It’s no secret that some of the original, scripted series on ABC Family are anything but family-friendly. That doesn’t mean they’re all bad – “Switched at Birth” and “The Fosters” are smarter and more substantial than, say, “Pretty Little Liars” or “Baby Daddy” – but contrary to what the network’s name suggests, little on ABC Family is ideal for the whole family.
The network targets teens/20-somethings and brands itself as “a new kind of family,” but two new entries are sure to embolden professional scolds who blanch at these series airing on a channel with “family” in its name. Both of ABC Family’s new comedies “Mystery Girls” and “Young & Hungry” have orgasm jokes in their premiere episodes.
For true family entertainment, this week also brings the debut of “Girl Meets World” on Disney Channel, which aims at kids and pre-teens.
‘Young & Hungry’
More like “Young & Dumb.”
Emily Osment (“The Haunting Hour: Don’t Think About It”) stars as Gabi, a food blogger who becomes personal chef to wealthy tech entrepreneur Josh (Jonathan Sadowski, “$#*! My Dad Says”).
Josh’s aide (Rex Lee, “Entourage”) would rather hire a “Top Chef” winner, but Josh picks Gabi to make a meal for the night he plans to ask his girlfriend to marry him. But before the first course is served, the girlfriend dumps him. Gabi, wanting to cheer him up, sleeps with him.
“You never heard of sending a muffin basket?” asks Josh’s housekeeper (Kym Whitley, “Animal Practice”). “Well, I guess in a way you did.”
Everything in “Young & Hungry” is predictable, including most of the jokes. But on the plus side, Ms. Osment has learned not to shout every line of dialogue the way she did in the pilot of “Hannah Montana.”
At least the more entertaining “Mystery Girls” has the benefit of some pop culture in-jokes with its meta premise.
Former “Beverly Hills, 90210” co-stars Tori Spelling and Jennie Garth play the former stars of a faux 1990s TV crime series, “Mystery Girls.” They reunite and open a detective agency in the pilot episode, which ABC Family idiotically moved to July 16.
So the first episode, airing tonight, offers little back story on the characters or their relationship. In that pilot episode, viewers learn that Charlie Contour (Ms. Garth) is now a suburban housewife and mother while Holly Hamilton (Ms. Spelling) still longs for the spotlight.
“I see you’re still wearing more makeup than a geisha,” Charlie says to Holly when they reconnect after years of not speaking. “I see maternity jeans aren’t just for pregnant women,” Holly replies.
Through some of these inside gags – “Actresses, they just don’t get along!” -- “Mystery Girls” has some fun with viewer knowledge of rumors of disharmony on the “90210” set (yes, Shannen Doherty gets a shout-out) even if it all plays to cat-fighting women stereotypes.
Ms. Spelling comes off both worse (she’s mistaken for a prostitute twice in the first 10 minutes) and funnier (she gets the best lines; Ms. Garth plays the straight woman), but she only has herself to blame/thank because she co-created “Mystery Girls” with Shepard Boucher (“Men at Work”).
In tonight’s episode, the detective agency is already up and running when their high-strung assistant, Nick (Miguel Pinzon), reads a rumor online that Holly has died. (“It was on TMZ and I’m pretty sure they fact check,” he says.) She’s alive but the trio tries to pretend she’s dead long enough to acquire a sex tape purportedly featuring Holly that’s up for sale.
“Let’s see who’s behind this and who’s behind me on that tape,” Holly says in innuendo that’s sure to sail over some younger viewers’ heads while making some parents watching with them super-uncomfortable.
‘Girl Meets World’
Disney Channel jumps into the Wayback Machine for this next-generation spin-off of the 1993-2000 ABC sitcom “Boy Meets World.”
In “Girls Meets World,” “Boy Meets World” lead couple Cory (Ben Savage) and Topanga (Danielle Fishell) are the married parents of well-behaved middle schooler Riley (Rowan Blanchard), who’s trying to be a little wilder like her friend Maya (Sabrina Carpenter).
“It’s not your world yet, it’s still my world,” Cory tells Riley after he catches her trying to sneak out of the house.
“How long do I have to live in my father’s world?” Riley asks.
“Until you make it yours,” her dad replies.
And by the end of the first episode, she’s done just that in a cute half-hour that capably introduces new characters and sets the table for the new series.
Cory has become the wise, helpful adult character, supplanting Mr. Feeny (William Daniels, who has a cameo in the “Girl” pilot during the end credits) from “Boy Meets World.”
Cory is a history teacher at John Quincy Adams middle school, and Riley and Maya are two of his students. When Maya goes too far and Riley doesn’t stop her, both girls learn a Very Valuable Lesson.
“You forgot the best thing you can do for her is be you,” Cory advises his daughter.
Written by Michael Jacobs, who created “Boy Meets World,” the “Girl” premiere offers a gentle morality lesson that shouldn’t be too galling for the show’s target 6- to 14-year-old viewers.
And there’s a potential breakout character waiting in the wings: Nerdy, offbeat classmate Farkle (Corey Fogelmanis), who refers to himself in the third person, may just be this show’s Urkel.
TV writer Rob Owen: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-2582. Read the Tuned In Journal blog at post-gazette.com/tv. Follow RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.