When it comes to television fiction, the screen has always loved Raven-Symoné. Her natural charisma and comedic-timing is what made her characters in The Cosby Show, Hangin' with Mr. Cooper and The Cheetah Girls--among others-- so memorable and beloved. Her titular role as psychic Raven Baxter on the Disney Channel's Emmy-nominated That's So Raven (2003-2007) is no different. Rumors of a series reboot caused a gleeful stir, when production for Raven's Home finally began last year. A trailer released in June revealed that, after failed marriages, Raven and her best friend Chelsea (Anneliese van der Pol reprises) are bunking together with their children. Unbeknownst to Raven, her son Booker (Issac Ryan Brown) has inherited her future-telling visions.
I have to say, the Booker-narrated trailer worried me. Unlike the Girl Meets World spinoff of Boy Meets World (I don't get why the channel cancelled such a wonderful and popular program), Raven's Home was pushed in the media as a continuation of Baxter and Co.'s story. I think it's safe to say not many were expecting (or wanting) an offspring-focused show that had our favorite screwball BFF's in the background. This is especially true when said offspring is only 11-years-old; teenagers have a better chance at appealing to both youth and adults. However, if the first two episodes (the premiere was July 21st) are indicative of what the entire season will be like, viewers need not be apprehensive.
While the youngsters indeed have their focal storylines, the hilarious "Ray and Chels" aren't that far behind. Their adult woes aren't avoided in the dialogue. It's made patent their co-habitation is a course of survival, and being together is a silver lining. After rehashing how her husband cheated on her with an undercover cop who bagged him for tax fraud, Chelsea concludes "We're really lucky both of our marriages fell apart." She and Raven pause before they say "Whoa...that got dark." Their zingers come as they sass and humiliate their kids, and discuss the pitfalls of parenting (like inadvertently picking favorites). Raven's twins, Nina and Booker, are unaware of her gift, so she uses it to get the jump on them. Their shortcomings as parents are also used (and well) for laughs. Raven's good-intentioned trouble-making still spreads like a wildfire and her children get caught in the brush. With Chelsea still dimwitted and her 9-year-old son Levi light-years ahead of her, you wonder who's raising who. The buddies adorably team-up to keep things from totally falling through the cracks. That's So fans who now have their own little armies may find this material relatable. Symoné and van der Pol's chemistry is intact.
The kiddies may not be the preferred age, but they're darling and entertaining enough that you don't mind watching them. The matter-of-fact--and sometimes sarcastic--musings of the endearing Levi (Jason Maybaum) make for winsome humor, particularly against Booker's goofiness. Navia Robinson is a light as the sharp, mature and demure Nina, who struggles to find her place amongst her wacky bunch. She and Brown have believable love/hate "sibling" rapport. Sky Katz has a supporting part as their sassy and tough neighbor Tess, but she's a scene stealer. Her funny is unfussy and comes unpretentiously.
Balance and connection between these two age clusters is made by having Raven and Chelsea mother their progeny through their shenanigans. It's a smart way to follow through on continuation promises, as well as and cater to a new generation. Given Symoné and van der Pol's abilities though, they're a surer bet to appeal to both audiences. It wouldn't be risky to split the spotlight down the middle. Lucy and Ethel have more antics in them.
Watching Raven's Home, there's a comfortable, familiar energy. It's as if things picked up right where they left off, which is a relief. You can catch the series Fridays at 8pm EST on Disney Channel.