August 28, 1992 at 04:00 AM EDT


TV Show
Current Status
In Season
Cartoons/Animation, Comedy

On TV, if not in life, Saturday night has long been all about cops, whining yuppies, and old women who live in Miami—in short, boring grown-ups. Now, recognizing that there’s a weekend TV audience that is too young to be out on the town and too old to be in bed by eight, cable’s Nickelodeon is attempting to go where no network has gone before: into the world of Saturday-night kid TV. Reasoning that just one show would not be enough to draw young viewers, Nickelodeon has put together an entire evening’s entertainment, SNICK (Saturday Night Nickelodeon, 8-10 p.m.), which this month began offering two hours of original prime-time programming just for kids. The lineup includes two established Nickelodeon hits-the sitcom Clarissa Explains It All and the outlandish cartoon The Ren & Stimpy Show—as well as Are You Afraid of the Dark?, a suspense anthology series aimed at older teenagers. Of all the SNICK offerings, the most ambitious and promising is Roundhouse, a new comedy-variety series for young teens. Taped before a studio audience at Nickelodeon Studios in Orlando, Fla., Roundhouse opens with all the fanfare of a Michael Jackson or Paula Abdul concert: The show’s 12 coolly clad cast members dance and sing their way on stage, amid roving searchlights, wafting dry ice, moving sets, and zooming cameras. The action quickly dissolves into a series of short comedy skits about family life, interspersed with more bouncy music-and-dance numbers. At its best, Roundhouse comes off like In Living Color for kids (one of the show’s creators, Buddy Sheffield, also worked as head writer on Color). The streetwise music and choreography are attention-grabbing, and the talented multiracial cast easily moves from one on-target parody to the next. On the first show, the sharp teen-oriented takeoffs featured faux commercials hawking the ”Stashmatic Adjust-able Bed,” for kids who need to clean up their rooms quickly, and the ad for ”The Sympathizer,” from Has-Been-Bro, which electronically showers teens with prerecorded attention when parents aren’t available. Not only will kids laugh at this stuff, they will surely identify with the put-upon-preteen attitude it projects. Before a song about family on the same episode, for example, the older brother was introduced as ”a psychopath who makes Freddy Krueger look like a Boy Scout.” And in a take-off of Dragnet, entitled ”Dadnet,” a tough, no-nonsense father grounded his son just for leaving the light on in the utility room. At times, however, Roundhouse is in danger of succumbing to all the naivete of those corny old Mickey Rooney-Judy Garland movies. The dance routines may be rap instead of tap, but the fresh-faced, peppy actors still seem to be trying a little too hard to sing and dance their way into our hearts. To a generation raised on hard-edged, high-tech MTV video effects, this stagebound format may seem curiously unsophisticated. Nonetheless, this variety show manages to have something for everyone, even parents: You’ll be reassured by the fact that buried underneath all the glitter and glibness, Roundhouse encourages kids to be more tolerant of their unjust, imperfect families. That message just might come in handy the next time you say no to rollerblading in the dining room. B

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