TV Review: ABC’s “The Toy Box”

ABC is on a roll with unscripted content lately, with some big critical and ratings winners for the network. Their Sunday Fun & Games block scored big over the summer, and the game shows airing this month are still doing well in tricky time slots (If you aren’t watching Match Game, you are missing out on some of the best weekly comedy on television, honestly.) The Bachelor franchise is continuing to thrive, with the current season doing gangbusters with the key millennial demographics.

Shark Tank, the underdog that quickly turned into the alpha of ABC’s Friday night programming, continues to shine, even if less brightly than in years past. If unfamiliar, the format is simple. Entrepreneurs walk into a room with five “Sharks,” or people with the big bucks. They get to pitch their product or service to the Sharks, in the hopes of getting an investment and partner in their venture. It is so exciting and enticing. You always are invested in these investors!

Well, ABC has taken the basic concept and switched some things around for their new show The Toy Box. Hosted by Eric Stonestreet for no real reason, the premise is very similar to Shark Tank. Toy inventors enter a room of three mentors in the toy field (Jim Silver, an expert in the toy field, Dylan Lauren, CEO of Dylan’s Candy Bar, and Jen Tan, creative director of consumer products at Pixar) with the hopes of their approval to move them into the Toy Box. What they don’t know, is that the Toy Box are four children who will play with and decide which toy (one per episode) deserves to go to the final episode, where one will be chosen to be made and sold by Mattel.

The idea is cute but, man, is the show equally depressing and incredibly annoying. The system of one toy per episode and only one toy the entire season is heartbreaking. In the pilot we were given to review, there is one toy inventor who isn’t chosen as a finalist that made me depressed for a solid four hours after watching. The defeat is all the more painful because kids said it wasn’t the best. Their key demo denies them. VICIOUS.

The annoying part comes from the kids themselves. Three of them are fine, if not a little boring and contradictory. They are clearly told to ask certain questions, even though they don’t care, and their words of review for the toys sound so condescending.

One child, Noah, is insufferable. I realize that it makes me sound horrendous, I get it. I GET IT. However, I can’t see myself watching another episode solely based on his presence. For those unfamiliar, he is the viral “Apparently” kid from a few years back. He talks in the middle of these investor’s pitches. He says things for no reason. He speaks over others. He has no real critiques or thoughts other than “THIS IS AWESOME.” Eric Stonestreet looks continually ticked off that he has to work with this kid, and I feel him. It’s crazy how one person can really ruin a show.

Overall, this is a dud for the network amongst a very robust unscripted slate of programming. Go watch the Great American Baking Show on Hulu instead.

The Toy Box premieres Friday, April 7th at 8pm on ABC.

Marshal Knight
Marshal Knight is a pop culture writer based in Orlando, FL. For some inexplicable reason, his most recent birthday party was themed to daytime television. He’d like to thank Sandra Oh.