Nicky, Ricky, Dicky and Dawn is a Nickelodeon sitcom about the titular and unfortunately named ten-year-old quadruplets. As in most preteen sitcoms, the actors and the outfits battle it out to be the loudest thing on screen and a laugh track haunts the show like an easily amused ghost. Despite my reservations I dived straight in, picking an episode at random in an attempt to learn more about the state of kids’ TV nowadays.
In this episode the boys discover that Dawn keeps a diary, so they sneak into her room to try and find it. This leads to a gross moment where they mistake her bras for ear warmers and sports bands, wearing them on their heads proudly. Boys will be boys, after all. Dawn then ties her brothers up with her bras (who wrote this show?), leaving them writhing in the hall outside her room. Remember, these children are all meant to be ten-year-olds. Their mother then blithely walks past with no concerns. My own concerns on the other hand are steadily increasing.
When Dawn finds out that the others have read her diary she writes fake entries to turn her brothers against themselves. This is where the descent into madness truly starts. She makes them believe two of them are turning against the other one in a plot to destroy ‘the thing he prizes most’. This leads to a nice bit of characterisation where we find that Ricky values his perfect school attendance record, Dicky his luscious locks and Nicky his saucepan. Each quad thus fits nicely into a stereotype: the clever one, the vain one, the one who loves food, and the girl one. By fostering an atmosphere of fear and paranoia Dawn gleefully manipulates her brothers into doing her homework, baking her muffins and buying her gifts.
However, when the boys realise that the diary entries were fake Dicky announces that he has shaved the other boys’ heads – to attack their hair before they can get to his. Makes sense, right? Dawn is so upset that her diary led to this that she shaves her own head in solidarity. But in a cunning twist, hinted at only by the shoddiness of the bald caps, it turns out the boys were only pretending to be bald to make Dawn feel bad. And then, shock of shocks, Dawn peels off her own bald cap, revealing that she knew about her brothers’ trick and she too was just pretending to shave her head to make her brothers feel bad. What loving siblings they are. And somehow in the confusion Dicky end up shaving his hair for realsies, I don’t know.
The show ends on four bald preteens, visibly distressed because their parents forced them to shave their heads as punishment – something banned by international law, surely? Their parents look on and chuckle along with the disembodied voices of the laugh track. It’s genuinely quite unsettling.
I don’t mean to nit-pick but this sick trick schtick from Nick, Rick, Dick and the chick just doesn’t click. The acting is exaggerated and cartoonish and the characters are mean-spirited, unlikeable and stupid. At least twice in this episode secret plans are foiled because people openly spoke about them when someone else was obviously listening. In fact, the only reason the boys know Dawn has a diary is because she says ‘Dear diary’ out loud when she’s writing in it. The quads trick, manipulate and lie to each other, gleefully sowing mistrust and inducing paranoia for their personal gain. It’s unpleasant, but I probably need to gather more data until I can reach a conclusion about this show. That means only one thing – I must watch more episodes…