Sam & Cat
Episode 1: #Pilot
By: Carlos Uribe
Sam & Cat is a show about Sam (from the television show iCarly) and Cat (from the television show Victorious) who join forces to start a babysitting business.
There is a joke in the television fan community to spin-off characters from two different shows (or the same one) and have them start a traveling detective agency. The idea is that it would be a lot of fun to spend time with these two characters as they solved crimes while they toured the country. It is often used as praise for two strong, compelling, and entertaining characters and is rarely applied to weak ones. This is sort-of what Dan Schneider did with a character from iCarly and a character from Victorious. Only this is a show for children and there are real-life budget restraints to take into consideration. He couldn't have them open a detective agency because murder is not really a topic for children. They could investigate small “crimes” but that wouldn't be very relatable or open as many kid-related plots as a series would require. So the two form what is the kid version of a detective agency: a babysitting business. A perfect idea as it allows the show to incorporate cute kids on a weekly basis, is relatable, and is appropriate for children to watch. He doesn't have them travel but settle down in one place. This will allow the producers to save money on sets, allow them to develop recurring characters, and allow them to do non-babysitting adventures. In other words, it could operate as a normal comedy without having to be burdened by it's premise. Sam & Cat has a lot going for it. It's taking two characters from former popular comedies and putting them in their own shows. It's giving them a strong premise to create the situations for the “sit”-com part of the show. It has decent talent behind-the-scenes that promise at least some tolerable writing for the adults. This could be a hit. Kids don't have a lot of standards when they watch shows and they'll be interested in checking this show out. The question is whether parents will hate the show or whether they'll be able to sit back and actually enjoy it?
The plot for the pilot of Sam & Cat is pretty basic. The two characters happen to meet by chance and they quickly become friends. Cat has to deal with her grandmother moving out to an elderly home which means having to live on her own. This is a character who can't figure out the basics of making soup and gets stuck in the toilet. It's no surprise she's dependent on her grandmother to function but it's good news because she gets a new roommate with her new best friend, Sam. The two get into babysitting accidentally by being forced into taking care of Cam's grandmother's responsibilities. They get the money they need to pay the rent and to presumably pay for whatever lavish expense they desire. It's very piloty in the sense that it has to set up the premise and the original characters. I have no idea if Nona appeared in Victorious or not but Dice is definably a new character for this series. The pilot also has to basically explain how these two characters ended up meeting together. The reason is that Sam had to save Cat from being crushed by garbage. Ridiculous? Absolutely. This is a Dan Schneider show which means a lot of the humor isn't based on intelligent jokes but rather on the crazy stuff the writers throw at the audience. This can be pretty creative at times and it's hard not to smile at points but it also means that a lot of the humor ends up being childish. Which I guess is the intent since children are the target demographic. Anyways, I wouldn't expect a lot of logic from Sam & Cat as this show doesn't have a lot of it. After all, this is the kind of show where two characters will allow themselves to be folded in a couch rather than get up. The humor for Sam & Cat is inconsistent for adults but I'm guessing it'll work for kids. The logic of the universe makes little sense but it's not meant to be taken seriously enough for adults to use their brain on.
It's a no-brainer that the pilot of Sam & Cat concentrates on the two characters and the relationship they form. This is where the show stumbles a bit. This is a show that depends a lot on the two leads as the title basically reveals. They are the main characters so the series is going to depend on them to drive the narrative. This is why Sam & Cat ends up being a disappointment to adults: Cat is the most annoying character I've had to watch in a long time. Ariana Grande's voice gets grating after a while and her character's personality is simply frustrating to be around. I can't see anyone old enough to have standards actually want to watch a series with her in it. It's pretty bad that one half of the show's duo basically makes the show unwatchable at points but it's worse that the relationship between Sam and Cat never kicks off. The two spend time together and Cat refers to them as an odd couple with a lot of internal conflict. I'll agree with the odd couple bit because they do have some of that but I'll disagree with the internal conflict. What conflict? The only time they disagreed was when Sam drove Nona to the elderly home but she was quickly forgiven. It doesn't help that the conflict was created by their differing personalities but rather based on an action necessitated by the premise. The two characters have opposing personalities but that didn't really play in this week's episode. They are too friendly too fast and I didn't see a lot of possibility for internal conflict. It also doesn't help that their relationship isn't anything special. There's nothing unique nor compelling about it. It exists because it has to. The good news is that the show will be able to solve the relationship issue as it moves on. The bad news is that it's doubtful they're going to be able to fix Cat so that she's bearable as that requires the very base of the character to be rewritten. As for Sam? She's a strong character, she gets the good lines, and Jennette McCurdy might be the reason to watch Sam & Cat. Honestly, this would be a pretty fun show if it dropped the “Cat” and became all about Sam's motorcycle adventures. I mean, how much fun would it be to see her travel the country and dealing with kooky characters? I'll tell you it's more promising than whatever adventures she's going to have with Cat.
The show does have two other main characters. The first is Nona, the grandmother of Cat. She's basically raising the kid by herself before she decides to leave for an elderly home. I'd like to note that Cat is apparently still going to school. This means that she's leaving a high school student to fend for herself. I understand wanting to retire from babysitting but this just seems a little irresponsible. I wouldn't mind this so much except it's the only impression that Nona gets to make in the pilot and she botches it up. I guess it's necessary for the show's premise to work so that Sam moves in with Cat but it basically means Nona doesn't put her best foot forward. The other character is Dice, who basically has celebrity hair and buys some from Sam. He's a flat character at this point. His stereotype is that he's the kind of kid that can get anything for a price. I'm not sure how big of a role he's going to have in future episodes but he has a very small one in the pilot. The two side-characters are okay but their going to need a lot of fleshing out to do.
I can't recommend Sam & Cat. It has it's moments as it has a strong premise, a decent execution of it's plot, and scenes where it's easy to smile and enjoy. It also has major issues as Cat basically brings down the show as the character is a complete annoyance. The relationship between Sam and Cat should be developed more so that inherent internal conflict is actually there rather than created by the needs of the plot. I have no doubt kids should like this show or that it'll be a hit of some kind. I just don't think this is a show that adults are going to look forward to watching with their children and it's all because Cat can't help but bring down a lot of the scenes she's in.