Netflix's The Baby-Sitters Club is feel-good fun: Review
"You try and make the world better your way and I'll do mine — and we'll still be best friends, okay?" This avowal from Dawn (Xochitl Gomez), an activist and one-fifth of a small-business enterprise called the Baby-Sitters Club, sums up the appeal of Netflix's heartwarming new kids' series. Based on Ann M. Martin's beloved book series about a group of friends in Stoneybrook, Conn., this latest adaptation brings The Baby-Sitters Club into the modern era without sacrificing the wholesome ideals at its core.
The premiere lays out the BSC's origin story, which hasn't changed from the books: Pragmatic and pushy middle-schooler Kristy Thomas (Sophie Grace) forms the club after her mom (Alicia Silverstone) can't find a sitter for her little brother David Michael (Benjamin Goas). Kristy recruits four of her friends — artistic candy addict Claudia (Momona Tamada), industrious Mary Anne (Malia Baker), Manhattan expat Stacey (Shay Rudolph), and Dawn — and after purchasing an "olden-times phone" (a.k.a. a landline) on Etsy, the club is in business.
The season 1 action will feel comfortably familiar to hardcore fans, as almost all of the first 10 episodes are based on the early books. The gang's adventures range from classic babysitter tropes ("Claudia and the Phantom Caller") to relatable tween drama about crushes and family frictions ("Boy-Crazy Stacey," "Claudia and Mean Janine"). Unlike the overly earnest 1990 HBO series and 1995 movie, this take on The Baby-Sitters Club — adapted for television by Rachel Shukert (GLOW, Supergirl) — actually allows the girls to have personalities. The young cast brings a non-cloying spunk to their performances — Tamada and Grace are standouts — and Gomez delivers Dawn's social-justice-themed dialogue with heartfelt frankness.
BSC (premiering July 3) offers some nods to older viewers, sprinkling in grown-up pop culture references (Did Alicia Silverstone just make a Handmaid's Tale joke? Why yes, she did!) and filling the mom and dad slots with parent-friendly actors. Royal Pains' charming nerdthrob Mark Feuerstein costars as Kristy's overeager soon-to-be stepdad, Watson Brewer, and The Good Place's Marc Evan Jackson is a dry delight as Mary Anne's fastidious, overprotective dad, Mr. Spier.
But Netflix's Baby-Sitters Club skews unabashedly young: Kids play Uno and tell each other corny-cute jokes ("Did you hear about the hungry clock? It went back for seconds!"), and all the puppy love is peck-on-the-cheek chaste. That isn't to say adults won't find the show enjoyable, especially since it portrays a Platonic ideal of modern childhood. Stoneybrook is a gentle world where kids aren't exposed to drugs or insta-nudes or cyberbullying, where girls of all backgrounds are encouraged to know their worth and taught to use their voices from a young age. If HBO's sex-soaked Euphoria depicted every parent's worst nightmare, consider BSC a sweet slice of TV heaven. B