Friday night, I got caught up on what has turned out to be my favorite new TV show of the year so far, and believe it or not, it’s something from…GASP…the Disney Channel!
By and large, I don’t consider myself a “Disney kid.” Oh sure, I’ve seen the majority of their animated films, but as far as their TV output (shows like Recess, Fillmore!, TaleSpin, Chip ‘n‘ Dale Rescue Rangers, etc.), I just haven’t seen that much of it. See, where most people only had ABC–and thus the Disney shows on it–for cartoons in the ’90s, I had cable, so I had Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon for entertainment. But the current animated output on Disney Channel has been, well, kind of great.
I mean, the legend-in-its-own-time Phineas & Ferb is a wonderful show in its own right and is a reminder that you, in fact, can make quality entertainment for both kids and adults. But the show I’d like to talk about is decidedly a bit more skewed. I speak of course of Gravity Falls.
(Credit: Know Your Meme)
Created by Alex Hirsch (former staff writer on The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack and Fish Hooks), the show revolves around 2 12-year old twins, Dipper & Mabel Pines (Jason Ritter & Kristen Schaal) who get shipped off for the summer to their great uncle–“Grunkle”–Stan (Hirsch) and the tourist trap he runs, the Mystery Shack, in Gravity Falls, Oregon. They quickly discover that the town is, well, basically a hybrid of Springfield and Twin Peaks. The townspeople are insanely weird and hilarious and the town itself has all sorts of weird secrets to hide. Gnomes, lake monsters, ghosts; this town has everything.
What makes this show stand out is that, even only 10 episodes in, it’s building an ongoing story. All the signs and monsters point to some sort of underlying sinister conspiracy, but each episode–one 22-minute story, rather than 2 11-minute episodes–still stands on its own. Mention must also be made of the many celebrities that have shown up so far, from Alfred Molina to Larry King (as an evil, wax Larry King), all of whom have turned in remarkably game, fun performances.
But the real stars of the show are Ritter & Schaal. Their chemistry together & their dual impeccable sense of comic timing makes these twins feel like real twins and is a huge part of what makes the show so fun to watch. Schaal in particular (who also rules on shows like Bob’s Burgers and 30 Rock) is particularly brilliant; she makes Mabel–who’s basically what would happen if you took Fry from Futurama and turned him into a zany 12-year old girl–not only uproariously funny but very easy to root for.
I know the Disney Channel has a bit of a garbage reputation these days and much of it is deserved. But this show is a true gem; go check it out.
Also, it must be said that it has the BEST theme song on TV right now.