Disney channel show Andi Mack premieres tonight and promises a new Disney classic. The coming-of-age series centers around a biracial Asian-American girl and announces its intention to explore messy and difficult topics from the very first episode. The pilot episode has been available online for a while, and as someone who grew up on Disney channel and still regularly references Brink in my everyday adult life, I can’t recommend it enough.
Fans of older Disney channel shows like Lizzie McGuire and That’s So Raven will see elements of what made these shows great in Andi Mack, which isn’t surprising considering it’s coming from Lizzie creator Terri Minsky. Minsky told MTV that the characters “are for today yet still honor the time-tested themes and values kids, tweens, and parents want.”
As much as I loved those earlier shows, the surprise at seeing an Asian-American family not too different from mine interact on screen filled me with incredible joy, as I thought about young girls witnessing the same thing. I felt both excitement and a bit of disappointment that I didn’t have something like Andi Mack growing up. After all, while I adore Fresh Off the Boat, I can’t really relate to a lot of Eddie Huang’s experiences the same way I can with Andi. She’s creative, struggles with a need to be perfect, and is endearingly awkward around her crush. Peyton Elizabeth Lee plays this role with heart and it’s impossible not to root for her.
The show begins with Andi Mack’s 13th birthday and introduces us to a cast of familiar types: an overprotective mother (played by Lauren Tom who’s great in a role that could have easily been a stereotype), a softer father, a “cool” sister, a crush, and two best friends. However, the show offers a new serialized format (as opposed to neat one-off episodes), as well as a twist at the end of the pilot that goes where few Disney shows have gone before. There’s a gentle bit of nostalgia, but Andi Mack is opening up new conversations the way that all the great Disney shows do. For instance, who can forget how Raven addressed racism, body image, and more?
Spoilers for episode 1 ahead.
The end of episode 1 reveals that Andi’s sister, Bex (Lilan Bowden), is actually her mother. Bex was a teenage mom, and so her family decided to tell Andi her grandmother was her mother. This twist isn’t the only focus of the series, but a storyline that will no doubt inform Andi’s coming-of-age. Questions left unanswered include the identity of Andi’s father, why Bex was absent for so much of Andi’s life, and how the Mack family’s dynamics will shift with this revelation. At the same time, we wonder whether Andi’s crush will come to fruition, how Andi’s creative DIY projects will flourish, and what year 13 will bring.
Andi Mack is a show that asks viewers to be invested in these developments by putting aside laugh tracks and over-the-top hijinks, and I think it’s well worth it. Have you seen the first episode? Let us know what you thought!
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