TV is evolving and nowhere is that more true than in programming aimed at kids. With that in mind, Disney Channel progresses away from the typical slapstick sitcom with the new single-cam series Saturdays. In many ways, it feels like a TV-G version of black-ish, which is likely no coincidence as among its executive producers is Marsai Martin, who played Diane on the popular ABC sitcom. Saturdays premieres Friday, March 24th, at 9/8c with two episodes on Disney Channel, followed by a Disney+ six-episode streaming premiere on Saturday, March 25th.
Saturdays is the hottest skating rink in all of Chicago and the favorite hangout spot of Paris Johnson (Danielle Jalade, Yes Day) and her best friends Simone (Daria Johns, Nappily Ever After) and Ari (Peyton Basnight, Sudden Sisters), who make up the We-B-Girlz. Everything about Saturdays is a family affair for Paris, whose parents Deb (Golden Brooks, Girlfriends) and Cal (Omar Gooding, Barbershop) won the rink’s golden award. And for better or worse Paris’ brother London (Jermaine Harris, The Map of Tiny Perfect Things) is the rink’s new DJ, aided by his best friend D-Rok (Tim Johnson Jr., Ballers).
Disney smartly aims Saturdays at an all-ages audience, with Deb and Cal showcasing a relatable parental relationship. While they are relegated to subplot status, Golden Brooks and Omar Gooding stand out in all of their scenes as a couple trying to keep the love alive while raising two teenagers. The situations the kids get into feel reminiscent of TGIF shows like Boy Meets World and Sister, Sister, sans studio audience or laugh track. There’s a wholesome, aspirational quality to the plots that will make parents nostalgic for the type of show they loved in their youth while introducing their kids to something that’s relevant to their era.
Saturdays adds another dimension to the series via the artistry of roller skating. In the same way that dance elevated Shake It Up, choreographed roller skating gives the show some artistic flair that sets it apart. The second episode, for example, concludes with a newlywed couple’s first dance on skates, showcasing the routine with a multi-angle split-screen approach. Each episode also ends with a featured roller skater showcasing their talents with pop-up facts about them. These seem designed to inspire viewers to take up skating as a hobby.
Colorful, musical, and fun, Saturdays leans into nostalgia with its approach to storytelling and the roller skating theme. The show is full of Black joy and Black American culture, and while Disney Channel has been tapping into this same demographic for decades, Saturdays is impacted by recent pushes for more culturally specific kinds of stories from major companies like Disney. With its simultaneous Disney Channel and Disney+ launch, everything about the show feels like a linear broadcast/streaming hybrid. At times, you do miss the slapstick Disney sitcoms of the past (still in vogue on Raven’s Home), but in general, it pushes the needle forward on each vinyl record London spins in the DJ booth.
I give Saturdays 4 out of 5 spotlight shapes.
Saturdays will broadcast double-episodes on Fridays at 9/8c on Disney Channel starting March 24th, while the first six episodes will be available to stream on Disney+ beginning Saturday, March 25th.