Nothing lasts forever. Certainly not tween- and teen-centric television shows.
In an industry where kidcoms rotate in and out every two or three years, iCarly's run on Nickelodeon was practically Methuselah-like. It survived and thrived for five years (ending in 2012), turning its leads, Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy, into Nick icons.
Sibling series Victorious was more typical, popping up in 2010 and then facing defeat early this year, in 2013. It accelerated the upward momentum of a few young stars, too, though, Ariana Grande among them.
So while these kinds of shows might flash and then fizzle, the lights they power sometimes have a bit more juice left in them. So why not, Nick thought, pair up McCurdy and Grande in a double-sided spinoff and cash in on what's left of the cache of both series?
Introducing Sam & Cat, featuring an older (but not much wiser) Sam Puckett (McCurdy's iCarly character) rooming with innocent and ditzy Cat Valentine (Grande's Victorious character). The result is a kind of Odd Couple for teens (a show that's intentionally name-dropped within minutes of the premiere getting underway.) If Sam's all jalapeño salsa, Cat's a plate of funnel cake. If Sam's a Harley, Cat's a pink banana-seat bike with streamers on the handles.
The combination of the two, beyond being a little annoying, may also be a bit meaner and coarser than their previously separate shows. Sam's holding the kidcom reins now, after all, not the sweeter and more level-headed Carly. And Cat—a well-meaning but IQ-challenged silly-girl—certainly doesn't have the wherewithal to turn the hog Sam rode in on.
Thus, lying, law-skirting, stealing, finagling and scheming play a big role in resolving whatever 22-minute crisis presents itself each week. The two girls start a babysitting service, even though clearly neither of them is responsible enough to care for much more than a gerbil. And while none of their escapades are meant to be taken seriously—the slapstick we see here is about as sobering as an I Love Lucy episode or a Bugs Bunny cartoon—it still feels like both Sam and Cat could use a parent somewhere in their lives.
Alas, no helpful adult presence is to be found anywhere near Sam & Cat since Cat's grandma gets carted off to a home for the elderly in the very first episode. (She'd call it "taking refuge" there. And, really, who can blame her?) That leaves us lamenting that Sam and Cat—technically at or near adulthood themselves and living on their own—act in such childish ways.
The theme song speaks volumes about the show's ethos: "It's the life that we choose/And we still break the rules/But it's going to be just fine."
This is not to say that Sam & Cat is a horrible show. It boasts next to no profanity and only the barest hints of sexuality. This is still a Nick show, intended for kids. But unlike so many other kids' shows, we don't learn many lessons here, and episodes are apt to end with just another giggle or gag. (Adults will favor the latter.)
Cat and Sam discover they have the same favorite TV show—That's a Drag, wherein everyone dresses … in drag. We see scenes from that program, including one where a preteen boy in a dress asks his family whether the skirt makes his butt look big, wiggling his keester.
Turns out the show's being cancelled, prompting Sam to go to the set, hoping to steal a That's a Drag prop to give to Cat. She pays tagalong kid Dice $20 to swipe a lamp, telling him to stuff it down his pants. He's caught of course ("I had an itch, and I had to scratch it!" Dice lies, the lamp stuck in his pants), so Sam instead pretends she's in charge of the show and asks that the props be transported to Cat's apartment. We hear the studio audience "awww" over Sam's act of generosity … overlooking the lying, cheating and stealing that made her "gift" possible.
We hear about how a That's a Drag character threw up on a bunny. When Sam and Cat's youngest babysitting charge gets stuck in a studio light hanging from the ceiling, Sam's solution is to cut the light down—sending it (and him) crashing to the floor. (The boy, naturally, is unhurt.) Sam breaks a bottle with homemade nunchucks. A car speeds away with Cat clinging to the roof. We later learn that she fell off after 17 miles.
Sam skips an online class to watch television. She repeatedly lies. We hear about underwear and going to the bathroom. Cat says "jeez," and characters nod to other swears by saying such things as "shut the fridge!"