“Zoey 101,” or more aptly “How to Try to Grow an American Idol,” is an elaborately devised proving ground for diva-in-training Jamie Lynn Spears. Nickelodeon sees stars in Spears’ future, and a predictable “Zoey” is her springboard.
Spears stars as the eponymous spunky 13-year-old, taking on life at an upscale, co-ed beachside boarding school, where X-boxes and mini-fridges grace every fabulously decorated dorm room. Forget about Hogwarts. This is what American teen fantasies are made of. The show Spears-heads a new night of live action for Nick, and already has a 13-episode commitment
It’s the first year Pacific Coast Academy has gone co-ed, and Zoey takes it upon herself to confront any lingering stereotypes by challenging the boys to a basketball game. And while crusading for empowerment may not be a new teen theme, transforming a boy’s urinal into a flowery water fountain definitely seems like a TV first.
Writer and creator Dan Schneider, who directed the young Spears in the sketch comedy “All That,” has the teen lingo and look down pat. Along with some clever dialogue and requisite physical pratfalls, Zoey follows a standard formula.
Nickelodeon, known to provide a little more edge to its shows, instead goes for an over-the-top take on reality. Sure, Schneider tries to imbue the show with deeper messages like learning to cope with messy roommates and how to survive on a scant weekly allowance. But it’s hard to focus on any subtext in a world virtually devoid of parents (and adults for that matter) amid a ridiculously affluent lifestyle. Instead of using Zoey’s character as a reality check in world straight out of Pottery BarnTeen, Schneider portrays all of this opulent materialism as the norm.
Still, Spears has the appeal to pull it off, and despite more than a few stilted performances, the show should be a hit. Sean Flynn, grandson of Errol, as Chase, the new best friend with a crush, is one of the few standouts.
Big sis Britney along with several others, penned the main title song “Follow Me,” while little sis, along with Emma Holmberg, provide the catchy vocals.