Reminiscent of the old “TGIF” comedies, “True Jackson, VP” is a slight premise built around a beguiling young talent — the one-girl charm-offensive known as Keke Palmer. Just as Disney Channel has made hay with girls and tweens, this broadly pitched, undemanding but sprightly series should burnish Palmer’s credentials as a budding star and reward Nickelodeon with a loyal audience to twin with its “iCarly” franchise. Although cast in a modern setting, think of it as a live-action fable — one about an underdog princess, good-hearted CEO and a few wicked stepworkers.
Series creator Andy Gordon dispatches with the setup in a matter of moments. Fifteen-year-old True (Palmer) has a chance encounter with Max (Greg Proops), the head of a major fashion label. Blessed with a Willy Wonka-like innocence, Max impulsively decides he needs a fresh set of eyes to oversee his youth apparel line, hiring the teenager as his new vice president.
The hire is a major source of irritation to fellow employee Amanda (Danielle Bisutti), who sneeringly does all she can to knock the glass slipper off this corporate Cinderella. It’s also a major cause of amusement for True’s friends Lulu (Ashley Argota) and Ryan (Matthew Shively), who do all they can to help her but can’t get over the fact, like, that she has her own assistant. “You’re her boss?” Lulu giggles, before turning to True’s subordinate and gasping, “But you’re so old!”
Pitched as they are at a prepubescent demographic, none of the jokes are exactly groundbreaking — indeed, True spends a little too much time falling down and stumbling into things. Still, there are some better-than-expected interludes — such as True’s epiphany about the similarities between a workplace and high school — and Palmer is so innately likable as to essentially power the show through its rough patches.
For those who admired Palmer’s showcased performances in “Akeelah and the Bee” and before that TNT’s “The Wool Cap,” this role (which includes co-writing and singing the show’s theme song) appears poised to graduate the actress into a slightly more grown-up phase. So credit Nickelodeon with recognizing that potential and cashing in, even if “True Jackson, VP” figures to be mostly notable in hindsight for its VIP casting — a stepping-stone on Palmer’s climb up the showbiz ladder.