“Raven’s Home was filmed in front of a live studio audience.” Nice.
Raven-Symoné returns as Raven Baxter after a ten-year hiatus—but with company. She’s joined by her 11-year-old twins, Nia (Navia Rob-inson) and Booker (Issac Brown), returning best friend Chelsea (Anneliese van der Pol) and Chelsea’s son Levi (Jason Maybaum). When Raven and Chelsea’s marriages both fall apart, the two broken families are forced to move in together. Hilarity ensues.
While most Disney Channel shows focus on growing up in a squeaky-clean version of modern America, “Raven’s Home” shares the focus with the struggles of being a young, single mother. Raven and Chelsea openly admit when they make mistakes or when they simply can’t afford something. Raven is still the star here, even if her storyline takes the B-side to her children’s storylines.
In the first episode, Levi jokes that he doesn’t have to worry about being the favorite child. Booker, who “did 1,000 push-ups that day” and “invented the dab,” gets more attention from Raven than Nia does. Raven has a psychic vision (a staple of the original “That’s So Raven”) in which Nia has what amounts to a “Marsha, Marsha, Marsha” moment. Meanwhile, Booker tries to convince Nia that he had a psychic vision in which Nia gets hit by a heavy bag in gym class. Raven bursts into the school gym, dodging tennis balls in the greatest display of physical comedy since Raven Symoné first left Disney Channel. As always, both visions come true.
In later episodes, “Raven’s Home” offers some more updated tropes: Raven’s budding fashion career from “That’s So Raven” has been reduced to an overbearing job in pet clothing. Raven and Chelsea, same-sex “besties” share a bunk bed, a subtle nod to Raven-Symoné’s real-life sexuality. Raven and ex-husband Devon’s (Jonathan McDaniel) post-divorce interactions have friendly overtones and painful undertones. “Raven’s Home” is a refreshingly relatable show for today’s reality.
This is still a comedy. Tiny Levi acts as the parent to his mother, airhead Chelsea, who burns every meal and breaks every appliance. Booker gets his head stuck in every prop on set. Raven and Chelsea somehow get locked in a bank vault during television’s most accurate depiction of going to the club as an adult. The energy between cast members is electric, an obvious byproduct of the live audience. The show never takes itself too seriously but still sprinkles in tender moments.
“Raven’s Home” is best summed up by the opening lyric of the theme song:
“Had my vision all worked out, but life had other plans.” Who can’t relate to that?”