Grading Disney’s ”As the Bell Rings”
As the Bell Rings
Premieres Aug. 26 at 8:25 p.m. and 8:55 p.m.; Disney
I grew up watching shows with laugh tracks. From The Brady Bunch to The Cosby Show to Full House, I accepted that these pre-recorded yuks were there to help us understand what was funny — or at least what the networks wanted us to think was funny. So I don’t know why I’m always surprised that laugh tracks still exist in current children’s programming, as in Disney’s newest addition to its sitcom universe, As the Bell Rings. These harmless, if often barely humorous, shorts are based on Quelli dell’Intervallo, a series that airs on Disney Channel Italy. In 15 vignettes that take place in a school corridor, six highly telegenic friends (Tiffany, Danny, Charlotte, ToeJam, Brooke, and Skipper) interact in between classes, goofing around as they deal with all the requisite (but lighthearted) tween issues. It’s no Saved by the Bell, but there’s an eerie familiarity when watching these earnest young actors fall into their stereotypical roles (ditzy blond, brainy brunette, dorky slacker, etc.).
The show may work as a fun little diversion for your tweener, but as I watched two of the actors (Demi Lovatto as Charlotte, and Tony Oller as Danny) singing together as they practiced a song for a talent show, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was witnessing Disney cultivate a new crop of Next Big Things. B-
Recommended ages: 8 and up