The platform an adaptation lands on determines a lot about what makes it to screen. When The CW adapts a fan-favorite literary franchise, for example, we mostly know what to expect (sexy 20-somethings playing teenagers, likely something supernatural). The same thing can be said about Netflix, which we know by now tends to be a bit more faithful in its attempt to bring stories from the page to the screen. The streaming service has been churning out more and more adaptations with each passing year, and it often does so without sacrificing too much or deviating too often from what’s expected except when it’s absolutely necessary.
When it comes to The Baby-Sitters Club, which debuted last year at the precise time we needed it most, Netflix resisted the temptation to age up the central characters and thus nailed the tone and themes of Ann M. Martin’s beloved book series. With a diverse cast and socially conscious storylines bringing the show into the modern day, the series manages to update its source material for a new generation while keeping its earnest and good-natured approach to coming-of-age stories. That latter part in particular is what has made it appealing to those who grew up reading the novels and who might still have fond memories of both the original 1990 TV series and the 1995 feature film. Thankfully, all of that remains true in the show’s upcoming eight-episode second season.
In the new episodes, the titular club deals with a bit of change, both within the on-screen narrative and behind the scenes. In the case of the latter, Kyndra Sanchez has joined the cast and stepped into the role of Dawn after Xochitl Gomez, who portrayed the character in Season 1, wasn’t able to return because of a scheduling issue. The transition is relatively seamless, and Sanchez fully embodies the character, her eccentricities, and her anxieties in such a way that by the end of the finale it’s impossible to believe she hasn’t always been Dawn. It takes nothing away from Gomez’s performance, either; both young women have been exceptional in the role and both have chemistry with the rest of the cast, so nothing has really changed in that regard.
Where the show sees a more obvious change is in the overall chemistry of the club, as two new members join in Season 2. Jessi Ramsey (Anais Lee) and Mallory Pike (Vivian Watson) will be immediately familiar to fans of the books, in which they were junior officers, but both were also introduced in Season 1 of the show. Their constant presence as new inductees alters the central dynamic of the show and the Baby-Sitters Club itself at times, but it’s not in a harmful or necessarily even obvious way. In fact, it feels purposeful.
One of The Baby-Sitters Club’s greatest strengths is its ability to portray everyday growing pains of young adulthood with both humor and empathy. Meeting new people and making new friends is one of the many things that happens as we age, but it can also be one of the toughest to navigate. I don’t know if you’ve ever been a 13-year-old girl, but it’s not exactly easy, especially if you’re the new person in a close-knit group of friends who already have their own interests and identities. So, even if the chemistry is sometimes off or the girls don’t always get along—an early episode finds Claudia (Momona Tamada) struggling to train Mallory, who is a little less mature and still attempting to figure out who she is—it’s only natural. And it’s only right that the girls will continue to struggle and evolve as they make mistakes and feel their way through the confusion of adolescence.
However, Claudia discovering tolerance or Mallory learning more about her identity aren’t the only things the girls learn this year. After kissing Logan (Rian McCririck) at the end of Season 1, Mary Anne (Malia Baker) must deal with the confusion and awkwardness that accompanies a growing attraction to someone before understanding what any of it means. Meanwhile, Kristy (Sophie Grace) learns to be less judgmental after moving in with Watson (Mark Feuerstein) in the wake of her mother’s (Alicia Silverstone) marriage to him in Season 1, Stacey (Shay Rudolph) comes to understand that no one can be perfect all the time, and Dawn (Sanchez) struggles with changes at home. None of these lessons are particularly noteworthy or groundbreaking if you’re over a certain age, but it never hurts to be reminded of them every now and then, either.
Further driving home the show’s appeal this season is Karen (Sophia Reid-Gantzert), Kristy’s young step-sister who stole the spotlight in Season 1 by fabricating elaborate stories about camp curses and hermits in the woods. The character continues to be a scene-stealer in Season 2, with Reid-Gantzert confidently delivering her lines in a way that belies her young age and makes you want to see more of her. So this naturally raises a question about Netflix’s plans for the character, because as anyone who read the original Baby-Sitters Club books can probably tell you, Karen is the subject of her own series known as Baby-Sitters Little Sister. She’s a good deal younger than the rest of the girls—around 7 or 8—but Karen has real personality and Netflix has a growing list of titles for kids and family. A Karen-centric series would be a wonderful addition to the programming slate, so long as the character remained a part of future seasons of The Baby-Sitters Club as well.
One thing that the first season cemented for many of us is that we’re never too old to enjoy shows like The Baby-Sitters Club, either because of the obvious nostalgia factor or because of the heartwarming sincerity of their approach toward what can be an awkward period. When done well, like it is here, it makes for a timeless story and thus a universally appealing viewing experience. And while Stoneybrook is clearly a fantasy of idealized suburban existence, the show should be commended for being true to itself (and its source material) and dedicated to depicting healthy relationships at home, with friends, and with one’s self. In the end, there’s little to complain about with regards to The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2 as the show remains a comforting escape from the frustrations and fears of the real world. In fact, the only real downside is that there are only eight episodes as opposed to ten in Season 1. Whether that is a result of the pandemic is unclear, but when it comes to this show, I’ll take whatever I can get.
The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2 premieres Monday, October 11th on Netflix.
Kaitlin Thomas is an entertainment journalist and TV critic. Her work has appeared in TV Guide, Salon, and TV.com, among other places. You can find her tweets about TV, sports, and Walton Goggins @thekaitling or read more of her work at kaitlinthomas.com.
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