A Look Back on Zoey 101

I’ve talked about this show a couple of times on here in countdown lists but I’ve never really done a full-fledged look back on it before. It was very different from Schneider’s past and future shows. In many ways its attempt to be different really works. But unlike something like other live action Nick shows around that time like Drake and Josh or Ned’s Declassified which get better and I have more appreciation for as I grow older, I do notice more of the flaws in this show. Does that make it bad? Definitely not but I’m getting ahead of myself. The story involves Zoey Brooks along with her younger brother Dustin attending a boarding school in California that recently opened its doors to girls known as PCA. Zoey along with her various set of friends including Chase Mathews, Michael Barrett, Logan Reese, Dana Cruz, Nicole Bristow, Lola Martinez, Quinn Pensky, and James Garrett get into all sorts of adventures.

Perhaps the best part of this show lies in the overall heart and camaraderie between the protagonists. Even though the characters are very much stock, their interactions are always enjoyable in each episode and they do well in carrying the show and the characters all carry their unique sense of likability and fun to almost every situation the characters get involved with. But it doesn’t stop there: In just about every subsequent season we would either lose a character or get a new one and the aforementioned friendship and heart among the protagonists still was kept flying high. While the gone characters were definitely missed by some fans there wasn’t a point where it felt empty without them. That’s very impressive for a show to pull off as multiple TV shows (outside of Nickelodeon ones) these days have characters that leave and even through the greatest of moments, it feels incomplete without them.

The other aspect that stands out about this show is the utter lack of a laugh track. This is primarily because, this show wasn’t meant to be as comedic as Schneider’s other shows. But that didn’t keep the show from having some clever and character-driven humor. And the lack of laugh track really not only kept the humor from being forced but also some of the more emotional moments as well. The overall tone in the episodes was able to segue quite smoothly. You see Nickelodeon? You can do it if you try.

The setting is also a nice one. There’s a lot of creativity with the premises involved in each episode and the writing and cast does well in preventing in taking concepts that have been used and preventing them from becoming too hackneyed and making the show enough fun

While none of the teachers are around long enough to leave any real impression, the one staff member that did prove to make an impact was the dean who is a likable guy in running the school and treating the students fairly but also has his own sense of goofiness and fighting spirit.

Many Nickelodeon shows have featured iconic romances and while relationships have never taken the center stage of any Nick show, this show tended to place more focus on the romantic relationships among the mains. And these relationships offer a great deal of interest and plenty to get invested in. The Zoey and Chase relationship for instance is a classic clumsy guy falls for cute girl story but the writing gives it a little more flavor. Until the end of the series the two were only friends and dated other people and that was okay with both the audience and them. It didn’t prevent the two from having a unique understanding and engaging friendship. This prevented their relationship from becoming tedious and one that was worth rooting for. Both had each other’s backs in tough situations and at times could be selfish but not to a point where either felt unlikable. The Quinn and Mark relationship is also an interesting one. It’s an understandable relationship with the two being these completely weird people with a charm no one else but them can see or understand. At the same time the later seasons of the show do take the time to subtly show the detrimental parts of it as well. This gave way to the relationship between Quinn and Logan, which happened, in the final season. It’s one that was short lived, came very much out of nowhere with the two having nothing but contempt for one another and was demanded by no one but proved to be the better parts of the series. They were opposites but proved to bring the best traits in one another but still keeping the traits fans liked about them. In a way this is what Creddie and Seddie in ICarly should have been. There are other relationships in the show but these are the ones that stand out the most.

Now as stated before there definitely are some flaws to poke at. For starters there’s the acting. It’s not horrifically bad or anything but there are some moments where it does feel like it could be a lot better whether it be through the actors’ delivery or their expressions. Sometimes it’s understandable what they are going for and the performances do well enough in making the audience care for these characters and their relationships and making them feel human but it misses the mark in several other respects.

Two is that while the many of the jokes can legitimately get a laugh, there isn’t much beyond it being character-driven dialogue or action. Because of this, the jokes mostly only make sense in context. There’s nothing really big to make the humor stand out.

The third flaw is with the character of Zoey, while likable was at times too much of a Mary Sue and there were times where this really could be irritable. Not to an insufferable point, but definitely to a point where it got distracting.

Finally while the show did follow continuity, very rarely was it utilized. While there were major events would play a big role in shaping a season, many events that happened simply felt like a “situation of the day” with them rarely coming into play again.

Outside of the lack of a laugh track, this show doesn’t really give any new concepts compared to the other live action Nick shows that were coming out around the time (and ones that came before it). But when it comes to the old concepts, this show does well in tweaking them in creative ways that makes the show unique. Even if you’re not in the target audience, there’s still a level of enjoyment that can be taken from this show, and that’s something that any good show ought to do.