THE SHOW "Victorious"
WHEN | WHERE Saturday at 9:30 p.m. on Nickelodeon
REASON TO WATCH Live-action sitcom with musical elements, and, of course, you're thinking "High School Musical" and "Hannah Montana" and should. Sony Music is the coproduction partner, so Nick will also be looking for some iTunes love shortly.
WHAT THE SHOW'S ABOUT Tori (Justice) is a bubbly, sweet, pretty teen whose older sister, Trina (Daniella Monet), is the family drama queen and attends a performing arts school called Hollywood Arts. Trina's got a voice to match her personality - big and brassy - but preparing to enter the "Showcase" performance competition, her tongue swells to three times its normal size. Tori is called in last second and, naturally, she's brilliant.
Longish story shortened: She gets an automatic admission to Hollywood Arts, where her classmates range from the neurotic - like Cat (Ariana Grande) - to the cute - like Beck (Avan Jogia), whose girlfriend is an Alpha Female with a not-nice streak. Andre (Leon Thomas) is her guardian angel offering protection from this flaky, vainglorious crew.
MY SAY "Victorious" arrives with a sight-unseen rep as Nick's most important launch this year, which is a terrible rep to have. Stealth launches are vastly preferred in the cruel little hothouse of teen TV because too much heat can make the audience feel like it has been manipulated and - surprise! - it usually is.
But the hype for "Victorious" is understandable. Justice has been labeled the Next Big Thing since "Zoey" and "Spectacular!," Nick's '09 answer to the Disney Channel's "HSM." Plus, the show is produced by Dan Schneider, teen TV's reigning champ, who can't seem to touch an idea without turning it into an unwieldy pile of cash for Nick - "iCarly" being the most recent evidence.
BOTTOM LINE Schneider's strong suit is fully evident here, with the fast, smart, inventive dialogue, and the pilot closes with an especially sharp and funny riff on "alphabet improv." Justice is good, too, as the guileless, good-hearted kid sis with real talent. The problem is the show itself - far too content to be something you've seen a dozen, a hundred, maybe a thousand times before.