The monomonikered Raven, star of Disney Channel’s latest original series for teens, doesn’t need her own cartoon counterpart like “Lizzie McGuire.” Raven, formerly Raven-Symone of “The Cosby Show,” is animated enough as it is.
In the farcical “That’s so Raven,” the diva in training stars as a 15-year-old psychic who handles the knowledge of the future with the sophistication and grace of Lucy Ricardo. If there’s a way to solve a problem sensibly, Raven heads straight for silly and turns left at outrageous. And as far as slapstick physical comedy goes, Raven the actress is up to the task.
The laughs are geared to a less than sophisticated audience; for younger viewers, it’s a nice escape that’s devoid of innuendo and harsh reality.
Helping the show considerably is a cast consisting of T’Keyah Crystal Keymah of “In Living Color” and comedian Rondell Sheridan as Tonya and Victor Baxter, Raven’s put-upon parents. Keymah and Sheridan deftly toe the line between fun and functional — they’re wacky and they still come off as respected.
Tonya and Victor’s parenting skills are often put to the test with, alongside Raven, the precocious 10-year-old Cory (Kyle Orlando Massey). And whether her best intentions are trying not to ruin her brother’s birthday party or keeping her friends Eddie (Orlando Brown) and Chelsea (Anneliese van der Pol) out of trouble, they usually go awry.
For the most part, this is all rather harmless. Unfortunately the premiere features a bit where Raven tries to fool a teacher by dressing up as a parent, and the result is an uncomfortable and slightly offensive sight gag that just doesn’t fly.
For the most part, writers Bob and Doug Keyes display sharp instincts for making teens laugh without relying on the usual arsenal of bathroom jokes and gross-out gags. But because it’s Disney, there’s always the requisite aw shucks moment when the lesson of the day is quickly condensed at the end and played out in a forced, heartfelt moment.