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TV Series Review

Sorry, Hannah Montana. Too bad, Lizzie McGuire. In terms of Disney longevity, Raven's at the top of the heap.

After 100 episodes, The Disney Channel has officially closed the book on That's So Raven, its—ahem—raven-ously successful sitcom starring the irrepressible Raven-Symoné. Disney normally shuts down a series after 65 episodes, making Raven the longest-running show in the channel's history. With popularity still strong, fans will be seeing reruns for years to come, not to mention the music CDs, DVDs, dolls, junior novels, video games and licensed party supplies (piñata, anyone?) already on the market.

Fortunately, the final episodes have been just as silly, sweet and sound as the first. Throughout its four seasons, this sitcom has steadfastly relied on the same formula. Raven, a vivacious, fun-minded high school student, always gets a cosmic snapshot of the future (a gimmick detached from any supernatural power, though she has been called "psychic") and proceeds to misinterpret it. In any given episode she nearly fouls up one or more of the following: her life, her friends' lives, her family's lives, her algebra grade or her internship. By the time the credits roll, however, all is well and Raven has learned a valuable lesson.

If it sounds like that would get old, it does. But while critics might call the show formulaic, parents and fans favor the term reliable. It's clean and safe. Raven and her friends do not dabble in sex or drugs. "Where There's Smoke," the final episode taped (which I've yet to have a look at), sounds about as edgy as things get: Raven finds a pack of cigarettes in her brother Cory's pocket—smokes Cory is actually hiding from his girlfriend to keep her from lighting up. From the sound of things, that installment portrays tobacco as unhealthy, with no main characters tempted to try it.

Nearly every show comes with a dependable moral tacked on. Support your friends. Your parents still love you even if they split up. Hold true to your commitments. Don't make noise in movie theaters. (OK, so some of the morals are less than earth-shattering. Still, that's a lesson I wish more people took to heart.)

Raven does slip into typical juvenile humor at times. A class bully calls characters "wieners." When Cory tells a German chef to "do his duty," the chef cracks up. "He said doody!" he chortles. But that's as bad as it gets. When characters tromp down to the cineplex for a scary flick, it turns out to be Night of the Living Darned. Violence is almost nonexistent, and children respect their elders. This show in many ways recalls Raven's first sitcom, The Cosby Show, at least in content if not quality.

Episodes Reviewed: Sept. 22, Oct. 6, Nov. 25, 2006, Jan. 15, Mar. 2, 2007

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