Wendell & Vinnie
What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Wendell & Vinnie is an Odd Couple-style comedy series centered on a wise-beyond-his-years tween and his immature uncle-turned-guardian. The show relies heavily on the comic talents of star Jerry Trainor, who's pitch-perfect as the carefree Vinnie, but what kids will gather from the characters' role reversal is that adults' authority is always subject to question and critique. Heartfelt moments of family bonds are overshadowed by physical comedy, bathroom humor, and some exchanges with mature themes, especially surrounding the adults' romantic involvements.
What's the story?
WENDELL & VINNIE stars Jerry Trainor as Vinnie, a 30-year-old free spirit whose bachelor lifestyle ends abruptly when he takes guardianship of his straight-laced young nephew, Wendell (Buddy Handleson), after the death of Wendell's parents. For Vinnie, the transition to parenthood isn't an easy one, but fortunately Wendell has maturity enough to spare and helps his uncle find his way. Vinnie's acerbic sister, Wilma (Nicole Sullivan), is happy to put in her two cents' worth about how Wendell should be raised (which usually flies in the face of Vinnie's instincts), and his newly single neighbor, Taryn (Haley Strode), often finds herself in the midst of the chaos as well.
Is it any good?
Nickelodeon taps a familiar face in Trainor for the lead role in this sitcom, and those who knew him as iCarly's Spencer won't be surprised at how naturally he slips into the role of grown-up slacker Vinnie. He's hardly parenting material, but Wendell's serious enough for both of them, and the two opposing forces make for some laughable -- if predictable -- exchanges that always wind up having a lesson of some sort for each of them. With Vinnie's help, Wendell learns to relate a little better to his peers, and Vinnie eventually discovers that there's value in shouldering responsibility after all.
But short of poignant moments between this unlikely couple of characters, Trainor's comedic talents account for most of this show's appeal. The trite content has Wendell and Vinnie often vying for the spotlight, and the fact that Wendell's saddled with keeping Vinnie on the straight and narrow has questionable messages for kids about healthy family relationships. What's more, it glosses over instances of bullying, grief, and kids' social challenges in favor of comedy, missing the opportunity to explore them in a meaningful way for viewers.
Families can talk about...
Families can talk about this show's presentation of family structure. Who is in charge in this household? How does its structure compare to what you're used to? How do these discrepancies contribute to the show's humor?
Single-parent homes are common in TV shows today. What does this say about our culture as a whole? What other "nontraditional" traits are becoming more accepted in the media today?
Discuss in further detail some of the issues touched on by this show, including bullying and the struggle to fit in with peers. How do you handle loss? To whom do you turn for advice in difficult relationships?