Magazine article The Christian Century

Magic on Normal Street

Magazine article The Christian Century

Magic on Normal Street

Article excerpt

Amazon's original series, Gortimer Gibbon's Life on Normal Street, follows the title character and his best friends through the tribulations of growing up. On the one hand, Normal Street is an ordinary, even boring place to live. On the other hand, it's a place where extraordinary events break in. The show uses a combination of magic and realism that depicts real life far better than any other family television show I've seen.

Gortimer (Sloane Morgan Siegel) lives with his mom and younger brother. His core trio of friends includes goofy, enthusiastic Ranger (Drew Justice) and dreamy, brilliant Mel (Ashley Boettcher). The fresh, unaffected performances of all three young actors conjure up that time when children are ineluctably but mysteriously transforming into adults.

Each episode contains a focal point, a piece of heightened reality that manages to tell the truth about the hard, ordinary work of growing up. In one episode, for example, the kids create a permanent rainbow that represents permanent happiness. Soon, however, the friends realize that the unrelenting happiness is eerie and uncomfortable.

Gortimer's father visits while the rainbow is visible (his parents are divorced). Gortimer struggles with the infrequency of his father's visits; his father's work keeps him away from his sons. In the rainbow episode, he comes to visit but soon has to leave, and when he does the rainbow fades. Gortimer's dad explains that he has to go because "guys like you and me, we help people who need help. That is who we are." It's a powerful statement, but Gortimer is left with unresolved sadness.

In another episode, Ranger, who loves basketball but seldom gets to play, becomes a living good-luck charm for his basketball team. He's taken in by the quasi-acceptance he gets from the players--even when it puts him in real danger.

In another episode, Mel uses software to take blemishes out of school yearbook photos and "fix" Gortimer's smile. …

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