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"The Fresh Beat Band" has been given a lot of flack since it premiered. Being basically Nickelodeon's answer to "Imagination Movers," many have outright dismissed this series as a rip off and while it is in essence kind of a rip off the show is still really very good.
This series doesn't rely on cartoon characters or puppets to reach kids. Instead it succeeds in being enjoyable mainly because it's so well written.
The plots for every episode is basically at pre-school level but the songs are truly good because they're always really fun to listen to, have great beats, and will surely stick in your head days after watching an actual episode.
Right from the start the opening theme song expresses what you're getting from the series. There's four members of the cast who are focused on and each person plays a particular instrument and in the opening theme they're essentially asking you to come along for the ride and join in on the fun.
And boy is it fun.
One thing I noticed is that the songs are so catchy that before you even realize it you'll be tapping your feet and nodding your head because unlike many other pre-school shows, the songs are just a blast to listen to. Take "Loco Legs" or "Great Day," two songs that have some really good beats and somehow seem much too hip for a kids show at times.
The show excels at creating music kids can listen to and dance along with and the series definitely inspires you to get up and dance, and it helps that the dance moves for the songs are easy to learn. But they're not all great obviously. "Friends Give Friends a Hand" is pretty clunky and the lyrics are very on the nose.
Another fine aspect is that without cartoons or puppets the writers have to turn the four cast members in to animated characters and lo and behold they do with flying colors.
The casting is pretty predictable with a diverse cast but the actors are so talented that it's impossible to dislike them. Sure they can grate on the viewer at times with their habit for giggling at every little thing, not to mention Jon Beaver's squeaky voice makes him sound like Shaggy from "Scooby-Doo." But those flaws aside the characters are very likable.
Twist is a great influence on the audience inspiring creativity with his rap lyrics. Most times Beavers isn't given much to do but when he's on screen he has a definite charm to him. Shout is downplayed with a humility that's pretty genuine. With his incredible talent it would be easy to make him smug or a braggart but the writers only use him when it's necessary and when he explodes he's quite impressive. His vocals are fantastic and he has a great physical presence. Shayna Rose as Marina is utterly adorable pulling off some great miming on the drums. Sometimes it's pretty obvious she's not playing but Rose makes up for it with her raspy vocals that play off well against the others. And then there's the very talented Yvette Gonzalez who is, not surprisingly, given the most to do.
Not only does her guitar playing completely outshine the other instruments at times but she leads most of the songs with these booming vocals that blast through the television. Basically she's the leader of the group and for good reason, too. In most of the songs you can hear her singing over everyone else and it feels like she has to hold back to prevent outshining the other cast members.
Which is understandable because they all have a lot to offer the series. While they're not perfect they definitely are charming and fun to watch and it's hard to pick a favorite.
There are some flaws to the show of course. Aside from the aforementioned, there's the supporting cast who aren't completely fun to watch. Melody is kind of annoying, and Ms. Piccolo's character is played for laughs that never deliver. There's also the extras who keep up with the choreography but never look like they belong in this environment. Every one of the four characters have their own color scheme, and even the supporting players have their own designs but the extras just look like they were pulled off the street so they stand out. And there's never an explanation why the Fresh Beats have prepubescent dopplegangers. They never appear until the final song, and they're noticeably conspicuous. Why are they always popping up in a music school comprised of adults on a campus that seems self-contained? And what relation do they bear to their adult counterparts? It makes no real sense.
As for the choreography it's often very fun to watch and the actors are very well trained but sometimes they dance out of synch and sometimes can never catch up with one another. This is made apparent by Beavers and Rose who can sometimes lag behind their co-stars. Beavers seems too slow while Rose can often look confused.
Otherwise it's a strictly simple show with simplistic plots but it holds a lot of appeal to parents and their kids. The music is great, the actors are likable, and I intend to see the show through to the end.
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