Alexa & Katie - Season 1 - Advance Preview: “A Well-Executed Story About Unwavering Friendship” By Aimee Hicks (March 21, 2018, 10:00 pm)
Alexa and Katie
Alexa & Katie is a fresh new take on a teen comedy that at times borders on dramedy territory. At first glance, the show seems like it will only appeal to a younger teenage audience, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. They will, of course, be able to watch and enjoy the show, but so will adults. It is full of rich performances and headlined by a powerful story of unyielding friendship even in the wake of tremendous health issues. That is a topic that anyone of any age should be able to appreciate. Tonally this show is a bit like if Girls Meets World met Chasing Life. Netflix has only done minimal promotion for this series, but it has the potential to self-promote and be a surprise hit for the online network.
While the series carries a heavy focus on its namesakes, Alexa Mendoza (Paris Berelc) and Katie Cooper (Isabel May), there are still poignant and funny stories for the other members of each girl’s family. Tiffani Thiessen (Lori Mendoza) and Eddie Shin (Dave Mendoza) also star as Alexa’s parents while Jolie Jenkins (Jennifer Cooper) portrays Katie’s single mom. Emery Kelly (Lucas Mendoza) and Finn Carr (Jack Cooper) each portray Alexa and Katie’s brothers respectively. Iman Benson (Reagan) and Merit Leighton (Hannah) play loyal best friends to the girls. Kerri Medders (Gwenny Thompson) rounds out the main cast as Alexa’s mean girl mortal nemesis.
The parents get some really nice storylines that speak to all ages. Lori, in particular, has a lot of struggles as she tries to balance her professional career with being there for her daughter. She makes a lot of selfless sacrifices to make sure she is able to be there for Alexa. She would do just about anything for her children. At times she comes across as smothering, but it’s all out of a place of pure love. Her overbearing nature actually leads to some really funny moments. And since Lori is played by Saved By The Bell alumni Tiffani Thiessen be on the lookout for a hilarious tongue-in-cheek reference to her days on that show. Mom’s aren’t the only ones who have to carry the weight of a sick child and Dave is there every step of the way for his daughter. He really struggles in certain situations. He’s a father who loves his daughter so much that it’s hard for him to see her dealing with cancer. There is a beautiful father/daughter moment at the end of the second episode that speaks volumes to how much he loves her even if at times he struggles with expressing what he’s feeling.
The show also does a terrific job of showing how far reaching the effects of cancer are. Katie and her family are there for the Mendoza’s every step of the way. These two families are next door neighbors, but they are basically one big family. Jennifer is a single mom, but she steps up to help whenever she can. In return, Lori and Dave are there for her as well. Both of their homes are wide open for each other, which, as one might imagine, leads to some really funny situations, especially when they are fans of rival sports teams. Jennifer is an incredible mother who is struggling with furthering her education while dealing with a divorce from her husband. The incredible person she is directly reflects through her daughter. Katie is an incredible young woman and it’s clear that she was raised right. Early on she makes a big sacrifice for Alexa that fills Jennifer with an immense amount of pride.
There are also the brothers who get some funny storylines. The youngest member of the cast, Finn Carr, is hilariously talented well beyond his years. His comedic timing is impeccable. He is just as good with the physical comedy as he is with the subtle comedy. He gets some nice serious moments too, but comedy is his strong point and he is very good at it. Jack is a character that might just surprise viewers. Younger brothers are notoriously annoying characters, in real life and in television, and Jack definitely fills that role in Katie’s life. All he really wants is a pet he can care for and for Lucas to hang out with him. At his core, he is a good-hearted kid even if he acts out in typical younger brother ways.
Alexa’s brother Lucas is older than her and fills the stereotypical pretty-boy role. Well, at least that’s how it appears initially. There is a lot more to him than that. But, he’s also a typical young teenage guy out to impress the ladies and build a bromance with his best friend Dylan (Jack Griffo). He treats his sister as if she isn’t sick but he also makes it clear that he understands what she is dealing with. He does experience a few instances of jealousy regarding his sister, but when it counts he shows up for her in a big way. He’s also a pseudo-big brother for Jack and their interactions are really fun and sweet. Early on it just seems like Lucas is meant to be the pretty-boy, but there is a whole other side to him. Emery Kelly does a fabulous job bringing Lucas to life.
The backbone of the series is the friendship between Alexa and Katie. Alexa is battling cancer and just out to live life to its fullest as best she can. Katie is the type of friend that every person wants. She is honest and loyal to a fault. And she will do absolutely anything for Alexa. They go through a lot together this season and their story is perfectly paced, hilariously funny, poignantly acted, and beautifully written. There are the typical teenage boy drama storylines, but they never overtake the core message of the story. The series is about two best friends facing life together and dealing with all it throws at them. No matter the secondary storylines the show never loses focus on that core point.
The series works so well because of a strongly written story and the fact that this cast has impeccable chemistry. The two families are bonded in a way that most families can’t imagine. The performers do a stunning job bringing each character to life. Berelc and May have an instant chemistry that makes their character’s lifelong friendship feel very real. They effortlessly play off of one another. They volley lines off one another as if they had been working together for years. Berelc has a strong Disney background and her history acting in this arena made her perfect for Alexa. May is a newcomer making her first big debut and she is a very good and hilariously funny actress. She dominates scenes with seasoned acting veterans as if it was no big deal. This may be her first big role, but it certainly will not be her last. Her comedic timing is on point.
Even though this is a funny show there are a fair amount of tears as well. Cancer is a very big part of the show and that is inherently a tough subject to tackle. It is handled respectfully and the plight of what sick kids have to endure is dealt with head-on. What is nice is that they also show the way that cancer patients live life so fully. We could all take a few lessons from them. They laugh and live and love to the fullest.
The story is crafted in such a way that it very quickly sucks in the viewer. It is structured to be very easy to binge. It is a fun ride with a lot of heart and a ton of laughs. This show is right on par with Netflix's other big original comedy One Day At A Time. That series kind of snuck onto the scene before taking off and Alexa & Katie is well poised to follow in its predecessors footsteps. Come and check out the series for some laughs then stick around for Alexa and Katie’s fun journey through life.
Don’t miss this show when it premieres this Friday, March 23rd at 3 am ET/12 am PT on Netflix.
Hit the comments with your hopes the series. Will you be tuning in? Do you think this Disney-ish show will do well for Netflix?