Part of my launch series, Rediscovering YTV
I was skeptical coming into The Haunted Hataways. I, for some reason, thought a show about a ghost family sharing a house with an ordinary family would be a bit grim, because don’t people have to die to become ghosts? Would kids be comfortable knowing that their TV ghost friends suffered an early death to become who they are today? God help Nickelodeon then, unless they find some sort of family-friendly way to approach death. Could they? Would they? This is Nickelodeon we’re talking about after all, and they are a bit random. Well, I suppose the idea isn’t entirely implausible you could look at Casper. He has been around for decades and he, in some incarnations, was actually a dead kid, and I guess that didn’t traumatize kids.
When I was finally able to put all that out of my head, I noticed a lot on The Haunted Hataways seemed to have been done before, even putting Casper aside. The two ghost brothers, Louie and Miles Preston, are a lot like Arnold and Willis from Different Strokes. The two human sisters, Taylor and Frankie Hataway, are a lot like Haley and Alex from Modern Family. The mother Michelle Hataway is almost eerily reminiscent of Mrs. Bates from A&E’s Bates Motel. Both Mrs. Hataway and Mrs. Bates pick up their family and head off to a random town in hopes of starting over. They both also attempt to start a new business, but find that their new home has some unwanted previous occupants still hanging around. The Haunted Hataways also has a bunch of random CGI magic that seems very Wizards of Waverly Place-like. Heck, even Amber Montana, who plays Taylor, reminds me of Selena Gomez.
Then there are the elements of the show that have been done to death since the dawn of television: the young one of the family who tries to fit in and acts older than he is, the blended family and moving to a new town. Then there are more modern elements of the show that have been done to death like a family trying to pick up the pieces and start over after a divorce. Despite all the similarities to shows past and present, it remarkably still feels fresh. Maybe since it fuses so many elements of things we’ve seen before together that somehow it feels brand new. (Is that even possible?)
The Haunted Hataways also doesn’t feel like a lot of the other Nickelodeon shows I’ve watched, neither back in the day nor today. It’s not astoundingly wonderful appointment television, but it doesn’t feel completely unbearable like Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush, which I hated beyond words, or some of the Disney live action nonsense that’s made its way to Family and Disney XD.
The pilot (the particular episode that I watched for this review) was very strong. The acting certainly wasn’t awful, I’ve seen far worse, and the writing wasn’t that bad either, at least compared to other live-action kids sitcoms. (Viewers on TV.com and IMDB seem to disagree with me though. I’m guessing they haven’t suffered through some of the brutal CanCon that has made it onto Canadian TV.)
In the US, the ratings are ho-hum. They’re comparable with Nick’s other new series The Thundermans. They don’t reach the highs of Sam & Cat, Sanjay and Craig or even the seemingly ever-appealing SpongeBob SquarePants, but they haven’t hit the lows that the recently canned How to Rock and Wendell & Vinnie have. Still Nick’s Marvin Marvin pulled in similar numbers to both The Thundermans and The Haunted Hataways, and it still was canned. Considering though that Nick axed around ten series since 2013, I can’t see them putting this show out to pasture any time soon. Also considering the quality (in my humble opinion) and the decent-ish numbers it should be here for years to come.
The Haunted Hataways airs Wednesdays at 6 p.m. on YTV’s Big Fun Weeknights