May 4, 2009 in Features

Cosgrove keeps weaving her web

Denise Martin Los Angeles Times
 
PR NEWSWIRE photo

Miranda Cosgrove
(Full-size photo)

Everyone knows who Hannah Montana is. But only kids know she’s been unseated as TV’s reigning tween queen by one Carly Shay.

Carly, the plucky 15-year-old star of the Nickelodeon comedy “iCarly,” quietly overtook Disney Channel’s “Hannah Montana” in the ratings race for young audiences.

Miranda Cosgrove, who plays Carly, is still a name that draws quizzical looks while Miley Cyrus sells out movie theaters and concerts.

Nor is Cosgrove the whirlwind of controversy that Cyrus has been. She recently posted to her Twitter page: “Just finished 5 more hours of math. At least this afternoon was fun! My first real driving lesson!”

That’s a far cry from Cyrus’ recent bio: dating a 20-year-old, a Jonas brother and posing provocatively for Vanity Fair.

And yet, in its second season, “iCarly” – which follows the misadventures of three friends who produce a Web show – has grown into TV’s No. 1 series among kids (ages 2 to 11) and tweens (ages 9 to 14), drawing an average 5.6 total million viewers to new episodes.

During the show-within-a-show Webcasts, which the characters film in Carly’s attic, Carly and her friend Sam (Jennette McCurdy) demonstrate making chicken soup in a toilet. They create trailers spoofing teen movies.

They morph Carly’s head on to a picture of Sam’s rabid cat. They improvise short sketches with names like “The Cowboy With a Mustache and the Idiot Farm Girl Who Thought the Mustache Was a Squirrel.”

“When I pitched the show, (Nickelodeon executives) asked, ‘What’s the Web show?’ I said, ‘Whatever we want,’ ” says series creator Dan Schneider, whose credits include “Zoey 101,” “Drake & Josh” and “The Amanda Show.”

“I don’t know who else besides us could say they’ve run over a microwave filled with toothpaste in a monster truck,” adds McCurdy.

In spite of the show’s ratings gains – and a memorable role as the know-it-all 10-year-old band manager in Jack Black’s comedy “School of Rock” – Cosgrove is without the promotional power of the Disney empire that has made stars of Cyrus, Hilary Duff and Zac Efron.

Instead, she falls neatly into the tradition of Nickelodeon talent such as Emma Roberts and Josh Peck, teens who are trying to build their acting careers in independent films.

Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Films are developing “How Could You Do This to Me?” a comedy about a teen trying to keep her divorced parents from reuniting, as a possible vehicle for Cosgrove.

A debut solo album also is in the works; she previously contributed four songs to the “iCarly” soundtrack.

Music is something “I did just for fun,” Cosgrove says. “I’ve been singing since I was little, but now I’m making a CD and writing songs. I never imagined I’d get to do any of it.”

Does she aspire to the arenas Cyrus plays? She’s open to it.

“I mean, Miley’s so successful. I’d love to be able to go on tour and perform like her,” says Cosgrove. “It just looks like so much fun.”

The birthday bunch

Surf guitarist Dick Dale is 72. Singer Nick Ashford (Ashford and Simpson) is 67. Singer Jackie Jackson (The Jacksons) is 58. Country singer Randy Travis is 50. Actress Mary Beth McDonough (“The Waltons”) is 48. Comedian Ana Gasteyer is 42. Actor Will Arnett is 39. Singer Lance Bass (’N Sync) is 30.

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