This review is split into two pages. Page One is the (Mostly) Safe Zone (there may be minor spoilers), while Page Two Is Lava (major spoilers).
Title: The Babysitters Club: the Netflix series, Season One
Rating: 10 out of 5 times Karen basically steals the show, only to lose it to the badass clutches of Morbidda Destiny, who hands it right back because she’s the most amazing
witch feminist spiritual leader ever and if Karen could just see how much they actually have in common, they could probably heal the space-time continuum with their metaphysical teamwork.
Soundtrack: See “California Diaries (a BSCC Playlist)” on Spotify, which includes all the songs from the show that I could find (so far), plus a bunch of songs related to the BSCC Podcast (srsly, if you haven’t already, start binging that, and then join the Baby Nation Facebook Group. It’ll tide you over until Season 2). Note: a few of the songs have explicit content.
Trigger warnings: Episode 6 is about the near-death of a grandparent, and the characters discuss Japanese internment camps in detail.
As Claudia would say: Oh. My. LORD. What can I say about this show that isn’t just a literal translation of the gleeful screaming in my head?
It is So. Freaking. DELIGHTFUL! It updates the original book series in such a smooth, respectful way that I feel like this is what Ann M. Martin herself might have wanted to write* back in the 80s and 90s if mainstream children’s publishing had let her. I mean, look how she was just barely allowed to sneak in a barely-gay character in the supposedly-edgy California Diaries (1997-2000), and now…THIS SHOW!!!
Yes, there are gonna be a few “purists” and “concerned citizens” who complain that it’s too “politically correct” to be fun, but as a few Baby Nation members have pointed out: THE ORIGINAL SERIES WAS ALSO “POLITICALLY CORRECT,” for its own time. The books featured non-traditional families, characters of various races and ethnicities and religions, characters with disabilities, feminist uprisings, banned books, re-examinations of beloved American holidays and their problematic histories (srsly, check out Claudia and the First Thanksgiving)… The Netflix show is just more of that, plus modern Juv/YA meta humor!
P.S. Can we just stop saying “politically correct” when we really mean “respectfully realistic portrayals of people who aren’t necessarily straight/white/cis/abled men”? And if you still don’t think the characters in this show are realistic, you need to meet more people.
Basically, this show is authentic to the spirit and personality of the original books. Kristy is still the lovably bossy future CEO who knows how to be nurturing AND badass. Mary-Anne is still the painfully shy girl who learns to embrace her own style of leadership in order to stand up for others. Stacey is still the New York fashionista who learns to embrace her disability and stop chasing after guys who don’t deserve her. Claudia is the artist who’s more street-smart than academic, who resents but ultimately loves her “perfect” older sister, and who will absolutely have your back in a social justice uprising.
And Dawn…Holy Most Down-to-Earth New Age Californian Ever, Batman! Yeah, ok, this Dawn’s a bit more laid-back than her 1980s counterpart (I don’t see her flipping out at Mary-Anne for being a meat-eater), but she’s still a hardcore activist who would absolutely start a School Spirit War over students’ rights NOT to come to school in their pajamas (Netflix! Can we get a brief cameo of that story arc in season 2? It’d be hilaaaarious!)
And this Stonybrook is still a feel-great New England utopia where most problems are solved within 30 minutes (unless they’re particularly awesome problems that require a two-part season finale). The bullies are quickly pwned, the overbearing parents are made more reasonable, the fearful neighbors are quickly educated, and the unintentionally-insensitive doctors are quick to adjust their bedside manner.
Already binged the whole season and want to talk more? Abandon vagueness, all ye who enter Page Two.
* Yes, this article is mostly speculation, based on a brief line in New York Magazine‘s Vulture section.
Disclaimer: I honey-badgered those section breaks myself, with the power of crop-and-erase, but I do not own the logo in any form. Plz don’t sue me, Netflix! I’m not making money from this!