This article contains information that could be considered too revealing according to our spoiler policy. Proceed with caution. You can't unsee it!Reason The show doesn't premiere until the day after this post's publication; we got a screener.
Will The Toy Box Be The Tickle Me Elmo Of TV Shows?
Does this toy-centric riff on Shark Tank have the potential to capture that Shark Tank magic?
What Is This Thing?
It's Shark Tank but for toys. Also, with kids instead of Mark Cuban.
When Is It On?
Fridays at 8 PM ET on ABC, starting April 7.
Why Was It Made Now?
Shark Tank has done well and captured the zeitgeist, so why not tweak that idea to create another (presumably) cheap reality show to take up an hour Friday night?
What's Its Pedigree?
Eric Stonestreet serves as host, with the amiable charm that brought him success and Emmy glory on Modern Family. Joining him are seven judges. Yes: seven. First, there are the three adult judges who serve as the initial obstacle toy pitchers have to overcome. Jim Silver has worked in toys for years. (The show's opening says that he's seen over 10,000 toys, which is a big number, and also basically impossible to fact-check.) Jen Tan makes toys for Pixar. Dylan Lauren...has a successful candy business? Evidently, three toy professionals weren't available.
Then, there is the second panel, which is made up of four children: Aalyrah Caldwell, Noah Ritter, Toby Grey, and Sophia Grace Brownlee. I think Sophia Grace is maybe that kid who would go on Ellen as a princess or something. I didn't look it up, because the fact I know something like that happened, and the fact I may recognize the girl by name, makes me want to blow my brains out.
The premise of The Toy Box is simple. An aspiring toymaker brings to the show the toy he or she invented. Judges get a little backstory package, the toymaker kibitzes with Stonestreet, and then the toymaker faces the adult panel. If a majority of the panel likes the toy, the inventor moves on to face the panel of four kids. At the end of the show, one toy goes on to the finals, and the grand winner will get his or her toy manufactured and produced by Mattel. (Guys, I think Mattel may have a hand in the production of this show. I started getting suspicious when the opening talked about how many Barbies and Hot Wheels get sold.)
Here's what's good about the show: I liked watching the adult panel of experts actually break down the toy. It's interesting to hear their insights, and the plusses and minuses they see in it. There's a real behind-the-scenes feel to it that's quite engaging. I also enjoyed the introduction of the kids. They did some admittedly pretty obvious schtick of the kids doing adult-type things -- getting a shave at a barber shop, getting coffee, etc. -- but it's kind of charming.
Unfortunately, the charms of The Toy Box are quite limited. Most of the series premiere didn't hold my attention. Stonestreet is phoning it in like he's Alexander Graham Bell; his energy is so low. And the toymakers are so tedious. Not that they should be as polished as actors, but none of them seems ready to be on TV at all. The first guy, who invented a soccer ball that becomes a football that becomes a baseball that becomes a golf ball (it seems stupid yet somehow wins), right off the bat says he put his kids' college fund into making his toy. This is the kind of detail that makes you hate someone immediately.
Then, there are the kids. I'm sure the makers of The Toy Box thought it was so clever to replace the experts of Shark Tank with kids. Kids play with toys, after all; shouldn't they have some say in the process? Wouldn't it be cute to dress them up all fancy and have them act like businesspeople? Maybe you think that. I certainly don't. The kids are largely a nightmare, and it's not their fault. When they are just kids being kids, they aren't making anything that could be considered coherent television. Somehow, when they're awkwardly stuttering their way through the lines clearly written for them, it is unbearably stilted. At least it made me laugh; if only it were supposed to.
There was a moment when I thought to myself, "Jesus Christ, how much time is left in this episode?" I had been only watching it for ten minutes. Do you love toys? I mean, absolutely adore toys? Are you obsessed with inventions and innovation? Do you want to see Eric Stonestreet gutting it out to earn a paycheck? Then you may want to check out The Toy Box. Otherwise, skip it. It's not Shark Tank. Walking through a Toys R Us for an hour would be more engaging, and probably make for better television.