Greetings, scenesters. I’m not sure if many of you know who I am? My name is Elise, and I am a co-founder of a little site called Reign in Blonde: a blog run by galz who talk metal. Yeah, I know…you’re not interested in any of that. You come here to read about all things SCENE. Well, today I’m invading SYWH to school you all on a different kind of scene: TWEEN SCENE! More specifically…the tween TV scene.
Ya see, kids, as much as I like metal…I like to think of myself as a “metal chick” who is actually not too “metal,” herself. The reason for this is that I have an undying love for anything I was supposed to outgrow when I was 13. (I’m 24 now.) I’m obsessed with tween television. Nickelodeon and the Disney Channel, especially. Seriously. Do you have a pre-teen in your household? Well, I watch what they watch…and I genuinely love it. But my obsession goes much deeper than just a few casual viewings of High School Musical. I took things a bajillion steps further. I wrote my graduate school thesis on the consumer-driven forces of the tween market. I also wrote four episodes of my own tween TV creation that illustrated all of my thesis’ key points. I won’t bore you all with my boring “book knowledge” on the topic, but I did essentially earn a Master’s degree for watching a crap ton of Hannah Montana, iCarly, and Zoey 101. I even played clips from those shows during my presentation. #yayskewl
So, Professor Elise…what is a tween? I’m sure many people out there still aren’t really sure what a “tween” is, or how this whole scene got started. Well, allow me to explain. A tween is a young person between the ages of (roughly) 8 and 14. They’re not kids, they’re not teens…they’re in between. TWEENS! Got it? And how does tween TV differ from the regular ol’ “kids” programming we’ve come to know in the past? Typically, it involves super high concept premises, fadz galore, and of course: minimal parental supervision. These shows create environments completely ruled by youngters. This is their world. And, well….my world, too. This is the tween scene.
Most people seem to think that this whole “tween” thing started with Hannah Montana and The Jonas Brothers. Tr00 tweensters like myself roll our eyes at such lesser informed people, as these two franchises are considered total entry-level tween. Just because you saw the Jo Broz sing on the Grammy’s or saw Miley’s pole dance on the Teen Choice awards, doesn’t mean you know jack squat about this scene. You’ve only experienced the most mainstream part of it. There’s so much else to discover in this little world of ours. It’s a shame when people limit their understanding. I mean, don’t you get pissed at people who think Gabe Saporta is the only notable neon scenester??
So let’s talk tween history. While most are convinced that the “tween” concept is some brand new thing, the tr00 roots of the scene go waay back to the early 2000s. The Olsen twins had the first notable tween movie regime, but what about television? We could debate what the first tween show was, but I’m a firm believer that these two are the granpappies:
1) Even Stevens (Disney Channel, 2000-2003): Long before Shia LaBeouf was Indiana Jones’ son, and running around with Decepticons, he was Louis Stevens, a delightfully awkward California middle-schooler. I always giggled at the sight of his cute wittle curls. Luckily he is only a year younger than me IRL, so I don’t have to feel like a creepvert when I say that.
2) Lizzie McGuire (Disney Channel, 2001-2004): Sigh… I miss Hilary Duff in her chubby stage. Her character was always on the verge of a panic attack, and was often shown as her alter-animated-ego. Think Incredible Hulk, if he was a cute, bubbly blonde. And don’t even get me started on The Lizzie McGuire movie. That is my jam. I don’t care how good you thought the twist endings in The Usual Suspects or Old Boy were…the Lizzie one was better.
Even and Lizzie don’t have quite as many bells and whistles as the more current stuff, but they’re classics. Things started to evolve one generation later with these smash hits:
1) That’s So Raven (Disney Channel, 2003-2007): Old ppl know Raven-Symone as little Olivia from The Cosby Show, but I know her better as Raven Baxter, a supa fly hunny who could see the future. Around this time, Raven also starred in the first installment of The Cheetah Girls, (a TV movie), which is one of Disney Channel’s most successful franchises to date. The Cheetah Girls 2: When in Spain is probably my favorite Disney Channel TV movie of all time. Until you’ve seen it, you are no tween Cheetah amiga of mine.
2) Drake & Josh (Nickelodeon, 2004-2007): The fat, nerdy kid and the smooth, ladies’ man become stepbrothers? Oh man, HOW WILL THIS EVER WORK??? Pretty well, actually. This show was basically a younger version of The Odd Couple. I always felt bad for Josh since he was “the ugly one,” but since the show he’s lost a ton of weight and is starting to look a little coked out. He’s landed quite a few indie film roles as a result. Ehh…I liked him better when he was a chubbster. Miranda Cosgrove also stars as the their devilish little sister, Megan. This role was the precursor to her own show, iCarly, which we’ll get to later.
Which leads us to the present. Tweens have a wide selection to choose from nowadays. Like music, every fan has their opinion on what’s good what what’s not. These are just my personal favorites:
HANNAH MONTANA (Disney Channel)
FOR: Chicks, man.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: A dawled up Superman/Clark Kent dichotomy, with music.
It might be entry-level, but that doesn’t mean it’s not good. Miley Cyrus built one hell of an empire these past few years, and as the show moves into its final season, I’m giggly at the thought of what Disney could do to possibly top this. Incase you’ve been living under a rock: Hannah Montana is about a Tennessee-born girl named “Miley Stewart” who by day, is your average tween girl…but by night is Hannah Montana: international pop sensation. The only ones who know Miley’s secret are her dad, brother, and two best friends. How does she keep it under wraps? With her super special disguise: a long blonde wig. Who would ever see past that??! I really enjoy the excessive Southern twang humor in this show, and the fact that BILLY RAY CYRUS also stars. Not to mention the music. The clip above is one of my fav jamz off the Hannah Montana season 2 soundtrack, “Nobody’s Perfect.” I recommend listening to this at the gym. It’s a refreshing break from all my usual regretcore. “Nobody’s perfect! I gotta work it!”
THE SUITE LIFE ON DECK (Disney Channel)
FOR: Tweens with an attention deficit.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: If the Olsen twins were boys, drank a lot of cola, and screamed I’M ON A BOAT!!!!!11
Our own Sergeant D has taken quite a liking to this show recently. I must say I’m impressed, because Suite Life is pretty advanced for a beginner tween. Seriously. It’s just one big sugar high. Originally this series was called The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, in which the twins’ mother worked as a lounge singer in an upscale Boston hotel called The Tipton. She and the boys (played by Dylan and Cole Sprouse) got the hookup and lived inside the hotel full-time. The Tipton offered a wide range of characters including Moseby: the stern hotel manager, Arwin: the nerdy engineer, and London Tipton: the hotel’s bubbleheaded heiress. (High School Musical‘s Ashley Tisdale also starred as the hotel “candy girl.”) After three seasons, they “jumped ship” and went aboard the S.S. Tipton, where the boys attend Seven Seas High. What’s most funny about this show is how tooootally different these twins are!!! Zack is the athletic one, while Cody is the straight-A nerd. But I always thought they should have flipped that around, since Zack actually appears to be the fatty of the two. Oh well.
TRUE JACKSON V.P. (Nickelodeon)
FOR: Sistah tweens, and little boy tweens who aren’t quite out of the closet yet.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: Just Shoot Me meets The Office meets Tyra Banks.
It took me a while to get into this one, but it eventually grew on me. Keke Palmer plays True Jackson, a 15-year old girl who’s been hired as a VP for a fashion company called Mad Style. Comedian Greg Proops plays her kooky boss, and let’s face it: he needs the work. One thing I really dig about this show is how the two black characters (True, and Oscar the receptionist…who miiiiight be gay..?) are the smartest people in the room. Take that, whitey! But who’s the most loopy? True’s Filipino friend, Lulu. So don’t worry, azns. Just when you thought you would forever be known as the “smart kids” that nailed all the high-paying jobs…Nickelodeon’s got your back. Also…I’m still trying to figure out how someone could juggle a career in fashion AND a full high school homework load. ::shrug::
I’M IN THE BAND (Disney XD)
FOR: Tweens who SHRED!
IT’S KINDA LIKE: Cock rock 4 kidz.
A TWEEN show about a METAL BAND!!! My two worlds have finally collided. It’s about damn time. I’m in the Band follows Iron Weasel, an 80′s glam band trying to make a comeback. They hire a youngin’ named Tripp to be their new lead guitarist, and “hilarity ensues” as the band is invited to move into Tripp’s home…much to the dismay of his mother. I’ve only seen two episodes of this, and I’m already way into it. But leave it to Old Man Axl Rosenberg and his Metalsucks minions to once again prove that they are a buncha grumps who are anything but WITH IT. Those dudes make me wanna PUNCH STUFF!! As someone with a foot in both of these communities, I can assure you that Iron Weasel are the real deal. Tr00 pioneers of tween metal. But hey, if rockin’ out’s not your thing, CARL WINSLOW plays the school principal!!! Are you sold now??
WIZARDS OF WAVERLY PLACE (Disney Channel)
FOR: Fans of Twilight….and Paramore.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: If Harry Potter were a spicy Latina, and if Hogwarts were in New York, if New York was clean….and was a soundstage.
My blogmate Angela Gossowski is still a beginner, but she likes this show a lot, so she gets major tween points from me. The premise is simple: a family of WIZARDS! They use magic, and often screw up the spells and spend the rest of the episode trying to fix it. First world problems? More like ALL world problems..amirite?? Snort, snort. What’s especially awesome about this show is that star Selena Gomez is totally BFF with Sergeant D’s favorite band, FTSK. Selena might be at the top of the tween scene, but do you think she could ever pull off being “regular” scene?? I’ll let Sarge be the judge of that.
BIG TIME RUSH (Nickelodeon)
FOR: Tweens who miss TRL.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: Making the Band, minus Diddy. Or a reincarnation of 2GE+HER, minus the kid with cancer.
Ladies and gentlemen, THE BOY BAND IS BACK!!! I’ll admit my expectations were low for this show, at first…especially since Nickelodeon have always had trouble topping Disney with their musical endeavors. But they totally nailed it this time! Big Time Rush follows four Minnesota teens who form a band, and are discovered (by accident!) at a local talent search. They then move out to Hollywood to record their album. The formula might be old, but the execution is dead-on. I especially love their manager, Gustavo. He wears blublockers. Please peep the theme song above. It’s been in my head for days, and the lyrics are really inspirational. I’m livin’ BIG TIME…are you??!
FOR: Techie tweens, especially ones whose parents won’t buy them an iPhone.
IT’S KINDA LIKE: Every trendy multibillion dollar consumer fad in one.
I’ve saved the best for last. iCarly is my jam, yo. Why? Because it is absolutely retarded. Miranda Congrove of Drake & Josh fame plays Carly Shay, a tween girl who hosts her own internet show, along with her two friends, Sam and Freddie. These kids are at the cutting edge of everything. They live in Seattle; they have smart phones and top-of-the-line video equipment; they hang out at Groovy Smoothie, and Carly lives in the most PIMP ass loft I’ve ever seen with her quirky brother who makes sculptures. Wow! There’s also a chance that Carly’s gal pal, Sam, is a lesbian. I’m not 100% sure. They’ve never actually SAID she is, but how cool and contemporary is that?? Seriously, check out iCarly if you haven’t already, 11.2 million viewers can’t be wrong…right?!
Other shows you might wanna check out:
J.O.N.A.S.: I’m honestly not too into this one. Probably because I’m sick of the Jo Broz. But the kids seem to like it.
THE TROOP: I only recently started watching this. It’s about three teens who keep their town safe from monsters. Sort of a modern-day Ghostbusters. I like what I’ve seen of it so far.
SONNY WITH A CHANCE: This is another one I’m not that into, but the kids looooove that Demi Lovato, who’s most known for her role in Disney Channel’s TV movie, Camp Rock. I actually prefer her more as a singer than an actor. Sonny is basically like 30 Rock, except not very funny.
CANCELED SHOWS I STILL DIG:
UNFABULOUS: What’s more relatable than a tween with an acoustic guitar?? Emma Roberts starred on this, but she’s now making a legit name for herself in Hollywood. She’s actually currently filming a movie around the corner from my apartment. ::girly squeal::
CORY IN THE HOUSE: This was a spin-off of That’s So Raven. Her brother Cory starred as the son of the President’s personal chef. This srsly might have been one of the most awesome political satires I have ever seen.
ZOEY 101: Nick pulled the plug on this one after Jamie-Lynn Spears got pregnant, but you can still sometimes catch re-runs on the The N network. Her co-star Victoria Justice recently got a show of her own called VICTORIOUS, which will premiere on Nickelodeon very soon. YAY!!
THE NAKED BROTHERS BAND: It’s about a band…of brothers. But no, they’re not naked. I recommend this only for the most advanced tween viewer. It’s a lot to take in.
NED’S DECLASSIFIED SCHOOL SURVIVAL GUIDE: I still love this show. Luckily, this is another one you can catch re-runs of on The N. It’s about a boy named Ned who gives advice on how to deal with the “issues” that face today’s junior high students. Very informative.
But I’ve only scratched the surface, folks. There’s plenty of other shows out there I didn’t mention, as well as a bounty of TV movies, theatrical releases, and muzik that the tweens are also diggin’ these days.
How tween scene are you?? What’s YOUR favorite tween show? Who’s you favorite tween STAR? Do you have an idea for a show of your own? Is DISNEY CHANNEL better than NICKELODEON? Who’s hotter: Justin Bieber or David Henrie?? And which show are the newbiez out there going to check out first?!!! Comment and share your thoughts, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also, check out my blog: Reign in Blonde!