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.”
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.