Review: ‘Sam & Cat’ gives Nickelodeon stars more room to play
“Sam & Cat,” which premieres Saturday on Nickelodeon, takes the sidekicks from two other Nickelodeon shows — Jennette McCurdy’s Sam Puckett, from “iCarly,” and Ariana Grande’s Cat Valentine, from “Victorious” — and bunks them in together as costarring leads. All these series were created by Dan Schneider, who also created “Zoey 101" and “Drake & Josh” and co-created “What I Like About You,” which makes him, like, the Neil Simon of teen sitcoms.
For a particular audience, this will be epic — as if, for a different particular audience, Bill Cosby’s Alexander Scott and David McCallum’s Illya Kuryakin were to ditch Kelly Robinson and Napoleon Solo and team up, or Ed Norton and Ethel Mertz were to run off together into their own show.
The series begins when Sam, who has been Easy Rider-ing about the country since the end of “iCarly,” rescues Cat from the back of a garbage truck. (There was a kitten in a green recycling bin, and then she lost her gum, and — whatever.) In a line Schneider may have lifted from his own pitch meeting, Cat tells Sam, whom she is inviting to stick around, “We sort of have this whole fun ‘Odd Couple’ dynamic — built-in conflict, lots of potential for more adventures.”
Sam is a tender tough girl; though she will hurl herself into a fresh pile of ordure for the sake of a stranger, even at the cost of abandoning a burrito, she is unashamedly a promoter of her own comfort. She doesn’t care much for rules or any less than convenient truth. (Moral lessons are not the point here.)
Cat, who is all pink and red and has the attractive quality of being chronologically older and mentally younger than the target audience, is frilly both in dress and mind and not quite of this world. She speaks, often at high volume, in a sort of sing-songy monotone; can’t turn on a dryer or make soup from a can; and is overexcited by basically everything.
As usual in these comedies, adults are around — to the limited extent they’re around — mostly to be tolerated, used or deceived. Here we get brief appearances by parents who come by to drop off their kids with Sam and Cat, who have set up shop as what a responsible person would describe as the world’s worst babysitters. (Sometimes the kids just drop themselves off: “Our mother left for work,” says one. “She dances near the airport.”)
Cat does have a grandmother (Maree Cheatham), it is true, but she has left Cat alone, stealing off to Elderly Acres to live among other “elderlies,” there to flirt and play Twister. Old people, of course, are funny because they’re old, and still alive. Funny old people! (To be fair, the show also has a go at small children: two apparently lovely little English girls turn out to be a step removed from the Krays.)
There is something at once endearing and annoying about the series, in which sense it is very like the demographic it has been designed to entertain and serve. Sometimes I wanted to ask it not to shout so loud; sometimes I liked it.
‘Sam & Cat’
When: 8 p.m. Saturday
Rating: TV-G (suitable for all ages)
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