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During her interview with Janet Mock, Rowan Blanchard noted how Disney just wasn’t perhaps sure how to create entertainment for kids of this generation. Now, based off the I Am Frankie premiere, it seems Nickelodeon, which formerly had pretty decent live action shows, ranging from the 90s classics like All That to VicTORIous, may have the same issue now.
Dr. Sigourney Gaines (Carrie Schroeder) has been creating androids for quite some time but due to one issue or another, her boss Mr. Kingston (James D. Ballard) finds something wrong with them. Mostly in the fact Dr. Gaines continues to pursue androids with artificial intelligence. Which, upon learning Dr. Gaines’ latest creation, Frankie (Alex Hook), was created with such, it leads him to want her either decommissioned, sent to the Orba (what seemingly is the military wing of the company Dr. Gaines works for), if not deactivated.
However, Dr. Gaines, being one of the many who have become frustrated by Mr. Kingston’s leadership, instead decides to steal Frankie and raise her. But, with kidnapping her comes the need to move her small family (one husband and one daughter) to a new location and requires Frankie to keep her being an android a secret. Which, considering Dr. Gaines decides to have Frankie go to school, maybe something rather hard to do. Especially as Frankie makes a friend, develops some enemies, and might even have a crush.
It Has a Diverse Group of Intelligent Adults and Young People
Perhaps the one genuinely nice thing I can say about this show is that, in terms of representation, it has a sort of rainbow coalition going. We have a Desi character, a few Black ones, what I assume is someone of Hispanic/ Latinx origin, and women into STEM. All of which aren’t strictly your stereotypical nerds who often are the butt of jokes but have varied personalities and styles ranging from the Mean Girl type to slightly out there.
Something which, I’m sure, some young person may identify with.
On The Fence
It Seems Like a Growing Pains Show
Despite a past love of Nickelodeon, I don’t believe, since 2013, I have actually watched anything on the network. With that said, I can’t speak on what happened since VicTORIous ended and I Am Frankie is scheduled to begin. However, what I do see is the channel perhaps trying to make a shift. Not towards doing as Disney is or even FreeForm. More so, as arguably they did before, they are trying to figure out what is that sweet spot that can allow them to have the tween market and maintain the teen market as well. The problem is, I can’t picture I Am Frankie strongly appealing to either.
Mostly because it is a growing pains kind of show. One in which, with whatever might be the new direction of the network, they are trying to see how their audience reacts and how to respond accordingly. Like with how, I’d argue, Girl Meets World had an influence on what we see in Andi Mack and Raven’s Home. It may not be things you can directly pin point, but with the success of Girl Meets World came open doors for fairly more serious topics to be focused on and also Disney got to see how much of their old formula had to be changed.
Which, ultimately, I think will be the uphill battle for I Am Frankie. It is a show which may have the sole purpose of setting precedents. The goal with this might just be seeing what will Nick’s audience respond to positively, negatively, and with indifference. For there is a lot going on here.
On one hand, it seems like a comedy that you’d think would have a live audience. However, on the other hand, it is a very low-key sci-fi show dealing with trying to hide an android in plain sight while allowing her to learn what it is like to be human. Something that, if Frankie becomes less robotic, could become something interesting, especially since she seems capable of emotions. But, if the show holds on tight to keeping Frankie literal for the sake of comedy, this show may very well flop.
Though I must add, there is also the factor of Frankie’s strength and with her being an AI, perhaps some kind of commentary. Not to forget, considering how Mr. Kingston’s company also dabbles in military weapons, so it seems, there may be some conversations around that.
Overall: Mixed (Stick Around)
Arguably, when it comes to teen and tween entertainment, Nickelodeon has a well-established record of producing quality comedies. However, it has been a long time since they have had a noteworthy show on air – at least to me. Yet, there is some potential in I Am Frankie. The problem is, Nick’s strong suit is comedy and as much as there are references to the fear of androids/AI turning violent, being used for military purposes, and things of that nature, you can almost hear the absent laughing track in some moments too.
Hence the mixed label for the pilot certainly won’t sell you that you must watch this show. However, you can see it is at a crossroad based on what is presented. A crossroad which will either lead this towards Nick maybe getting some of the notoriety it once had back or remaining the network mostly known for having SpongeBob Squarepants and classic 90 shows and a few sitcoms thereafter.