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.


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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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Not that the "iCarly" universe is totally imploding. In keeping with its tradition of launching spinoffs, the network will feature two offshoots from the show: In "Gibby," Noah Munck carries on his role as the oddball teen, with viewers following him as he gets a job at a recreational center and winds up becoming a mentor to four middle-school students. In "Sam & Cat," McCurdy resumes her role as Sam and will be paired with "Victorious" character Cat (Ariana Grande) for the show in which the duo become roommates and start a babysitting business. And Jerry Trainor, who plays Carly's older brother Spencer, will appear in the comedy "Wendell & Vinnie." The network will also continue to show "iCarly" in reruns.

"One of the things that is interesting and fun about kids television is that the audience turns constantly and there are new kids all the time," said Cohn, who has been at the network for more than two decades. "And they're different than the kids that came before. I think it's important if you're going to stay contemporary and relevant that you are offering shows that are made for the generation that is just joining into that tween mindset. They want to have shows of their own."

"It's weird to think of it as being a pioneer, in some ways, because technology becomes so ubiquitous and we adapt so quickly to new tools," said Shelley Pasnik, director of New York-based Center for Children and Technology. "But when you look back to when it first began, it was a time when young people were still getting accustomed to the personal broadcasting via YouTube, Tumblr ... it rode that wave. But it didn't lose its resonance with the everyday concerns, anxieties and aspirations of young people."

The "iCarly" fictional Web show-within-the-show was often as spontaneous as what actual teenagers are generating on the Internet. There was Carly and her friend Sam's famous outbursts of random dancing -- luring First Lady Michelle Obama to take part when she guest-starred -- or that time they made spaghetti tacos, inciting an army of kids to demand a new entree.

When the friends are not holed up in Carly's attic producing the show, they're at school dealing with the travails of youth: annoying teachers, high school dances, love triangles, etc.

The entertainment carried over to "iCarly's" website, supplying media-hungry tweens with online videos, quizzes and blog posts between episodes (now de rigueur for almost all TV shows).

"It wasn't just something that you watched through the TV," Cosgrove said. "You could also communicate back to the 'iCarly' world. I think that was something that was very new to kids and that appealed to them."

The 19-year-old, who got an early start starring as a 10-year-old band manager in 2003's Jack Black comedy "School of Rock," is more soft-spoken and docile than her fictional persona. Like many a child star, she has parlayed her "iCarly" stardom into a singing career -- albeit a more subdued one than her peers Miley Cyrus, Selena Gomez and Demi Lovato.

Being young and famous would fall in line with the setup of the show and others like it. "iCarly" was part of a genre of shows -- Nick's "Big Time Rush" and "Victorious" and Disney's "Hannah Montana," "Sonny With a Chance," etc. -- that played up the idea of showbiz fantasies.

"Thirty years ago, there wasn't Disney, there wasn't Nickelodeon," said Yalda T. Uhls, a researcher at Children's Digital Media CenterLA, who co-wrote a study on how values in children's TV have shifted over the years. "Now there's all these channels that are specifically catering to this one audience, and they're competing with shows like 'American Idol' and a moment where kids are growing up being groomed thinking they can be the next star." She suspects the next trend will be a return to more traditional values, stories that emphasize belonging to a group.

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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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