April 8, 2020

“Diary of a Future President” Season One Review: Have Fun With It

Elena (Tess Romero) and Bobby (Charlie Bushnell).
Disney+ is on a roll. The Mandalorian was the most in-demand streaming series (domestically) multiple weeks in a row, High School Musical: The Musical: The Series is lauded by critics and audiences alike, and they’ve already adapted popular children’s books Timmy Failure and Stargirl into feature-length original films. But there’s another new original series on the streaming service, albeit one that isn’t getting as much attention as it should.
This is Diary of a Future President, a coming-of-age family comedy that one might scoff at from the premise: sixth grader Elena Cañero-Reed (Tess Romero), who will grow up to become the President of the United States (Elena’s older self is played by Gina Rodriguez), faces the “jungle” of middle school, while both her mother (Selenis Leyva) and brother (Charlie Bushnell) both undergo massive life changes. It’s a clearly cliché premise, and it doesn’t exactly defy the stereotypes of the genre, but it embraces them, weaving together relatable plot lines into joyfully fun stories. It’s as absurd as you think, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun with it.

The first season’s ten episodes cover a multitude of topics, most of them undoubtedly identifiable to most middle school-age kids…especially girls. Considering the show is female-driven, it’s reasonable that the majority of the situations would be more familiar to women, but there’s something for men there, too…after all, I stuck with it through the entire season.

And even if I don’t remember being in similar situations to Elena and her best friend Sasha, the environment and atmosphere of early middle school (in Elena’s case) and pre-high (as her brother Bobby is) brought me back to those times, and reminded me of the fun of those ages. It’s a real feat for a movie or show to be able to create such an immersive and playful world that genuinely reminds me of how things used to be.
Awwwww, family values 🥺

Granted, it’s still a fiction, and some of the situations play out accordingly. Sometimes they’re entertaining as hell and I’m constantly wondering what’s coming next, but sometimes they’re bland and predictable. Most of the time, though, the two are spliced together, creating a product that elicits laughs and is worth the 20-minute watch, but is rarely anything new or special. However, the show is clearly having fun with its premise and characters, and for that, it can’t be faulted.

I’m going to be honest, the show did end up venturing into territory I didn’t expect it to. When it did, it accomplished something that I haven’t seen a kid-focused sitcom ever do before: make progress in LGBTQ+ representation on screen. Most series aimed at younger demographics have long avoided any such representation, but the fact that Diary of a Future President is willing to include those elements as part of a character’s season-wide story arc (not just sidelined, as well as leaving the door open for more exploration in Season 2) speaks volumes of the show’s boldness and pioneering nature. It’s about time we got some concrete representation in children’s television, and here’s hoping its inclusion will become the new normal.

What it includes in some areas makes up for what it doesn’t in others, and even if it doesn’t break too much new ground, the first season of Diary of a Future President is an entertaining piece of short form television that starts paving the road for the future, one delightful cobblestone at a time. [Grade: A]

Showrunner: Robin Shorr
Starring: Tess Romero, Selenis Leyva, Charlie Bushnell, Michael Weaver, Carmina Garay
Rated: TV-PG
Available: Disney+
Fun Fact: Guest star Gina Rodriguez produced the series through her production company I Can & I Will Productions.

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