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'Victorious' a big loser: Nickelodeon's ?Glee' ripoff falls flat
[March 28, 2010]

'Victorious' a big loser: Nickelodeon's ?Glee' ripoff falls flat

Mar 27, 2010 (Boston Herald - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- VICTORIOUS: C Of any network on the cable spectrum, Nickelodeon should know that kids deserve quality entertainment.

Its newest live-action sitcom "Victorious" -- getting a juicy premiere time slot after the network's annual "Kids' Choice Awards" -- is an off-key attempt to cash in on Fox's "Glee." It spotlights one unlikely student enrolling at the Hollywood Arts High School and trying to stretch her creative spirit among blockheads.

Tori Vega (Victoria Justice, "Zoey 101") is a cute science nerd who divides her time working on science projects on fish mold and accommodating her older sister Trina (Daniella Monet), a diva in training.

As Trina tells her musical partner Andre (Leon Thomas III), "I got the talent and she got the strong teeth." Trina's singing would make her perfect for "American Idol's" Top 10. Yes, Trina is terrible, but she refuses to accept it.

On the night of the big high school performance showcase, Trina suffers an allergic reaction (don't ask). In a re-enactment of one of the hoariest cliches in show biz, Tori is physically manhandled by practically the entire student body into taking her sister's place onstage.

The lyrics to Tori's show-stopping number, destined to hit iTunes download thanks to a deal with Sony, include the baffling lines: Cause you know that if you live in your imagination Tomorrow you'll be everybody's fascination.

Two standing ovations later, whatever ambitions Trina had for her own life vanish. Should she transfer to her sister's school? A star is torn.

For a second.

At the new school, she meets neurotic Cat (Ariana Grande), nerdy ventriloquist Robbie (Matthew Bennett), resident hunk Beck (Avan Jogia) and queen bee Jade (Elizabeth Gillies).

Jade makes it her mission to humiliate the newcomer. Tori wonders if she has the talent and the drive to survive this teen Babylon.

Justice is undeniably appealing in the title role, and the tensions between sisters has moments of authenticity. But the other characters are sketched so broadly, they're practically fog. Robbie seems psychologically damaged and one prank away from starring in a "Chucky" film. The bulk of the cast mugs for the cameras, probably to compensate for a script that could have been commissioned from fifth-graders.

The hokum is dressed with token nods to social networking, including Tori's frequent status updates ("mood: wrecked") to, a real Web site launching in tandem with the show. Series creator, executive producer and writer Dan Schneider has produced a string of hits ("iCarly," "Drake & Josh") for the tween network, but here he's pandering.

"Victorious" is no triumph.

Series premiere tonight at 9:30 on Nickelodeon. Series premiere tonight at 9:30 on Nickelodeon.

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