Tonight was the final episode of iCarly, the Nickelodeon television show created by Dan Schneider, starring Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Nathan Kress, Jerry Trainor, and Noah Munck. A lot of people might be saying “who cares?”. A lot of people might not understand why I, a 21-year-old male college student, would be interested in this show for children and why I’m so sad to see it go.
In the summer of 2010, before my Sophomore year of college, where I study Music Composition, I was introduced to iCarly. I had seen one episode before (iSpace Out) with my girlfriend and her little brother Matty, but I wasn’t paying that much attention to it. But this time, I was in Vermont at my Aunt and Uncle’s house where I was teaching at a music camp that my Aunt runs. My two younger cousins, Grace and Joseph (8 and 12, respectively, at the time) were sitting down watching TV and were about to watch the new episode of iCarly that had just premiered the night before, iGot A Hot Room.
Now, before I get to iCarly directly, I’d love to discuss a bit more about what I was going through at the time. I’m a musician, and I’ve always been a music snob. (I like to think that has changed, but some might disagree with that). I had always found myself interested in the more complex and ‘intellectual’ side of music, and would never take serious interest in ‘pop’ music. It slowly began to change though, towards the end of my highschool career, when I found myself captivated by brilliant simply pop songs. Songs like More Than Words, Hey The Delilah, and Only Hope (the Mandy Moore version, obviously). I think the affinity for this kind of writing came from my background in Musical Theater, and, obviously, my love of The Beatles (though even with the Beatles, I was more interested in the more progressive side of their work).
I was then introduced, mainly through the encouragement of my Math teacher, Mr. Kennedy (who’s also a fantastic musician and pedagogue), to Pet Sounds. The Beach Boys really started my change. At this point, I was already set to go to school to study Classical composition, and I was very excited about going into that field, but The Beach Boys, and Pet Sounds in particular, showed me how interesting and complex Pop music could be. But at this point, I was still only interested in the more complex side of ‘pop’ music (I promise this will come back to iCarly in a big way soon), but things began to change during my freshman year.
Once I was at school and actually composing, I started to feel that it wasn’t for me. My love for Pop music (and here I’m using Pop music in the loose sense implying music that isn’t Jazz or Classical music) was growing and my passion for listening to and making that music was getting too strong to ignore. I loved (and still love) the school I chose to go to, and the program that I was (and am) in, but I wanted, and needed, a stronger outlet for my interest in Pop music. I needed to come to terms with it on an intellectual and emotional level. This is where iCarly comes in.
After my freshman year, I made the conscious effort to get into basic Pop music. I started in two places: Middle Of Nowhere by Hanson, and It’s About Time by Jonas Brothers. I decided to start with the first albums from these two groups because, well I actually don’t entirely remember. I had gotten into the (fantastic) most recent Hanson album Shout It Out, through my friend Ryan, and I had heard the most recent Jonas Brothers album Lines, Vines, and Trying Times, and remembered loving a few songs, so they seemed like a good place to start.
So, back to ‘present’ time in Vermont, I was spending a lot of time getting into these two (great) albums, when Grace and Joe were watching iCarly. I sat down, excited to spend some time with them and watch whatever they wanted. From the very first scene, I was hooked. The episode was undeniably hilarious. The jokes were witty, subtle, and much more ‘mature’ than I expected (remember when Gibby’s nearly-blind grandpa feels Spencer’s chest to make sure he’s not a girl?). I continued to sit there for hours watching iCarly (and then Victorious), and repeated this pattern the following days. I quickly got to the point where I was watching it even if Grace and Joe were nowhere to be found, and by the time the end of August came around, I had my first iCarly Party. This was a party where myself and a large group of mainly college students watch hours of DVRd iCarly all day. (I’ve since had 5 of these, and they’re great. During this first one, I tweeted at Miranda Cosgrove saying, “Is it weird that a bunch of college students are hanging out and watching iCarly all day? Probably, but we’re doing it anyway!” and she replied “That’s awesome!” It was great.)
But why did I love this so much? Why did I love that early Jonas Brothers album so much? And the Hanson? Now that I’ve fully changed my aesthetic preferences towards Pop, I don’t see these albums as the masterpieces I did then, but they were absolutely vital to getting me where I am today. And iCarly was the most important step.
I realized what had been bugging me about all the more progressive and ‘intellectual’ art I was exposing myself to. I realized that art, for me, wasn’t interesting without a box. Like sports, art is not interesting without rules. Why would anyone watch a soccer match in which the players could pick up the ball with their hands and there was no out-of-bounds? You see, in iCarly, when they make a dirty joke, they can’t say it directly. They imply it, so that people my age can get it, but younger children can’t. When Sam, in iGot A Hot Room, says “My mom likes Italian guys… I mean, she REALLY likes Italian guys,” I know what she means, but little Joseph probably (hopefully) didn’t. It forces them to be more clever about their jokes. Similarly, in music, I found that creating interesting music within the ‘rules’ of Pop music was more challenging and exciting. They can have interesting chord changes and well constructed melodies AND be catchy and fun? That, to me, became infinitely more interesting and impressive than a band that could experiment with more complex forms, song structures, and harmonies. Restraint was a virtue I had never been interested in before. I had always seen it as ineptitude rather than sophistication, but Dan Schneider’s writing changed that for me. This is why I prefer the music of Mozart to Beethoven. In Beethoven, I always know he’s going to surprise me. I come to expect that there will be an oddly emphasized syncopation here, and an out of place diminished chord there, and that the ending isn’t really the ending, and so on. But in Mozart, he plays into my expectations more. He gives me what I want the first time around, and the second time around, but then that third time, he changes it, and that becomes more special. He’s able to craft asymmetrical phrases and interesting harmonies into a context that makes it hummable, easy, and catchy.
The past two years watching and falling more and more in love with the iCarly, its characters, and its fans, has ben amazing. It has shaped my aesthetic perspective entirely. It has given me the confidence to be myself and like what I like, in spite of people looking at me strangely when I told them my favorite TV show was iCarly, or that I love Taylor Swift, or that I’m putting together a Jonas Brothers cover band.
To Dan and all the writers, cast, producers, editors, and crew: I thank you. Your work has touched millions of people on a deeply personal way that will transcend time. You have made us all laugh, and that’s the best gift anyone can ever give.
In this final episode, as Carly says goodbye to her brother Spencer, she thanks him for teaching her that (and because the episode has only aired once, I can’t fact check to get this quote exact) “growing up doesn’t mean that you have to stop being silly or creative.” That’s the best lesson I could learn.
-Scott, a grateful fan.