×

TV Review: Disney Channel’s ‘Best Friends Whenever’

With:
Landry Bender, Lauren Taylor, Gus Kamp, Ricky Garcia, Benjamin Cole Royer, Matthew Lewis Royer, Madison Hu, Emery Kelly

Disney Channel brings an expected formula to its live-action comedies, down to the use of a big event, a la “Teen Beach 2,” to launch its latest, “Best Friends Whenever.” Still, the potential fun and (gasp) even educational value in the concept, about two mismatched pals who stumble onto the ability to time travel, is largely squandered on micro moments, like going back to that morning to see if they can fix a mistake. Success will depend mostly on how well the target audience sparks to the leads, but beyond that, the future looks more slim than grim.

The show focuses on Shelby (Lauren Taylor) and Cyd (Landry Bender, a product of the Disney farm system, having played a supporting role in “Crash and Bernstein”), with the latter forced to live with her friend because her parents are off on an archaeological dig for three years – conveniently, the average run of a Disney Channel comedy before the stars hit their expiration date. Although it’s Cyd who has been temporarily orphaned, Shelby’s parental units are absentees as well, with the goofball comedy coming from her twin brothers (Benjamin Cole Royer, Matthew Lewis Royer), who both harbor a slightly creepy crush on the new boarder.

Shelby spends the entire premiere obsessing over a dreamy boy (Emery Kelly), while Cyd just longs for something to eat. But the real hijinks don’t occur until they get accidentally hit by a laser beam courtesy of their brainiac friend Barry (Gus Kamp), which suddenly allows them to do the whole flashback and forward thing, though to little use.

As with all Disney Channel series, there’s a stock nerd, Marci (Madison Hu), with the potential to be the breakout Urkel type, eager to befriend the central duo. Yet as constructed by Jed Elinoff and Scott Thomas, “BFW” (not to be confused with NBC’s short-lived “Best Friends Forever”) appears more content to focus on the humdrum details of Shelby and Cyd’s frantic lives than, say, sending them back to meet Abraham Lincoln or ahead to a time of flying cars.

Instead, there’s a lot of squabbling between the leads, who remain bosom buddies even though their personalities are very different. This being the Disney Channel, that also requires some creative name-calling, with Cyd labeling Shelby “an uptight scrunch,” for which she later apologizes, while claiming it’s not really a word.

Although the channel clearly knows its intended audience, it’s still a trifle disappointing to see the time-travel possibilities dealt with in such a tired, haphazard way – servicing the title in as rudimentary a manner as possible. Then again, while complaining about a show calibrated to the tastes of preteens might be cathartic, belaboring the point just risks sounding like an uptight scrunch.

TV Review: Disney Channel's 'Best Friends Whenever'

(Series; Disney Channel, Fri. June 26, 9:53 p.m.)

Production: Produced by Diphthong Prods., Entertainment Force and It’s a Laugh Prods.

Crew: Executive Producers: Michael Kaplan, Jed Elinoff, Scott Thomas; producer, Julie Tsutsui; director, Shelley Jensen; writers, Elinoff, Thomas; camera, George Mooradian; production designer, Wendell Johnson; editor, Brady Heck; music, Eric Goldman, Ken Lofkoll; casting, Howard Meltzer. 22 MIN.

Cast: Landry Bender, Lauren Taylor, Gus Kamp, Ricky Garcia, Benjamin Cole Royer, Matthew Lewis Royer, Madison Hu, Emery Kelly

More TV

  • Matt Tolmach'Venom' film premiere, Arrivals, Los

    Amazon to Develop Human IPO Series With Matt Tolmach Producing

    Amazon is developing a series inspired by the true story of a man who sold shares of himself to investors, Variety has learned. In a competitive situation, Amazon has landed the project, titled “JNNA.” It is described as a half-hour comedy about the next big investment craze — humans. It is inspired by Mike Merrill, [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Projects More Than $1.2 Billion in Ad Sales for 2020 Olympics

    NBCUniversal projected it would sell more than $1.2 billion in advertising for its 17 days of broadcasts of the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo, citing the event as a rare opportunity for Madison Avenue to reach big audiences without the worry of politics getting in the way of a commercial message. The Olympics is “one of [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    'Surviving R. Kelly' Follow Up, Jeffrey Epstein Docuseries in the Works at Lifetime

    Lifetime is working on a follow up to the hit docuseries “Surviving R. Kelly” and a new docuseries about Jeffrey Epstein. Rob Sharenow, president of programming for A+E Networks, made the announcements at the Television Critics Association summer press tour on Tuesday. “The Aftermath” will be a four-part series featuring interviews with new survivors, psychologists, [...]

  • Janelle Monae

    Janelle Monáe to Star in 'Homecoming' Season 2 at Amazon

    Janelle Monáe has been tapped to star in the second season of “Homecoming.” Monáe’s character is described as a tenacious woman who finds herself floating in a canoe, with no memory of how she got there or who she is. Monáe takes over the top spot on the Amazon series from Julia Roberts, who starred [...]

  • Juan Alfonso Fazekas Butters

    Fazekas & Butters Taps Juan Alfonso to Be Head of Television

    Fazekas & Butters, a production company led by Michele Fazekas and Tara Butters, has named Juan Alfonso as the new head of television. There, he will develop and produce projects, and seek out and engage with writers, intellectual property and creative partners, “matchmaking talented people and ideas,” according to Alfonso. The pod, which launched in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content