It is hard to come across a television series that is entirely focused on the lives of little girls. And it is even harder to see it this well-executed in Netflix’s original ‘The Baby-Sitters Club’ without looking caricaturish. The show uses the plot to bring forward a beautiful collection of characters, united for business purposes, but making us realize how strong friendships can stem into whole new families.
For anyone who has grown up with the book of the same title, and holds that memory in high regard, it is shockingly easy to detach from those memories and wrap around this new representation. The creator Rachel Sukert has revamped the concept of a modern audience and still preserves grasp at the original charms. The creator even went to a new level when she managed to justify why a 2020’s teenager will require a landline device.
To summarize the storyline of the show: Kristy, played by Sophie Grace, goes to middle school but already has a well-developed business sense. One night she witnesses her mother Elizabeth (played by Alicia Silverstone) struggling to arrange for a babysitter, and Kristy realizes that the adults of the small Connecticut town could use a service where babysitters are just a call always. She just needed to assemble a team of reliable teens who are willing to take up the job.
Kristy goes and assembles her friends for the club, a shy but sweet Mary-Anne (Malia Baker), creative Claudia (Momona Tamada), smart and centred Stacey (Shay Rudolph), and California girl Dawn (Xochitl Gomez).
Together, the team juggles between taking care of other people’s kids and dealing with their issues and hardships. The kids deal with overprotective or absent parents, medical matters, and popularity. The premise is an excellent method to tell stories that relate to these young women and integral moments in their lives. The show develops the plotline and the characters quite parallelly. The popular idea of female friendship and their quest to find identity is what drives the story. Shukert and her writers ensured that all the lead characters have a strong individuality, unique personality, separate strengths and weaknesses to avoid them from looking like clichés. Claudia has her struggles with academics but compensated it with her artistic abilities. Mary-Anne is shy with others but confident about her talents. And the one thing they all have in common is their undefeated charm and wit.
To go back to the books, Claudia was the only one with a specific ethnicity (Japanese), and that was ample to have a significant impact on the entire Asian-American Population. The show, in turn, ensured a cast of better ethnic inclusivity. The casting directors did a splendid job in assembling a cast that is both diverse and natural in terms of screen presence. Tamada and Grace are the most notable actors as they project incredible dedication without making it look forced or jagged.
To speak of the adult actors, Mark Feuerstein continually delivers a boy-next-door vibe and Silverstone keeps reminding the audience of how charming she can be. Another noteworthy role is the beautiful Takayo Fischer as Claudia’s grandmother Mimi. Marc Jackson created a jittery dimension to his trademark deadpan while Tami Sagher comes in to steal several scenes of the season finale.
Shukert has not only adapted a well-liked book into a TV show but has moved us past the idea that the people who grew up with the books are the ones who will enjoy the show. It naturally does enter the territory where the situations are specific to teen girls. Still, for the more substantial part, it is detailed and nuanced enough to not be categorized as “girl TV”. Audiences rarely tend to isolate TV shows about adolescent boys the way they do girl shows, but this show most definitely does not deserve that treatment. The display may play with a lot of nostalgia, but it most definitely should not be discarded and typecasted because the same was not done to Stranger Things.
The show has such versatile plotlines that a viewer can go ahead and suggest the show to anybody, regardless of their age group or gender. The show is utterly universal in its idea but still conveys the point that young girls should be taken seriously.