November 23, 2012

Last dance for 'iCarly'

Friday marks the final show of the series that its creator hopes will be a source of nostalgia for its teen fans.


LOS ANGELES - Miranda Cosgrove, the sprightly star of Nickelodeon's "iCarly," is sitting on the floor of the show's fictional Ridgeway school set during a lull in production, practicing lines and adjusting the collar on her bright-blue jacket. Try as she might, though, she can't ignore the inevitable.

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Miranda Cosgrove, center, as “Carly Shay” with Jennette McCurdy, next to Cosgrove, as “Sam Puckett”, Nathan Kress, center left, as “Freddie Benson” and Mindy Sterling, left, playing teacher “Mrs. Briggs” work on the set of “iCarly,” in Hollywood last June.

Los Angeles Times

iCarly finale
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Jennette McCurdy, as “Sam Puckett,” gets a makeup touch-up during taping on the set of “iCarly,” in Hollywood. The Nickelodeon series is coming to an end after five seasons.

Los Angeles Times

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Looking up at her character's locker towering above her -- a veritable landmark among the tween-set -- the brunet wunderkind summons a cornball glance at costar Jennette McCurdy sitting beside her. "Think of me fondlyyyy/ when we say goodbyeeee," the twosome mirthfully croon to each other, calling up a ballad from "The Phantom of the Opera."

The charmingly goofy off-screen moment between the friends and costars mimics the shenanigans that viewers have come to enjoy on the teen-centered show about three pals who produce a popular online series. But the clownish antics are in the closing stages: After five seasons, one of the network's preeminent shows is wrapping its run. On this June day, Cosgrove and McCurdy are in the thick of the show's swan song, filming the one-hour send-off, "iGoodbye," which will air Friday.

For the generation that grew up on "iCarly," this was a show that spoke its language -- before "Gossip Girl" or "Awkward" tried to do the same. The half-hour comedy, from Nickelodeon sire Dan Schneider, soared to popularity in no small part because of the way it converged the television and computer screen, a radical notion in 2007. It was a well-timed concept that resonated with a young constituency mesmerized by cellphones, computers and iPods. The show was also unusual in portraying young children on their own with no parental nemeses or guardians.

The ending of one of its longest-lived hits comes at a crucial time for Nickelodeon. The network -- which will also lose hit teen sitcom "Victorious" (also created by Schneider) -- saw its audience levels fall nearly 30 percent over the past year, a drop reflected in "iCarly's performance.

By its second season, "iCarly" had overtaken Disney's "Hannah Montana," the seemingly untouchable ruler of tweens, as TV's No.1 series among kids (ages 2 to 11) and tweens (ages 9 to 14). Its current season is averaging 3.2 million viewers, down nearly 32 percent from the previous season. It now clocks in at No. 7 among kids and No. 3 among tweens, with Disney stalwart "Good Luck Charlie" taking up the crown.

Part of the drop-off could be attributed to changes in behavior as viewers turn to TV watching on computers, phones or tablets. The amount of time 12- to 17-year-olds spent watching traditional TV dipped dramatically in the fourth quarter of 2011, according to a Nielsen report. Those viewers watched an average of 100 hours of TV each month, down from 105 hours in the same period in 2010. Among children ages 2 to 11, the shift was less dramatic: an average of 109 hours, 6 minutes a month, down from 112 hours, 46 minutes the previous year.

Marjorie Cohn, the network's president of original programming and development, doesn't minimize the task that lies ahead. "It's a hurdle," Cohn said. "It's always sad to lose a ratings workhorse. But our job is to replace it with another one, so that's what we're going to do."

Viacom, which owns Nickelodeon, has invested tens of millions of dollars into development of new programs to find that replacement. Its recent launch of a revamped "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" has already helped the network make gains. And Cohn categorized the network's next crop of live-action shows as "high concept" -- with some projects centering on ghosts and superheroes. On Saturday, Nickelodeon will roll out "Marvin Marvin," starring Lucas Cruikshank (a rising Nickelodeon star best known as the character Fred Figglehorn in a series of YouTube videos) about an alien trying to fit in as a human teenager.

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Additional Photos

iCarly finale
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Miranda Cosgrove, left, and Jennette McCurdy work on the set of “iCarly,” a show from Nickelodeon that spoke the language of a generation.

Los Angeles Times


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