×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Review: ‘Gortimer Gibbon’s Life On Normal Street’

With:
Sloane Morgan Siegel, Ashley Boettcher, Drew Justice, Robyn Lively

Despite an explosion of programming aimed at kids, there are relatively few live-action shows intended to appeal to the prepubescent set that won’t send parents fleeing from the room. So Amazon has scored another mini-coup with “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street,” a series ostensibly aimed at 6-to-11 year olds characterized by its child’s-eye-view and a whimsical perspective on those wonder years, which recalls movies such as “Stand by Me.” Services like Amazon and Netflix have pragmatically prioritized children as little platform-agnostic consumers, but in terms of kids’ TV, this sort of genuinely clever alternative is anything but normal.

Created by first-time writer/preschool teacher David Anaxagoras through Amazon’s open-door pilot submissions, and overseen by Luke Matheny, this live-action program certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel. It’s essentially just about an ordinary kid with a peculiar name (played by Sloane Morgan Siegel) who narrates his weekly adventures. Granted, those interludes are imbued with a vaguely mystical quality – or is that just the way its protagonist and his two pals, Mel (Ashley Boettcher) and Ranger (Drew Justice), see the world?

The best episode previewed is the first (all will be made available simultaneously), which features Fionnula Flanagan as an old blind woman with a secret who lives up the street. Throughout the episodes, the dialogue is smart and doesn’t talk down to kids, such as Gortimer’s rumination on an especially unlucky contemporary in the second half-hour: “What is luck? Is it random fortune, or fate?” he ponders.

Much of what’s likable about the series stems less from the particulars than from its general tone, and in that regard, Sasha Gordon’s lilting score strikes just the right notes. The producers have also done an exemplary job in casting the child actors, while Robyn Lively is the only adult with any real recurring presence as Gortimer’s mom, just slightly more significant than the parents in Charlie Brown.

Unlike so many children’s programs, which feel compelled to turn the adults into buffoons or infuse the kids with superpowers, “Gortimer” basically tweaks reality just enough to find magic in ordinary things. In that respect, it shares a well-established literary and cinematic tradition of romanticizing and exaggerating memories of childhood.

Again, streaming services have glommed on to kids for self-serving reasons, inasmuch as they’re the demographic least likely to differentiate between traditional channels and newer alternatives.

Yet whatever’s motivating their push into children’s originals, “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” is happily a cut above. And if Amazon can sustain that level of quality, hey, welcome to the neighborhood.

Popular on Variety

Review: 'Gortimer Gibbon's Life On Normal Street'

(Series; Amazon, Nov. 21)

Production: Produced by Picrow and Amazon Studios.

Crew: Executive producer, Luke Matheny; co-executive producers, David Anaxagoras, Laurie Parres; producer, Richard G. King; director, Matheny; writer, Anaxagoras; camera, Eduardo Mayen; production designer, Kristan Andrews; music, Sasha Gordon; casting, Alexis Frank Koczara, Christine Smith Shevchenko, Amanda Lenker Doyle. 30 MIN.

Cast: Sloane Morgan Siegel, Ashley Boettcher, Drew Justice, Robyn Lively

More Digital

  • Gabrielle Carteris

    SAG-AFTRA Urges Gavin Newsom to Sign Law Punishing 'Deep Fake' Videos

    SAG-AFTRA National Executive Director David White is urging Gov. Gavin Newsom to sign legislation that institutes penalties for nonconsensual digital sexually explicit videos, also known as “deep fakes.” The legislation, Assembly Bill 602, targets companies and individuals who create and distribute the videos in California without the consent of the individual being depicted. “We urge Gov. [...]

  • Facebook Portal logo

    Facebook Is Launching a Portal TV Device: Here’s What We Know

    Facebook is getting ready to launch a TV streaming device in time for the holiday season, Variety has been able to confirm with multiple sources familiar with the company’s plans. The new streaming hardware will be part of the company’s Portal family of devices, featuring a camera, and combining video chatting with TV viewing and [...]

  • MoviePass card

    MoviePass Shuts Down, With Parent Company Citing Failure to Raise Funds

    MoviePass, the long-struggling theater subscription service, finally appears to be down for the count. On Friday, MoviePass notified remaining subscribers that it would be shutting down the service effective Sept. 14, 2019, because “its efforts to recapitalize MoviePass have not been successful to date,” parent company Helios and Matheson Analytics announced. “The company is continuing [...]

  • Disney Plus - Full Lineup

    How to Browse the Disney Plus Catalog the Company Is Testing in the Netherlands

    Disney began testing its Disney Plus streaming service in the Netherlands this week. Consumers in the U.S. will have to wait until November 12 to get access to the service, but European streaming aggregator JustWatch already makes it possible to browse the catalog available during this beta test. JustWatch is one of a number of [...]

  • JoJo Siwa'The Angry Birds Movie 2'

    Nickelodeon Star JoJo Siwa Gets Her Own Dance-Tour Mobile Game (EXCLUSIVE)

    Fans of JoJo Siwa will be able to join the teen influencer’s dance squad on stage — virtually — in a new mobile game. In “JoJo Siwa — Live to Dance,” players will become part of the Nickelodon and YouTube star’s worldwide tour on her professional dance team and experience what it’s like to be [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content