THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB (L to R) VIVIAN WATSON as MALLORY PIKE, KYNDRA SANCHEZ as DAWN SCHAFER, ANAIS LEE as JESSI RAMSEY, MALIA BAKER as MARY ANNE SPIER, MOMONA TAMADA as CLAUDIA KISHI, SHAY RUDOLPH as STACEY MCGILL, and SOPHIE GRACE as KRISTY THOMAS in episode 201 of THE BABY-SITTERS CLUB Cr. COURTESY OF NETFLIX © 2021

It’s not always easy extending the success of a solid first season. Creator Rachel Shukert and the talented cast and crew of this Netflix series succeed in growing both the world of The Baby-Sitters Club and all the characters involved.

The Next Chapter counts only eight episodes, which isn’t a bad thing, as each one of them recounts an event that somehow changes a character’s personal life while still interacting with the rest of the club. Kristy, Claudia, Stacey, Mary Anne, Dawn and newcomers Mallory & Jessi all have their own challenges to face this season all the while growing up and finding out who they are while their friends are there to support them along the way. Grief, performance anxiety, peer pressure, social media and family are by far the biggest obstacles they face this season, while they grow their own personalities.

What make this “Next Chapter” so great is not only seeing some growth within the on screen characters, but also the growth in talent within these young actors. The writers are partly to thank for this, as they are clearly well aware of the demographic they’re trying to reach, while not excluding a mature audience that (just like me) wants to invest in a show as drama free as possible. This isn’t an easy task when you think of it, but just like Ted Lasso there’s always a redeemable factor in even the most unlikable of characters that makes this just so easy to watch while also learning some life lessons that could help anyone of us to look at things from a different perspective.

The entire young cast does a solid job at presenting their characters in their own very distinctive ways, but most of the emotional heavy lifting is done by Sophie Grace and Claudia Kishi, who each deal with heavier subjects that aren’t always as easy to understand for children even though they’re part of life. This is where the adult cast is definitely a welcome addition to support and paint a bigger picture. It’s also nice to see the casting directors making an effort to recast Dawn with someone who looks very much like Xochitl Gomez, as she was busy filming the sequel to Marvel’s Doctor Strange. And even though Kyndra Sanchez doesn’t entirely feel as free spirited in the role of Dawn as Gomez did, she does make the character her own and fits nicely within the group. The two newcomers Anais Lee and Vivian Watson (playing Jessi Ramsey and Mallory Pike respectively) each get their moments to shine, but whereas I personally grew to like Jessi in her own episode “Jessi and the Superbrat”, Mallory never gets the character development necessary for me to really connect with her, which made her feel more like an outcast than part of the group. Luckily we still have Karen (Sophia Reid-Gantzert) to weirdly freak us out in the most unexpected of ways.

The Baby-Sitters Club is once again overflowing with heart and joy, even more than it did the first time around. We’ve grown to know these girls and their families a little better, which means things are able to get a bit more serious and setbacks will hit harder when they occur, resulting in heartbreak and tears. The intricate and important subjects are perfectly balanced with light and enjoyable moments to make this “Next Chapter” once again an enjoyable binge from start to finish.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Reviewed October 11, 2021 on Netflix. Rating: PG. Running time: 8 x 25 min. 

PRODUCTION: A Netflix release of a Paulilu Productions, Terrible Baby Productions, Michael De Luca Productions & Walden Media production. Producers: Matthew Chipera, Ann M. Martin & Ashley Glazier. Executive producers: Rachel Shukert, Lucia Aniello, Michael De Luca, Lucy Kitada, Sascha Rothchild, Frank Smith, Naia Cucukov & Benjamin Forrer.

CREW: Directors: Robert Luketic & Kimmy Gatewood. Writers: Rachel Shukert, Sascha Rothchild, Ryan O’Connell, Rheeqrheeq Chainey, Dan Robert & Lisha Brooks. Editing: Joseph Ettinger & Janet Weinberg (ACE). Music: Jesse Novak. Cinematography: Adam Silver & Christopher Charles Kempinsky.

CAST: Sophie Grace, Momona Tamada, Shay Rudolph, Malia Baker, Vivian Watson, Kyndra Sanchez, Anais Lee, Alicia Silverstone & Mark Feuerstein.

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