Disney has found another budding teen star in Bridgit Mendler, who’s easily the best thing about the sprightly new sitcom “Good Luck Charlie,” a surprisingly refreshing throwback to ABC’s “TGIF”-style sitcoms of old. Using a well-worn but clever device to frame the episodes — with Mendler’s Teddy taping a video diary for her new baby sister, essentially warning her about the rest of the family — it’s the kind of premise likely to resonate among the Disney Channel’s “tween” target audience without making their parents run screaming for the hills.
The addition of a baby has added to the turmoil around the Duncan household, what with bug-exterminator Bob (Eric Allan Kramer) and nurse Amy (Leigh-Allyn Baker) both working and already raising three older kids: the aforementioned Teddy, her slightly older brother PJ (Jason Dolley) and 10-year-old Gabe (Bradley Steven Perry), who resents having been dethroned as the youngest.
“You ruined my life,” he tells Charlie in the video diary, later raiding a neighbor’s kitchen after complaining that nobody has bothered to feed him.
Created by Phil Baker and Drew Vaupen, “Charlie” hardly pushes sitcom boundaries. The premiere, for example, finds Teddy trying to get some alone time with a cute boy during a study date, only to have the family experience some new mishap each time he begins edging closer to her on the couch.
Still, it’s all handled pleasantly enough, from Kramer’s read on the hoary stereotype of the over-his-head sitcom dad conspiring with the kids to hide his ineptitude from his spouse to the highly relatable feeling of kids being overlooked when new siblings arrive.
Tellingly, both Mendler and Dolley are homegrown talents (she on “Wizards of Waverly Place,” he on “Cory in the House”), reflecting the Disney Channel’s knack for identifying young performers and rolling them from one project to the next, in a fashion reminiscent of the old studio system. And while there’s nothing remotely new about “Good Luck Charlie,” given how smoothly the pilot (shrewdly scheduled to follow “High School Musical 3”) goes down, one suspects the channel has again contributed to its own good fortune.