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TV Series Review

The folks at the Disney Channel have grown fat and happy off a smorgasbord of live-action, saccharine sitcoms: That's So Raven, Hannah Montana, The Suite Life on Deck, etc. And while few people would call these shows the epitome of great television—few over the age of 16, anyway—they are exactly what Disney wants them to be: half-hour diversions with a micro-moral and a laugh track.

Shake It Up, Disney's newest tween-centric comedy, doesn't so much shake up this time-honored template as give it a good, hard pinch. But that pinch may make some parents yelp.

At first, the formula feels ever-so-familiar. The show centers around two best friends named CeCe and Rocky who become backup dancers on a Chicago-area teen dance show called, obviously, Shake It Up Chicago. (It's the same show-within-a-show trope we see in  Sonny With a Chance and Nickelodeon's iCarly.) Along the way, CeCe and Rocky must deal with school, home, their burgeoning fame, Flynn (CeCe's precocious younger brother), and rivals Gunther and Tinka, a brother-sister dance team so shallow that during a charity dance-off their nonprofit of choice is the Mousse Foundation.

"Thanks to the Mousse Foundation, the less fortunate never looked more fabulous," says Gunther.

If you detect shades of High School Musical's Sharpay and Ryan underneath Gunther and Tinka's faux Russian accents, you're right on the money. But sadly, Shake It Up isn't fully in the groove when it comes to HSM's inherent charm—or its squeaky-clean sensibilities.

Indeed, Shake It Up seems to be shaking loose from Disney's perennial concern over content. While the show is hardly shocking—it's certainly cleaner than almost anything you'd see on network television—the dialogue is just a bit more crass and the dances (along with the costumes that go with them) are a tad sexier than we're used to seeing from Disney. Parents or any other sort of involved adult authority figures are sometimes absent for entire episodes, leaving CeCe and Rocky to run the ranch.

The result feels forced and shrill—like that kid in the lunch room who's trying too hard to be funny. It gives the impression that Disney's creative types are fishing for their next new hit, but seem uncharacteristically unsure of where to throw the hook. In desperation, they've plunked it in Nickelodeon waters.


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Episode Reviews

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