I watched a bunch of Drake and Josh reruns just over a year ago and… there’s a lot about this show that hasn’t aged well. Some of the plots are incredibly stupid. Pretty much any story centered around mischief caused by Megan (a young Miranda Cosgrove) is frustrating. A bunch of the early episodes leaned too heavily on laughs of watching a fat kid embarrass himself, courtesy Josh Peck. And the comedy is always slapstick and broad.
So if I disliked so much about the show, why did it make the list? Well, partially due to sentimental value. Watching this with my brothers every day after school is one of my favorite memories from high school. It’s had a big impact on me: When I wrote a spec pilot script last year, it centered around two brothers from a nontraditional family — one a charmer and one a nerd, just like Drake and Josh.
But I think there’s a lot to love about this show beyond my sentimental value. It’s solid fun, with occasionally hilarious writing and performances. There’s a great stable of side characters and fantastic chemistry between the perfectly-cast leads, Drake Bell and Josh Peck.
The central premise of Drake and Josh, in case you haven’t seen it, is that Drake’s (Drake Bell) mom marries Josh’s (Josh Peck) dad, and so the two are forced to live with each other despite their drastic personality differences. Josh is a nerd and goofball, while Drake is popular and carefree. Drake is more of a straight character (especially early in the seires), but both actors have fantastic comic chops, and the affection between the actors — real-life best friends — is obvious. The show usually ended on some warm, redemptive note, highlighted by the refrain first heard in the pilot: “HUG ME, BROTHA!”
Like with any Dan Schneider show, there’s a lot of lunacy on the fringes of the show that is absolutely inspired. So many classic side characters — from the short-tempered Crazy Steve (played by the exceptional Jerry Trainor), to grumpy theater manager Helen (pre-Community Yvette Nicole Brown), to Josh’s fellow nerds … well, I could just list every character here, since they’re pretty much all great.
Two more characters I want to honor before I move on: Mindy Crenshaw (Allison Scagliotti), Josh’s academic foil and on-off romance, was probably my favorite side character (and one of my high school TV crushes). All of her episodes were great, and giving Josh a girlfriend was refreshing when most of the episodes were about Drake and his women.
Lastly, Clayton. Oh, gibberish-speaking Clayton. You only appear in one episode in the entire series (in “Josh is Done,” my pick for the show’s best dramatic episode), but your appearance is still probably thing I reference most about this show. “I don’t know what you’re saying!” is one of my most-quoted lines from any show.
I could cite specific episodes and stories I loved from Drake and Josh, but the truth is the individual stories on this show have never really stuck with me. They’re not what I remember. What I remember are the show’s crazy comic wavelength, the warmth and chemistry between its leads, its great stable of side characters, and its great theme song (one of the fifteen or twenty best ever, in my opinion — it’s catchy, and perfectly captures the feel of the show).
Before I wrap this post up I want to honor a few more Dan Schneider shows. Schneider is a juggernaut producer of kids comedy, and he’s also known to appeal to older viewers with innuendos and jokes for adults sprinkled in. His mantra is “no lessons learned,” which, on the one hand is bull crap, as the best episodes of his shows deal with characters facing up to their biggest flaws and learning from those challenges. But, on the other hand, his mantra is a stroke of genius — how many other kids shows actively try to be about nothing but laughs and characters? Is it any surprise that kids’ love his shows?
This classic teen sketch comedy show was the first show Schneider wrote for. It was the launch of several notable careers (including Schneiders). The most notable actors were Kenan Thompson, Kel Mitchell, and Amanda Bynes. I never watched too much of All That, so I don’t have much of an opinion on it.
Schneider produced and wrote for the first two seasons of Kenan and Kel, and produced the Good Burger movie. A lot of people my age have very fond memories of Kenan and Kel, but I didn’t tune in often. I’ve liked the episodes I’ve watched, and I enjoy the YouTube clips of the show I see, often for their trademark Schneider lunacy (Kel proclaiming his love for orange soda, Kel admitting that he dropped the screw in the tuna, etc.)
Another sketch show, The Amanda Show was the first TV show created by Schneider as a show-runner. I have great memories watching this show, which ratcheted the zaniness up to maximum levels, with my brothers. Our favorite sketch as kids was “a hillbilly moment” where Amanda Bynes would hit Drake Bell on the head with different objects. Schneider himself, who acted a bit in the 1980s, had a recurring role as a flustered recipient of prank calls (he’s excellent). Several actors — notably Drake, Josh, and their mom, played by Nancy Sullivan, returned in Drake and Josh.
A rather divisive topic in my household is whether iCarly or Drake and Josh is the superior show — and, not surprisingly, the older siblings prefer the older show. I find iCarly — the significantly more popular and longer-running successor to Drake and Josh starring Cosgrove — to be more mean-spirited than Drake and Josh. Although iCarly was often hilarious (my parents even watched it), the chemistry between Miranda Cosgrove and her co-stars was vastly inferior to that between Drake and Josh’s. (Long-standing rumors of co-stars Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy hating each other is definitely supported by their on-screen presence.)
I also found the central premise of middle schoolers running a wildly successful web show that’s just them being quirky and “random” to be absurdly unbelievable and contrived. Total wish fulfillment. I don’t think I’ve cared about a single plot centered around the web show. Maybe I’m unempathetic, but it seems like poor writing. Why would I care if they lose some viewers or a competing show steals their ideas? Ridiculous. At least Drake and Josh had a simple, grounded-in-reality premise where the stakes were usually obvious.
Then again, iCarly had a few things in its favor. It featured an even more prominent role for Jerry Trainor (aka Crazy Steve), this time playing Carly’s older brother and given extensive, often weird and hilarious, plots. And the central love triangle between Carly, Sam, and Freddie was actually kinda interesting and decently-done for what was ostensibly a kids’ show. (For the record, I was rooting for Sam and Freddie to make it — better chemistry and tension — even though it was obvious Freddie and Carly was the endgame.)
But there’s no question: Drake and Josh will always be my favorite Schneider show.