Saturday, October 13, 2007

Disney Channel's Newest Original Series is Anything But

For its newest series, Wizards of Waverly Place, Disney uses its tried-and-true recipe. Familar faces from other Disney Channel shows/movies. Check. A fashionable and spunky heroine with a secret. Check. Annoying brother. Check. Check. Mean girl. Check. Dorky best friend. Check. The formula worked well in the past, but this show could have used a bit more originality to give kids a reason to watch when they could be watching Hannah Montana or Harry Potter.

Wizards of Waverly Place premiered last night at 9:30 p.m., although from now on it will air Fridays at 8:30 p.m. Alex (Selena Gomez), her older brother Justin (David Henrie), and her younger brother Max (Jake T. Austin) are three wizards in training. Before you think Hogwarts, this show is more Sabrina the Teenage Witch than Harry Potter. By day, they keep their magic a secret and attend school in New York City and by night (well, more like afternoon), their father (David DeLuise) teaches them wizardry.

In the first episode, Alex duplicates herself so she can attend a crazy 10 minute sale and not have to miss wizard class. Disney Channel has been running promos featuring this episode's major plot points all month long, which only added to the "Haven't I seen this before?" feeling. The funniest moments took place in the form of pop culture references. The sale took place at Suburban Outfitters, Max got his first wand, an eWand which doubles as an MP3 player, and the duplication spell sounds like "Edge Bono U2 sus".

If anything, this episode just leaves the viewer with questions. Are there other wizards in New York City? Why does the dad ask Alex to duplicate him at the end? Isn't he a wizard too? Is the mom a wizard? The terms for the show are not really set, although a visit to the Disney Channel website does answer some of these questions. The children are training for their wizard test, which will determine which one will keep his/her powers. There can only be one wizard per family. Their father already lost his powers to his brother, which explains why he cannot do magic himself.

As far as acting goes, it's pretty par for the course for a Disney series. Henrie is likeable as the teacher's pet older brother, but Austin has definitely not improved in the acting department since "Johnny Kapahala Back on Board." Gomez seems to be trying too hard to be the next Disney Channel starlet. Of course, I'm not the show's target audience and tweens will no doubt enjoy the crazy antics without too much questioning.

There is still time for Wizards of Waverly Place to improve. This was only the first episode. Maybe the next few won't feel so much like an edgebonoutoosus spell gone wrong.