Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls At The Party, created with ON Networks, premiered today.  The show is sponsored– maybe ironically, maybe not– by Mattel’s Barbie.   The creators had sought a sponsor aligned with their vision.

Poehler created the series with friend Meredith Walker, former senior producer for Nickelodeon’s Nick News, and former head of talent for Saturday Night Live. Amy Miles, recording artist and performer and host of PBS children’s show LOMAX: Hound of Music, stars as the series’ regular musical act.

Say what you will about old Saturday Night Live, but you can’t deny that in recent years the house that Lorene Michaels built has introduced the American public to some of the best comedians we’ve seen in decades.  And they all just happen to be ladies.

SNL alumnus Tina Fey is already poised to become one of the most powerful forces in the comedy world, having created two hit movies, the best sitcom on television, and a internationally revered imipression of a certain politician (or UNcertain politician, as the case may be).

But Fey is not the only former SNL cast member to be creating a media empire.  In the last couple of years, Amy Poehler has used her ascendant star to produce two original series with a very specific idea behind them; little girls are not just cute. They are smart, weird, and awesome.

Pohlers first venture into girl-power media was the Nickelodeon series, The Mighty B!, which premiered in early 2008. A similar credo of independence and intelligence resounds in her new web series.

Smart Girls at the Party has a simple concept: Amy interviews pre-teen girls about themselves. That’s it.  The “hook” is that these are girls you rarely see on screen – they’re smart, funny, and eager to talk about what interests them. In the first episode, the subject of boys does not come up once. Seems girls have other things to talk about, shockingly.

The first girl at the party is Cameron, a ten-year old writer of paranormal fiction. Amy presses her on topics such as her process, and how to beat writers block (Cameron suggests taking a break, Amy suggests “turning over the table or putting a hole through the wall”). Cameron seems slightly bemused/intimidated by Amy’s deadpan questions, though a reading from one her short stories indicates she might not be the easiest gal to rattle (“Dead.  He was dead. He was lying before me…dead.”)

The show is presented in a Charlie Rose style interview format, with Poehler taking the role of the stately presenter. The interview has a slightly Colbert Reportish feeling, in that Amy delivers her questions and replies in an deeply serious tone while the interviewee just rolls with it. 

Backing Amy up are her two IRL friends, producer Meredith Walker, and musical director Amy Miles, who occasionally chime in with alt-comedy one liners.  Keep your eyes open and you’ll also spot cameos from Will Arnett (Pohler’s husband) and the current SNL genius Kristin Wiig.

I’m not sure if we’re at the point where parents are sitting down with their kids and watching web series together, but this seems to be the prime audience for this show. The seriousness is a source of humor, but at the same time the girls are genuinely celebrated. Though the adults in attendance treat them almost disconcertingly as equals, it comes off as genuine respect instead of the sort of jokes-on-you teasing associated with most in-character interviews.

The show’s first episode seems to be searching for a balance between sketch-comedy style humor and a Sesame Street-style mini-documentary. I’d like to see the series find that balance, because it’s rare to see girls on screen who remind me of any girl I was ever friends with when I was a kid.

Smart Girls at the Party brought back memories of how cool little girls can be, and how different they are from how the media portrays them. Girls are rarely shown to be the source of much fun or humor on childrens programming, but with an ambassador like Amy Poehler, here’s hoping the next generation sees things differently.

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