If you’re among the many fans who were heartbroken at the news that iCarly was ending, you’re first break from grieving hits Nick at Nite tomorrow at 8/7c (your second comes at a future date when Jennette McCurdy and Ariana Grande move to the dual spin-off Sam and Cat).
Hitting the absolute center of the blurry line between Nick and Nick at Nite, Wendell & Vinnie is (in some official, technical sense) reportedly an airing of Nick at Nite, celebrated on the homepage of nickatnite.com, but when you click through to the show’s homepage, you find yourself at nick.com/shows/wendell-and-vinnie.
There’s a certain sense to that, not just because of the timeslot, but because the show itself (insofar as original programming goes) does make it somewhat tricky to point to exactly where Nick at Nite begins and Nick ends. This probably makes even more sense once the show’s pilot has been taken in, because the iCarly similarities are legion, but not necessarily in a bad way.
Jerry Trainor plays Vinnie, and describing his character is almost impossible to manage without referencing iCarly. He plays virtually the same character, in virtually the same situation. The owner of a pop culture memorabilia store, Vinnie is a guy who never grew up. He suddenly becomes the guardian to his nephew, and the obvious question becomes, “Is he really fit to raise a kid, when he seems like one himself?”
This time around, our scenario is more of an odd couple effort, as Wendell (Buddy Handleson), the nephew in question, is wise beyond his years, and has little interest in usual joys of childhood. Preferring scrap-booking and political analysis to sports and toys, Wendell is the first to tell Vinnie to turn down his video games.
The pair have a strong bond, but their inability to see eye-to-eye on virtually any subject drives the majority of story lines. The pilot, which establishes the show better than most, kicks off roughly at that point in iCarly when our dynamic duo might get separated. A trip to the hospital means child services is going to look into things, and Vinnie’s sister, Wilma (Nicole Sullivan), already thinks she should be Wendell’s guardian.
It’s an easy, light-hearted tension between Vinnie and Wilma, who are clearly good friends, but at the end of the day, she’s on the side of Vinnie being too immature himself. It’s actually a refreshing relationship to see on screen, because you don’t run into it often. Wilma, whose main character trait we’ve established thus far is that she has relationship trouble, is quite serious about her desire to be the one raising Wendell, despite the fact that her other, now deceased, brother chose Vinnie, but it doesn’t really strain the relationship. As I said, this just isn’t what you get that often. You know, people having real dynamics in relationships, wherein they disagree strongly about things without it necessitating that one of them be evil.
The final piece to the puzzle is Vinnie and Wendell’s new neighbor, Taryn (Haley Strode). She just moved in, and isn’t into Vinnie, but before the pilot is over she’s helping him with the dinner for the child services visit.
The comedy is also decidedly similar to iCarly, and that’s more of a compliment than most probably know. Not that the show didn’t receive plenty of critical acclaim, and go on to become celebrated as one of Brent Spiner’s favorite shows -
My favorite show on television is iCarly. I’m not kidding.
— Brent Spiner (@BrentSpiner) January 17, 2009
- but, most people probably still view it through a “kid’s show” lens, and it deserved far more appreciation than that. With some of the best writing on television (Mr. Spiner will back me up on that), and an almost furious devotion to the idea that young adults are actually far smarter than you believe, the show packed more humor and entertainment into each episode than virtually all “adult” competitors.
That said, the show doesn’t quite have the punch of iCarly, at least, not yet. That seems to be a result of not knowing exactly where it’s trying to insinuate itself at this point, with elements aimed at two audiences struggling against each other. It may also be a result of the fact that Buddy Handleson doesn’t seem to pull his weight to this point, with much of the better dialog going to Trainor and Sullivan (there’s a certain King of Queens-ness to the thing, come to think of it). That shouldn’t be viewed too negatively though, because I suspect he has the potential to grow into things, and given that the writing really is quite good, and that we have high expectations since we can’t get iCarly off our minds, he has big shoes to fill.
Overall, this is definitely one to check out. I can only rate it so high right now, but if it really gets its feet under it and manages to stabilize quickly beyond the pilot, this one could easily turn into something great.
Below check out a few clips, and the show’s press release info.
After five successful seasons on the groundbreaking series iCarly, Jerry Trainor steps into his first starring and producing role on Nickelodeon’s brand-new live-action family comedy, Wendell & Vinnie, premiering Sunday, Feb. 17, at 8p.m. (ET/PT). A multi-camera scripted half-hour, the series follows 30-year-old Vinnie Bassett (Trainor) living the life of a carefree bachelor, when he suddenly becomes the legal guardian of his precocious, wise-beyond-his-years nephew, Wendell (Buddy Handleson, Shake It Up) forming a hysterical odd-couple family dynamic. Nicole Sullivan (Rita Rocks, MadTV) also stars as Vinnie’s older unlucky-in-love sister, Wilma, with Haley Strode (Gangster Squad) as Vinnie’s newly divorced neighbor and love interest, Taryn. The series will air regularly on Sundays at 8p.m. (ET/PT) followed by the Scott Baio original comedy, See Dad Run at 8:30p.m.
“Jerry’s infectious style of wacky comedy made him a favorite with kids and families over the past five years on iCarly, and this new family series from the Emmy award-winning sitcom veteran Jay Kogen will showcase his incredible comedic talents to an even broader audience,” said Russell Hicks, Nickelodeon’s President of Content Development and Production. “We look forward to the smart humor that develops from this collaboration.”
Wendell & Vinnie follows Vinnie Bassett, proprietor of a pop culture memorabilia store who only takes breaks to read comic books and play video games. His bachelor life comes to a halt when he assumes guardianship of his incredibly intelligent and mature nephew, Wendell. They soon find that 12-year-old Wendell may be just the parent Vinnie needs. This season will find lighthearted Vinnie helping socially awkward Wendell – and vice versa – including Vinnie navigating through PTA politics to help Wendell build a school garden, a sleepover that goes awry when Vinnie becomes the center of attention and Wendell sent to detention after he helps Vinnie get closer to his vice principal. Wendell & Vinnie will also feature special guest appearances by Dan Castellaneta (The Simpsons), Robin Givens (House of Payne) and Willie Garson (Sex and the City).
In support of the Feb. 17 premiere, Nickelodeon.com has launched its Wendell & Vinnie show site, which includes trailers, character information, sneak peek photo galleries and message boards as well as a “Are You A Wendell or a Vinnie?” quiz. Full episodes will also be made available after each premiere. Beginning Feb. 18, Wendell & Vinnie episodes will be available for purchase on iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Xbox Video, Vudu, PlayStation Store and Samsung Media Hub.
Star and producer Jerry Trainor is best known for his role as Spencer, the off-centered aspiring artist and brother/guardian of his teenage sister Carly on Nickelodeon’s mega-hit television series iCarly. Trainor also currently stars in the hit Nickelodeon animated comedy series T.U.F.F. Puppy as the voice of Dudley Puppy. Additionally, he starred alongside his iCarly co-star Jennette McCurdy in the 2010 Nickelodeon original television movie Best Player. After moving to Los Angeles, Trainor landed a three-episode arc on MTV’s Undressed and has also appeared in the feature film Donnie Darko starring Jake Gyllenhaal before going on to guest-star in episodes of Malcolm in the Middle, ER and Angel. He also played a recurring character asan audio-visual geek in Crossing Jordan before winning the career catalyst role of erratic usher Crazy Steve in Drake & Josh.
The series is executive produced by Emmy Award-winning Jay Kogen and Aaron Kaplan. A seasoned TV comedy writer/producer, Kogen, along with friend Wallace Wolodarsky, started writing as a team on the critically acclaimed The Tracey Ullman Show where, in four seasons, they rose to producers, received three Emmy nominations and garnered an Emmy Award. Soon after, the two helped launch The Simpsons, where they became supervising producers and worked on the show for the first five seasons, helping to create and develop many of the regular characters including Mr. Burns, Smithers, Otto, Mrs. Krabappel and Krusty. Kogen also wrote and co-executive produced Frasier, winning two more Emmy Awards and a Humanitas Award. Since then, he has spent the last few decades writing, producing and directing shows such as Malcolm in the Middle, Everybody Loves Raymond, The George Lopez Show, Wanda At Large, The Class and Nickelodeon’s The Troop. Most recently, Kogen was co-executive producer of Happily Divorced for TV Land.