Sitcoms are universally resistant to change. I mean, it’s in the name, for pete’s sake — it’s a show that draws laughs from a situation. (Situation comedy. See? WORDS!) They can bounce characters off each other all they want, but pushing those characters forward in their lives is often a slow, agonizing, season-long process. (And then one of your actors goes bat-s*** insane and you have to replace him with Kelso from That 70s Show. Miraculously, nothing changes even after all that! Also, you should totally watch That 70s Show because it has Mila Kunis. I know these things.)
American shows aimed at younger demographics can be even more resistant to change due to the patronizing assumption that children just don’t get how life works, man. So when iCarly took the leap of faith and committed to one of its two primary relationship possibilities, I pumped my fist in the air with glee. Now, put aside your shipper arguments. I frankly don’t care if it was Sam or Carly who kissed Freddie. What matters is that the show took a chance on shifting the relationship dynamics between two characters in a way that was meaningful and will definitely be remembered in the weeks and months to come. This isn’t just the hero worship of “iSaved Your Life” or the first-kiss debacle of “iKiss”. The girl who kicked Freddie around for years turned around and kissed the guy. There’s no coming back from that!
And over the past few weeks, we didn’t come back from it. Starting with “iLost My Mind”, iCarly managed to strike a balance between its sitcommy setups (a mental hospital, for serious?) and a realistic depiction of two people trying to figure out if they can make a relationship work. As we find out in “iLove You”, they aren’t quite there yet. But in just a few short weeks, iCarly has moved so far away from its delightful little pilot.
Part of what’s been fun about Sam and Freddie dating is how much new stuff we get to learn about the characters. “iLove You” is no different. Carly’s Mother-Hen nature continues as she tries to nurture the “Seddie” of it all and encourages Sam and Freddie to take an interest in each other’s hobbies. Naturally, the show plays up one basic trait apiece: Freddie’s nerdiness brings us to “The Training Bros.”, a… model train club. (No, seriously, a model train club. iCarly is not a normal sitcom by any stretch of the imagination.) Sam, of course, has a family tree locked up in prison, and she tries to get Freddie to meet them… and help her smuggle some ham to them.
Meanwhile, the show downplays Jerry Trainor’s physical comedy, which stinks because that guy is a walking cartoon character who should not be contained. He gets the B-story, when he starts dating an old babysitter Jenna (which… okay) and they immediately fall into old patterns — she being the controller, the power-holder, and he being the little man-child that he, well, actually is.
Ultimately, I think it’s this last part that’s the real issue of the episode (as opposed to Carly’s little bit about how Spencer and Jenna are trying to force their old relationship into something new). Change is scary! And sometimes, in the process, you get scared and fall right back into old patterns and habits. Put Sam in a room full of model train nerds, and she’s going to blow something up. Try and use Freddie as a ham smuggler and you know he’s going to mess something up. That’s just who they are, fundamentally, and the best relationships will challenge those fundamental aspects of your personality.
In the end, of course, the relationship doesn’t work out. Sam and Freddie break up at the end. But then something cool happens. Freddie says, “I love you.” And Sam says, “I love you too.” And somewhere between them, you believe that there’s finally some truth to those words. Just as Jennette McCurdy and Nathan Kress are no longer the squishy young actors from “iPilot”, Sam and Freddie are no longer the children they once were. They’ve grown, and challenged each other, and become — against even the odds of the situation at the heart of the show, the conceit of an amateur web series that artificially threw them together — friends.
The “Seddie” shippers out there are going to cry foul on me. (I can almost hear the feral screams of Goopy Gilbert now…) They’ll say that Dan Schneider has trolled them once again, that he’s pulled the rug from underneath THE ONLY TRUEST LOVE IN THE UNIVERSE. But that’s not true. Because, first, the only truest love in the universe is Amy Pond and Rory Williams from Doctor Who. (Again, I know these things.) And second, it’s because he was willing to make meteoric strides with two of his most beloved characters, and he did it with less episodes than most sitcoms usually take to achieve the same effect. Whatever views you ascribe to with regards to this show, you have to know that this really means something in the grand scheme of iCarly and its place in sitcom history.
And if you don’t believe me, believe in Gibby. Gibby will never ever change, because I have pitchforks with “GIBBAY!” etched into the handles if he does change, and I am perfectly okay with sharing.