Perhaps it ended up being more of a curse than a blessing when Adventures in Odyssey decided to introduce its most beloved family, the Barclays, so early on in the show. All that we older listeners can do now is compare each and every family to this perfect model. Unlike some fans, I've never had a problem with doing this. Why? Because not only am I an Odyssey purist, but a realist as well. The Barclays were extraordinary. Period. We do not want cheap imitations or wannabes; we want a family we can love, relate to, and invest in emotionally--a fictional family we can feel part of, and who can be part of ours weekly. And it's a shame that we have to deconstruct and analyze what makes up a good family-centric episode whenever a family, like the Parkers, ask us for our time...but I will anyway.
Frankly, the Washington family left and I barely cared. Did you? They weren't the show's most memorable addition. I'm sure the writer's would admit this themselves. After all, the Barclays were given their own send-off episode, compared to the Washingtons, who have seemingly dropped off the face of the earth. The reasons for the Washington family's failure to connect with listeners are obvious. The Washingtons demoted Xavier, its most compelling character, much too early, and squandered many opportunities to tackle interesting and deep family-related issues, in exchange for chaotic and so-called "comic relief" storylines. Truth be told, Ed, Elaine, Marvin, and Tamika, often seemed to be parodying a family and rarely felt like the real thing. The writers kept Ed Washington in his fatherly role, and never gave him the opportunity to develop into an intriguing character on his own, separate from his family. I could continue on but I won't. I've done that enough here. My point is that Adventures in Odyssey has an real opportunity to not let the Parker family go the way the Washingtons did.
Fortunately, I already have a fair bit of confidence in this family to give audiences unique, entertaining, and thought-provoking episodes. Already, Matthew "Sam Johnson" Parker has forced his way into our hearts, even though some of us may still be in denial about that. And everyone unanimously agrees that Mr. Parker and Camilla are two excellent characters. And while the jury is still out on Olivia, the writers can keep us happy by perhaps digitally lowering her voice, or at least, placing her character into situations where she won't need to whine so much. I suppose time will tell. However, is it just me, or did "An Agreeable Nanny" seem more like a Washington episode than a Barclay episode?
For some reason, when I think of the Washington family, I think of episodes that are loud, somewhat fanciful, and borderline chaotic. Like last season's "Clutter", "An Agreeable Nanny" is an episode that doesn't have much in terms of plot. As I've recently explained in my review of "Fast as you Can", shows like these barely pass as real stories, but are simply one idea repeating itself several times in different ways; the episodes driving it home again and again without much development. It would be the same as making an episode, thematically, about lying and simply hearing a character tell lies for the rest of the episode and expect that to hold our attention for 25 minutes.
So must every new and heavily promoted family star in an episode where kids go nuts while the parents are away? The Barclays had "Two sides to Every Story"; the Washington's had "The Mailman Cometh"; and now the Parker's have "An Agreeable Nanny". I wonder if there was any another way to communicate that kids "aren't as grown up as they think they are" without having to resort to listening to an entire episode where its central characters make poor decision after poor decision for twenty-five minutes. At least "Two sides to Every Story" had a creative storyline; listeners played detective while getting to piece together what was true about Donna and Jimmy's individual stories. No, I am not saying this because some sort of biasness towards the Barclays. "Two Sides to Every Story" is simply better and "An Agreeable Nanny" simply lacks its cleverness.
In addition, Bob Hoose, when writing for these characters, seemed to have ignored all the maturity, wisdom and common sense Olivia and Matthew have shown in the past. Is this the same Matthew Parker who acted so calm and rational next to Emily Jones for two seasons? I bet Bob Hoose noticed he only really had the Parker family at hand, and as a result, ended up injecting these new hyperactive personalities into the Parker kids, failing to realize that this doesn't jive well with how we've seen them act in recent episodes. And although I'm glad the show didn't choose the Jones family to be in this show, I almost think that the personalities of Emily and Barrett would have suited the storyline better. Almost.
And might I also officially call this the season of "ridiculous-plot-twists-tacked-onto-the-end-of-episodes"? "Stage Fright" felt the need to surprise us by making Charlie Stolfitz into an undercover actor, "An Agreeable Nanny" felt the need to have an British undercover nanny; and "The Melted Milkball Falcon" decided to--wait, let's wait until next week before tackling that one. While I don't think the "surprise" was completely unbelievable, I had a difficult time coming up with a single reason for why Mr. and Mrs. Parker felt the need to hire an actress-- instead of a simply hiring a real nanny. Did she need to sound British? Not really. But Mary Poppins did. And throwing in as many "Mary Poppins" or "The sound of Music" references was probably an easy way of injecting more life into an already dull story.
However, it would be unfair to review "An Agreeable Nanny" without pointing to a few of its better moments. I'll admit that there were quite a few memorable lines: "We'll work out your punishments after Maria goes, there's no point in having a witness--I mean--for her to witness..." or "You're not Cambrish?". Today, the best actress award goes to the youngest Parker, Camilla, who made me laugh several times throughout. While the scene in which she watches a scary movie is a familiar one, she performs in it well, and turns that particular scene into the highlight of the episode. I personally would not have let the dog lick the dishes, nor, for that matter, would I have cleaned them using a hose, but I probably would have waited until my parents left to watch a movie I knew I wasn't supposed to watch.
The somewhat chaotic "An Agreeable Nanny" feels recycled and follows a stale formula. I'm somewhat disappointed that my opinion differs so greatly from the numerous fans who've expressed their love for this episode. I cannot, unfortunately, appreciate this one as much as they did. The Parker family has a lot of potential and I eagerly look forward to when the show creates more interesting storylines to showcase this family's chemistry and solid performances. And while "An Agreeable" isn't exactly a bad episode, it still made me feel like I deserved something better than this. In fact, we all did.
RATING: ★ ★ ½