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.
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.
Similar to The Jeffersons and All in the Family from a couple of years ago (and also Good Times which I somehow completely missed), we’re getting another live performance of a couple of classics: The Facts of Life and Diff’rent Strokes. I tried to originally write one post on both of these episodes, but I had too much to say (surprise, surprise) so I’ll be writing a separate post for Diff’rent Strokes.
On a personal note, The Facts of Life was my FAVORITE show as an eleven year old because I went to school with a lot of mean girls and it was depressing as shit. When the girls on The Facts of Life were mean, it was played for laughs, and they always learned a lesson so I knew they weren’t actually shitty humans. And I actually think my love of that show was the verrrry tiny seed that grew into this blog because every episode of that show was a very special episode.
Our hosts for tonight’s episodes are Jimmy Kimmel and the great Norman Lear (who by the way looks amazing at 99). What’s interesting about both of these episodes is that the characters are all played by adults who probably grew up watching these shows when they originally aired — a fact that I find very charming.
Now let’s get into the episode. Lisa Whelchel sings The Facts of Lifetheme song (an Alan Thicke classic) in an Eastland uniform and is joined on set by Kim Fields and Mindy Cohn (who looks super cute with gray hair). I don’t know where Nancy McKeon is, but I guess she’s continuing to skip all the reunions. The originally cast briefly waves to the audience and then we start the show.
Kathryn Hahn is playing Jo in this episode and it’s WONDERFUL casting. I love Kathryn Hahn in just about anything but boy is this casting a gift that I did not expect. She’s definitely doing a caricature though while the others seem to at least be trying to play it straight. Jennifer Anniston as Blair is also kind of magical, but she seems a little too smart to be Blair. I’ll also add that Ann Dowd is playing Mrs. Garrett in both of these episodes and she completely nails Charlotte Rea’s Mrs. Garrett voice. Gabrielle Union and Allison Tolman do such a good job as Tootie and Natalie, respectively, that I wasn’t distracted by the fact that I was watching Gabrielle Union and Allison Tolman. I just kinda accepted them as the characters, which I’m surprised I was able to do because they’re obviously not the right age for these parts lol.
In this episode, the girls are preparing boxed picnic meals that the boys from their sister (brother?) school will vote on as a fundraiser. It’s supposed to be anonymous, but Blair told her crush (played by Will Arnett) what was in her box so that they could have a picnic together. Natalie, however, was less direct and simply packed her box with her crush’s favorites. She’s also gushed about him in Blair’s Slam Book (think Burn Book for all you millennials out there who didn’t watch 80’s reruns in excess). Unfortunately, Blair tells Natalie’s crush (played by Jason Bateman) about Natalie’s notes and her boxed meal, so he rejects her before the bidding even starts. He does it in a very nice way (he has a steady girlfriend) but Natalie takes is super hard.
Everything goes according to plan for Blair, until Natalie seeks her revenge by urging Carl (a nerdy young man played by Jon Stewart) to outbid Blair’s crush. She does this by calling Carl and pretending to be Blair. Ick.
Jennifer Anniston’s Blair seems way meaner than I ever remember Lisa Whelchel’s version being. This is most apparent when Blair confronts Natalie in the kitchen for her revenge prank. It feels like I’m watching Alex from The Morning Show yell at Natalie and I’m uncomfortable. And honestly, I’m shocked to say this because Natalie feels way crueler in this episode than Blair, but Allison Tolman just seems way less intimidating than Jennifer Anniston.
Then ALL the girls get a talking to and Mrs. Garrett says they’re all lacking in compassion — which definitely seems unfair because Tootie and Jo didn’t even do anything. Having figured out what was really going on through a discussion with the other boys, Carl enters the kitchen and returns Blair’s dinner box to her.
Jo then volunteers to take the box and eat dinner with Carl (cause she didn’t want to have dinner with anyone and bid on her own box — like honestly as a grownup Jo is by far my favorite character). But a very guilty Natalie, tries to take the box from Jo. And then Jo is like um no why would he want to eat with someone who was mean to him?? And then Blair finally decides to do the right thing and takes the box back, so that she can have dinner with a very nice person. Turns out they have a lovely dinner when they both realize they love modern art!
Honestly, this was an insane premise. Mrs. Garrett, this is kind of on you for thinking high school kids wouldn’t get up to some serious shenanigans with picnic box bidding. That said, Natalie had the cruelest intentions of all. Dark stuff, man. Dark stuff. This is definitely NOT my favorite episode, but I thought the cast did a nice job with it and I am glad they picked an episode from earlier in the show’s run.
Anyway, we’re then treated to a lovely post show with Kim, Lisa, and Mindy! They all commended Ann Dowd’s performance! I agree with them!
In yet another reboot we never asked for, Paramount+ gives us scary CGI Tommy, Chuckie, Phil, Lil, and ANGELICA. She’s even scarier now if that were even possible! I won’t post photos here because I’m not looking to traumatize anyone.
In better news, Puma is releasing a Rugrats collab next week and it actually looks pretty cute. You can preview the collection here (and in the shot below).
It felt like a long-shot. But here we are. And dare I say it? The reboot craze has come for Saved by the Bell! (Oh please please please don’t let this be weird like BH90210.)
For those of you who weren’t already planning to follow The Office over to NBC’s new streaming platform, now that you’ll get new episodes of Saved by the Bell, what more reason could you need??? The plot sounds weird as hell and I am HERE FOR IT.
Basically, Zack Morris becomes Governor of California. I can totally buy him as a charming, sociopathic politician so def. good character development there. And then here’s where things get a little weird..we get to see Zack Morris handle school integration!! Yeahhhhh idk what we’re going to get, but I promise to report back to you on that.
We’ve had a lot of good times with Saved by the Bellhere at The VSB and I’m excited for new adventures! This reboot has me all nostalgic for some of my favorite posts from years past:
First of all, I didn’t really know anything about this other than that Marisa Tomei was involved and I was totally and completely on-board. Secondly, I started thinking about how Archie Bunker’s Nixon-era logic fallacy-driven paradigm of bigotry and misogyny (okay that’s it for the one’s that end in y so go ahead and insert all of the ones that end in “ism”) is sadly relevant to our current political climate.
Even in the 1990’s with all of it’s poorly aging depictions of gender (ahem I’m looking at you, many of the jokes from Friends), I could at least look at All in the Family and feel like “my we have come so far” but nowadays I feel like I may just meet Archie Bunker anywhere I go except he’d be wearing a MAGA hat and scrolling through Fox News on his iPhone News app and then sharing some weird shit on Facebook and then probably getting into a fight with Mike Stivic in the comments section — okay, have I taken this run-on sentence far enough?
None of this will come as a surprise to anyone. Norman Lear even said it in his intro. So here’s my bullet point thoughts on this one-off reboot:
Woody Harrelson is a wonderful actor, but he’s no Carroll O’Connor. There were also moments where I felt like his accent was more Boston than Queens–too much time behind the bar at Cheers?
Ike Barinholtz KILLED it as Michael Stivic.
I love Ellie Kemper and I think she’s a great comedian, but something about her line delivery/timing as Gloria felt off. Maybe she isn’t used to live shows? It seemed a little like she didn’t know how long to wait for the laughs and wasn’t sure what to do when she was in the background of a wide shot. Her accent was also problematic as it oscillated between bad and nonexistent.
I loved the interplay between Marisa Tomei as Edith and Wanda Sykes as Louise. I forgot how the women were more progressive than their husbands. It’s been a little while since I’ve seen either of these shows!
Ike Barinholtz and Woody Harreslon had such good chemistry that I kinda got over my Carroll O’Connor issue from earlier.
I don’t remember the original Henry Jefferson — apparently he was only in twelve episodes — but I really love Anthony Anderson and I feel like he was very well cast in this role.
Lionel Jefferson was one of my favorites in the original cast. He was so easy-going but also so quick-witted. He could out-argue Archie with a joke. I’m sure that wouldn’t be fun to have to do in real life, but it was always fun to watch. Anyway, I’ve never seen Jovan Adepo in anything before. But he did such a good job as Lionel that I have a crush on him now.
I also had a hard time with Jamie Foxx as George Jefferson because, like Carroll O’Connor with Archie, Sherman Hemsley is SO iconically George Jefferson. I also felt like Jamie hammed it up so much that was kind of distracting. If I was watching a Sherman Hemsley George Jefferson impression I would say this nailed it, but I didn’t want to watch an impression. I do have to give Woody Harrelson props for staying out of impression territory with Archie. (Or maybe it’s just that his impression was so bad it didn’t feel like an impression?) However, once Jamie Foxx messed up his line in the flub heard round the world, he seemed to drop a lot of this impression schtick, and I think his portrayal of George was all the better for it.
Did not know Jennifer Hudson was going to sing the theme song from The Jeffersons! This was a lovely surprise!
Will Ferrell and Kerry Washington were great, but I just never really liked the Willises and I still don’t.
Heheh the old bait and switch with Marla Gibbs in the role she originated as Florence instead of Justina Machado was wonderful. Also have fun would it have been to have been Justina Machado and have been in on the con???
Also, major shoutout to Stephen Toblowsky and Sean Hayes who each did a fabulous job. Although I couldn’t stand the character Sean Hayes had to play, I seriously didn’t recognize him. He did a great job.
If I had to pick an MVP from each family it would be Ike Barinholtz and Wanda Sykes. Like I could straight up watch them in a full order of episodes for both All in the Family and The Jeffersons. (But can I also add Jackée Harry on as a bonus MVP since she was technically a guest star?)
It makes me sad that we needed a little 1970s refresh to hopefully sort our shit out, but I really hope this got people talking. It’s definitely still relevant and I hope one day we’ll really have moved past it. I truly believe the only way to do this is through meaningful intimate conversations with friends and family, which is what was so great about these shows in the first place. They modeled how to do that and we need them now more thane ver.
Hello, hi. It’s me again! I know it’s been a while. In fact, I haven’t even been watching that much television lately because I’ve been busy devouring Bad Blood (the book about Theranos) and listening to “The Drop Out” (the podcast about Theranos). Should my next blog be about grifters?
Anywa, I’m here today to appeal to you about “One Day at a Time,” a.k.a. the only good reboot of the recent reboot trend (and I will die on this hill!) I reviewed the first episode of the first season way back when it was first released.
But I’m bringing it up again now because the show has just returned for its third season and word on the street is that renewal is not exactly a lock. And that would be so, so terrible.
This is the best possible reincarnation of the classic sitcom I like to write about on this blog. The new One Day at a Time is tackling “very special” issues in a way that is neither silly nor trite. In fact, I can hardly write about it because it is a vast improvement on the old school shows I grew up with. But I’m writing today to make a simple plea that you give it a watch. It’s the kind of show I would want to watch with my kids, if I had them, and that I would have loved to have the opportunity to watch when I was growing up.
The original BSC series was my jam. It originated on HBO in 1990, but those of us without that cable-packaged movie-channel add-on luxury were lucky enough to catch it in reruns on The Disney Channel in the mid 90’s.
So with this reboot I’m having a mixture of feelings, even more so than usual, because the news of this reboot makes me feel simultaneously very happy and very old. I didn’t realize how old the original series was until this very point in time. I was like “wtf it’s not like as old as Magnum, P.I.” But the thing is, it is like as old as Magnum, P.I. *Insert light weeping noises here.*
But in the spirit of summer, I’m going to bury bummer feelings into a glass of rosé and review every damn episode of this magical series in order because it is TIMELESS and I’m just majorly bummed that reboots have killed reruns. If they reboot Cheers, I will lose my mother-effing mind.
That said, the original BSC series is available on Hulu, Amazon, and Netflix. Watch along, won’t you?
I am so excited that Cobra Kai is finally out and available! FYI the first two episodes are free on YouTube! (Episode 1 is embedded at the bottom of the post).
Early on in the episode we learn that Daniel LaRusso is a car salesman, who uses his Karate prowess to advertise his business. That’s pretty lame, even for a car salesman.
DUDE, ED ASNER IS IN THIS! Was he in the original Karate Kid? It’s been so long that I cannot remember. He’s playing Johnny’s stepdad, so maybe we’ll see more of him.
Anyhow, Johnny isn’t doing too well. He’s an alcoholic with a record and he just lost his job as a handyman. When some teenagers total his car (one of whom we later learn is Daniel’s daughter) he has to head to LaRusso’s body shop to pick it up. (Whoops, just spoiled the hell out of that episode for ya. Sorry, I’m used to working with older material.)
Narratively, the episode is told from Johnny’s perspective. Episode two is told from Daniel’s perspective, while moving forward chronologically.
After his encounter with Daniel, Johnny is motivated to restart the Cobra Kai dojo with his first student being–get this–a bullied teen who is new in town.
William Zabka is GREAT and I’m so glad we get to see a little more depth to Johnny’s character. I think it will be interesting to see how the plot plays out, especially if they continue to switch protagonists with each episode. That said…it will take many a good review to make me consider paying for a YouTube Red subscription just to watch the full series. (Or maybe I’ll free trial it?)
Girl Meets World aired their series finale last night. You all know how I feel about this show, so I may as well have called this post Girl Meets Good Riddance. But I am excited to post about it because this is finally the episode with the gigantic Boy Meets World reunion!! (Including both Morgan’s!! Cannot wait to see how they do that!)
The episode starts off with Maya asking Riley if Topanga has made a decision about taking a job in London (meaning the entire family will move away from New York City). Cory teaches some overbearing lesson to the class about “Belgium 1831” and how it’s all like what they’re going through (namely, what HIS kid is going through) right now. UGH these kids better not be Millennials. We don’t need anyone else accusing us of being self-centered like this! When were these children born? They better be in a different generation! (Ugh, crap. Apparently Millennials were born all the way until 2004. We’ll I’d just like to divest the late 80’s/early 90’s babies from that set, PLEASE.)
So Topanga assembles everyone important to her to bounce around some ideas. (This includes former school bully/current school janitor, Harley. And Minkus…who we didn’t even seen for the last several years of Boy Meets World, but I guess he’s kind of a big deal now because he’s Farkle’s dad.)
As far as both Morgan’s are concerned, they address them both as Morgan. Both as “their sisters.” This is horrible. I REALLY REALLY dislike this. Also, Mr. Turner isn’t even here. This episode super sucks. Oh wait, jk. He literally just walked through the door.
The only cool thing is you get to see Feeny and Eric talk. They’re still funny together. Also, Shawn announces he’s going to adopt Maya. Topanga is mad because she wants to talk about the job offer and she feels like they’re stealing her thunder. Uh, sorry Topanga. A kid just gained a dad today, you jerk.
The Morgan’s offer Cory and Topanga’s youngest kid some advice. They tag-team out mid conversation. This is weird. Maya is really sad and she says that Riley won’t leave because they belong together, but then Josh comes over to talk with all of them and Maya decides that life is replacing Riley with Josh (because she’s a self-centered person who gives a bad name to us older Millennials). They all say they hope to get to keep being themselves and blah blah blah.
Oh, whoops, guess what! Topanga decides they won’t move!! (So really they totally ripped off the end of That 70’s Show where they think they’ll sell the house and move but then they actually don’t. Is this a trope? How many other shows have done this?)
Ugh, now we’re back to Corey talking about “Belgium 1831” and how it applies to their small little lives again. Like seriously, there are like 5 kids in this class who ever cared about the move and the other 12 kids must be so pissed. If my kid had a teacher who taught around 5 kids, I would be calling the PTA like crazy. Cory must be really taking advantage of tenure.
Then there’s a flashback to Cory’s last monologue from Boy Meets World (to original Josh, who I think is the show creator’s son). Now, THAT was a good finale. And then we return to Girl Meets World. As they wrap up their chat inside Topanga’s bakery, a patron comes in and I am 99% sure that he is the grown up version of that OG Josh. By the way OG Josh is a lot older than replacement Josh. They like definitely aged that character down. And then that’s the end! This writing is so bad, it’s literally just the nostalgia factor that kept this show going. OMG it HAS to be. So yep, good riddance.
Anyhow, if you made it all the way end to this crappy post about a crappy show, tell me in the comments which Morgan you liked better on Boy Meets World. I’m team OG Morgan, Lily Nicksay.