 3-D concert movie under their belts. But until then, Austin and Ally are all about keeping their webcast fans entertained and tuning in.
And, if possible, get iCarly censored by Google.
Ha-ha! Just kidding! Austin and Ally would never dream of sabotaging another show-within-a-show-with-a-webcast-trope, even if it airs on Nickelodeon. Disney executives might, perhaps. But Austin and Ally? Never!
The basic setup is this: Ally is a talented but shy songwriter. Austin is a bodacious wannabe singer/performer. Austin steals one of Ally's songs, records it and posts it online. Voilà! Instant fame, fortune and fun.
On another channel, this is where things would go awry. On CBS, Ally would likely sue or possibly kill Austin, turning the show into either a court or crime procedural. On MTV, she would pound him over the head with a guitar while screaming (semi-bleeped) expletives, and later the two would make up in a scene that would trigger vehement protests from the Parents Television Council. And on the History Channel, we'd discover that the stolen song in question was actually evidence of an ancient alien invasion, linked somehow to both the Bermuda Triangle and the Great Pyramid of Egypt.
But this is Disney. And on the Disney Channel, everyone gets along and—eventually, or at least more often than not—does the right thing. It might not be the most magical place on basic cable, but it's certainly the least objectionable. And that means Austin & Ally don't do much more than form a fledgling partnership. While Ally grapples with her crippling stage fright, Austin struggles with staying sane with the rapid influx of online fame.
The latter two storylines make Austin & Ally relatively deep for Disney—some have called it a pint-size version of HBO's Entourage. But that's like saying Little League gets you ready for the Majors. Those who love Disney sitcoms will find much to like in Austin & Ally. Parents who've come to trust Disney, for the most part, will find few new quibbles here. There are infrequent interjections of off-color or bathroom humor, and characters sometimes engage in lighthearted tweaking of authority.
Austin & Ally feels, in essence, just like almost every Disney show that's aired in the last 10 years. So whether that's a good or bad thing has more to do with the viewer than it does with the channel.
"Spas & Spices"
Ally has been chosen by Miami Music magazine as the local songwriter of the year. It's an honor that includes an in-mag interview and a big and beautiful picture on the cover. Ally's thinking, though, that she needs to put in a little work to make sure the photo doesn't end up being big and not-that-bad-except-for-that-one-little-zit. So while Austin picks up her outfit (in between helping Dez with his chili cook-off) Trish treats Ally to a "beauty" day at the spa where she (sort of) works.
And everything goes exactly as planned. Not.
Trish, being Trish, knows her job about as well as a monkey knows long division, and every staining, frizzing, gluing and torturing spa disaster you might imagine befalls poor Bride of Frankenstein, er, Ally. As for Austin, he gets caught up in a chili shoot-out between Dez and his archnemesis.
Of course it's all just another crazy day for the teen pals who laugh off the calamities. So just about the worst thing we can report here is that Dez proffers two mild gags about bodily reactions to hot chili.
"Zaliens and Cloud Watchers"
Austin hates the new song Ally wrote for him but doesn't quite know how to tell her. Friend Trish suggests complete honesty, while Dez suggests sidestepping the whole issue and giving her a pickle basket instead. Austin goes with the latter, but the truth comes out anyway. After Ally chastises Austin for not being honest, the two decide to hang out together more so they'll understand each other better: Ally encourages him to watch clouds with her and her cloud-watching club, while Austin drags her to a horror movie-fest.
Viewers receive lightly peddled lessons on the value of telling the truth, and how our similarities and differences can help bring us together. However, we also watch the love ooze out for schlocky and gory horror flicks as characters talk about how zombie-aliens suck their victims' brains. A theater usher gets worked up about people littering during the fright-fest: "That better be a real eyeball [on the floor], not a gummy one!" he tells a patron.
Austin presents himself as a guy who breaks the rules, and he encourages Ally to lighten up and flout a few too. He and she run away from a security guard while stealing and/or rescuing a goose. Austin tells two mild scatological jokes.