If you’re anything like me, most of the sitcoms that Disney produces are nigh-unwatchable. The reasons aren’t always the same, but some of the common reasons are: acting that sounds rehearsed, a tendency to always go for the easiest joke, and plots that rarely deviate from the standards of sitcom formulas. Even the ones that are less guilty of these faults than others are, while at least tolerable to watch, still not particularly entertaining for adults.
For the past eleven months, though, there has been one notable exception to this general rule, and its name is Good Luck Charlie. Good Luck Charlie focuses on the Duncan family, which as the series began last spring was in the process of adjusting to the fairly recent arrival of the fourth child, a girl named Charlotte and called Charlie. Charlie’s youngest sibling, Gabe, is about ten years older than she is, which (along with some of the dialogue between the parents) seems to indicate that she was not precisely… planned. The Duncans — refreshingly, for a Disney sitcom — are solidly middle-class: both parents work (and need to do so) and they consequently ask the older kids to help raise their baby sister.
With many sitcoms — both Disney and not — that would be the end of the premise, save for the phrase “Hijinks ensue.” But Good Luck Charlie goes deeper than you’d probably expect, avoiding reliance on wisecracks from the kids and cluelessness from the parents. The parents have conversations between just themselves, and they talk about issues that real families go through, from the emotional difficulties the mom, Amy, faces going back to work as a nurse after her time off after Charlie’s birth to the family’s problems making ends meet when it’s time to pay the bills. Many jokes are clearly aimed at parents who might be watching the show, which is a refreshing change of pace from the usual Disney shows — which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of jokes aimed at kids.
What appeals to me most about the show is that none of the main characters is vapid or annoying — oh, sure, some of the recurring characters are, a bit, but that’s true of every sitcom ever made. The Duncan kids are smart, good kids who learn to enjoy helping their parents raise Charlie, even as they go through the usual teenage stuff: dating, problems at school, making bad decisions, etc. The situations in the show are not always particularly realistic, but that’s what sitcoms do: take real-life situations and then make them absurd or farcical. And the actors who play the kids are much better than I’d expected, and the little girl who plays Charlie, Mia Talerico, is amazingly good for someone so young.
I’ll be honest here: My kids don’t like the show that much. But I suspect that’s mostly because they’re 10 and 8, and they can’t relate too well to the issues the older siblings on the show are going through, yet. I will say, however, that I like the show and find it fun — perhaps not to the point of Phineas and Ferb, which I will gladly watch with or without my kids around — but enough that I would actually pay attention to the show if my kids were watching it, and would feel adequately entertained for my time. I highly recommend you give it a chance.
Good Luck Charlie just started its second season on the Disney Channel. New episodes air Sundays at 8:00pm ET/PT, 7:00pm CT. Reruns air often throughout the week, and in fact quite a few episodes are being rerun today.