Austin American-Statesman - - LIFE & STYLE - By Chuck Bar­ney

Tween TV ap­peals to more than just kids

WAL­NUT CREEK, Calif. — Like any good par­ent, Karen Moss mon­i­tors the con­tent of the tele­vi­sion pro­grams viewed by her 8-year-old daugh­ter, Sara. It’s a process that usu­ally plunges poor Mom into a black hole of bore­dom.

But then one day, the Brent­wood, Calif., res­i­dent sat down to watch an episode of Nick­elodeon’s tween se­ries, “iCarly.” Much to her sur­prise, she didn’t feel the urge to run scream­ing from the room.

Now, Moss is a loyal devo­tee of the show star­ring Mi­randa Cos­grove as a girl with her own we­b­cast. Even when Sara is off at a slum­ber party or oth­er­wise en­gaged, she’ll oc­ca­sion­ally check out “iCarly” on her own. And, yes, she’s not ashamed to ad­mit that her iPod con­tains a few episodes.

“It’s funny and smart, and safe with­out be­ing cheesy,” Moss says. “I re­ally en­joy it. Does that make me pa­thetic?”

Not if you put stock in the num­bers. Ac­cord­ing to Nielsen, “iCarly” is one of sev­eral cur­rent TV shows aimed at tweens (kids 8-13), but also watched by peo­ple who don’t wear braces or use Clear­asil. An “iCarly” spe­cial ear­lier this year (“iSaved Your Life”) drew a re­mark­able au­di­ence of 12.4 mil­lion, 2.7 mil­lion of whom were adults ages 18-49. Even “Glee” star Jane Lynch is a fan, giv­ing the show a re­cent shout-out while recit­ing her wed­ding vows.

This kind of “iCarly” love among grown-ups is not a news flash to cre­ator and ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Dan Schneider. He says he rou­tinely hears from “older teens, col­lege kids, par­ents and grand­par­ents” who en­joy the show and are “in­cred­u­lous” that they do. He in­sists they shouldn’t be.

“I’ve said from the start that I’m not go­ing to write kid­die sit­coms. I write what I like and just adapt (to the genre),” Schneider says. “So it’s in­ter­est­ing to me when adults watch our show and sud­denly find them­selves say­ing, ‘This doesn’t suck.’”

“iCarly” isn’t the only tween show mak­ing an im­pres­sion on adult view­ers and fill­ing a TV void of fam­ily pro­gram­ming. “Good Luck Char­lie,” a new Dis­ney Chan­nel sit­com about a fam­ily ad­just­ing to the un­ex­pected ar­rival of its fourth child, at­tracted more than 930,000 adults to its pre­miere episode in April.

Other tween shows that per­form rea­son­ably well among adults in­clude the an­i­mated “Phineas and Ferb,” “Han­nah Mon­tana” and “Wizards of Waverly Place” on the Dis­ney Chan­nel and “Vic­to­ri­ous” and “Big Time Rush” on Nick­elodeon.

Even Car­toon Net­work is get­ting in on the act. For the re­cent pre­miere of “Un­nat­u­ral His­tory,” more than one­fourth of the kids who tuned in watched the show with an adult — a sig­nif­i­cantly higher fig­ure than usual for the cable out­let.

“It’s kind of a new and re­fresh­ing trend,” says Dana Ewing, se­nior strate­gic plan­ner for the Gep­petto Group, a New York-based youth mar­ket­ing firm. “It’s a move back to the all-fam­ily type pro­gram­ming that the (broad­cast) net­works, for some rea­son, aban­doned. These kinds of shows come with themes that are re­lat­able and rel­e­vant to more than just the kids.”

Jose Car­los Fajardo

Karen Moss likes to watch ‘iCarly’ as much as her 8-year-old daugh­ter, Sara, does. ‘It’s funny and smart, and safe with­out be­ing cheesy,’ the Brent­wood, Calif., mom says.

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