An odd hybrid of “Fame” and “Saved by the Bell,” “Taina” is proof that ethnic shows may be getting a bigger share of the programming pie, but not all of it is in the best of taste. Formulaic sitcom also shows that the cult of celebrity has now pervaded live action series aimed primarily at young adolescent girls.
“Taina,” which features a predominantly Latino cast, pales in comparison to Nickelodeon’s thoughtful and evocative ethnic series “The Brothers Garcia.” Although the show purports to be an ensemble comedy with an emphasis on family, it follows too many of the generic sitcom edicts, including cartoonish characters and an overzealous laugh track.
Christina Vidal, who won medium-sized fame at the tender age of 9 by beating out thousands for a costarring role with Michael J. Fox in “Life With Mikey” stars as 15-year-old Taina Morales, who recently relocated with her close-knit Puerto Rican family from the Bronx to Queens and is starting her first year at the Manhattan School of the Arts. Certain that the fame is in her future, Taina doesn’t lack self-confidence. In fact, her borderline obnoxious demeanor puts her at odds with classmates and teachers on the first day of school.
Taina’s best friend Renee (Khaliah Adams), who has hopes of becoming a comedian, offers support, if not the best academic advice. When Taina is assigned a report on Joan of Arc, Renee retorts with “Who cares about Joan of Arc? Now if it were Joan of Rivers, I could get with that.”
Writer Fracaswell Hyman tries to keep the dialogue fresh and young, but too often Taina’s school friends appear buffoonish, while meaningful family discourse is reduced to scatological humor. .
Similarly, director Carl Lauten follows fairly conventional guidelines for storytelling. Lauten does manage to incorporate some snappy production numbers into the show, including a fun fantasy dance number and a catchy impromptu musical sequence in the halls of the school.
The show and Vidal aren’t without their charms, and the ensemble cast represented here, including musical star Lisa Lisa as Taina’s mom, clearly has more talent than the usual spate of teen shows. But like any burgeoning talent, the potential has to be properly cultivated.
Technical credits, including original music by Chuck Giscombe and crisp editing by Rick Fernandes and Mark Rickles are polished.