‘Alexa & Katie’: For teens and the teenager in you

Alexa & Katie has a traditional TV structure. Even when the situation calls for a group hug and a loud cheer, it ends with a simple voiceover from Alexa

Alexa & Katie is a departure from the crime shows I’ve been devouring of late. This is an absolute teen series, a genre that’s free from the clutches of violence and deceit.

Netflix is producing shows of all kinds for audiences of all ages. This latest multi-camera sitcom is targeted at the generation that is going to school now. The first episode starts off with Alexa (Paris Berelc) getting treated for cancer. She isn’t sober as the atmosphere would like to demand. Had the series been set before this time period, say at the stage of diagnosis, the stories would have been full of misery and concern. I’m not saying concern isn’t a big part of the series as it is, but the halo around the phase of recovery is generally less gloomy compared to the time it takes for the idea of cancer and the related issues to sink in.

Katie (Isabel May), from the other half of the title, is the girl who visits the hospital like she’s always known the place, the nurses, and the other patients there. By now, you might have figured that Alexa and Katie are best friends. The show doesn’t dig into their friendship through flashbacks, or throwback pictures, but grand gestures in grander scenes like Katie shaving off her head to present a face of solidarity – as Alexa loses clumps of her hair due to chemotherapy – are what make this sitcom a truly enjoyable one.

When Friends hit the world of American television twenty four years ago, critics and pop culture trackers pointed out that the all-white cast had robbed the series of tales associated with people of other races and colors. This is 2018, and we’ve sitcoms like Fresh Off the Boat, Master of None, and Alexa & Katie, where Asian-Americans are roped in as the headliners. Doesn’t this mean that the television industry in the West is broadening its scales to tell the stories of non-white people?

'Alexa & Katie': For teens and the teenager in you

Alexa & Katie has a traditional TV structure. Even when the situation calls for a group hug and a loud cheer, it ends with a simple voice-over from Alexa. The ubiquitous laugh track tells you how you should consume the show as it, mostly, stays in the bubbly-zone. Throughout the 13-episode scripted series, the prism of optimism shines bright. This has got to do with how the people around Alexa look after her, and how everything turns out to be alright at the end of the day. Her mom (Tiffani Thiessen as Lori), like every other mother on the planet, constantly checks up on her; and her best friend is literally just a window away (Alexa and Katie are neighbours who go to each other’s houses via a tree that connects their bedrooms).

Though, Alexa doesn’t want to be merely defined as the sick girl, she subtly expects the people around her to be with her through thick and thin.

And, sometimes, she uses her shaved head (an indicator of her illness), to get out of troubles. These themes are also a major part of another hit television series, Speechless, that stars Micah Fowler (he plays JJ DiMeo) as a high-schooler with cerebral palsy. JJ, too, is a naughty teenager with a tendency to pull pranks on his friends and family members. But Alexa and JJ manage to get away with it because of the empathizing lenses they are put under, and, are, instead, respected for their courage and strength despite the odds that are stacked against them.

Sitcoms like Speechless and Alexa & Katie show how the sun rises even during the darkest of times.

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