If you’re like me and you wind up watching the same television programs as your children, then you know that most programming falls into two categories: Shows aimed at kids but filled with some adult (but not naughty) humor to elicit laughs from moms and dads, and shows that make you want to crawl away from the television to make the pain go away. Two examples of these categories are the latest Disney Channel hits, Phineas and Ferb and Wizards of Waverly Place. Both series have new DVD collections that put together several episodes from their respective shows.
Phineas and Ferb is a delightful animated series about two genius brothers who are always coming up with outrageous ideas (a circus in the backyard, a portal to Mars, you know, stuff that only works in cartoons) that rile their older sister, Candice. Each 11-minute episode is rife with vivid colors, snappy dialogue, and there is generally a musical number. Additionally there is always a subplot involving the boys’ pet platypus, Perry, who is a secret agent assigned in foiling the plots of a mad scientist named Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Phineas and Ferb is innocent and goofy stuff made by artists who seem to enjoy doing their job. On DVD the artwork of the show is much crisper and the sound is much better, plus you won’t have those annoying pop-ups that happen randomly throughout the show announcing what is coming up next on the Disney Channel.
This DVD collection, The Daze of Summer, contains ten 11-minute episodes, including the two-part story “Unfair Science/Unfair Science Redux,” about a science fair in which the boys build a portal to Mars and Candice get transported to the red planet and becomes queen for a day. This episode in particular is very clever in that part one tells a complete story, then part two tells the same story from a different point of view. My kids especially like “It’s A Mud, Mud, Mud, Mud World.” In it, Phineas and Ferb build a monster truck speedway to help Candice to learn of to drive. Phineas and Ferb is the kind of hit show that deserves its success and as a parent; you’ll probably find yourself laughing at things your kids don’t understand, which is a good thing.
Wizards of Waverly Place, on the other hand, is another groan-inducing sitcom: formulaic, unfunny and a waste of your time. So of course, it’s a hit. This is due largely to the fact that Selena Gomez, the heir apparent to Miley Cyrus’ tween throne, is the star. In Wizards of Waverly Street a family of wizards live above the dad’s sub shop in New York. Dad, by the way, is played by David DeLuise; his type of overacting works perfectly on this show. The three children, Alex, Justin and Max all attend the same high school, while at the same time secretly learning to use their magical powers. Alex (Gomez) is a sarcastic slacker rebel, Justin (David Henrie) is the oldest, intelligent but kind of dorky, and Max (Jake T. Austin), the youngest, is unpredictable and seemingly always getting in trouble.
Episodes in this DVD collection, entitled Supernatural Stylin’, include “Beware Wolf,” in which Justin falls for a girl who is actually a werewolf, “Graphic Novel”, in which Alex’s nemesis, Gigi, gets trapped in her hand-drawn journal after the brothers steal it, and “Smarty Pants,” in which Alex joins her best friend in an academic decathlon and wears “smart pants” in order to answer the questions. While the ideas behind this show may be creative, I’m afraid that the execution is tired and stilted. And like any bad sitcom (particularly the ones on Disney), there are long pauses while the canned laughter dies down. In other words, the show doesn’t flow. That a DVD collection (actually its second) for Wizards of Waverly Place is even available is a credit to the marketing geniuses at Disney dictating what your kids should be watching. But you have a choice. And given that choice, I would definitely go with the Phineas and Ferb collection and avoid the Wizards of Waverly Place altogether.