A look at the awful children’s programming you’re forced to endure before you can finally kick the kids out of the TV room to watch sports for eight hours. Image by Jim Cooke.
The Theme Song
It feels like a party every day
HEY JESSIE! HEY JESSIE!
But they keep on pulling me every which way!
HEY JESSIE! HEY JESSIE!
Jessie is a show about a bunch of rotten, overindulged (but ethnically diverse!) children who live in a fucking SKYMANSION in Manhattan, and the put-upon buxom, redheaded nanny/au pair/wet nurse who is constantly lured into their KRAYZEE schemes. There’s also a fat butler who gets clowned on because he’s fat.
The Ross children are filthy rich because their dad (who is never around) is a famous movie director and their mom (also never around) is a famous ex-supermodel. JUST LIKE YOUR FAMILY! I assume the Rosses collected all their children in a feeble attempt to keep up with the Jolie-Pitts. Every Disney Channel sitcom must feature a group of kids who are either filthy rich or who work in show business, preferably both. Because that’s exactly what my kid needs to see: a bunch of materialistic little shits running around a penthouse with a goddamn pet komodo dragon at their beck and call. It wasn’t like this when I was growing up! Back in my day, television shows depicted kids living in TOTALLY REALISTIC circumstances. Shows like Diff’rent Strokes and Silver Spoons and The Fresh Prince of Bel—OH MY GOD NOTHING HAS CHANGED. The reason that every Disney sitcom kid character works in show business is so that YOUR kid will want to work in show business, so that Disney will have a larger pool of child actors to cast in more horrible shows about child actors.
Also, every Disney Channel sitcom must deploy a laugh track that is jacked up to Guantanamo Bay Code Red levels of psychological torture. If you ever watch a show like Jessie, you can trick yourself into believing that’s a real audience for about three minutes. After that, it becomes impossible to ignore how canned the laughter is. The track gets more and more grating and more and more disingenuous until you begin to question reality itself.
And just what is it keeping that engineered artificial mirth going for 22 minutes without interruption? SASS. Oh girl, do you like sassin’? Jessie and the Ross kids will sass you until liquid sass has filled your lungs and replaced all of the oxygen in your bloodstream. It’s a goddamn sass factory out there. Worst of all, these shows are like AP Sass Lessons for your own children. I don’t have a daughter anymore. I have an animatronic SassBot 3000, capable of rolling its eyes and saying “Seriously?” eight times a second.
After getting done sassing the butler and hanging his underwear on a flagpole, one of the shitty kids usually has a problem at an elite dayschool/tanning salon/really high-end department store, and so they sass right over to Jessie and sass to her to fix the problem, and then Jessie lovingly sasses them back and then goes to the elite dayschool/tanning salon/really high-end department store and sasses the problem away. And then everyone hugs because this is a FAMILY show—a family show that features no active parenting of any sort.
Jessie: Main character. Redhead. Texan. Wears lots of makeup, which suggests that she doesn’t realize what a beautiful girl she is ON THE INSIDE. Moved to New York to be an actress WHAT A GODDAMN SHOCK. Always certain to be trapped in a ZANY situation in which she must dress like a pirate, pick up one of the kids at a dance recital, explain to a bunch of cops why a failed science experiment ended up spewing diarrhea all over an entire city block, and rescue a lost monkey.
Jessie is played by actress Debby Ryan, who is roughly two years away from blowing this popsicle stand in a bid to launch a real adult career. All current Disney Channel stars spend the first 10 years of their childhoods at the Oakwood apartment complex in L.A., forced by their divorced mothers to attend 18 auditions a day or else suffer the lash. As revenge, they spend the majority of their adolescent free time watching the “Wrecking Ball” video and furiously scribbling notes.
Emma: Oldest daughter. Very prim. Probably rides show horses and shit. You know the type. Destined to marry a rich banker and have a two-decade affair with the personal trainer. Will die lonely and depressed in a haze of vodka and pills.
Emma is played by actress Peyton List, which is not the SAME Peyton List as the one who plays Jane on Mad Men. That’s a different Peyton List. Strangely enough, neither Peyton List tops my list of all time greatest Peytons. Peyton Manning is first. Peyton List the Elder ranks thirdish.
Luke: Oldest son. Freckly. Clearly faps to Jessie eight times a day. Come on now, Disney. We aren’t fools. If I were 13 years old and had a babysitter like that, you’d have to powerwash my bedroom ceiling twice a week.
Ravi: Adopted son of Indian descent. Has strong Nahasapeemapetilonish accent. Brought pet kimodo dragon with him from India because INDIA IS A LAND OF STRANGE AND EXOTIC BEASTS.
Zuri: Adopted African-American daughter. Chess prodigy. You totally thought the Indian kid would be the chess prodigy, didn’t you? That’s because YOU ARE RAYCESS. On hand to supply the show with a steady dose of Rudy Huxtable-style zingers.
Bertram: Manservant. Fat. HAHAHA HE’S FAT WHAT A FAT FUCK HAVE A CHEESEBURGER FATTY. Openly rolls his eyes at the Ross children because he LOATHES them and laments the fact that he has spent the majority of his professional life at the service of a brigade of Jaden and Willow Smiths. I bet he would paint the penthouse walls in the blood of the Ross children if it were legal. Also probably faps to Jessie but that remains unspoken, which is for the best.
I think there was one where an Evil Bertram appeared and tried to kill the kids. Seemed true to life.
“GI Jessie,” a special hourlong (GUHHHHHHHH) episode in which Jessie visits her disapproving father on some Army base with her contractually obligated dependents in tow. This is the episode where we learn that Jessie’s mom is dead. Or she left the family. I think she died. That would be the Disney move. Anyway, you’ll be stunned to learn that Jessie’s dad wasn’t high on the whole “Move to NYC to become an actress because there’s a hole in Jessie’s heart from Mommy dying that no amount of fame or money could even begin to fill” idea. But after watching her and the gang nearly blow the base apart, he totally changes his mind! AWWWWWWWW ...
There are a lot of extended episodes of these Disney shows. My kid once recorded a special episode of “Shake It Up” that was 90 minutes long. They may as well have broadcast a middle finger graphic the whole time.
Every episode of “Jessie” usually has a few decent lines in it, probably because the writing staff of any Disney sitcom comprises a number of primetime comedy writing refugees forced to slum it on a kiddie cable show for the money, only to realize that once they work on a Disney sitcom, they have no chance of getting back to the big time. They’re there FOR LIFE. You know damn well that, once a week, Disney has to reject a script from some embittered writer in which Emma and Luke have an affair and Jessie must abandon the Ross children after authorities discover she murdered her mom when she was 11 years old. TV writers are dark people.
Any child who watches too many Disney sitcoms inevitably begins to treat life like one giant goddamn audition. I know this behavior well because I watched a shitload of TV as a kid and I ended up the exact same way. You’re not a sincere kid. All of your lines are rehearsed. You amp up emotions simply because that seems more fitting for the TV show that is your life. You’re like Chance the gardener in Being There, only dumber. And unable to walk on water. Anyway, that’s the effect all this sass has on a small child.
The only way to avoid it is to not let your kids watch this shit, but I mean, come on now. I have things to do. MY PHONE DOESN’T CHECK ITSELF NOW, DOES IT? That Jessie gal seems like a decent enough caregiver when she’s not busy flirting with the doorman or letting the children drive lawn tractors through walls. You go, girl! CHASE YOUR DREAM.
Drew Magary writes for Deadspin and Gawker. He’s also a correspondent for GQ. Follow him on Twitter @drewmagary and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also order Drew’s new book, Someone Could Get Hurt, through his homepage.