Wow – “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate” Is Pretty Bad


My kids—my four-year-old son especially—got hooked on the YouTube channel, Ryan ToysReview, a few years ago. Ryan’s a little boy who opens and plays with new toys at home, often in a staged scene set up with the help of his parents. He’s a YouTube superstar, with a following of nearly 20 million subscribers and an annual income of about $22 million. I never understood why this kid, out of all the other YouTubers, made it big or how his parents managed to parlay his popularity into some serious coin, but, hey, good for them. 

We said goodbye to Ryan, though, in February after rumors surfaced that YouTube Kids housed videos prompting children to commit suicide. I deleted the app from my kids’ iPads, and with it, Ryan left our lives forever… until Nickelodeon announced they were giving him his own show, Ryan’s Mystery Playdate. Ryan was the only thing my son missed about YouTube, and since his content was harmless, I was game for letting my kids watch his new television show.

ryan's mystery playdate episode 1 with tony hawk

In Ryan’s Mystery Playdate, Ryan and his parents complete activities to earn clues about their mystery playdate. The guest is finally revealed at the end of the episode and they spend about five minutes doing some sort of demonstration together. 

Oh my God, it is so much worse than I could have imagined. 

I expect children’s shows to have an element of corniness to them, a touch of overacting, and low-quality production, but this show proves that whatever secret sauce works for YouTube success does not necessarily translate to a television performance. The real mystery of the show is how it ever made it to air in the first place.

I probably shouldn’t be surprised that Nickelodeon let the promise of commercial success overpower the desire to produce a quality program, but I am disappointed. If I was an actor looking for a gig, I’d be livid because this family has no business having their own television show. 

I don’t take issue with Ryan himself. He’s a cute kid and does a decent job. It’s his parents that shouldn’t be in front of the camera. Their delivery is unnatural, their timing is off, and every gesture they make is just plain awkward. It is truly painful to watch.

Who knows why they’re in the show. Maybe they demanded to be a part of it. Maybe Ryan would only feel comfortable with his parents there. Maybe focus groups wanted it. However Ryan’s Mystery Playdate came to be, his family has capitalized on their YouTube success, and my opinion won’t really affect that.

But I was relieved to see that my son also seemed to be disappointed in the show. It turns out the allure of Ryan’s YouTube channel wasn’t Ryan himself, it was the excitement of living out toy fantasies through him. Since that’s not the premise of the new Nickelodeon show, and since it offers only trace elements of educational value, we’ll be happy to say goodbye to Ryan again. Hopefully, this time for good. 


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