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'iCarly' 100th Episode
Miranda Cosgrove, Jennette McCurdy, Noah Munck and Nathan Cress enjoy life on 'iCarly'
Nickelodeon's "iCarly" might be geared toward teens and tweens, but the half-hour sitcom became a cultural phenomenon beyond its core audience.
Its self-referential humor, top-notch guest stars and carefree attitude have claimed a global viewership. Celebrating its 100th episode and heading into the final stretch of its five-season run, the laffer has left its mark on TV history.
Since its 2008 international debut, "iCarly" has been among the top 10 shows in markets including the U.K., Germany, Netherlands, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, South Korea, Mexico and Singapore. The skein has been referenced on shows including NBC's "Community" and Fox's "House," but nothing speaks to the show's influence better than Michelle Obama asking to appear, in part to address the issue of military families.
A guest star in "iMeet the First Lady," she told the cast and crew that the Obama family always watches the show at the White House.
Jerry Trainor side-by-side with first lady Michelle Obama during a five-season run filled with famous guest stars.
"This little show that we make in this soundstage, this box, on Sunset Boulevard, it's on in the White House," says Dan Schneider, series creator and exec producer, in disbelief.
In "iCarly," teen Carly Shay lives with older brother and guardian Spencer in a Seattle apartment. In the upstairs loft, she teams with best friends Sam, Freddie and Gibby to produce the hit Web show "iCarly." While they spend much of their time performing for their loving fans, they also deal with the everyday ups and downs of adolescence, not to mention a host of wacky adventures.
Despite the grand absurdity of the gang's wildest adventures, Nick original programming and development prexy Marjorie Cohn says the characters make it all feel attainable for younger viewers.
"The beauty of the show is that it makes it seem like the average teen can do it," she says. "I'm not sure a kid can open a secret restaurant in an unused school basement, but everything seems completely plausible."
The credibility is no doubt aided by the actual iCarly.com, complete with silly polls and extra bits consistent with the fictional Web show's sense of humor. In fact, star Miranda Cosgrove says viewers often think the show's events are real.
"Kids come up to me often and say, 'I like your Web show,' " Cosgrove says. "A lot of the young kids think that it's real, that our characters actually live in Seattle and that we have a Web show that's popular."
The aspirational, anything-goes atmosphere of the show is underlined by the lack of parental figures. Carly's father serves overseas in the Air Force, her mother is out of the picture, and Sam's single mother (guest star Jane Lynch) is an uncaring nightmare.
Schneider says the Shay household reflects a weekend he spent with his sister at Tufts U. in Boston when he was 13.
"I had a great relationship with my parents, but there's something about hanging out with your older sibling that just has a whole new level of cool for a kid," he says. "I just remembered how liberating that was and how it made me feel very grown-up."
In "iCarly," viewers find a parallel world, with everything an exaggerated version of its real-life counterpart. This Schneiderverse includes vaguely familiar parodies including Pear products (with all names bearing a "Pear" prefix), Inside Out Burger and B.F. Wangs.
Nathan Kress and Miranda Cosgrove work at the 'iCarly' version of a hot gadget shop, the Pear Store.
The show-within-a-show nature of the series in particular allows Schneider to lovingly poke fun at "iCarly" itself. In "iStart a Fan War," the writer-producer tackled the real world Creddie and Seddie shipper camps, divided on whether Freddie should date Carly or Sam. In the episode, the characters experience the rabid intensity of their fans at a Web convention.
Says Schneider: " 'iCarly' gives me the luxury of addressing the fans directly. It was a sort of loving nudge to the fans saying, 'We're just a fun little sitcom to make you laugh.' This isn't a heavy-duty soap opera."
Still, Schneider and the cast would be lying if they said they ignored what the fans have to say. All active on Twitter, they appreciate the instant feedback of viewers.
"You can just say, 'Hey do you guys like this?' And they're going to be honest," says co-star Jennette McCurdy. "I don't think I have a fan out there who will not tell me if they don't like something."
Schneider hopes his show is "a half-hour of ice cream and roller coasters." As his longest-running sitcom nears its end, he knows he has made an impact the way he knows best -- a quality show.
"I realize we're not curing diseases with 'iCarly,' and we're not doing Shakespeare. It's not an Academy Award-winning film, but it has definitely touched people universally," he says. "That's the goal with TV, to make something that everybody likes and that gets remembered forever."
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Freddie Benson is essential as iCarly.com's technical producer, but he is typically not onscreen for the webcasts. Perhaps it's for the best, as he proves unfunny as a substitute co-host in the episode "iBalls." Often speaking with tech jargon and fending off his overprotective mother, this loveable nerd dates both Carly and Sam at different points in the show.
Carly's co-host and best friend Sam Puckett is a brash delinquent with an insatiable appetite. This tomboy loves picking on peers but hates the word "panties." In a crossover special with Dan Schneider's "Victorious," Sam uses her dissing skills to emerge the clear victor in a rap battle with the smack-talking puppet Rex.
Always using his name as an exclamation, Gibby started as a shirtless, witless guinea pig for the Web show's experiments. Luckily for fans, his newfound ability to keep his shirt on is the only way he's smartened up. Still, Gibby's subplots suggest he's the sharpest in his own clan. In "iStart a Fan War," he tries to get his family to Webicon while grandpa Gilbert (Jack Carter) demands soup at a burger drive-thru and Guppy (real-life sibling Ethan) orders multiple orders of fries.
Spencer Shay balances fun and firmness as a guardian for sister Carly, but he lacks the sense to work safely on his art projects and inventions without incurring the wrath of the local fire department. Spencer is also willing to try any possible remedy for a problem. In "iFight Shelby Marx," he takes allergy medication with wild side effects ranging from excessive sweating to severe muscle spasms.
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Dan Schneider, second from left, looks over pages with Nathan Kress, guest David Archuleta, Miranda Cosgrove and Jennette McCurdy at an 'iCarly' shoot.
With producing credits on seven Nickelodeon series, most of them his own creation, Dan Schneider has stayed hip with kids and their families since "All That" started in 1994. The "iCarly" creator offers a possible explanation for his nearly 20-year career in making young viewers laugh.
Married to Hungry Girl founder Lisa Lillien, Schneider remembers the first time he showed the couple's new home to his mother. She quipped with a memorable response to the abode decorated with lunch box collections and vending machines.
" 'Looks like teenagers with money,' " he recalls.
Schneider is also a rabid TV lover whose passion for the medium dates back to his own years as a youngster. Inspired by his love for sitcoms and a drive to improve, he pushes himself with each successive series he creates.
Growing up in Memphis, Tenn., young Schneider would have loved to write for TV as an adult, but it seemed an impossible goal considering his hometown.
"The only people I knew from Memphis who had ever made it in the entertainment business were Cybill Shepherd and Elvis," he says. "To me, that was like saying I want to be Superman, or I want to be a starship captain."
Though TV was not on his radar as a possible career, the class clown loved to make people laugh with impressions of teachers, principals and peers.
"I found pretty early on that being a funny person made people like you," he says. "I didn't have the best grades. I wasn't the sharpest dresser, but I was funny."
Through the years, television has been one of his best friends, he says. He pinpoints Glen and Les Charles of "Taxi" and "Cheers" as his biggest inspirations, but not without also mentioning Carl Reiner, "I Love Lucy," Larry David, Larry Gelbart and Norman Lear.
Nick original programming and development prexy Marjorie Cohn sees Schneider's love for sitcoms in his work. She points to the "Drake & Josh" episode "I Love Sushi," which features conveyor-belt shenanigans in tribute to the legendary chocolate factory scene from "I Love Lucy."
"He manages to offer a unique take on a classic situation, and it ends up resonating with everybody," she says. "It also feels slightly off-kilter, so it feels unique."
Schneider, whose acting career includes a series regular role on ABC's "Head of the Class," also finds inspiration in his thesps.
Each of his projects has been built around a performer from one of his previous shows. Amanda Bynes ("All That") starred in "The Amanda Show," which in turn featured Drake Bell and Josh Peck, the stars of "Drake & Josh." And finally, Bell's fictional counterpart had a little sister played by Miranda Cosgrove.
"You get somebody like a Kenan Thompson or Miranda Cosgrove, and you can really write things they deliver in exactly the way you envisioned it," Cohn says.
Coming up, Schneider has two separate projects with "iCarly" co-stars Jennette McCurdy and Noah Munck. Looking ahead, he promises he will never phone it in.
"A lot of guys in my position start to relax more and not try as hard because they feel, 'I got this. I've done this,' " he says. "I'm always trying to outdo what I did yesterday. Whatever series I did three years ago, five years ago, 10 years ago that was a big hit, I want my next one to be a bigger hit."
Cosgrove eyes college, comedy in bright future
'iCarly' 100th Episode
Spending five formative teen years as the star of "iCarly," Miranda Cosgrove has grown up in front of audiences worldwide. And sometimes, the parallels between her life and the adventures of Carly Shay have been striking.
For the 2008 episode "iSaw Him First," Carly had her first onscreen kiss, and Cosgrove's first off the set soon followed.
"In real life, I had my first kiss a week later," she says. "It's funny how I actually go through a lot of things my character goes through on the show."
With nearly 2 million followers on Twitter, Cosgrove has become a teen favorite along with her hit Nick show. Already a successful actress and musician at age 19, she looks ahead to a future of college books and big comedies.
For her first major gig, the young thesp acted in the pilot for Dan Schneider's "Drake & Josh." After wrapping the episode, she flew to New York to shoot the movie that would draw her notice, the 2003 Jack Black-led "School of Rock." Cosgrove played band manager and know-it-all Summer Hathaway.
"Working with Jack Black was the first time I ever really loved acting," she says. "I feel like a lot of what we do on 'iCarly,' I learned from just watching him for the five months I did that movie."
After the pic's success, she largely focused on four seasons worth of the successful "Drake & Josh." But at the tail of the series, Nickelodeon and Schneider approached Cosgrove about doing her own show, "iCarly."
In the ensuing years, Cosgrove learned to drive and, more impressively, embarked on a successful music career. She hit it big with her show's theme song "Leave It All to Me," and her first album "Sparks Fly" debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard album chart.
Cosgrove sees dramatic differences between her acting and music performing careers, specifically going on tour.
"When we're doing the show, we're just in this little soundstage, and you don't really get a good idea of how many people are watching," she says. "Being on stage in front of thousands of people, it's a whole different energy."
In the fall, Cosgrove will study theater at USC. With counselors advising her on scheduling, she hopes to balance acting and schooling.
She noted the opportunity to accrue class credit for acting jobs. But more than anything, she is excited to hit the books alongside peers after being homeschooled since sixth grade.
"It's going to be really cool to get to be around a bunch of people my age," she says. "I just loved elementary school, and I love learning."
Cosgrove also looks ahead to furthering her career in Hollywood. She's willing to try new genres, but more than anything, she wants to pursue comedy. Thesp hopes to someday topline a great comedy, perhaps a project like a Judd Apatow production, and follow in the footsteps of Kristen Wiig, Tina Fey and Emma Stone.
"There are a lot of really cool girl comedians right now getting more attention," she says. "If I could do anything, I'd really like to make people laugh."