It’s no secret that I adore Disney. Still, I was a little hesitant to see Zendaya’s newest TV series. Some Disney channel shows are amazing, like Jessie, ANT Farm, Hannah Montana (remember, this is before Miley went, ah, anti-Disney), and Girl Meets World. Then there are shows like Fish Hooks that I just don’t see the appeal, and can’t sit through more than the few minutes during the ad. K.C. looked promising, but I still had my worries.
I needn’t have worried. The pilot was GREAT. Truly entertaining, without being terribly predictable. It’s also not merely a re-make of The Famous Jett Jackson that cuts the famous-actor plot. The show centers on teenager K.C. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the plot line offered in promotions reveals that she is a teenage spy. It’s a fun concept that Disney flawlessly pulls off. It’s also well-written, beautifully executed and left me looking forward to the rest of the season. Here’s why.
Zendaya’s character, K.C., is her own girl. She’s super smart, yet also stylish, but also gets tongue tied around the male half of the species. The well-written, fully rounded characters don’t end with her. The side characters are also thoroughly developed. Her best friend, though a little stereotypical, is far from the archetype that often plagues shows with teenaged main characters.
What I’m most excited about are K.C.’s parents. I know, right: you know you’re old when the parents on the TV show are what grab your interest. But there’s been a long series of dud-dads and bimbo-moms with overly-teasing, borderline hurtful relationships. K.C.’s parents are not only intelligent and treat each other respectfully, but also show a loving partnership with joint-decision making and mostly responsible parenting. It’s nice to see parents presented positively. They aren’t perfect, but who is? As well as having positive parents, K.C. provides inside jokes from the grown-up spy realm for any parents watching from home.
With the exception of the whole spy plot line, the show is incredibly realistic. Girls can be mean. Friends can be pushy. Parents can be confusing. Boys can be manipulative. It’s a great way to show how to adapt and overcome adversity in regular life, as we see more struggles with non-spies than spy work.
Diversity is often either neglected, or overly emphasized. When shows do add multi-cultural, or even multiple races, to a program, it tends to be as a focal point instead of as a, “hey, we live in a melting pot, maybe we should represent that,” type of way. K.C. does a decent job of including multiple races without having great neon signs pointing that say, “Hey! Look at us! We’re including characters of multiple hues!” What’s especially refreshing is the lack of stereotypes within those hues. Many shows focus on what I call the Kanye or Urkel effect: any character of color is either super cool or super dorky, with very little balance to achieve an actual, realistic personality. K.C. avoids the Kanye or Urkel problem by avoiding 2D characters in general, and instead creates 3D, believable and relatable characters. It also promotes owning who you are, and being honest about your flaws instead of ashamed of them.
Avoiding stereotypes of teenagers and parents is crucial to a show made for teens. What they see on screen and in life is often similar; life may be less over-the-top, but the relationships they see on TV affect how they’re going to treat people. This doesn’t even just apply to the under-18 set. We all allow what we see to influence how we act. That’s how TV catchphrases stay relevant to our language, even once the TV show is no longer on the air (for example, just from How I Met Your Mother: Legendary, Challenge Accepted, Bro Code, etc).
I was truly delighted with K.C. Undercover. The originality of the plot, thoroughly developed characters and witty dialogue make for an enjoyable show for all ages.