That's what the show should be renamed. Seriously, this show sucks. Occasionally bits of Dan Schneider's quirky, classic humor sneak in, but not enough to make it a good show. Here are my main issues with it:
1. The Characters
Tori is a super-talented girl who gets everything she wants and gets really pouty when she doesn't. Most of the plots that center around her are basically about her wanting something or getting some opportunity that she either blows off or ruins, or whining because other people aren't giving her exactly what she wants. That's her in a nutshell.
Cat is dumb. That's all. She's kinda sweet, but mostly she's just dumb. She lives in her own world and does nothing but talk in that high voice and make completely irrelevant comments about everything because I guess she's incapable of picking up on conversational cues.
Jade is derisive, sarcastic, and abusive to everyone. Everyone. Supposedly Cat is her best friend. If my best friend held her hand over my mouth while I struggled and screamed and then pretended to be me over the phone I would probably punch her in the stomach and report her to the police. She is unnecessarily cold to everyone and extremely territorial and jealous when it comes to Beck.
Beck is all right, I guess. He doesn't do much. He's handsome and I guess that's his thing. He's kind of nice. He's not a bad guy. But he doesn't have much going for him. I'm not even sure what he does.
Robbie is--well, interesting. He has his weird puppet named Rex whom he is apparently convinced is alive and real. No seriously, Tori tries to break him of his unhealthy habit by "injuring" Rex and staging his death, and then she gets all disturbed by how freakishly distraught he is and restores the puppet to life. He's not all bad, though. He's weird, his sense of humor doesn't make sense. But he's not a jerk, at least.
Trina is intolerable and everybody hates her because she can't sing. She does disgusting things like blow her nose in Tori's underwear and dip her face in mayo. She's incredibly shallow and materialistic. Like a more obnoxious, in-your-face version of her sister. I'm not sure why she's in that school. I think it was mentioned in an episode but I forgot. Oh well.
Andre is cool. He's like a really talented composer and I feel like he deserves better. I mean, people completely use him to write songs for them and stuff and then barely acknowledge him for it. He hardly ever gets the spotlight.
Sikowitz isn't a major character but I'll review him anyway because I actually like him. He's honest and blunt. He regularly points out how selfish and materialistic the kids are and is totally straightforward with them about their flaws. He doesn't sugar-coat anything. I love this guy.
And that's it, I think. I don't know, I just feel like the characters are completely one-dimensional. They have a few core traits that they never deviate from. They don't grow. In the beginning of the series there was this uncertain stage where the writers didn't seem to know what they were doing. Then they gave the characters some solid traits and stuck with them for the entire rest of the series. They're all just cardboard cut-outs.
2. The Lack of Realism
The whole premise of the show is unrealistic. Performing Arts schools aren't like this. Because kids in Performing Arts schools actually GO TO CLASS. Seriously, these kids are outside of class for like 90% of the show. They have one class with Sikowitz every day and then they roam around and do their own things.
I feel like the characters' talents are generally overstated. The kids get invited to do all kinds of things that just wouldn't happen in real life, like singing at big music award shows and signing record deals and starring in movies and crap. I mean, that's not to say kids never get these jobs, but it just happens way too often, and it's never a realistic depiction of how show business works. People don't just show up at your school one day and give you some fantastic opportunity. They find qualified adults for the positions and rarely ever consider kids unless they happen to have their own talent agents and happen to be extremely good. Even when kids do get involved in show business and music, it's nothing like this. The real thing is a lot of work, and it's sort of insulting to real performers and musicians how the show depicts everything they do as being totally effortless.
I get that it's supposed to be a kid's show, and it's not about being realistic or normal. But what's so wrong about a normal performing arts high school where kids actually learn how to hone their skills and develop into artists? There's so many Hollywood fantasy shows where everyone's talented and has automatic autotune and doesn't need to improve their skills at all. It teaches kids that they can just get whatever they want on raw talent alone, and that it's all about fame. That's not what the performing arts is about, though.
3. The Immature and Offensive Humor
There's a lot of humor in this show that's frankly offensive. Mainly cultural things. The kids get invited to perform in some foreign country that's in the middle of a civil war. Some ladies try to steal Beck's hair to sell it, and Andre gets bitten by some kind of poisonous bug and treated by a child doctor, and they can hear bombs going off from inside their hotel, and they end up getting locked in a prison with people who have horribly cheesy accents because Tori knocked out the chancellor's eye with a shoe and then they somehow killed his precious pet octopus/squid thing. I mean, what is this supposed to be? Is this what Dan Schneider thinks the rest of the world is like? Dirty, incompetent people with completely senseless cultural traditions?
There's also this sushi restaurant and the owners are a stereotypical angry Japanese woman with a bad accent and a sumo wrestler-looking guy who just kind of hangs around. When Tori forgets money to pay for their sushi the owner makes her pay by helping them prepare sushi, all the while singing a song about chopping squid and disappointing your parents. I mean, seriously? Could this be anymore blatantly racist? And it's not even funny racist like in a satirical way. It's just--painful.
There's a lot more. There's one episode that makes fun of narcoleptics by stereotyping them as dumb people who just randomly pass out on the spot everywhere. And I can't think of anymore examples. But yeah, it's bad. I mean, even Dan's other shows had elements of this, but never as bad as it is in this show.
4. The Materialism
I've already kind of touched up on this in the section about realism, but I'll go into more depth. There is so much materialism in this show. These kids are so freaking spoiled. They have fancy "pear phones," they have unlimited access to amazing recording studio technology, they all wear fancy designer clothes. It's pretty ridiculous. And it wouldn't be so bad if the kids didn't feel totally entitled to all of this. There's one episode where Trina decides to be a total brat to her sister because she wrote a song for her birthday but she wanted something like money or shoes or whatever. There's an episode about the kids getting new phones. There's an episode about the kids having major withdrawals because Sikowitz challenges them to go a week without their phones. There's an episode where the kids obsessively buy ice cream so they can participate in a sweepstakes to get Kesha to perform at a party for them (and of course they win). There's an episode where the kids get paid a ton of money to perform for a rich kid's birthday but apparently this is a horrible thing because it goes viral and people want them to do it more and it ruins their reputation and stuff, because getting recognized in Hollywood is the worst thing ever.
I just can't stand this show. It's an unhealthy, grandiose twelve year-old girl's fantasy about what it would be like to go to a performing arts high school. The characters are shallow, the plots revolve around petty relationship issues or nonsensical problems. I just don't understand why it's so hard to incorporate some real-life situations into the show. What's so wrong about giving the kids relatable problems or even *gasp* more than one side to their personalities? Occasionally characters show subtle bits of development. Jade manages to show empathy for Tori a few times. Robbie laments about being totally friend-zoned by oblivious Cat. It's not 100% flat. But almost. Dan Schneider used to be much better but he's just lost his touch. I'm disappointed that this is what kids are watching now. They deserve better.