Empty7:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 7
Nickelodeon takes a stab at the tweener crowd with this retro live-action sitcom that stars breakout 16-year-old comedian-actor L'il JJ ("Beauty Shop," "Yours, Mine & Ours") as a loosey-goosey Little Rock, Ark., transplant adjusting to life in Los Angeles (mirroring somewhat the real-life story of JJ himself). The action pretty much all centers on JJ's ultra-confident character, Jordan, asking the audience to identify with his everyday adolescent dilemmas -- albeit the innocent kind involving selfishness and hubris rather than sex and drugs.
Unabashedly wholesome, "Just Jordan" works because it doesn't try to be anything more than it is: easily digestible family entertainment. It's the kind of show you might have seen on a broadcast network at 8 p.m. on a weeknight during the 1970s, even boasting a throwback laugh track. It's a worthy enough "TEENick" block addition that's clearly designed as a star vehicle for JJ, who has a multipronged deal with the network.
The pilot introduces us to the palette of players: regular kid Jordan, his wisecracking cousin Tangie (Raven Goodwin), preppy pal Joaquin (Eddy Martin), popular schoolmate Tony (Justin Chon), mega-cute little sister Monica (Kristen Combs), his single mom, Pam (Shania Accius), and his crusty grandpa (Beau Billingslea), in whose diner he works part time. There's also the pretty Tamika (Chelsea Harris) on whom Jordan has a crush. The opener sets the tone for the show's lesson-teaching subtext as Jordan's ball-hog tendencies prevent him from making the freshman basketball squad, while in the second episode -- packaged as part of an hourlong premiere -- a tough-guy charade backfires. To drive home the average-kid theme, Jordan will sometimes literally step outside the scene to address the audience directly about his predicament. It's all sweetly guileless, and L'il JJ has charisma and 'tude to spare. So who cares if life isn't really nearly this simple? It's Nickelodeon, after all.