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sam, freddie, and carly holding signs with their ship faces on it Image: Nickelodeon

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The new iCarly will need to deal with what ‘internet famous’ really means

The original show, now a Netflix breakout, captured late-2000s life online

Petrana Radulovic is an entertainment reporter specializing in animation, fandom culture, theme parks, Disney, and young adult fantasy franchises.

Nickelodeon’s hit series iCarly landed on Netflix in February, and since then, it’s enjoyed a regular spot on the streaming service’s list of Top 10 most-viewed titles. The show is set to get a sequel series on Paramount Plus this summer, following in the same footsteps of Raven’s Home, Fuller House, and Peacock’s Punky Brewster: Lately, there’s been a run of sequels featuring familiar young characters from family-friendly sitcoms, now seen years down the line, as adults themselves.

iCarly, which centers around three teenagers putting on a web show of the same name, is a particularly intriguing show for this sort of treatment. Not only will it bring back familiar characters dealing with issues currently relevant to the audience who grew up with them, it could also potentially examine internet fame 10 years down the line, consider the ramifications of going viral at such a young age, and interrogate a rapidly changing online world.

The original iCarly follows a trio of teenagers — the titular Carly (Miranda Cosgrove); her best friend, tough girl Sam (Jennette McCurdy); and geeky boy-next-door Freddie (Nathan Kress) — who start a web show that skyrockets to popularity. They deal with internet rivalries, petty bloggers, figuring out what content to make, and scheming ways to get more viewers, alongside the usual tween-show issues, like navigating crushes and mean teachers.

sam and carly filming an episode of their web show Image: Nickelodeon

There’s certainly a nostalgia factor involved in looking back on iCarly, but what makes it particularly intriguing is that the nostalgia isn’t just for the TV show itself, it’s for a long-gone era of the internet. The in-universe web show iCarly is a capsule of late-2000s / early-2010s internet culture. It was a time defined by randomness and quirkiness, where I Can Has Cheezburger? reigned supreme, and memes still followed a near-universal top-text / bottom-text format.

In the web show, Carly and Sam epitomize this brand of LOL XD humor. They get into meatball fights. They periodically pause the show to randomly dance. They rig up a floating bra to tell them scary stories. It’s the sort of thing that was not only hilarious to a preteen, but hilarious in the time of the internet where high-pitched screamer Fred was the most popular thing on YouTube. (Incidentally, Fred guest-starred on an episode of iCarly.) Watching it in 2021, iCarly feels like a perfect pocket of that internet age in all its highs and lows. An older Carly in the sequel series will have to reckon with how rapidly the internet can change.

So much of iCarly’s brand was built on public ridicule. The girls put up a camera in front of a bus stop and have a segment making fun of the people who walk by. They regularly prank and harass their doorman, Lubert. At one point, they hoist Sam’s crush up with a wedgie machine. (He was cheating on her, but still … kinda harsh to do to a 13-year-old on a livestream.)

carly and freddie looking very confused Image: Nickelodeon

To be fair, iCarly touched on a lot of aspects of influencer culture that still feel relevant: the kids get into internet feuds, they take on a sketchy sponsorship deal, they deal with intense stans, and in an oddly prophetic move, they even get into a boxing match with a professional. As Palmer Haasch recently pointed out at Insider, iCarly avoided feeling dated by being ahead of the curve: “The show premiered during a period of time when YouTube still felt like a novel phenomenon and being an online creator wasn’t as viable of a career path as it is now. iCarly premiered at the beginning of that transition, and the show paralleled the rise of creator culture during what some have called YouTube’s golden age.”

But the compelling part of this is that the show dealt with these hallmarks before they even became hallmarks. The sequel series has a chance to explore exactly what that all means 10 years later, when all these big staples of being an Online Figure became very normal parts of being an Online Figure. How has Carly coped with being so exposed to the online world at such a young age? Does she have a big head about it, or has she tried to move on? How does she feel about the changes internet culture has gone through? Has she tried to capitalize on her once-viral fame? If Carly is like other creators of this time period, it’s likely she had to deal with a phase where a new generation logged on and found her content cringe and dated.

There are also bigger, overarching internet-specific themes to deal with that weren’t even really issues when iCarly first aired. Does her team want to monetize their content now that they aren’t doing it for funsies after school? Will someone dig up an old video of Carly’s and write a call-out post? What about online harassment and parasocial relationships?

Though some core tenets of the internet remain stable — pageviews are always good and rivalries are unavoidable — internet culture has changed radically since Carly and Sam hit half a million pageviews on a video Freddie uploaded where they riffed and made fun of their teacher. In 2021, it’s easier than ever for a piece of content that attracts some notice to accidentally go viral — but with so many creators out there vying for their chance in the spotlight, it’s also much harder to attract that notice in the first place. Whether or not the show actually digs deep into what’s changed about being online is one thing, but the very concept of an iCarly sequel series already suggests a unique look back at a version of the internet that was mostly good — or at least not so overwhelmingly bad.

iCarly is streaming on Netflix.

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