I grew up loving The Disney Channel. The first time I saw it, I was of course a little girl, so there were plenty of good shows to see in the early part of the day.
And for a time, there were set times during the day that were set aside for small children, older children, families, and just the adults. But the prime time was in the afternoon to early evening, when most of the kids would be watching.
What I Like(d) about the Disney Channel
If you ask a 90’s kid about The Disney Channel, they might be able to tell you about some of the things that were on during the decade. One popular show on The Disney Channel was The Mickey Mouse Club. The show started way back in the 1950’s when Annette Funicello was developing into a star in her youth. It would be updated in the late 1980’s as The New Mickey Mouse Club and launch the careers of stars like Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, JC Chasez, Keri Russell, and Ryan Gosling, just to name a few.
Kids from the 1980’s can tell you about Kids Incorporated. While not as many stars were featured on that show, there were a few people on the show you might recognize: Jennifer Love Hewett and Fergie.
Come to think about it, The Disney Channel has been very musical. Either shows like these aired or they would occasionally introduce musical numbers in their other shows. I guess it stays true to The Walt Disney Co.’s reputation, one that was built with its cartoon shorts and animated films.
You can see it in past shows, like Lizzie Maguire, That’s So Raven, and Hannah Montana. Even shows like Even Stevens had musical episodes. (But if you ask me, that trend in the early part of this century signified that some shows were finally running out of ideas.) And of course, Stir It Up
There is musicality in the cartoons that have been featured on The Disney Channel since the turn of the century. From Kim Possible, to The Proud Family, to Phineas and Ferb, one would find musical numbers in select episodes. And some of these shows would feature a voice actor with a singing career or theme music sung be a young, developing artist.
Also, those shows were loved by kids and teenagers because they were simple and quirky. On top of that, comedies are so easy to consume and can lift one’s spirits. Not all jokes hit, but they didn’t have to. The characters were often relatable or impressionable enough to be immediately loved, too.
Additionally, The Disney Channel featured some fairly decent concert footage and original movies. People remember “High School Musical” and its sequels, but there were some decent live-action movies before then, too.
Finally, Disney shows generally have a good message. One theme was acceptance. I would like to point out an episode of Good Luck, Charlie in which there was a same-sex couple. Overall, I liked that show because of the actors and the sibling relationships. Currently, we have the sequel to Boy Meets World. In some ways, Girl Meets World picked off where its predecessor left off, but the writing fits this current cast better, imo.
What I Don’t Like about the Disney Channel Today
In short, I don’t like a few basic things: The shift in audience, the current lineup of shows, the other Disney Channel networks, and the over-reliance on musicality.
The Current Focus on Teens
Really, the focus on teens isn’t really new. This pretty much began in the 1990’s, as those concerts and movies I mentioned above took off and featured artists who still have an impact in entertainment.
Still, you can see that The Disney Channel is pretty much in direct competition with Nickelodeon. I think that has partially impacted that shift. I would say that and the all-important marketing demographic.
This is has led to the current lineup of shows on the network proper and the others. While you might see an old show current adults may remember and still love as well as shows for the young children, this is far and few between. Teen shows dominate the lineup on Disney Channel networks and well into the night and early morning, which has led to network decay on Toon Disney in particular.
The problem is that such a focus really dilutes the programming. There are so many simple comedies and TV movies that can be written and shown at one time, so a number of them won’t be any good. Dog with a Blog, anyone?
There are also noticeable drop-offs with shows that run past a certain number of episodes and even from newer show to newer show. And you know the laughter from the kids in the audience is unnatural and forced.
Quite frankly, I’ve never watched it, but I don’t like its existence. Why? By existing, it serves as a way to take away shows that could be shown on The Disney Channel Proper or other networks entirely.
Case in point: Gravity Falls. I saw the first few episodes and immediately fell in love. However, it was moved to Disney_XD (thank you WordPress for the smilie 😄 ) for most of its run. While those who were inclined could find it online, not everyone could. It’s much like the issues some people had with The Legend of Korra, except Disney doesn’t really show as many episodes online. There may be a featured show of the week, but that’s just one episode.
Disney_XD also featured episodes of Naruto Shippuden. However, things like blood were edited out. While this isn’t as bad of Germany’s Bowdlerization, what’s the point of carrying that program in the first place?
Musicality up the Ying Yang
Yeah, there’s a limit and it’s also on the teen shows featured on the networks. I will once again mention the concerts Disney used to feature. There was also Radio Disney, which appealed to teenagers, as well. Songs from up and coming pop stars would be played on Sundays. While some of the artists may have even started out on The Disney Channel (like Justin Timbelake from *NSYNC and Britney Spears), more stars got their start through other means.
Disney wants to make more its own stars, so you will even see actors from comedies making singles and albums despite having no musical background or leanings initially. The problem is not everyone can sing, so there will be a lot of crap being put out by Disney alone.
That won’t stop Disney from trying, though. And in some cases, they just create shows in order to promote new singers. Take Austin and Ally, for example.
And the some of those stars will be seen on other networks own by Disney, which includes ABC and ESPN. It’s as if Disney wants to squeeze every last penny from its stars. And that is where the dark side of Disney begins.
Next episode, I will talk about recycled plots and copycats.