Friday, April 22, 2011

Random Top 10: Sonny With a Chance Moments

With the recent news that Demi Lovato is leaving Sonny With a Chance to focus on her music career, I think it's time to bid a proper adieu to the beloved Disney show. The show had already announced that it was changing names (So Random!) and formats (sketch comedy), but Demi leaving is the final nail in the coffin. No one watches the show for the sketches, and without Demi, the show will be missing a vital ingredient that made it a success in the first place. Sterling Knight and Tiffany Thornton will have no one to bounce their insanity off of and it will be a total mess. But instead of dwelling on the negative, I want to celebrate this fabulous show. Sonny With a Chance proved to me that Disney shows could be as legit as network TV and got me watching Wizards of Waverly Place another amazing "kiddie" show. Their epic first season should have nabbed a few Emmys, while the second season, although not as strong overall, showed at least once an episode that the show was just as cutting edge as it was in the past. I will miss this show dearly. Let's take this opportunity to honor some of the best moments the show has given us as a way of saying thank you to Demi, Tiffany, Sterling and company for two seasons of pure joy.

10. The Real Princesses of New Jersey sketch on "So Random Holiday"
"Hey, yo, I walked the five feet to the front door so how 'bout a lil' somethin'-somethin' for your Prince Carmine, ya know what I'm sayin'?"
As a general rule, the sketches on So Random!, the show-within-a-show on Sonny With a Chance, are flat and uninspired, an opportunity for lowbrow humor before we get to the real show. But during a special holiday-themed episode filled with So Random! sketches this past season, this gem emerged. The ladies had previously done this sketch earlier in the season, and it turned out surprisingly well, but adding Sterling Knight as a guido Prince Charming proved to be the missing ingredient that pushed this sketch over the top. How can you not immediately love a sketch that features the SWAC cast parodying Jersey Shore, Demi/Sonny screeching "What am I, an animal?!" or a casual reference to Bruce Springsteen's Thunder Road? Springsteen! On a Disney show! Imagine that.

09. Chad and Tawni's Conversation in "With a Chance of Dating"
Sterling and Tiffany were rarely afforded the chance to work together, but whenever they did, they immediately clicked. My favorite moment between them is when they are discussing Sonny's upcoming date with a former flame of Tawni's, mainly because of this awesome exchange:

Chad: Why do you want him to back off?
Tawni: Why are you wearing a bib?
Chad: Jealous?
Tawni: I have my own bib!

08. 'High School Miserable'
One of the reasons I loved Sonny With a Chance so much was because of its fearless ability to comment on the conventions of tweenage celebrity and the culture that goes with it. Sonny With a Chance couldn't exist without the Disney Channel and its never ending parade of stars, shows and movies. In this episode, the cast has been fired from So Random! and are forced to go to a public high school. Accustomed to the life of Disney celebrity, the gang (minus Sonny) have no idea how to function in a normal high school setting. When they are rejected by everyone in the school, they start expressing their feelings through song. An onlooker asks Sonny what they are doing. She, shaking her head, says, "Apparently the only high school they know is the musical one." Begrudgingly, Sonny leads a choreographed number straight out of High School Musical. Instead of joining in on the routine, however, the rest of the cafeteria starts booing while throwing their trash at them. The delicious joke at the end which makes this sequence a hilarious send off to Disney's biggest hit: Sonny telling her booing classmates, "Seriously, guys? We just made all of that up!"

07. "Eat carbs, you animals!"

Tiffany Thornton has had many, many wonderful moments as self-absorbed diva Tawni Hart, battling Sonny for the spotlight or indulging in her own vanity. There is this really great moment in the episode "Fast Friends" where Tawni steals the show by (momentarily) helping Sonny out. Sonny has just done an interview where, inadvertently, she goes all "diva crazy" on Chad. She goes to the cafeteria, hoping to get him to admit that it was all a misunderstanding, but is immediately pelted with food by angry people ("There she is. There's the monster!"). Sonny enlists Tawni to cover her while she goes to speak to Chad. Tawni starts throwing rolls at the angry people, shouting "Eat carbs, you animals!" It's a simple moment, but Thornton completely nails it.

06. Chad Being Chad in "Sonny and the Studio Brat"
Chad Dylan Cooper is a one-of-a-kind character and I still stand by my belief that Sterling Knight should have gotten at the very least an Emmy nomination for bringing this character to life. "Sonny and the Studio Brat" isn't his episode, per se, but he does steal scenes like a motherfucking criminal. Witness some of his finest moments right here:

Sonny: Chad, you're so superficial.
 Chad: All I hear when you say that is, "Chad, you're so super blah blah blah blah"

Sonny: I have the sweetest girl here and she really wants to meet you.
Chad: Ooooh, what's she look like?
Sonny: She's nine.
Chad: *hangs up*

"Oh daddy?!"

05. Gassie's Funeral
There was a moment in the first two and a half episodes of the second season of Sonny With a Chance where I thought the show had lost the spark that made it so great the first season. The third episode started off with a whimper--the farting dog from one of So Random!'s most popular sketches has suddenly past away thanks to Sonny giving the unloved dog too much attention--but ended with a massive bang that proved the show was just as biting as ever. Chad offers to throw a memorial for Gassie since Sonny is too distraught to do it. She wants a tasteful ceremony which is Chad's cue to throw an extravagant memorial complete with a choir and speeches from his co-stars. While Chad is directing the whole memorial and Tawni is turning her eulogy into yet another attempt to make everything about her, Nico and Grady are trying to make a buck selling useless farting lunchboxes as memorial souvenirs. Coming just 8 months after the death of Michael Jackson and the media circus surrounding his funeral that everyone, even members of his family, took advantage of for their own gain, this is a biting commentary on the state of celebrity deaths circa 2010 ("You saw him as nothing more than a tooting ATM.").


Tawni, spending a couple of days without looking in the mirror, ends up looking like The Joker. It's a funny moment that proved that Sonny With a Chance, unlike some other Disney shows, isn't trapped in its own little world and can make suitable pop culture references with the best of them.

03. Sonny and Chad's Fake Date
"Now smile like you're having the time of your life."

From the moment Sonny and Chad first met, sparks flew and it was only a matter of time before they would become the biggest "will they or won't they?" couple in all of TV. It took a couple of episodes, but the Sonny With a Chance writers finally started letting them explore their feelings for each other in this episode by putting them together on a "fake" date to get revenge on a guy who done Sonny wrong. The date starts off with the typical banter that comes from putting Sonny and Chad in the same room ("If we're gonna hold hands, you have to switch sides...This is my hand-holding hand!") but slowly progresses to a point where they are "hypothetically" expressing their desire to date each other. Of course, their original mission interrupts any further attempt at exploring feelings, but it's still a total squee-worthy moment. Another reason this scene is amazing: I believe it's the first time we hear Chad's infamous sign-off "Peace out, suckas! Aaaah!"

02. Banning Zac Efron
"Because it's my wall. And I like saying I banned Zac Efron. There will come a day when Zac Efron comes knocking on that door and he's like, 'Hey, can I come in.' And I'll be like 'Oh no. You're banned."
The rivalry between tween heartthrob Chad Dylan Cooper and his more widely-popular foe Zac Efron made for some of the best in-jokes on the show, especially since Sterling Knight is friends with Efron in real life. CDC may be the greatest actor of his generation but the popularity of Efron is something he will always be trying to achieve.

01. "Battle of the Networks' Stars"
I'm choosing the entire episode because how can I be forced to single out one moment from the greatest episode the show ever created? "Battle of the Networks' Stars" is a brilliant synthesis of comedy for Disney's main demographic (children) and a more mature, meta commentary on these tween celebrities. The episode is about Chad directing a movie of his life. After trying to find suitable actors to portray the "losers from So Random!--no offense," Chad relents by allowing the real people play themselves. Except Sonny, that is, who is forced to audition for her role ("This is Sonny Munroe reading for the part of Sonny Munroe"). Before she's even finished, Chad has hired fellow Disney thespian Selena Gomez, Demi Lovato's best friend in real life at the time, to portray Sonny. Shenanigans ensue, which include Sonny calling Selena, in an obvious reference to her role on Wizards of Waverly Place, a "relationship wizard" when she calls Sonny out on liking Chad, and Selena mentioning that she was in a movie called Camp Hip-Hop, referring to Demi's breakout Disney movie. The episodes culminates in a scene on the set of Chad Dylan Cooper: The Chad Dylan Cooper Story. In a move straight out of Synecdoche, New York, Selena has hired Sonny as her "Sonny consultant" to help her get more into character. Mad at Chad, or attempting to hide her true feelings for him, she interrupts shooting a few times, reminding Selena that when Chad's "staring into your eyes, he's really staring at his reflection in your eyes." After calling him "the worst actor of our generation," Chad explodes and they erupt into the most passionately angry fight I've ever seen on a Disney show. I thought for sure they were going to jump each other.

Besides being a truly hilarious episode--even Nico, after spending time with lookalikes of himself and Grady who know how to get girls, gets a funny line: "Maybe they can teach us to be better versions of ourselves"--"Battle of the Networks' Stars" is a sly exploration of Sonny and Chad's relationship. Chad's movie recreates key moments in the Sonny and Chad relationship we've seen on Sonny With a Chance, but Chad has tweaked them so that Sonny has fallen in love with him. Is this simply an ego boost for Chad, a reminder that he can get any girl to fall in love with him, or is it wishful thinking on his part? And after Selena insists that Sonny has feelings for Chad, Sonny decides to don a cloak and wizard hat to become "relationship wizard" Selena, just as Selena has become Sonny. It's a great visual gag, and it does allow Chad to call Sonny "Scary Potter," but it's also a defense mechanism for Sonny. She becomes Selena as a way of distracting herself from the fact that what Selena said may be true. The fact that Sonny With a Chance chooses to portray the Sonny and Chad relationship in this manner is truly astounding; the fact that it does this while also being hilariously quotable is further proof that this was not just another Disney show.


Rayne Branch said...

I miss this show and I've been re-watching the 2 seasons over and over again during the past few weeks.

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