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‘Prince of Peoria’ is a quietly progressive multi-cam sitcom

Netflix

The series is the more masculine counterpart to Netflix’s ‘Alexa & Katie.’

In Netflix’s latest multi-cam sitcom for kids, Prince of Peoria, a teenage prince moves to the U.S. as a foreign exchange student in search of friendship, pranks, and a normal life.

prince of peoria review box The Daily Dot

Like its predecessor Alexa & Katie—Netflix’s first kids series in the multi-cam sitcom genre—Prince of Peoria both celebrates adolescent friendship and embraces the Disney Channel-esque approach to a teen TV series. It appears to serve as the masculine counterpart to the more feminine Alexa & Katie; both tackle high school relationships, having a life-changing secret that only your best friend knows about, and balancing the pressures of school with a social life. But where Alexa & Katie excelled at combining a heart-wrenching storyline with comedic relief, Prince of Peoria falls short.

Unlike Alexa & Katie, the first three episodes of Prince of Peoria did not suggest the series would provide much substance to its storyline, because nothing particularly impactful occurs. Whereas in Alexa & Katie, main protagonist Alexa grapples with making concessions during her battle with cancer, in Prince of Peoria the story plots revolve around protagonist Prince Emil (Gavin Lewis) desperately trying to win over his teen host, Teddy (Theodore Barnes), to be his friend. Hopefully, the series will pivot toward more impactful plots going forward, since the storyline has now been well-established.

Netflix Prince of Peoria review Netflix

Despite the underwhelming plot, Prince of Peoria makes significant strides with inclusivity through its casting and character backstories. For one, the all-American family that welcomes Emil to the U.S. is a Black single-parent household. Emil the foreigner, on the other hand, is a wealthy white boy. The historically overused cliche would have been a white family welcoming an “exotic” person of color from abroad. I mean, it’s no The Color of Friendship, but it is a quietly progressive TV show that normalizes diverse ways of life. Even Teddy’s love interest Sydney has two moms, which she only subtly mentions in passing; it’s not turned into a plot point.

Lewis and Barnes create characters that are undeniably relatable to Generation Z viewers but might go over the heads of older generations. While Teddy focuses on his goal to get into MIT by winning a state robotics competition, Emil obsesses over his favorite YouTube pranksters, memes like “bye Felicia,” and mastering hip dance moves like flossing. Within the first three episodes of the series, it’s hard to unpack too much about the supporting cast, but Sydney is fittingly the first-chair violinist in the orchestra who secretly wants to be a DJ instead.

While Prince of Peoria successfully taps into 2018 culture and ushers multi-cam sitcoms into a less white era, it fails to drive home any messages of substance to its young viewers. Its fluff content hinders it from fully becoming the impactful TV series it has the potential to become.

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Tess Cagle

Tess Cagle

Tess Cagle is a reporter who focuses on politics, lifestyle, and streaming entertainment. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, Texas Monthly, the Austin American-Statesman, Damn Joan, and Community Impact Newspaper. She’s also a portrait, events, and live music photographer in Central Texas.