Part of the series Rediscovering YTV
Today it often seems that there is a lot more flash out there than substance. Big-budget movies use state of the art special effects to cover for its lousy acting, writing and story. Starbucks goes all out with the design of everything from their stores all the way to their cups to cover for some mediocre coffee. Nintendo releases consoles that are one generation behind because they went the route of exploiting a cheap gimmick like a giant touch screen or motion-sensing controller. Probably the king of them all, however, is Apple. They sell a bunch of underpowered hardware and limited software but cover for it with brilliant marketing and design.
Side note: There is an odd disclaimer at the end of the show saying that everything including the business, story and characters is fictitious for some reason though. Similar to the ones you might see in a ripped from the headlines episode of Law and Order (or one of its many spinoffs) or a Grand Theft Auto game where you can just tell some of the companies and people are based on real life ones. It leads me to believe that maybe this show is ever so loosely based on some random toy recall. Since this airs on a kids network, you don’t want to piss off the big toy companies like Mattel or Hasbro because they can make or break the network, especially considering the number of ads they air. That of course wouldn’t be any good, hence the disclaimer, or so I believe.
Anyway, Some Assembly Required really suffers in the writing and acting department. The jokes fall flat on their faces and the poor kids they hired to star in the series can be so awkward trying to piece together this mess of a sitcom that it will make you cringe. It’s that bad folks. That’s not to mention that the characters are very odd. For example, there’s a short kid who wears a zebra suit in all seriousness and has a hell of a scream. There’s an older lady who looks like a balloon and has so many wrinkles over her face you can barely make her out. (I’m hoping the actress that plays her is wearing a lot of prosthetics and make up or else I’m a terrible, terrible person.) Even the main character Jarvis strikes me as an oddball. I can’t put my finger on it, but something about him rubs me the wrong way.
Unfortunately, the hot mess that is Some Assembly Required isn’t uncommon for YTV. The network isn’t a stranger to awful comedies. It had some doozies in the past 10-15 years. That’s So Weird, a sketch comedy show, comes to mind. It was somehow even worse than Some Assembly Required, if you can even believe. I’ve seen kids who would watch everything on TV no matter how awful, but that atrocity was enough to make them clamour for the remote and change the channel. It was painfully unfunny and had a low-budget bargain basement feel. Thankfully, YTV put it out of its misery not too long ago.
How To Be Indie was another awful series. It was a bland, Malcolm in the Middle wannabe that YTV put on the air a few years ago that was brutal as well. The acting and writing were quite wooden and lifeless, but it’s thankfully long gone by now.
Fries With That is probably considered ancient today, but it was just a hellish nightmare to watch. That unfunny mess of a sitcom had nearly no redeeming value (if any at all). Now Some Assembly Required joins that list of epically bad YTV original series.
While the show falls into many of the pitfalls that YTV sitcoms have fallen into in the past (bad acting, poor writing and illogical premises), there are some pleasant surprises though. The set and the opening credits are quite something to behold.
The set is wild. There’s a roller coaster that runs through the two main sets (or perhaps the two coasters are unattached in reality) and the coaster literally runs during some of the scenes. In transitions between some scenes you’d actually see a shot of the building that shows the roller coaster wraps in and out of the building from story to story. It’s quite insane looking, almost like something out of Mad Magazine. I actually wouldn’t be surprised if the coaster is loosely based off of the three-story giant slide in the Corus building. (Corus owns YTV.) While some viewers might get tired of the roller coaster gimmick, the show falls back on a bunch of other ones to keep your attention, loads of them.
There’s a ton of crazy props. There’s a giant chair that looks like a muppet, a chair with legs that actually look like human legs and a skateboard bench. They don’t just stop at chairs, there’s a desk that appears to be made of Legos (or probably some knock off made by the toy company in the show) and a bear rug too. Then it just goes over the top. There’s a mountain of flowers, a giant mob of teddy bears, dozens of random plunger arrows, chainsaws, some laptop where sparks flew out of after that Jarvis kid slices it with some sort of colour changing sabre and a forklift that carries in a big load of chocolate. Then there are bubbles. A kid blew bubbles, my God.
Despite the at times awful acting and the even worse script, the show seems a lot better than what I remember Fries With That as being and definitely more so than the abomination that was That’s So Weird, and that’s mostly because of all those crazy gimmicks. You’d probably only tune in to see how they’re going to use that coaster next, or what sight gags they’ll pull off, like seeing Jarvis covered in dozens of plunger-like arrows.
That’s a lot more than what I can say for some of YTV’s dreadful original series lately which are often quite awkward, uncomfortable to watch and difficult to stomach.
Radio Active in the late 90s was an exception though. It was brilliant despite the limited set and the feeling that the school only consisted of about half a dozen kids and two administrative staff.
However, it’s best to compare Some Assembly Required with the current incarnation of Disney’s ANT Farm which was set in a school for gifted children in earlier seasons but is now randomly set within a business. (Apparently Ant Farm and Some Assembly Required share producers.) There’s a lot of humour based around kids in the business environment on ANT Farm, and although it wasn’t something that I saw in the episode I watched for review, it’s something I’m sure Some Assembly Required will touch upon later. The acting on ANT Farm is fairly strong although if you have the misfortune of having a young one in the house that leaves this thing on all the time, you’re sure to see that the characters get quite annoying at times though.
It’s a bit sad that YTV ended up with yet another dreadful show like Some Assembly Required to throw into their original series bin. They really do seem to try to make some original content and try not to rely on stuff from their American equivalent (in YTV’s case Nickelodeon). That’s a lot more than what I can say for a lot of other Canadian networks, and I can’t help but imagine that YTV plunked down a bunch of cash on this (I mean there’s a friggin roller coaster). It’s a bit strange though how they went from low-budget nonsense like That’s So Weird to forklifts of chocolates, laptops throwing sparks everywhere and that crazy good animation in the opening sequence.
Regardless of all that, it’s best to avoid the show though. The writing and acting really prevent it from being watchable. If you do try to brave it though you’ll probably find yourself hoping that the silly roller coaster derails, throwing all those kids off of the roof, or someone realizes that the building is under some sort of building regulation (it has to be, there’s a roller coaster zig-zagging throughout the thing all the way to the roof, for God’s sake) and shutters the place for good. Then you’d feel ashamed of yourself, they’re children after all and that’s no good, is it?