Alexa & Katie

Alexa & Katie is in many ways your typical teen sitcom. We follow the story of two teenage girls, Alexa Mendoza (Paris Berelc, Disney XD’s Mighty Med and Lab Rats: Elite Force) and Katie Cooper (Isabel May), as they navigate the excitement and challenges of starting high school.

Alexa & Katie discusses many of the cliches, yet relatable struggles of this including boys, teachers, bullies, trying out for extracurriculars and sports and all-around just trying to fit in. However, the girls are hiding a secret. Over the summer, Alexa spent most of her time in hospital as she had been diagnosed with leukemia.

Alexa & Katie
Alexa (Paris Berelc) literally looks up to her ‘mom’, Lori (Tiffani Thiessen).

Intent on not being ‘the sick girl,’ Alexa, now in remission, decides to keep her diagnosis a secret. In solidarity, Katie shaves her head and vows to keep Alexa’s secret, even when people mistake her for the sick one. While the voiceover states the obviousness of how good of a friend Katie is, we quickly appreciate her quirkiness and devotion to her friend, while simultaneously being jealous of how close they live, with a tree joining each girls bedroom; the equivalent of my childhood dream of a secret tunnel to my friend’s house.

Both of the girls’ families are extremely close and although we are stuck with a bunch of archetypes such as an annoying but adorable little brother (Finn Carr), and an obnoxious and popular older one (Emery Kelly), as well as a hovering mother (Tiffani Thiessen, Saved by the Bell) and father (Eddie Shin) who’s not as involved but still makes a million dad jokes, it’s nice to see a teen show with both an interracial family and a hard working single mother (Jolie Jenkins) being represented as positive and normal.

The show does a good job of portraying how difficult it is for someone to feel normal, when they’re diagnosed with an illness: a mother with her daughter’s best interests at heart quickly becomes hovering and irritating, classmates who they were never really close to quickly become uninvitingly nice and polite, even rivals start sending gifts and giving hugs.

Alexa & Katie
Selfie! Alexa shares the couch with her family.

But it isn’t just the obviousness of people overcompensating with how sorry they feel by acting completely different, but also questioning whether or not they deserve something they’ve worked hard for, or if they’ve just been given it as compensation for their sickness. Whilst the show raises some good points about how we treat illness, it only skims the surface. Netflix has already picked it up for a second season and I would love to see them explore this more.

Alexa & Katie is fun, touching and makes you think. It’s cool to see a series discussing the everyday struggles of someone who is diagnosed with an illness at the centre of the storyline, as even though I personally can’t relate, there will be many who can. As discussed in one of the episodes, it’s not something people should ever have to relate to, but it happens and it’s good to see Netflix making an effort of inclusivity and show stories we don’t always get to see.

Show
Alexa & Katie – Season 1
Network
Netflix (NZ)
Release Date
23 March 2018
Binge Time
5 hrs 40 mins