TV as elevator music. Why didn’t we think of that?
by Kathryn VanArendonk
One of the best new TV shows I’ve seen lately is the Netflix adaptation of the beloved YA book series The Baby-Sitters Club. I like the show for lots of reasons, but chief among them is how genuine it is about the things that matter to its group of young protagonists. Creating a show like that — one that can confidently deliver a warm, sincere, thoughtful tone without coming off as simplistic or self-congratulatory, that will appeal to multiple age groups, and that can pull off a “girl’s first period” plot without feeling gross or pedagogical — is impressive. It takes skill. It’s an excellent season of TV.
There’s a different version of that first sentence, one I might have written if I were reviewing The Baby-Sitters Club even a few years ago. Rather than best, I would likely have swapped in the word favorite. It’s a small but meaningful distinction. Best is always a bit of a lie in criticism, a way to pretend a critic’s subjectivity can be removed from the equation, but it is an important signifier nonetheless. It’s an indicator of quality. The term means “I think this is good, not just for me but objectively for lots of people.” Favorite may be truer, but it also comes off as a qualification: “I enjoyed this show. Maybe you will too?”
The other differentiator lurking inside the best-versus-favorite distinction has to do with pleasure. The best of something may be challenging or hard to watch. It is a signal of artistic achievement — most important, most valuable, most impressive, most serious. Favorite comes with the implicit acknowledgment of enjoyment. It means that consuming something was a gratifying experience. When compared with best, favorite is simultaneously more delightful and less prestigious.
Right now, I’m happy to call The Baby-Sitters Club among the best TV I’ve seen this year….