Sabrina’s got a little problem with her magic during the holidays: she’s not conjuring, she’s taking from others. In other words, every time she zaps an object into her world, she’s stealing it from someone who was already using that object.
I am obsessed with Sabrina’s look in this episode.
According to her aunts, this is usually a sign of distressed mental health. So they send Sabrina to an other realm psychologist who extracts Sabrina’s inner child for a conversation. Wowww mortal therapy would be so much easier if this were possible. Ah, to be a witch.
She’s SO excited about presents!
After discovering that her inner child is obsessed with presents, Sabrina leaves with a diagnosis of Egotitis — which can only be cured by recapturing the true spirit of Christmas.
Sabrina tries decorating the house, but it still doesn’t put her in the Christmas mood. Her aunts suggest she try playing Christmas music, so she tries conjuring up a Christmas CD. But she accidentally steals Johnny Mathis’s Christmas album from Johnny Mathis.
I wonder how much they paid for this cameo.
Sabrina then tries to open some presents to make herself feel better, but they all suddenly disappear. Apparently, presents make egotitis worse. So you can’t have them when you have the affliction. Her aunts decide it’s time to call in the big Christmas Sprit guy from the other real — Bob. Bob is…well…Cliff Claven.
Bob takes Sabrina on a Christmas spirit montage.
Everything seems like it’s going well until Bob slips on some ice while they are building a snowman. When Sabrina conjures a cane, an old man nearby falls. So. Yep. Still got Egotitis. When Sabrina goes to her aunts for help, she find out that Bob is actually Father Christmas.
In order to save Christmas (and hopefully cure her persistent Egotitis), Sabrina heads to the North Pole with Salem. As soon as he arrives, she finds that the reindeer have eaten the naughty/nice list and none of the elves know how to print out the saved copy from the computer. With no time left to spare, Sabrina prints the spare list, turns Salem into a reindeer cat, and heads off to deliver presents on a vacuum cleaner.
Sabrina returns home full of Christmas spirit and doesn’t even care about presents anymore. Thus, her Egotitis is cured…which of course was Santa Clavin’s play the whole time. And Johnny Mathis shows up again to sing O Holy Night a capella over the end credits.
Very Special Lesson: With all these supply chain issues, I’m really feeling this episode this year. Material goods come at a cost and sometime that cost is fair and manageable and sometimes that cost screws up global logistics — whether your conjuring up a cane for a Santa Clavin or several pallets of fast fashion. Also I think this was a pretty perfect Christmas episode. I got to see an old friend from Cheers, there was a cat, we saw some healthy and effective therapy, and the fashion was amazing:
On tonight’s very special episode of Sister, Sister, Sherman Hemsley comes to visit because he is the twins GRANDPA!! Oh how I love a very special guest star. To be clear, he’s playing Ray’s dad and Ray is Tamera’s adoptive father while Lisa is Tia’s adoptive mother. And they’re all living together in a gorgeous house in suburban Detroit so that the twins can be reunited after being adopted separately at birth.
While the sisters are shopping, Grandpa talks to Lisa at her booth in the mall. He reveals to her that he’s deeply indebted to a loan shark. And later that same day, a mobster stops by the house. Tia pays him partially with the twins Christmas money, which is just under half of what her grandpa owes. She’s told that he better pay the rest tomorrow — or else…
Tia rushes to the mall to tell her mom what happened and discovers that their grandpa is trying to earn extra cash as a mall Santa. She then explains to Tamera that she bailed out Ray’s dad, and Tamera is like a little annoyed she didn’t consult her before giving the loan shark the money??? I mean!! There was no other option, Tamera!!
With their Christmas money now in the loan shark’s possession, the twins have to get jobs to cover the cost of Christmas gifts. Tamera works in retail and her boss is a really annoying girl from their school, Rhonda. But to be fair, Rhonda’s dress is super cute.
Tia works as Santa’s helper and uses her new job as an opportunity to update Grandpa on what happened at the house earlier. She encourages him to ask Ray for help, but Grandpa refuses because he feels like he wasn’t a good enough father to Ray growing up and he doesn’t want to be a burden now.
When the loan shark returns to the house again, Lisa pays him the rest of what Grandpa owes. Ray is almost none the wiser except the loan shark comes back to the house because he forgot to return the IOU. Damn, this guy is an ethical loan shark. I mean, comparatively speaking. So Ray goes down to the mall to confront his dad, who is still on the clock. Ray can only speak to him if he visits Santa lol. It’s all very sweet, actually.
Realizing that the twins and Lisa have spent all their money on helping his father, Ray treats them all to a very generous amount of Christmas gifts. And Grandpa repays the twins their money! He’s gotten a job training other mall Santas!
Very Special Lesson: If you ever find that you truly learn that consumer goods are not what’s important at Christmas, American capitalism will reward you with a last minute influx of cash so you can continue to feed the Christmas Industrial Complex. Or maybe it’s that hard work is rewarded. Yeah, let’s go with the latter.
This episode opens with a Christmas party in which the host introduces his future son-in-law, a NEW Cabot Cove Resident. Has this man seen the violent crime rate in the otherwise sleepy town? RUN!! Get out while you still can! There’s something toxic in the water! This town should be a case study for the lead-crime hypothesis!
But no, it’s just so charming here in Cabot Cove. This guy is going to stick around, work for his father-in-law, and be a tax accountant. Ugh have I ever written a more depressing sentence? Well, maybe it’s not depressing for people who love math (not me).
Anyway, Jess has a heart to heart with the bride-to-be, Beth, who cannot understand why her fiancee, Charlie, seems a little bummed out after the Gulf War. Jess explains how post traumatic stress works and we cut to Mort inviting Charlie to go shooting. Charlie’s like cool, my gun is at the hotel. Ugh. This feels like a real Chekov’s gun moment. Why can’t we have anything nice in Cabot Cove?
Before things get too heavy, we move on to Jess and Seth arguing over whether or not they will have a white Christmas. Ah the yin and yang of Cabot Cove. One moment, you’re worried that your friends and acquaintances might not survive the week because every one of your neighbors could be a cold blooded killer. The next moment you’re overwhelmed by the hygge.
As the party wraps up, Charlie heads to his car and finds a mysterious, wrapped gift on the passengers seat. He unwraps what appears to be a Willie Nelson cassette tape. But when he pops it into the player, he discovers that it’s really a mysterious message from “a friend” asking him to meet at Sally’s Landing for some holiday blackmail.
And before you’re like “oh my! how dark!” can I interest you in a Christmas store front?
Or a great shot of Mrs. Fletcher buying some holiday wrapping?
I mean this town goes ALL out. They even decorate the life preserver. Oh and before I forget to mention this crucial plot point, Charlie recognizes the woman waiting for him as Wanda, from the Christmas party, and he proceeds to drive away from the landing without even speaking to her.
In the next scene, we see Wanda helping with decorations at the community center. Everyone is incredibly hostile to her because she’s apparently screwing everyone’s husband. A fact we learn from Beth while she and Jess make cute little paper chains.
Jess, now decked out in tinsel herself, seems to be the only one who can be cordial to Wanda. She requests four red balloons from Wanda and Wanda is like cool but can you bring me my lunch? Um, she’s not your maid, Wanda!
Anyway, Jess is like I think I see it in that locker behind you. And Wanda abruptly shuts the locker and is like no, that’s not my lunch.
She then tries to hand Jess four green balloons, which is how we learn that Wanda is colorblind. Something tells me this fact will be important later.
Anyway, Beth heads over to Charlie’s hotel because she’s not buying the whole stressed from the war thing and she thinks something else is up. He isn’t in his room, but she plays the mysterious tape and finds an appointment in his planner for a meeting at the Light House Motel. Beth books it over there and finds Charlie greeting another woman with a kiss.
Now at this point, we’ve been seeing a lot of heavy kissing from Beth and Charlie. This looks way more like a friendly greeting to me. My hunch is that this woman is Charlie’s sister, but of course Beth does not see it that way. Hold on a second. You’re not getting sad in this Christmas episode are you? Here’s a glimpse of a happy couple with a Christmas package just behind Beth’s car as she tearfully drives away.
As Beth cries upstairs at her parents’ house, her mother tells Charlie that Beth is feeling sick. She seems to genuinely believe Beth’s fake food poisoning and begs Charlie to still attend the party at the community center with Beth’s father and her.
At the community center, Jess and Seth watch Mort lead a chorus of carolers. Too bad Adele can’t be there. She’s busy delivering baskets of food to the poor in another town. She’s missing Seth play Santa!
Meanwhile, Charlie follows Wanda into the women’s locker room to a soundtrack of a very ominous riff on Good King Wenceslas. We hear a shot (that makes Seth flinch outside of the locker room but of course he doesn’t check it out even though this is Cabot Cove). Charlie passes another Santa in the locker room and (presuming its Seth), he asks what the shot was. The Santa (not Seth, obvious) dashes away without responding. And just as Charlie happens upon Wanda’s motionless body, J.Fletch appears — presumably to check out the noise but if this arrival isn’t an easy win for the “she killed them all” camp then I don’t know what is.
Luckily, she is wearing an excellent Christmas tree broach.
The real Seth examines Wanda, and declaring her close to death, accompanies her to the hospital. Jess and Mort then seem to imply that Seth has been such a Scrooge that they fear even Christmas is not safe from toxic negativity — toxic enough for MURDER. I’m not even kidding: Mort says “doc stacked the deck against us.” Although, given that this is the ONE Christmas episode in the show’s run he might have a point. Perhaps even a town full of nosey people with poor impulse control decides not to go murdering on a day meant for peace and goodwill.
Beth then chooses this very moment to confront Charlie. He’s like do you know what just happened? And she’s like yeah but I still want to talk about you and that strange woman from earlierat right this very moment. I know cheating is bad but the dude literally just found a nearly lifeless woman’s body. Can Beth please show him a little grace? We can talk about cheating tomorrow.
Luckily, the next morning we learn that Wanda will live because, according to Seth’s medical description, the bullet “was deflected in some sort of flukey fashion” and for this reason didn’t do any major damage that couldn’t be corrected with emergency surgery.
Beth then shows up at Jessica’s house to say that Charlie’s gun was used to shoot Wanda. The cops found Wanda’s blackmail tape and Charlie confessed to going to the landing. He’s been arrested for murder and Beth wants Jess’s help. Wow, that’s stressful isn’t it! Good thing we get a great glimpse at Jess’s awesome Christmas decorations.
Jess gives Seth the signal to get lost so that Beth will open up to her. As soon as Seth is out the door, Beth says she’s worried that Charlie got the money for her ring in nefarious ways. She also confesses that she’s worried he’s cheating.
Jess goes to see Mort and asks if Wanda had any time to go to California within the past year and he’s like no way. You want to know why? One time when Jess was away, a group of delegates from Cabot Cove went to Tokyo because they wanted to build trade relations. Mort then makes a joke about opening a chain of CABOT BURGERS in Japan. What is this Cabot Burgers? I haven’t heard of it. I need an establishing shot stat!
Floyd Bigelow went on the trip so Wanda handled the books. When Floyd returned, the pension accounts and short-term CD accounts were a freaking mess. And he thinks that Wanda was behind it and that she was embezzling funds! Oh by the way, here’s Floyd Bigelow. We also met him at the Christmas party earlier:
With absolutely no connection between Wanda and Charlie, Jess and Mort start to wonder if maybe the tape was left in Charlie’s car by mistake. And then they’re like hey, Beth had access to that room too. But Jess doesn’t think Beth is a murderer — which is weird because like everyone in that town is a murderer. Maybe Jess has rose colored glasses and that’s the whole reason she’s able to even live there. Maybe it’s genuinely shocking to her that people die on the regular in that town.
Anyway, Jess goes to the Light House Motel to see what’s up with that strange woman and it turns out that she is his sister! But also…he has a toddler..he’s a dad! He was afraid to tell Beth that he had a child out of wedlock. I mean. It really seems like this is something that you would mention before proposing…but…Jess can’t figure out why this would be grounds for blackmail since Charlie was going to have to mention the kid at some point anyway.
And that’s when Jess remembers that Wanda is colorblind. She calls down to the hardware store that Floyd owns and asks him to bring the master keys for the community center, so that they can access Wanda’s locker. Floyd heads to the community center with a revolver.
When Floyd starts to open the locker (early and without Jess), his eavesdropping assistant Amy confronts him and tells him that she framed Charlie. And that she’s the only one who knows the truth and she looooves him. THAT IS NOT THE CHRISTMAS SPIRIT. Anyway, Mort and Jess show up right at this moment. And in a true Murder, She Wrote anomaly, NO ONE DIES. And that, for Cabot Cove, is a Christmas miracle.
Very Special Holiday Lesson: If you’re colorblind and you’re going to leave a wrapped gift in someone’ s car — make sure to note the correct license plate.
P.S. In a very sweet moment, Jess gives Seth the toy train he always wanted as a child because they are in loooove.
And WAIT is that blond woman caroling with Mort ADELE???
First of all, I forgot this theme song was by Coolio and it totally slaps. Secondly, Kel introduces this episode as a “Very Special Episode,” which made me feel even more like I was in the right place. It’s always good to have your selections validated!
After the pre-show intro, we cut to Kel decorating Kenan’s family’s Christmas tree with orange soda — which reminds me, head over here to check out my orange soda donut recipe.
On Christmas Eve, Kenan places a downpayment on a bike. Kel tags along to the store and finds his dream present — and one of the best props I have ever seen — a tubaphone.
Seriously. There’s even art of this thing. God, I love the internet.
While at the store, Kenan and Kel witness a mob of small children attack Santa. With the original toy store Santa no longer up to the job, the store manager recruits Kenan to be Santa for a flat rate of $100. Kel gets to be an elf…I’m not sure if he’s also being paid or just being supportive. Either could be true with Kel.
Turns out, Kenan is the best Santa ever. He evens speaks an obscure language called Fishlockian and is able to sing a carol with this small Scandanavian child:
Everything is going great until he promises a bike to a kid who asks for the gift for his sister — only to find out that their mom can’t afford it. So Kenan decides to use the money he intends to use for his mountain bike to buy these kids some presents.
That’s all well and good but he also decides to break into the house, dressed as Santa, to leave presents. Luckily, this doesn’t go poorly and the whole family thinks it’s very sweet instead of very creepy.
After all this, Kenan somehow has cash left over to buy Kel the tubaphone.
Don’t worry though because the real Santa (or maybe just the store manager also doing a little B&E) brings Kenan his bike on Christmas Eve after the family goes to sleep. Kenan and Kel then close the show with the rest of the episode’s cast and the audience singing We Wish You A Merry Christmas.
Very Special Holiday Lesson: Breaking and entering is okay as long as you leave gifts? No wait. Absolutely don’t do that. Just leave a gift card in the mailbox instead. Bye!
I’m also going to share my favorite Kenan & Kel bit from All That: “Mavis & Clavis”:
Let’s start with the good things about this episode: It’s the Mr. Turner years (arguably the show’s peak). Bad things about this episode: Cory is a real jerk!
The premise of this episode is that the girls must ask the boys to a dance (but it’s “turnaround” because I guess Sadie Hawkins was trademarked?) and anyway is this even a thing that still happens? It’s like very binary and heteronormative and, as Topanga thankfully points out, “destructive gender-biased thinking and we have to get beyond that.” But she’s going Christmas shopping with her dad so she can’t go to the dance anyway.
While fantasizing about being asked to the dance by the most attractive girl in the class, Cory accidentally says yes to a girl, named Ingrid, who is not conventionally attractive. And then he reacts by being a realllll jackass about it. Luckily, his dad catches him trying out shitty monologues for backing out of his date and tells him that he needs to go with the girl he already promised to go out with.
Oh and by the way, Mr. Turner is teaching Pygmalion. I forgot just exactly how on the nose this show could be. Shawn, who is apparently listening in class for once, decides that he needs to give her a makeover just like “in the Pig Play” (so yeah he’s only kind of listening).
Meanwhile, Mr. Turner is a little stressed cause he’s hoping the hot lady teacher (who I think we’ve only seen this one time) will be his chaperone date (since when do chaperones have dates?) and honestly I’m not sure why we’re supposed to care? Who was this plot aimed at? Babysitters? I think if the kid is old enough to watch Boy Meets World, then you can just sit at the kitchen table and paint your nails for thirty minutes.
Based on horrible, horrible representations of women in magazines, Shawn decides that the newly made over Ingrid (who—spoiler not spoiler alert— it turns out is very conventionally attractive) is STILL NOT GOOD ENOUGH. He decides to reinvent her personality as well. (Excuse me, I need to take a vomit break). Now she must say she’s from Sweden (where her extended family lives).
Oh my God this is truly, truly painful. I hope Gen Z saves us from this millennial shame. I’m really not proud of how the older millennials and younger Gen Xers (or to be fair the older Gen Xers and Boomers writing these shows) portrayed teen years in the 90’s.
But thankfully KARMA makes itself available, God bless, and Ingrid ditches Cory because she is now too cool for him. Ugh wait karma in this show is A LIE because the most attractive girl from earlier asks Cory out as soon as Ingrid ditches him. WHAT IS HAPPENING? WHAT IS THIS NONSENSE?
Ohhh wait it’s a trick. And honestly I’m kind of relieved? That’s weird. I feel bad that I’m relived because this is also AWFUL. But the girl (played by Marnette Peterson who you might recognize fromThat 70’s Showor Camp Nowhere) ditches Cory as soon as they get to the dance. She had ask Cory to the dance as a decoy because she’s dating someone she isn’t allowed to date. It’s still bad, but I just didn’t want Cory to win after he was such a jerk, so I’m going to table the whole backstory of the minor characters here and just move it along with the rest of the recap.
In other unhealthy relationship behaviors, it turns out the hot teacher was always going to ask out Mr. Turner (she told all of the other teachers not to ask him out) and she was just stringing him along because it amused her.
Sadly, Ingrid couldn’t hack it with the popular crowd. She decided to actually jump into the pool at the gym when everyone else was just talking about it. Actually, that does sound cool. But what do I know? Anyway, she comes crawling back to Cory for comfort. GOD THIS IS SO SAD. I WANT HER TO HAVE REAL FRIENDS.
But Cory apologizes (low bar). Ingrid says she didn’t feel bad at first for ditching him because she realized he was just using her (fair) but now that they both acknowledge that the other is a human being, she also wants to apologize.
Oh wait it turns out someone DOES think it’s cool that Ingrid jumped in the pool. (See, I knew it was cool.) So. Yeah. She ditches Cory again. I wish I could tell all these children it’s totally fine to just skip the dance and not subject yourself to people who treat you like shit. This blatant social climbing is a lot. It does get better than your teen years, thankfully.
Very Special Holiday Lesson: This is clearly the worst holiday episode ever. I’m glad I coincidentally scheduled it first, so it only gets better from here people!! At least the holiday photo screen freeze at the end is kind of cute:
Also, since Cory got ghosted at the Christmas dance, I feel that this is the perfect opportunity to tell you that I have revived a series I did back in 2014 called “Boy Meets Sweet Valley High.” I used to make them with a printer and a scanner like a real 90’s kid, but now I’ve gone high tech. Please follow me on insta @boymeetssvh
Hello! We’re still a couple of days out from A Very Special Holiday Season, but I’ve got an early edition (addition, actually) for you! I am participating in You Knew My Name: The Bond Not Bond Blogathon with Remington Steele‘s Christmas episode, “Dance, Prancer, Donner and Steele.” The rules of the blogathon are that you pick an actor that played Bond but write about a non-Bond entry on his resume. So I picked Pierce Brosnan, of course.
Full disclosure: I have never in my life seen an episode of Remington Steele, but I must have seen it on I Love the 80’s or something because I do know the premise. For the unfamiliar, here’s a brief summary: a female private investigator, Laura, has her own agency but no one trusts her competency because misogyny. She invents a fake boss named Remington Steele and a former con artist, played by Pierce Brosnan, assumes his identity. Mystery-solving and flirtation ensues. For what it’s worth, Remington has a lot of low key Bond energy. (The show even prevented Brosnan from assuming the role as planned in The Living Daylights.)
In this episode, the agency is having an “open house” holiday party, but Pierce/Remington is moping in his office instead of partying because it’s 97 degrees on Christmas Eve. I assume we’re in like LA or something where maybe that’s normal? IDK I’m an east coaster, but 97 degrees on Christmas is my climate change nightmare, so I do understand the need to mope.
Anyway, the open house party is basically just like random office tenants and the vibe is awkward. There’s a podiatrist, an advertising agent, some man in a suit, and a plant lady — who can’t stay long. Also there’s no booze. There is, however, a scheduled Santa appearance…which is an odd choice for a party full of random business neighbors.
Unfortunately, Santa is two hours late. And…he also has a gun and is part of an entire series of Santa psychos named Dancer, Prancer, and Donner. This episode is like if The Taking of Pelham 123 and Die Hard had a sparsely-decorated, mid-rise office building baby. All these Santas are waiting for a fourth Santa named Blitzen. He’s the ringleader and also has the exit plan. Seems like you’d want to make sure the guy with the exit plan was there before you started the heist…but I’ve never heisted before so what do I know?
The Santas insist that Remington hand over the “hardware.” And Laura’s like sure I’ll go get you “the agency gun.” What??? I’m not pro-gun, but shouldn’t an agency of private investigators have more than one gun? Like if you’re going to have a gun, then why not have a 1:1 gun/investigator ratio. How are you sharing the agency gun in the field?? That’s a dangerous relay-race that I don’t even want to imagine. I can only hope she’s lying to hide the fact that there is more than one gun.
Luckily, agency employee Mildred (Doris Roberts) has a secret gun. She briefly looks like she’ll get control of the situation, but the Santas overpower her. Remington jumps through the throng of Santas and recovers the gun. Unfortunately, he can’t actually use it because he knows it is unloaded since he found the bullets in his office. OH MY GOD THERE GENUINELY IS ONLY ONE AGENCY GUN.
With this in mind, I would only recommend hiring Remington Steele if you need help with asset tracing or getting a telephoto lens shot of your cheating lover. For everything else, you’re probably going to want to go with Magnum, P.I. or Charlie’s Angels because all of those ladies know martial arts and would probably have already overpowered the Santas.
Okay, I might have sold these Santa’s short on the ruthlessness — they’re not exactly Hans Gruber — but they are planning on blowing up the building unless the owner pays a ransom. Suffice it to say the stakes of this are a lot higher than I originally thought.
Also turns out the Pelham 123 reference is meant to be explicit. Remington explains the whole plot of the movie to the other hostages and describes how the Santas are riffing on it.
Remington’s big plan is to get the podiatrist to fake going to the bathroom while actually setting a fire in there. Meanwhile, he tries to get one Santa, who has been expressing doubts about the hostage situation, to break. In the midst of this, the landlord and the cops show up.
The Santas allow Remington to speak with the authorities privately in the hall just outside the office’s glass door main entrance–wait seriously? NO WAY would they actually do that…but okay…Remington tells the cops to allow Blitzen through when he arrives. He’s too worried the other Santas will get spastic without him. And he’s right to worry, because while he tries to negotiate with the landlord for the hostage money, a whole kerfuffle happens in the office. Shots are fired. But thankfully no is hurt.
When Blitzen finally shows, the Santas are super relieved to see him. And in a plot twist I truly did not see coming — it isn’t really Blitzen. It’s the SANTA THE AGENCY HIRED and he is TRASHED. He is truly drunk as a skunk. That does explain the whole lateness thing.
Per Blitzen’s instructions, they pick the seemingly most unhinged hostage to transport the money: The Plant Lady. But she doesn’t come back with the money…so they go through her bag and find a recording device with Blitzen’s voice giving the instructions. It turns out SHE’S BLITZEN. Okay, that’s kinda cool and unexpected. It does feel like a bit of a plot hole that she was able to sneak off and play this tape into a 1980s satellite phone or whatever — without anyone noticing — but idk maybe she also employed the bathroom fake-out trick.
Plant Lady/Blitzen tries to make off with the money. She heads into a store room and changes into a cop costume (once again, undetected). But now the Santas are obviously pissed at being double crossed. Luckily, Doris Roberts saves the day with a hot pot of coffee to the face and a gun that presumably has ammunition.
Remington and Laura rush downstairs where they just announce their identities to the cops, who let them through what is supposed to be a sealed-off building. They hop on an unattended police motorcycle and chase Plant Lady–who is fleeing on another police motorcycle. Laura jumps off the back of their bike and onto the Plant Lady’s bike, causing her to crash into a Christmas Tree lot. Their fall is cushioned by all the fake snow and then Laura overpowers her to recover the cash.
Would i seek out more Remington Steele episodes? Probably not. But Pierce was dreamyyyy and I love Doris Roberts. I also like that the lady who supplied the office with plants was also a plant. Who doesn’t love a deep pun? All in all, not a bad watch.
To view the other blogathon participants and their entries, please click the image below:
I’m honestly SHOCKED it took The CW this long to reboot Sweet Valley High. I have to think it’s the pandemic’s fault because 90’s reboots have been all the rage for a while now. And yet here we are in late 2021 and we’re only just now getting a Sweet Valley entry into the reboot craze.
If you never caught the original tv series version of Sweet Valley High in the 90’s — think 90210 subject matter for a 7th Heaven audience with the production value of Clueless (the TV series). The Wakefield Twins are played by real life twins, Brittany and Cynthia Daniel.
If the original series is any indication, there’s a lot of room for creative liberty. One first season adaptation of the second entry in the book series, Secrets, takes a plot about winning queen at a school dance and turns it into winning the opportunity to be an anti-drug spokesperson.
In the episode, a student worries that she’s not going to be a good anti-drug spokesperson for the school because she did drugs one time (and only one time) and was a passenger in a car accident (I repeat, passenger) while under the influence. This caused her parents to move the entire family to Sweet Valley.
She’s worried she’s not “the right person to be telling people not to do drugs.” But idk Magic Johnson told everyone not to have unprotected sex after he got HIV and I feel like he was a pretty good spokesperson for that. But maybe they don’t watch basketball in the town she moved from. MAYBE this is something a Gossip Girl writer could put a better spin on.
Oh I also forgot the part where the prize of being anti-drug spokesperson includes touring the country with Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler — so shaming this young, one-time drug using teen girl makes even less sense in that context.
Also apologies in advance to whoever visits this page and finds broken links when/if The CW picks up this show and wipes all other Sweet Valley productions from the free web.
I first saw this movie as like an eleven year-old. My parents had me kind of later in life and I have this theory that they forgot the content of certain movies they showed me (see also Jumpin’ Jack Flash where my mom scrambled for the remote and hit mute every third word so that a seven year-old me wouldn’t learn the f-word from Whoopi Goldberg). Anyway, In the Spirit is rated R so don’t show it to your 11 year-old though to the best of my memory it’s probably more along the lines of a PG-13. It’s fully possible that I have the same memory issues as my parents because I haven’t seen this in years. Maybe it’s a hereditary thing. (Oh yes, I’m revisiting this paragraph from twelve and a half minutes into the movie and, yes, it is definitely rated R.)
Anyway, eleven year-old me did find this movie HILARIOUS and I was already a big Marlo Thomas fan from watching reruns of That Girl. (Seriously, everything about Marlo Thomas is just wonderful.) The movie also stars Elaine May and Peter Falk and features Olympia Dukakis and Melanie Griffith in supporting roles. So there you go, if this movie sucks or you find it offensive (fair warning that this movie is from 1990 so there’s a lot of derogatory words thrown around for sex worker) or just think the writing is crap, it has a good cast and you can’t argue with me on that.
There’s even a cute little fake-interview promo that the cast filmed because this production is nothing if not zany:
So as it turns out, I actually do not feel like reviewing this movie. I mostly just want to remind the world that it exists. It’s a new age-suspense, buddy-comedy, amateur-sleuth kind of thing with a weird voice over narrator! Who wouldn’t love that? (Critics, evidently.) Anyway, the last time I saw this movie anywhere in the digital age was YouTube five years ago and I fear that it could disappear again. So I’m going to drop the link below. Get it while it’s hot:
And we’re back for part 2 of the most recent episode of Live In Front Of A Studio Audience with Diff’rent Strokes. The common link between this and the earlier show of the night (The Facts of Life) is, of course, Mrs. Garrett. If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that Kimberly Drummond from Diff’rent Strokes is a commuter student at Eastland and that’s how Mrs. Garrett gets the job of dorm mother (she’s formerly the Drummond’s housekeeper) in the backdoor pilot of The Facts of Life.
I don’t write about Diff’rent Strokes on this blog because I find the real life stories behind it to be, frankly, a little too sad. Each of the show’s child cast members were exploited in some way by their industry and/or the community around them. I’ve seen a lot of negative comments on the internet about Dana Plato (who played Kimberly) in particular by people who seem to not grasp the fact that she was a child throughout the entire height of her career. It’s bone chilling to read some of these comments and think about the fact that these grown adults are talking about a fourteen or fifteen year old girl. So I tend to avoid the reruns of Diff’rent Strokes because I think Gary Coleman, Dana Plato, and Todd Bridges were all so immensely talented and I find it incredibly painful to watch the show knowing what they were all going through and how much they suffered. Thankfully, Todd Bridges has turned his life around in the most amazing way and is now the show’s only surviving cast member. I’ve caught a couple of interviews with him and I find his vulnerability and strength to be incredibly inspirational.
Now that I’ve written like 300 words of sad commentary that’s not even about this live showing, are you still with me?
This is not a Kimberly episode so I might have made you all sad about Dana for no reason, but it needed to be said. Kevin Hart plays Arnold and Damon Wayans plays Willis. I feel like I vaguely remember having seen this episode before (whereas The Facts of Life episode as totally new to me). It’s about Willis and Arnold struggling to share a room when Willis’s friend Vernon (Snoop Dogg) comes over to study.
Of course, the role of Arnold comes with the great difficulty of delivering the “watchu talkin’ bout Willis” line without being Gary Coleman. I’m glad they cast Kevin Hart for this because he’s able to deliver it very well and also manages to do a good job capturing Arnold’s childish spirit while being — you know — a forty-two year old man.
We’re only like five minutes into the show at this point, but I feel like it’s much stronger than the episode of The Facts of Life. John Lithgow is a really good choice for Mr. Drummond and all of the actors are playing it straight. No one is hamming it up — except for Hart as “Super Arnold” but that’s literally within the character’s description so it’s appropriate.
Also, the level of commitment is so much greater in this episode. John Lithgow straight up carries Kevin Hart just like Conrad Bain carried Gary Coleman.
After Mr. Drummond and Arnold talk, Arnold agrees to give Willis a little more space. Unfortunately, he has to go to the bathroom — where Willis is developing his photos. Arnold accidentally ruins the photos and they’re angry at each other all over again.
I think this was a much better episode than The Facts of Life both in terms of episode selection and in execution. The direction felt a lot more clear here and I really did like seeing everyone play it straight. Having middle aged actors is enough of a gag in and of itself. Having them play it straight subverts this and it’s a really nice balance in the humor.
When the TV ends up on Willis’s side of the room but the remote ends up on Arnold’s, things get rowdy. And Mr. Drummond intervenes again.
At dinner, Willis goes out to take more photos and Willis shares his sadness with Mr. Drummond. It’s tough to be eight when your thirteen year old brother isn’t into kid stuff anymore! Willis calls from Harlem and asks if he can eat dinner at Vernon’s instead. He also wants to spend the night over there, which Mr. Drummond says is okay. But Arnold is devastated because he feels like Willis hates him.
Arnold prays to God for Willis to return. And Willis does show up almost immediately! It turns out he missed Arnold. He saw his “silly face” in all of the photos he was developing and wanted to come back home and I’m not crying, you’re crying!!
Honestly, when I looked away from the show to type, I felt like I could almost hear Conrad Bain’s voice in John Lithgow’s and I’ve already mentioned how good Ann Dowd was at playing Charlotte Rae as Mrs. Garrett. So wonderful. This was a really, really solid entry to the Live In Front Of A Studio Audience series.