Ignore the Rating. Take the Show.
Clever and funny, 'Big Nate' makes a great first impression on Paramount Plus.
Now Streaming: As I've observed time and time again, some shows that are designed for younger people talk down to their age group. It's like adults who make gurgling sounds to a 10-year-old child, thinking that baby talk is the only way to communicate with younger people.
Happily, that is not the case with Big Nate, which just dropped eight half-hour episodes on the Paramount Plus streaming service. I've only watched the first two episodes, which instantly struck me as comedy gold that I want to dole out to myself over the coming weeks, so I can savor them, instead of binging the whole enchilada in one gulp.
Once again, the show reinforces my impression that when it comes to finding quality television shows and movies, suitable for my enjoyment as a reasonably intelligent adult, parental guidelines are not helpful at all. Of course, the ratings, voluntary as they are, are not intended to speak to relative quality. Rather, in the view of the official guidelines issued by the television industry: "Many parents are concerned about their young children watching programs with content that’s more suitable for older children or adults."
Big Nate is rated TV-Y7. What does that mean? The official guidelines state:
"This program is designed for children age 7 and above. It may be more appropriate for children who have acquired the developmental skills needed to distinguish between make-believe and reality. Themes and elements in this program may include mild fantasy violence or comedic violence, or may frighten children under the age of 7. Therefore, parents may wish to consider the suitability of this program for their very young children."
In my experience, programmed designed for younger people gets short shrift by adults, especially those without children. After all, 'it's just for kids.' The more time I spend watching 'family programming,' the more I'm finding shows that I can enjoy with irony as an adult.
(End editorial, already. Back to the review!)
Based on a comic strip by Lincoln Peirce, first syndicated in 1991, and two series of children's books that followed, also by Peirce, Big Nate follows young Nate as he navigates middle school, supported by Martin (voiced by Rob Delaney), his loving single father; Ellen (Dove Cameron), his older sister; and a group of loyal, supportive friends who all have their own lovable quirks.
The dialogue is witty, the action is fresh, and the artistic style is highly accomplished, mixing elements that look like they were translated straight from the original black-and-white comic strip, tumbling together with occasional bits of collage art, characters designs that make each person stand out as an individual, tethered to voice talent that distinguishes one from another without leaning too heavily into sounding 'like a cartoon for kids.'
Big Nate comes across as a friendly space for kids to watch while their parents and/or adult guardians put aside distractions and pull up a chair to see what's going on. As a single adult without children, I was initially captivated by the silly sense of humor that feels like it's coming straight out of an adult's brain, and the artistic mixture that makes the series stand out.
Originally announced in February 2020, the series was greenlit by Nickelodeon for 26. episodes, per Animation Magazine. Plans changed -- something about a global pandemic? -- leading to a December 2021 announcement that the series would be premiering instead on Paramount Plus, as reported by Deadline, though still with the Nickelodeon banner, which is prominently featured on the streaming service.
Since that latest announcement, Paramount Plus began adding a series of shorts, each running 3-6 minutes, which is a great option to consider if you're ever running short of time, but need a burst of brash and funny comic goodness. Personally, I will keep this on my 'to watch' list to guard against any future cloudy days. [Paramount Plus]