waynepygram.com: Victorious Reviewed: The Blonde Squad

waynepygram.com: Victorious Reviewed: The Blonde Squad

I was looking through my old reviews when I decided to write this. Just go with it and let it happen. 

Victorious is a weird show to talk about. It was weird even by Dan Schneider standards. If I wanted to be mean, I could say that all of the problems that Dan Schneider's shows have in 2018 started with this show. I could say that iCarly was negatively influenced by it. I could say that Dan Schneider working on it and iCarly at the same time led to both shows declining past the point of no return. And I could also say that it only had one good season, which was the first one.

But here's the thing: I'm not just saying all of that. I firmly believe in all of those things.

When Victorious started, I was in the sixth grade. When it ended, I was a freshman in high school. One thing I want to make clear is that I was a very stupid and immature kid back then. Earlier this year, I spent a day cleansing my entire Twitter of terrible, terrible posts because I was disgusted at how overtly corny I used to be. That part of me is still there, but it's a lot more dormant. And it's not something I take pride in anymore. I say all that to let you know that even in my corniest possible state, I was cognizant enough to see the show's decline happen right before my eyes.

I remember enjoying the first season of Victorious and thinking that it was different from iCarly. The show still had Schneider's trademark humor, but the stories were different and at least in the beginning, the characters seemed like they had some depth to them. I always believed that you could make Victorious for adults and the show wouldn't be too different from what it was for kids. In fact, it would be better that way because these characters would actually be explored seriously, and not just be empty joke machines.

Beck lived in an RV away from his parents. Andre's grandmother was mentally insane. Cat was mentally insane with a mentally insane brother, and most likely grew up in a mentally insane family. Robbie walked around with a puppet that only existed to insult him and break him down psychologically, while being bolder and more confident than the person walking around with him. Jade had an uncaring father and a variety of psychological problems. You get the point. Victorious was a show that worked well because along with great jokes, the characters were grounded and relatable. You weren't just laughing at what they said or did. You identified with them as people. Episodes like "Wok Star" and "Rex Dies" were the perfect blend of comedy and drama, and if the producers played their cards right, the show could have potentially surpassed iCarly in quality.

But then something unexplainable happened. Eventually, it became more fun to the writers to just treat these characters like they were pathetic caricatures. I felt this way when these episodes aired and I feel the same way now. I didn't understand it because I was aware of what the show could have been, and instead, it just wasted away whatever potential it had. It became weird for the sake of weird. It devolved into a cartoon. I still have nightmares of scenes like Cat buying a drink and immediately throwing it away because she wasn't thirsty, or Jade driving Tori to a dirt road with the intention of killing her, or the gang being tortured on a game show for no apparent reason other than them being in pain equals great comedy. I wish I could talk about this at length, but I need to discuss the episode now and expand on my overall thoughts later on in a different post.

I said in my "iFind Spencer Friends" review that when iCarly failed, it was more like disappointment than anything else. A bad episode rarely angered me, it just annoyed me. But when Victorious failed, it was like the show was going out of its way to create a terrible episode. And "The Blonde Squad" is no exception. I didn't like this episode in 2012 when it first aired, and six years later, my opinion hasn't changed. In fact, because I have had time to reflect on everything, the episode is worse now than it was in 2012.

The plot here is about a boy named Evan falling for Cat at Nozu because of her blonde wig and blue contacts. She was in costume because of a movie Beck was directing. Cat never told Evan about her real hair color or eye color, finds out that the boy is obsessed with blonde hair and blue eyes, and decides to keep her costume on the next time she sees Evan. Tori convinces her to be herself, Evan tells her that he likes blonde girls, and the episode is over.

Wait. It's not. There's a reason I chose to review this.

See, throughout the entire episode, there's this other plotline of Robbie dealing with his feelings for Cat. He has even written a song about her. However, the episode seems to hate Robbie for having these feelings. When he tells Tori that he wrote a song about a girl, he gets dressed down by Trina for no apparent reason. When Robbie gives a heartfelt, impassioned speech to Cat in an attempt to boost her confidence, she tells Robbie that he doesn't know how guys think. I wish I was kidding, but she literally says this. Tori and Jade are completely confused by the speech, as if they forgot Robbie was a human being. And when Robbie finally performs his song for Cat at the end of the episode, she wonders if she should dye her hair blonde. This is the only reaction she has to the song.

See, I can't get invested in anything this episode does because the episode doesn't want me to. Evan is such a one-note character that this whole story of Cat needing to be true to herself doesn't matter. And it ends up not having any positive results because Evan doesn't change his mind about blondes once Cat shows him what she really looks like. I care more about Robbie's story because he's the only character with something to actually gain or lose here. A normal episode would have Cat realize that Robbie cares about her because of who she is and not what she looks like. But because this is "The Blonde Squad," we have to do the complete opposite of everything a normal sitcom does. I feel like this is supposed to be a subversion of what would usually happen, but just because it is a subversion, doesn't mean it works. It just makes me feel bad because Robbie is getting put through the wringer for absolutely nothing.

There was an episode in season one called "Robarazzi," where Robbie exploits his friends in an attempt to gain popularity for his blog. While the blog becomes a hit, Robbie turns into an asshole in his attempt to become successful, and he ends up getting his comeuppance for his behavior. This is an example of punishing a character who deserved it, a character who went through an actual story, and it was during a time when Robbie wasn't a spineless weirdo. I don't know what "The Blonde Squad" is trying to do at all. It sets up two plotlines and both of them are unsatisfactory. Nobody in this episode comes out of it having learned or achieved anything. The jokes are mostly nonexistent and/or fall flat. It's almost as if the writers didn't know what this episode was supposed to be. And a lot of Victorious episodes after a certain point ended up like this. "Tori Gets Stuck," "Prom Wrecker" to some extent, "Tori Tortures Teacher," "Driving Tori Crazy," "Wanko's Warehouse," "The Hambone King," "Robbie Sells Rex." Even the damn series finale, "Victori-Yes." To be fair, it wasn't supposed to be the last episode, but it does say a lot about where the series was going at the time.

At the end of the day, Victorious was a mildly entertaining show that started off well and fell off a cliff by the time it was over. As the show increased in popularity, it decreased in quality. Looking at it from a different perspective, Victorious could have done some amazing things. Characters like Cat and Jade had interesting backstories that could have been explored, not in a deeply dramatic way, but at least in a way that gave us some insight into who they really were. Episodes like "Stage Fighting" or "Wok Star" said more about Jade's character than anything she did in the next three seasons. Imagine if there was a character study about Cat or Robbie. The little things that make us understand them more and humanize them. Hell, imagine if Trina was ever taken seriously.

But instead, the show was more comfortable with random gags and making fun of the characters' eccentric behavior than examining the behavior. That wouldn't have been so bad if the jokes weren't so awkward and the pacing so slow. Episodes like "The Blonde Squad" became the norm, and every now and again, you might get something like "April Fools Blank" or "Opposite Date," but after the first season, consistency stopped being the strong suit of Victorious. Maybe season one was just a fluke.

Episode Grade: C-
Episode MVP: Matt Bennett, I guess. Like I said before, Robbie seemed to be the only character in this episode going through something, but the episode seemed to hate him for that specific reason. 

EXTRA THOUGHTS 
-I'll never forget what Ray said about the Victorious cast having an air of coolness about them. They were the kind of people who commanded attention when they were on screen, but were just saddled with so much mediocre material that it didn't always shine through. I still think this show had the potential to be better than iCarly, because of all the different characters to explore and what made them become who they were. You could even address the environment of Hollywood Arts and how it influenced the personalities of the students.

-It's a small thing, but I like how Robbie is apparently the "wig master" and he is the only one that can handle the girls' wigs. Also, Jade plays the dumb blonde in Beck's movie, which I have to assume is just him wanting to see his ex-girlfriend act like an idiot for his amusement.

-There was a joke at the beginning of the episode that I hated the first time I heard it, and I still hate it now. Cat says she's wondered about life as a blonde before, and has also wondered about what you do when a thirsty person gets injured, because they will either need lemonade or first aid. I don't know what to say about it. It's just a really stupid joke that hangs there, and only drives home the point that Cat is stupid. Or insane, whichever adjective you like.

-The whole reason Cat meets Evan is because Tori convinces Cat and Jade that they should keep their costumes on and go to Nozu to see what life is like as a blonde. I remember the episode promos mentioning this like it was going to be a big deal, but it only lasted one scene and the whole joke is that Tori is an idiot for thinking blondes had more privileges in life. Honestly, I think this premise had more legs than what they actually went with.

-Again, it's just weird how the episode treats Robbie. And because of that, it ends up affecting the characters too. Whenever Robbie's in a scene, the others just seem to have an extra amount of contempt for him, like he's diseased or something. After Cat barely has a reaction to Robbie's speech, all Tori does is question Robbie's statement that guys would be lucky as cheese to go out with Cat. It's almost like she's known about Robbie's feelings for a long time and doesn't care about them because she knows that Cat doesn't feel the same way. Or at least, that's what I think because Tori has no reaction to her friend pouring his heart out to another one of her friends. Later on, Robbie repeats the "lucky as cheese" statement and Tori just looks at him. I don't get it. Wouldn't Tori of all people want to help Robbie get closer to Cat? I'm assuming she would care about something like this, but from the looks of it, nobody seems to care about anything in this episode.

-They really hammer home the point that Evan likes blonde hair and blue eyes through the girls checking out his Slap page, and to make it even more on the nose, one of his dislikes is people who pretend to be something they're not. All the episode tells me about Evan is that he is a shallow person, and a relationship with him will never work. And then Cat decides to be herself anyway and it doesn't matter because Evan is a shallow person. Seriously, this guy has no character whatsoever.

-I really think this episode could have redeemed itself if Cat realized Robbie's feelings and at least acknowledged them in some way after his song is over. But then the episode just ends with no payoff and Cat completely disregarding the whole song. I'm left wondering why Robbie would even want to date Cat, because beyond her being incredibly stupid, it's clear that she doesn't care about him, and finds the possibility of being attracted to him weird. It's just jarring to go from this to "One Thousand Berry Balls" where all of a sudden, Cat has feelings for Robbie and gets jealous over seeing him with another girl. And then the series finale where one of the last interactions these two characters have is Cat thinking that cuddling with Robbie would be gross. Yeah, I'm done here. Next time, I'll try talking about an old show you probably weren't expecting me to ever talk about.
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