Parents' Choice Foundation: Reviewing Children's Media Since 1978

Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street

Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street

Spring 2015 Television
Ages: 6 - 11 yrs.
Producer: Amazon Studios
Rating: TV G

Parents may breathe an audible sigh of relief to find their kids watching Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street, a new live-action series aimed at 'tween and young teens, and available to view on Amazon Instant video. In a sea of shows featuring wise-cracking, unreflective teens barreling down the fast-lane to adulthood, Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street offers something totally different. Each half-hour episode strikes a mellow tone that actually supports a deep intention: Searching for the extraordinary moments in a seemingly ordinary life.

Gortimer and his best friends Ranger and Mel live on Normal Street, a typical suburban setting that actually has something eerie going on under the surface. Magic? Mysticism? Maybe. . . but nothing so overt that it takes over the show's focus on friendship and being the better person even when it would be easier to just take the low road.

In "Gortimer vs. the Mobile of Misfortune," Gortimer attempts to help a fellow teen break an unlucky streak, but he soon finds himself experiencing a surge of bad fortune too and has to figure out how to stop it before the entire neighborhood is jinxed. In "Mel vs. the Mel-o-dramatic Robot," Mel's concerned her science fair project won't measure up so she sets out to create a robot that turns out to have a mind of its own. And in "Gortimer and the Mystical Mind Eraser," Gortimer calls on a memory-impaired neighbor to figure out if there's a way to erase a particularly unpleasant memory that's been troubling him. While the otherworldly elements drive these storylines, the real takeaway messages are about issues teens grapple with daily, like handling disappointment, or putting friends first. Parents make an appearance here and there in the series but it's the kids who figure out life's lessons all on their own and that's refreshing.

Production value is top-notch, too. The program is creatively directed and nicely scored. Scripts are believable - and that's no small feat when the main character's internal musings about life are heard in voice-over. It would be easy to go overboard and come across as syrupy or pretentious but Gortimer's writers skillfully avoid those potholes and present brief but thought-provoking points that fit naturally into the scripts and will resonate with young people.

Imagine the sincerity of the film Stand By Me crossbred with the gently humorous insights of television's The Wonder Years and the result might be Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street. As Gortimer himself notes in one episode, when it comes to the families on Normal Street, there is no norm, and that's a message that has a deeper and important meaning for any teen trying to fit into a "normal" world.

Gina Catanzarite   ©2015 Parents' Choice
Gina Catanzarite is an award-winning television producer, writer, teacher, mom and media consultant in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began her career in 1987 and counts 9 Emmy awards, 26 Emmy nominations, a Matrix award, two Pennsylvania Broadcaster's Association Awards, 8 Telly Awards, and a screenwriting grant from the Theatre Association of Pennsylvania, among her professional honors.

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