Nearly a decade after the original series went off the air, the iCarly revival premiered this week on Paramount+. I’ve seen the first three episodes and I can confidently say that it has all the charm and humor of the original series and actually manages to update its premise for modern times without feeling dated or missing the point. If you ask me, between iCarly and Rugrats, Paramount+ is one of the few streamers to figure out how to properly do a revival. In the weeks leading up to the revival, I binged a great deal of the original iCarly and was surprised at how ahead of the curve it was when it came to internet trends.
iCarly focuses on Carly Shay (Miranda Cosgrove) who launches a web comedy show with her best friend Sam (Jennette McCurdy) and neighbor Freddie (Nathan Kress), using the studio in her brother Spencer’s (Jerry Trainor) apartment. The series’ pilot titled “Pilot” sees Carly and Sam forced to judge their school’s talent contest after pulling a prank on their teacher Miss Briggs. Freddie films the girls’ banter and accidentally posts it online, where it goes viral and convinces Carly and Sam to launch iCarly. The series came on the heels of YouTube taking off as a video streaming service; ironically, its concept mirrors the rise of super-popular YouTube channel Smosh which saw best friends Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox filming their own comedy videos. Smosh remains one of the most popular channels on YouTube, with over 25.1 million subscribers as of this month.
The Advent of Livestreaming
iCarly would also predict a trend that happens to be fairly popular to this day: the rise of live streaming. The show was broadcasted live, foreshadowing the popularity of sites including YouTube and Twitch. One of the biggest examples happens to be the Season 1 episode “iWant a World Record,” which finds the iCarly cast attempting to break a world record by launching an episode that goes past 24 hours. Twitch streamer GPHustla broke the record for the world’s longest live stream, where he streamed for over 2700 hours and counting since August 2020, featuring looks into his daily life. YouTube users will often live stream their reactions to movie trailers and watching select films and television shows for the first time; next year, performances at Coachella will also be live-streamed via the site.
As Carly, Sam and Freddie continued to make their web show, they saw various celebrities-including the band One Direction and even former First Lady Michelle Obama-appear on the show. They also gained an enemy in the form of Nevel Papperman (Reed Alexander), a snobby web critic who vowed to ruin Carly’s show after she humiliated him (though he deserved it as he continually tried to flirt with her while she was hoping to conduct an interview with him.) As YouTubers have grown in popularity, they’ve often found themselves embroiled in controversy or feuds. Prime examples include Jake and Logan Paul, who have started to challenge boxers to celebrity matches in the past few years.
iCarly would also tackle the role of the influencer via the episode “iPromote TechFoots.” The episode saw Carly and her friends approached by the tech giant Daka to promote their TechFoot shoes; however, it turns out that the shoes had multiple problems with their design. Various companies will often reach out to internet personalities including YouTubers, Twitch streamers, and even cosplayers in order to promote their products with a key example being Twitch streamer MrBeast launching his own ghost kitchen MrBeast Burger last December.
Throughout the course of iCarly, Carly and her crew had to deal with “stans,” overly enthusiastic fans who often crossed the boundaries of the relationship between creator and fandom (and just plain crossed personal boundaries). The biggest of these “stans” was Nora Derschlitt, a seemingly lonely girl who convinced the iCarly crew to show up for her birthday party. However, things took a dark turn when Nora locked them in her basement, even taking their phones and lying to their family about their whereabouts. If it weren’t played for comedy, this would be severely creepy.
This isn’t the first time a piece of fiction has explored what happens when fandom turns sour. Stephen King’s Misery arguably had the original “stan” in the form of Annie Wilkes, who kidnapped and tortured writer Paul Sheldon after learning he plans to kill off the protagonist of his Victorian-era novels. Stan culture continues to persist to this day, as fans online often discuss whether their favorite celebrities are “problematic” and lash out at even the slightest criticism. They also seem scarily interested in the love lives of famous people; you’d think the Apocalypse itself started when Aubrey Plaza announced her engagement via Instagram.
In all my years online, no fandom has scared me more than shippers. “Shipping” refers to romantically pairing two characters in a fictional series, and dedicating fan works including fan fiction and fan art to that pairing. iCarly showed just how crazy this segment of fandom could be with its hourlong special “iStart a Fan War.” The iCarly crew is invited to the Webicon convention. The fans in attendance soon break out into fighting over whether Carly and Freddie are dating or Sam and Freddie are dating. And I mean FIGHTING-fists, weapons, and even a chair being thrown. The intensity of shippers has caused me to stray away from certain shows-Supernatural being a key example, as I’ve heard multiple horror stories.
The iCarly revival has continued to show that it will tackle other internet trends such as viral memes and dealing with online harassment, which continues to reflect the series’ savviness when it comes to online culture. With ten more episodes left to go, I’m curious to see what other trends could be addressed throughout the revival’s run.
The first three episodes of the iCarly revival are currently available to stream on Paramount+. New episodes premiere every Thursday.
Collier “CJ” Jennings is a freelance reporter and film critic living in Seattle. He uses his love of comics and film/TV to craft reviews and essays on genre projects. He is also a host on Into the Spider-Cast.