This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
It’s been mere hours, but I already miss my friends.
Kristy, Claudia, Mary Anne, Stacey, and Dawn: No one’s been here for me in these trying times like my girls. No one’s made me feel safe. Feel sane. Feel at peace. Feel OK to be me... to just FEEL... like these girls. My friends. The Baby-Sitters Club.
I have no connection to the book franchise that inspired the legitimately excellent new Netflix series, The Baby-Sitters Club. Though there must have been some TV channel that aired its own show based on the popular books in the ’90s because I can’t read that title without singing to myself, “Say hello to your friends, Baby-Sitters Club, say hello to people who care…”
What I regret is that it took until I was [age redacted] to finally get wise to the transformative power of this fiercely loyal, complicated, and heart-rending group of girls, whose stories are now being told in what may be the purest and most genuine viewing experience I’ve ever had as a television critic—and transformative and powerful because of it.
I feel like I’m patronizing the many people (mostly women of the ’90s) who were already devoted fans of Ann M. Martin’s book series by treating this new show as some sort of revelation. But I can’t think of any way to treat it other than like Stacey learning that Mary Anne just had her first kiss at summer camp. [Screams at a pitch so high only dogs can hear me.]
I am so grateful that people are coming around to the fact that comfort television > prestige television. (The only math problem I’ll ever solve. I’m such a Claudia.) Because time is a construct I no longer believe in, I can’t recall when I watched a show and just felt as soothed by this one’s earnest, pure energy. The reason is because I can’t recall a time when a show has had so much respect for me, the viewer.
The creators of The Baby-Sitters Club didn’t know whether or not I had read the novels, or if I was an [age redacted] male, and not the middle-school demographic the series is most squarely aimed at. It assumed I had the emotional intelligence and the circa-2020 compassion to deeply empathize with five girls who are dealing with the daily chaos of friendship and tweenage existence. Nothing is overly explained, just dramatically experienced.
Fun fact about my own lingering PTSD from the middle-school years: When I see a person who is aged 10-13 on my TV screen, sometimes I immediately burst into tears. People at that age have feelings that are just so huge and hard to handle. The meanness is so mean. The hurt is so devastating. But also the bonds are so unbreakable and impactful. It’s so much that I, [redacted years] later, still residually feel it, and feel for them.
Which brings me to what I think is the best part of The Baby-Sitters Club. It is a show for them.
Yet I will recommend that any human being I know—old, young, male, female, gay, straight, millennial, other bad generations—watch it. All you have to remember is that it is a series that is made so that 10-year-olds can watch it without having to ask for permission. Take that at face value. The kids are going to talk and act like kids, with kid dialogue, kid references, and kid feelings.
As refreshing as it is to watch a product of what’s seemed like a forgotten era—series marketed to tweens that are actually age appropriate and featuring no Archies, Betties, or Veronicas having threesomes or solving gruesome murders—it’s also profound. Turns out distilling emotions to the stripped-down versions of what you felt as you were becoming an adult makes them all the more meaningful.
It is clever of the series to have such definable character “types.” Are you a Dawn or a Kristy or a Mary Anne moon with a Claudia rising? But it’s also imperative to note the genius of a series that invites fans to superficially identify with one, but feel seen in all of them.
May we all send a bouquet of masks (I dunno, what’s, like, a nice pandemic gift?) to showrunner Rachel Shukert and executive producer Lucia Aniello, who collaborated on this adaptation of the series, for insisting on such intelligence and dignity in these girls while also producing a series that, and I can’t stress this enough, is so breezy and fun.
When brilliance is underrated it is because someone has accomplished something that feels easy, so bless everyone involved for taking the weight of the world off my shoulders while watching this.
The Baby-Sitters Club isn’t complicated—some girls form a club, the purpose of which is to babysit—except for the fact that it reflects back the most complicated thing of all: Who we were, and how that informs who we are.
The writing is top-notch. The production is meticulous. The child acting is mostly fine.
The dads are all hotter than they need to be. I have decided that I would join a throuple with Elizabeth Thomas and Watson Brewer, and I don’t exactly know why—and apologize for desecrating the purity of this property with such notions, though I suspect a true Dawn would allow it.
But this is a show, more than most, that thrives on intention. What everyone set out to do, and with such care, radiates from every frame, every girl’s smile. Not to be all like “with everything going on...” But with everything going on... it’s such a treat.