Tween Angel: Cosgrove Brings Spark to 'iCarly'

Miranda Cosgrove is back as Web show host Carly Shay, and her comic timing is put to good use.
Miranda Cosgrove is back as Web show host Carly Shay, and her comic timing is put to good use. (By Jon Mckee -- Nickelodeon)
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By Michael Cavna
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, September 27, 2008

If you're not familiar with the name Miranda Cosgrove, you will be. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some year -- perhaps when Rachel McAdams and Anne Hathaway have aged into empowered-divorced-mother roles, and a younger brunette is needed to lock lips with Shia LaBeouf.

Until then, what most adults don't know, the little girls understand. Namely, Cosgrove's talents help drive the hottest show on Nickelodeon that does not star a talking sponge.

As that show, "iCarly," begins its second season tonight, Cosgrove, 15, returns as quick-witted middle-schooler Carly Shay, who hosts the coolest Web show north of Yakima, Wash. And judging by tonight's episode, the show's creator, Dan Schneider, is wisely letting the characters mature in the ways of dating. Carly and best friend Samantha (Jennette McCurdy) will fight for the affections of the same boy.

A few developments since the debut season quickly become evident: 1) that the comic timing of Cosgrove and McCurdy has grown sharper; and 2) that male friend Freddie (Nathan Kress) has slammed headlong into puberty. Almost as if by design, Schneider plays these changes to great effect.

Schneider, 42 (who was on the '80s show "Head of the Class"), has become the John Hughes of Nickelodeon, having written series featuring such young stars as Jamie Lynn Spears, Amanda Bynes, Josh Peck and Drake Bell. Yet Cosgrove, who co-starred on Schneider's show "Drake and Josh," stands out from the pack.

"It's not often you have a young actress that has her range dramatically, and she is as good as it gets at comedy," says Schneider, explaining that he tries to steer clear of the kiddie-shtick that dominates so many shows aimed at tweens.

That is precisely why Schneider developed "iCarly" to suit Cosgrove's talents. "I was freaking out when I heard Dan would make a show for me," Cosgrove says. "I was in shock."

Now, as she shoots the second season, the teenager relishes the starring role -- and has her sights set on feature films, hoping to model her career after such former child actors as McAdams and Reese Witherspoon. "I really would love to do a 'Mean Girls' and a dramatic indie film -- a lot of different of things," says Cosgrove, who had a prominent role in Jack Black's 2003 hit, "The School of Rock."

And what does Schneider think of Cosgrove's longer-term plan? "Five years from now," he says, "I would want nothing more than to be writing feature films for Miranda."

iCarly (30 minutes) debuts at 9 tonight on Nickelodeon.

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