Angst-y android programmed to consume

Friday, August 1, 2003

"My Life as a Teenage Robot" (7:30 p.m., Nickelodeon) joins a growing list of youth-centric shows about superheroes in the throes of teenage angst.

Jenny (voiced by Janice Kawaye) may be a curvy metallic robot charged with saving the world from villains and space debris, but she really wants to hang out with other teenagers, coo over boy bands and shop at the mall. She's oddly attracted to Brad (Chad Doreck), the bland boy next door, and his bratty younger brother Tuck (Audrey Wasilewski).

Armed (literally) with a powerful arsenal of rockets, lasers and the like, Jenny has large antennae ears that alert her to looming disaster. They also give her a bunnylike appearance, an odd nod to the Playboy sensibility for a children's cartoon.

According to Nickelodeon executive Cyma Zarghami, Jenny "captures the essence of being a kid who wants to fit in." But the image of a young girl as a robotic, conformist consumer may make some viewers gag. The cartoon's groovy animation ("My Life" creator Rob Renzetti also worked on "Dexter's Laboratory" and "Powerpuff Girls") can't compensate for its sad subtext.

You have to wonder if today's 14-year-olds have a notion of what free-form underground radio meant to their parents, aunts and uncles. As in many teen movies and TV shows, the improbably good-looking cast of "Roscoe" speaks with the world-weary pop sophistication of jaded 35-year-olds.

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