THE SHOW "iCarly"
WHEN|WHERE Friday at 8 p.m. on Nickelodeon
WHAT IT'S ABOUT The series finale! And it's called (what else, really) "iGoodbye." Carly (Miranda Cosgrove) hopes to be able to go to the very last father-daughter dance with Dad, but the never-before-seen Col. Steven Shay remains characteristically elusive.
The Air Force officer needs to be in Italy, but older bro Spencer (Jerry Trainor) can take his place -- until doorman Lewbert (Jeremy Rowley) sneezes on him. Spence gets very sick. Questions to be answered: Will fans ever meet Col. Shay? Will Gibby (Noah Munck) get his head back (long story)? Will Sam (Jennette McCurdy) get her prized bike? And why did Freddy's (Nathan Kress) mom buy him a phone the size of a book?
MY SAY As always, this isn't so much goodbye -- OK, igoodbye -- as "see you next season." Trainor's got a forthcoming Nick at Nite sitcom, while McCurdy and Ariana Grande (Cat from "Victorious") will star in a new show, and even Munck's Gibby has landed one.
Same old TV story: "iCarly" isn't merely a hit, but a factory. There is one name, however, conspicuously absent from the spinoff roll call, and the very name most responsible for this Nick triumph. Miranda Cosgrove, 19, isn't leaving for a movie career, or a music tour, or a fab new sitcom. She's left for college (USC). I know, right? A teen superstar with something as immodest, as unassuming as intellectual curiosity? Cosgrove has been in front of a camera pretty much continuously for nine years (since "School of Rock"), yet somehow, at this precarious juncture, avoided the self-immolation that consumed other fallen role models, like Miley Cyrus.
The show's success has been laid to many factors -- creator Dan Schneider's childlike exuberance, or the show's ties with the Internet, which were considered groundbreaking at launch in 2007. But I know the real secret: the sweet, gentle, shy, intelligent, unassuming style of its lead, which apparently was not an act after all.
BOTTOM LINE Fans (you know who you are) will laughandcry. Mostly the latter.
GRADE For fans: A. For everyone else: Never mind. (You just wouldn't get it.)