Stream It Or Skip It: ‘iCarly Season 3’ on Paramount+, in Which Carly and Freddie’s Romantic Status Teeters on the Edge of a Cliff
Season 3 of the iCarly reboot (now on Paramount+) finds the sexual tension between Carly and Freddie reaching DEFCON 2 but not quite DEFCON 1 yet – maybe DEFCON 1.47 or so. It’s a situation that fits the tone of this new iCarly pretty well, considering how it’s trying to keep the spirit of the original teen/tween-targeted show alive while integrating more mature themes into storylines (the word “adulting” is thrown around a lot in reference to the reboot). So the burning question here is whether or not these two longtime best pals are going to sort this crap out, although anyone expecting the issue to be resolved in the first episode and not dragged out over the course of the entire season is most likely delusional.
Opening Shot: Freddie’s (Nathan Kress) mother Marissa (Mary Scheer) literally spit-shines an engagement ring by putting it in her mouth and swishing like it’s a fluoride rinse.
The Gist: DO NOT BE FOOLED BY THIS SCENARIO. The ring is not Freddie’s, and he’s not going to offer it to Carly (Miranda Cosgrove). But there is a funny bit where Freddie kneels down to pick up the ring and Carly comes in the door and it looks like what it looks like but isn’t what it is. No, Marissa proposes to Lewbert (Jeremy Rowley) and he says yes, and the current romantic status quo among the characters we actually care about is established when Freddie’s girlfriend Pearl (Mia Serafino) walks in and prompts Carly to pretend to be cheerful and glug down two glasses of champagne. In fact, three weeks have gone by since Carly and Freddie even talked, which is an eternity in sitcom world. Three WEEKS. Red giants have been born and gone supernova in less time.
Relief from the core awkwardness comes via a pair of subplots: One, Freddie’s stepdaughter Millicent (Jaidyn Triplett) angles to be Marissa’s maid of honor; feel free to shrug indifferently at this one. And two, Carly needs to rustle up a work project, so she sits down with her manager Paul (Josh Peck), who concocts a reality show for her to star in. Paul gussies up Carly like a Kardashian – her fake ponytail is from a real pony (insert canned laughter here)! – props up her brother Spencer (Jerry Trainor) as host and brings in Sunny (Hannah Stocking), the crazy lady you’ll recognize from season two who heads a fight club for influencers, as her foil. But Paul thinks the real drama will unfold when he drags Freddie and Pearl to the set so he can exploit the love triangle as the camera rolls. Ugh, I say. Ugh!
However, Paul’s underhandedness renders the subtext as text, setting up an opportunity for Carly and Freddie to talk about the situation instead of letting the gods/invisible sitcom writers continue to exploit it for dopey laughs. And so they do. But more crucially, Millicent doesn’t get to be maid of honor – no, she gets to officiate the wedding, and is over the moooooooon about it. Hooray for her.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Lots of wow-they’re-adults-now vibes here, a la Fuller House.
Our Take: The new iCarly seems less like a comedy where actors kindle their comic chemistry to inspire laughs, and more like the end result of a process where demographics-obsessed writers take network notes and try to generate a series that crams tween frivolity and jokes about “adulting” into a blender. The result is a somewhat lumpy sitcom smoothie that goes from dopey slapstick (a lengthy visual gag involving aerial silking) to tossed-off social commentary (a line about Spencer being the reality show’s typical “unqualified white male host”) with slight unease.
To quantify its content, I’d estimate the adult-to-tween joke ratio is roughly 48/52 – the emphasis here is more on lightly immature unspoken/unrequited/confusional romantic feelings than on, say, Carly’s potentially troublesome employment status. Cosgrove’s performance is broad and silly at heart, but also seems rooted in an unspoken anxiety stemming from the uncertainty of both her romantic and professional situations. That’s about where it ends, though, because this is a sitcom, and a glossy one aiming for as wide an audience as possible. It’s not going to be about the hard work that comes with working through Carly’s issues, and more about the low-hanging-fruit comedy that spina out of the scenario, ranging from light satire of trashy reality TV to one-liners about how Canada has superior health care. It doesn’t quite work consistently, but Cosgrove – who unsurprisingly has a natural rapport with Kress after all these years – maintains the series’ appeal for a large enough devoted fanbase, which should keep iCarly 2.0 afloat for a while.
Sex and Skin: None, but par for the iCarly “adulting” reboot course, there’s a joke about how the stalk of wheat emoji designates impotence.
Parting Shot: Carly and Spencer watch the sizzle reel for her reality show. “Every network passed,” she quips. “That makes sense,” he replies.
Sleeper Star: Triplett is set up as the series’ designated scene thief/comedic secondary plot anchor, but I’m not sure the writers are always setting her up to succeed in that role.
Most Pilot-y Line: This exchange between Carly and Freddie seems to outline the upcoming season’s recurring thread:
Carly: Maybe we don’t need to talk. Maybe we could go back to being just Freddie and Carly. So I…
Freddie: Created a whole-ass reality show just to avoid talking to me?
Carly: Just as any normal person would.
Our Call: Despite its overtures intended for an older audience, I’m not sure this current iteration of iCarly is doing much more than stoking nostalgia for longtime fans. They’ll likely continue to STREAM IT to find out if/when Carly and Freddie finally do whatever it is that former-teens/now-adults in sitcoms do to consummate a relationship, because that’s the series’ juiciest element. As for the rest of us? Well, there’s so much streaming “content” out there now, an iCarly reboot probably isn’t even a blip on the radar.
John Serba is a freelance writer and film critic based in Grand Rapids, Michigan.