So Not the Drama: "Kim Possible" Returns to Form for Season 4
All serial fiction that runs for any length of time eventually faces the challenge of change. Change too much in a serial and you risk damaging or eliminating the qualities that made the serial compelling in the first place. Change too little and you risk creative stagnation and audience boredom. It’s a fine line that many a show has stumbled over.
The creators of Disney’s Kim Possible faced an even bigger challenge when they returned to season 4 of the show. The title character (voiced by Christy Carlson Romano), a cheerleading teenager who also happens to be a superhero operative, deals both with the hazards that come with saving the world on a regular basis and the infinitely greater perils of high school. She’s like a younger, more lighthearted Buffy the Vampire Slayer, or perhaps Spider-Man with Mary Jane subbing for Peter Parker, hold the angst if you please. Kim is assisted in her work by her friend Ron Stoppable (Will Friedle), who is as inept as Kim is competent; Rufus, Ron’s pet naked mole rat (Nancy Cartwright); the computer whiz and gizmo wrangler Wade (Tahj Mowry). Rounding out the show regulars are her best friend and fashion template Monique (Raven) and a family unit composed of a rocket scientist (Gary Cole), a brain surgeon (Jean Smart), and annoying twin super-genius kid brothers (Shaun Fleming).
The third season of the show ended with So the Drama, a Disney Channel Original Movie, which culminated with Kim and Ron finally giving in to the mutual attraction that had been hinted at throughout the series. To fans, it certainly felt like a worthy sendoff, which is why season 4 is being approached with such trepidation. The most common fear seems to be that the budding romance between Kim and Ron would dominate the new season, replacing the show’s action-comedy hybrid with the unending mooning and sighing of teenage love. The second-most common fear is that the giant reset button would get pushed, dumping the show back to its pre-finale status quo.
Season 4 begins on Friday, February 10, and Kim’s fans can breathe easier. Judging by the first two episodes of the new season, neither concern has come to pass. The crew has successfully walked the tightrope, adding a slew of new elements while retaining what made it appealing in the first place.
The first of the new episodes, “Ill Suited,” picks up almost literally from the final moments of So the Drama. It even uses the segue to playfully tweak the fans who feared the giant reset button. The rest of the episode, driven by old villain Professor Dementor, proves that the romance between Kim and Ron is as good a device as any to drive a plot of an episode. Sitcoms have been using relationships as comedic fodder for decades, and the crew of Kim Possible fully recognize the potential there, setting up the episode with a classic misheard conversation gag that leads to the klutzy Ron joining the football team to impress Kim. The real wizardry happens in the show’s third act, when the misunderstanding and its resolution are used to drive both the action and the comedy at the same time, as Kim and Ron have what may be one of the most creative first fights of any TV couple. Also new to the show are extra 30-second gags that run over the end credits, exploited in this episode to tease the fans who feared a catastrophic quality crash in the new season.
The second episode, “Trading Faces,” feels far more like an older episode of Kim Possible, with the dating situation used only for the occasional throwaway gag. The real shakeup in this episode is the promise of a bigger role for Kim’s irritating twin brothers, Jim and Tim, collectively known as the Tweebs, who join Kim as freshmen at her high school while a series of brazen robberies by celebrities puzzles our intrepid heroes. Whether it flies or founders will largely depend on your tolerance for the Tweebs. They are mostly used well here, although the wisdom of giving them an expanded role on the show is still open to debate. The episode may be mostly predictable, but it’s part of the fun of Kim Possible that it winks knowingly at the audience about the conventions of the superspy/superhero genre even while it’s conforming to them. These winks were one of many tricks the show used to ensure that episodes were still entertaining even when they were predictable.
The show’s other tools prove undiminished with the show’s year-long hiatus. The Tweebs look a little older, but the character designs for the rest of the cast have not changed. The animation is still some of the best around for a domestically produced weekly television series, perhaps outdone now only by Nickelodeon’s Avatar the Last Airbender. The new episodes demonstrate that writers and co-creators Bob Schooley and Mark McCorkle have not lost their touch at tossing out occasional jokes guaranteed to sail over the heads of the kids while drawing belly laughs from older siblings or adults. Kim and Ron are their usual appealing selves, with Christy Carlson Romano and Will Friedle slipping back into their old roles like well-worn gloves. The rest of the cast returns as well, and future episodes promise the return of some old favorites, both hero and villain alike.
Early press releases and other information about Kim Possible‘s fourth season emphasized the new elements in the show, but the changes for now are more evolutionary than revolutionary. If you didn’t like the show before, there won’t be much here to change your mind. Fans of the show will tune in regardless, but there is little here for even the most nitpicky to complain about. It’s still the Kim we all know and love, and thank goodness for that. For the rest of the world, Kim Possible season 4 is a fine point to jump into the world of the irrepressible Miss Possible.
Kim Possible‘s fourth season debuts on the Disney Channel on Saturday, February 10, at 8:00 PM with a two-hour marathon of episodes.
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