The Watchman: Disney Channel’s Ribbeting New Series; ABC Putts a Spell on Viewers

Frog-out-of-water show Amphibia begins on Disney Channel June 17. It’s about Anne, a fearless teen who is magically transported to a marshland full of frog people. Creator Matt Braly, formerly of Gravity Falls, calls the toad folk “fully-clothed, walking, talking frogs.”

Tony Hale, Jack McBrayer, Tara Lipinski and Johnny Weir provide voices, and Brenda Song voices Anne. Braly describes Song, formerly of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, as “Disney Channel royalty.”

The idea came from Braly’s childhood. With a Thai mother, he would visit Bangkok every year, which he described as “quite the culture shock.” The pace was different, the food was spicy and the humidity “hit you like a brick wall.”

But by the end of his trip, Braly did not want to leave.

And so it’s Anne who is stuck in this peculiar place, where her friends include pollywog Polly Plantar. Braly called Anne an atypical protagonist. “Anne has some bite to her,” he said. “She does not go along with what everybody else thinks.”

Disney Channel has committed to two seasons.

Braly cites a “Lord of the Rings-y, Hobbit-y energy” to the show. “It has very grounded stories about very relatable and universal emotions,” Braly said. “It’s about finding your best self.”

Also searching for their best self are the contestants on Holey Moley, an extreme mini-golf series that starts on ABC June 20. Mini-golf lovers put their putting skills to the test, and face down physical challenges while on a super-sized miniature golf course.

Creator/executive producer Chris Culvenor said the braintrust saw all the “big, strong, huge gym fanatics” on other competition series, and sought to create one that most anyone can take part in. “It’s a serious competition put in a really silly world,” he said.

ABC is down with 10 episodes. Rob Riggle and Joe Tessitore host, and Jeannie Mai is sideline correspondent. Hoops superstar Stephen Curry is an executive producer. “He changed basketball, and we want him to do the same with mini-golf,” Culvenor said.

The show features “the most extreme course that’s ever been built on the planet,” noted Culvenor, including a windmill not so focused on knocking a player’s ball out of commission, but knocking the player out of commission.

Holey Moley is something of a gimme putt for families seeking stuff they can watch together this summer. Culvenor talks about mini-golf’s universal appeal. Most everyone on the planet has a fond memory or two of playing the game, probably while on vacation, with an ice cream, or maybe a beer, waiting on the 19th hole.

“It’s hard to even say mini-golf without smiling,” he said.

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.