This Post Is About Ice Cream!

Wow oh wow I cannot believe we haven’t spoken since pre-pandemic times, Very Special Readers! I just don’t have it in me to poke fun at sitcoms right now. My whole vantage point has changed! What I wouldn’t give to crawl into Growing Pains and let Daddy Seaver tell me he’s proud of me for not doing cocaine in the bathroom of another suburban home. Can you imagine the LUXURY of that simple life???

Anyway, what I have been doing is getting busy in the kitchen. Yes, yes ME the person who six years ago could not crack an egg! So what happened is I ordered this fancy ice cream bowl from Williams-Sonoma. And then I found out it was backordered. I know there’s a pandemic, so I’m not blaming anyone but finding out something is backordered after you hand over your money is a real bummer. What’s an even bigger bummer is finding out that item is non-refundable even though they cannot actually send it to you. So I was like screw this fancy ice cream bowl, I’m just going to freeze a metal mixing bowl and prove that it works just as well…and you know what…it did!

I used this recipe from the Minimalist Baker. I didn’t have vanilla bean so I just used a little more vanilla extract than the recipe called for. I let my coconut milk chill for 24 hours but I do think 48 hours would have been better. I ended up sacrificing a little fat closer to the bottom of the can because it hadn’t fully separated from the water down there.

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure:

But listen, I’m not going to leave you hanging. I know you come here for a little nostalgia and a little (okay, a lot of) snark, so I did some research and here are some sitcom related ice cream things:

I learned from Michael’s TV Tray that there are TWO SEPARATE sundae holidays in this country. There’s a lot we’re not doing right but at least we have two separate sundae holidays over here! *crying emoji* *grimace emoji* Anyway, here in America we have the opportunity to celebrate National Sundae Day or, for those of you who prefer your ice cream with toppings, National Hot Fudge Sundae Day.

You can head on over to Michael’s TV Tray to learn all about Saved by the Bell’s girl group “Hot Fudge Sundae” which like serious wtf that was the name? Idk I forgot because I was so distracted by Jessie’s caffeine pill addiction. If that’s not up your alley, maybe you’d prefer to read about the time Marcia Brady worked at an ice cream store.

If you’re like, no no no listen I came here to learn about an entirely NEW show that’s EXCLUSIVELY about ice cream right down to the show name and it NEEDS to be from the 1980s and bonus points if I have NEVER heard of it, then yes, I also have you covered:

Once upon a time there was a television series called Rocky Road. (Pause for laughter.) The series is about a group of siblings, ranging in age from twelve to twenty-two, who takeover the family ice cream business after their parents die. So it’s like Party of Five but much, much worse. According to John Carmen, who was assigned the unfortunate task of reviewing this show way back in 1985 for The Atlanta Journal and The Atlanta Constitution, “Watching these made-for-WTBS comedies is getting to be like shopping the generic food aisle at the supermarket. The unadorned cans and boxes are supposed to contain real edibles, but you can’t help having misgivings.”

Finally, I present to you some of the troubling episode titles from the show’s three season run: “Knives Near the Water”; “Sister Was a Centerfold”; “Jess, You Is My Mother Now”; “Why Frank Senior Can’t Read.” So it seems like there’s a lot to unpack there.

Anyway, hope you’re all hanging in there! If I can make ice cream, you can too!

European Vacation: The Facts of Life vs. Growing Pains

Oh my gosh this episodes are so long. This makes me long for the days of two-part Hawaiian episodes. But here are some key points from each of these 90-freaking-minute long trips to Europe.

The Facts of Life: Mrs. Garret and the girls take trips, separately to Paris. Mrs. Garrett studies French cooking and the girls are supposed to be studying at one of Eastland’s sister schools. But these girls decide to runaway from the school because it’s too “rigid” and “structured” like most boarding-schools would be. But they are used to doing whatever the hell they want. Out of financial necessity (and the fact that the school has their passports) they crash with Mrs. Garrett. And she, as per usual, lets them get away with this insanity. Jo spends the entire trip trying to walk from Paris to LeMans to see car racing. She meets a random cute guy and, in what should be the beginning of an episode of Criminal Minds, hops on the back of his motorcycle and spends the night with him in a hotel, sharing a bed. But this is The Facts of Life so it is totally innocent and he’s a perfectly upstanding gentleman. Mrs. Garrett struggles to cook well enough for the French but she meets a French boyfriend and he helps her ace her test. Natalie and Tootie stalk a writer that Natalie thinks is cool. They didn’t even give Tootie her own plotline. Blair decides she can have fun by herself without trying to get guys to pick her up. And Jo, in the only remotely interesting story-arc of this 90-minute sans-laugh track drudgery, shares a chaste kiss with that perfectly upstanding gentleman. Oh and she never makes it to LeMans because he has to go back to Paris early for work and she decides she would rather be with him. Who are you, Blair?

Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.39.00 PMGrowing Pains: Mike gets a job selling travel tours for a company called VaVaVaVoom. He sells so many tours (including one to Maggie & Jason) that they give him a free trip to Barcelona on a sorority tour. Maggie & Jason go to Paris at the same time that Mike goes to Barcelona and Maggie’s parents babysit the rest of the kids. The first night in paris, Maggie comes down with appendicitis and spends the rest of the trip in the hospital. She and Jason see literally nothing of Paris, but he does manage to track down the restaurant where he proposed to her. And the chef caters a romantic candlelight dinner for them in her hospital room.
Meanwhile, the travel company has gone defunct and Mike and this one other person on the sorority tour (who turns out to have thought it was some kind of history tour) are the only tour members rich enough to afford Barcelona on their own. Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.37.39 PMThey contact the airline and learn that they can get some kind of value out of their otherwise worthless tickets if they can make it to Paris. So they set out across Spain hating each other in a poor-man’s When Harry Met Sally only to share a not-so-chaste kiss when they finally make it to Paris after having stolen a crap-ton of coins from a public fountain. That’s right, The Facts of Life is more chaste than a born-again yet unmarried Kirk Cameron, so you can all update your chastity rulers now. Somehow they all manage to have a good time.

Point Breakdown:
Overall Plot–This hands down goes to Growing Pains. It’s not even much of a winner but The Facts of Life was a snoozefest.
Music–Also, Growing Pains on this one. Their elevator-music soundtrack was slightly more highbrow than that of The Facts of Life. Plus, I did enjoy the meta-humor of Jason signing the Growing Pains theme song to Maggie in her hospital room, especial since Alana Thicke wrote the song.
Screen Shot 2015-11-09 at 8.25.16 PMVacation AttireGrowing Pains again. Mostly because Maggie managed to spend like 45 seconds wearing an awesome dress before she got appendicitis. And Mike and his lady friend managed to look amazing for days wandering throughout Europe and sleeping on benches.
Integration of European Setting-I’m calling this one a draw. They both have a lot of scenic pictures happening and I feel like that’s the only thing that can remotely justify the length of these episode arcs.
However, I am subtracting a point from Growing Pains because everyone is speaking Castilian instead of Catalan in Barcelona. And they’re also all speaking Castilian incorrectly. There’s even a ridiculous part in which Mike’s supposedly fluent travel buddy calls Carol, who is also supposedly fluent, and Carol says “Estás Carol.” Like what, no YOU’RE Carol, Carol. What are you saying??

Scoring Breakdown:

Growing Pains: Vacation Attire + Music + Overall Plot – Bad Spanish = 3 points
The Facts of Life: 0 points, go back to Peekskill. (But in all honesty I guess they did “integrate the European setting” so fine 1 point but it was still basically the worst thing I’ve ever seen.)

Next Week on The Very Special Blog: Blossom vs. Family Matters

PSA: Early Onset Rapid Aging Syndrome

Typically on The Very Special Blog, we talk about funny things like illegal substance abuse in schools, teen pregnancy, and racism. Today, however, we turn our focus to a serious issue in the child star community: Early Onset Rapid Aging Syndrome. Early Onset Rapid Aging Syndrome is a rare but serious condition that affects many children born into the middle to late stages of a sitcom. Research scientists believe that the origin of this disorder may triggered by the trauma of being born during a “jump the shark” period. However, the underlying root of the problem remains unknown.

Families are instructed by their doctors not to acknowledge the sudden growth of their infants or toddlers into precocious elementary school children. The common belief being that this practice will best protect the children from the stress of realizing that their best childhood years are behind them and the looming pressure to be a sassy eight year old is all that is left for them in this world. Fortunately, most cases of Early Onset Rapid Aging Syndrome seem to dissipate after the initial acute onset, leaving no other lasting complications or continued aging beyond the normal rate. In fact, most of the children appear not to have noticed or cared that they have suddenly aged. Their young minds are, perhaps, unaware of their swift progression because they lacked a general awareness as young babies, existing only as cute props and charming cutaways from their parents’ and older siblings’ drama or antics.

Case References for the aforementioned Early Onset Rapid Aging Disorder:

-Chrissy from Growing Pains-

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Chrissy was a happy and otherwise health child.

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But over the course of roughly four months, she went from a babe-in-arms to a spunky six year-old in what is considered to be one of the most severe cases ever.

-Morgan from Boy Meets World-

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Morgan was the youngest of three children and aged normally through preschool.

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Morgan began spending a lot of time in her room (likely during the early stages of the disorder) and emerged months later like a 4th grade butterfly from her preschool cocoon.

-Richie from Family Matters-

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Richie was an adorable baby.

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But he skipped the terrible twos and went straight to preschool. This case it notable because it also caused rapid mullet onset–a rare but serious complication of the disorder.

-Little Ricky from I Love Lucy-

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In one of the first recorded cases of EORAS, this Cuban-American toddler aged normally for the first couple of years of his life.

little ricky 2
Little Ricky quickly grew into a six year old with excellent percussion skills. The fact that the children (while chronologically younger) seem to have all of the fine motor skills and verbalization associated with their physical age is of note.

-Nelson & Winnie from The Cosby Show-

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Fraternal Twins, Nelson and Winnie, both suffered from this disorder. This would suggest a higher prevalence between first degree siblings. However, many families with EORAS children have other children that seem to age at the normal rate. The fact that two fraternal twins were both affected by this disorder may suggest some kind of in utero trauma.

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Fortunately, Nelson and Winnie seem to have only developed a minor case of the disorder and appeared to begin to age normal again after the acute onset subsided at physical age three (medical approximation).

-Nicky and Alex from Full House-

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In another case of twin EORAS, Nicky and Alex Katsopolis (identical twins) aged rapidly only to physical age three before return to normal aging speed. This may suggest that twins with EORAS actually suffer from less extreme cases than single children (i.e. Morgan or Chrissy). Their symptoms seem to begin at an earlier age and slow down after aging three or less physical years.

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Post-acute onset Nicky and Alex, appearing to be trauma-free and healthy with their dog, Comet.

-Lily on Modern Family-

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While previously thought to have been eradicated in the early to mid 1990’s, EORAS resurfaced most recently in the case of charming two year-old Lily.

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While not the most severe of cases (approximately aging two physical years), Lily’s case is remarkable in that it seems to have also affected her personality. Once a sweet, charming child, Lily is now incredibly rude.

Boy Meets World: If You Can’t Be with the One You Love

Remember the original Boy Meets World before it was co-opted into a Disney tween show that makes me feel unnecessarily old? It was a great show about growing up with your friends and your teacher who taught you every grade ever. For most of the show’s seven year run, the story lines realistically dealt with the issues kids face while they are becoming young adults. But no sitcom of the late twentieth century was totally immune to the very special episode formula. Every episode of Boy Meets World had a great life lesson, but only some episodes have the magic and schmaltz to be very special episodes. Boy Meets World Once upon a time, Boy Meets World taught us all a valuable lesson about alcohol. The “boy” of BMW,Corey, and his long-time girlfriend, Topanga, have broken up. I can’t remember why they went their separate ways, but Corey is so devastated by his inability to non-awkwardly interact with Topanga at a party that he ends up drinking alone. He spends an hour and a half in the bathroom with a pint of whiskey and consumes a surprisingly small amount of it. After his best friend, Shawn, discovers him drunk and alone in a stranger’s bathroom, they decide to finish the bottle together.

Classic Very Special Episode Material

Now to even the casual sitcom viewer, it is obvious that the boys are swiftly descending down the slippery slope that is teenage drinking. Corey and Shawn leave the party and pay a random man to buy them alcohol. Then, with cavalier disregard for open container laws,  they enjoy a couple of beers on the sidewalk right in front of the corner store where they just bribed that dude…I don’t think they’ve had enough alcohol to be behaving this stupidly, especially since Shawn had the dexterity to walk around on his hands acrobat style like 90 seconds prior. They get arrested, of course, and Corey’s dad bails them both out of jail. Corey’s dad totally blames Shawn for everything because he’s from the wrong side of the tracks. This is super terrible on his part since he’s known Shawn for at least five years and Shawn has pretty much never done anything to warrant this “bad boy” treatment. Corey does not let Shawn take the blame, and instead confesses that he’s lost his heart and has no life. This is probably the point where you should connect your kid with a mental health professional (“the more you know”), but instead his dad just apologizes to Shawn for being such a dick.

Corey: "I just broke up with someone I spent my entire life with. I dont have a heart anymore. Ive lost my life."
Corey: “I just broke up with someone I spent my entire life with. I dont have a heart anymore. Ive lost my life.” …Uhh, maybe the main problem here is NOT the drinking.

Having learned the error of their ways, Shawn and Corey promise each other that they will never drink again, but Shawn quickly breaks that promise. Shawn, who is now apparently an alcoholic, learns from his half-brother, Jack, that their father was an alcoholic and was abusive. Shawn literally lunges at Jack for saying this, which maybe proves his brother’s point. Then Topanga and Shawn’s girlfriend, Angela, arrive and that’s where Shawn’s behavior hits a fever pitch. Shawn aggressively pushes Angela into the door when she tries to get him to stop drinking which definitely proves his brother’s point. Even though everyone just called Shawn an alcoholic, he decides to never drink again. He is totally without any signs of withdrawal and manages to quit cold turkey! This is especially impressive because Shawn also has not obtained any new coping skills since the beginning of this thirty minute episode. But you know, all it really tacks to break a habit is a stern talking to from your friends.

Very Special Lesson: If you get drunk once and you’re from a broken home, you will become an aggressive alcoholic like your dad. If you come form a middle class two parent family, you’ll have one drunken night in high school and never drink again even if you did give an entire speech full of red flags about your inability to handle a breakup.

Further Reading on the new Boy Meets World spin off Girl Meets World:

http://whitehattv.wordpress.com/2014/06/29/girl-meets-world-how-was-the-spinoff-of-the-90s-hit/
http://thehudsucker.com/2014/06/24/is-the-world-ready-for-girl-meets-world-pilot-review/ http://geekalabama.com/2014/06/24/tv-review-girl-meets-world/

Saved by the Bell: Drinking and Driving

Saved-Bell
Just give these guys the keys to the mystery machine already!

When I was in elementary school, Saved by the Bell lied to me about high school. It was so G-rated that my mom was cool with letting me watch it. And miraculously (or by design?) I never saw the episodes with drinking, marijuana, or the infamous caffeine pill addiction until I was much older. By that point, it was clear to me that the idyllic high school picture Saved By the Bell promised for my future was an utter lie. But did I scorn the show and bitterly deride it? No, of course not. I love Bayside! Instead, I began to think of Saved by the Bell as a live action cartoon. These kids always felt more like the Scooby-Doo gang than actual teenagers, and that’s pretty much why I loved this show and continue to love it as an adult.

However, being a light-hearted live action cartoon show did not keep this show from throwing in a few very special episodes, including an important message about drunk driving. This is one of the weird Tori episodes, but it’s a very special episode so we can overlook the glaring absence of Jessie and Kelly, who apparently only hung out with their friends for half of senior year and only when Tori wasn’t around. Personally, I found Tori pretty abrasive, so I like to imagine that Jessie and Kelly were eating at a separate lunch table and wondering why their friends had temporarily lost their minds.

We’re on a Tori strike, Lisa.

 

This photo should not exist.

Meanwhile, in Tori-land, Lisa has been soliciting votes for homecoming queen while Zack and Slater work on planning the after party. It’s a toga party, of course, and Tori wears her leather jacket over her toga because she wants us all to know she’s too cool for this shit. Slater’s been calling the football players idiots all night, and not in the “I’m harassing you because we’re teammates kind of way” but rather in the “I think you’re actually really stupid, so I’m going to talk about you behind your back to my real friends” kind of way. Slater clearly thinks all of these guys are lame, so it’s surprising when they easily peer pressure him into drinking beer. Slater then peer pressures Zack while Lisa looks on. Since the rest of the Scooby-Doo gang is doing it, Lisa accepts a glass of beer which one of her “loyal subjects” serves on a silver tray.

Lisa Turtle
I’m Lisa Turtle, bitches.

Tori may be the resident rebel but she does not under any circumstances drink, so she goes home. Screech, who also has not been drinking, offers to drive everyone home but they all decide it’s a better idea to drive drunk than let Screech drive the car. Screech is a major creep, so I can understand their reluctance to put him in charge but this is a stupid decision nonetheless.

Ah, the dramatic irony that is the very special episode. Zack drives everyone home to the tune of Wild Thing because that’s what cartoon character high schoolers listen to when they’re breaking the rules. Zack crashes the car, duh. And Tori comes to the rescue with by paying for a tow truck because she feels guilty about leaving them alone at the party. Ugh seriously, Tori you couldn’t even offer them a ride home? This is what I’m talking about. This shit is exactly why Jessie and Kelly can’t stand you.

Come on, Preppy, all of the 25 year-old actors playing our classmates are doing it.
Come on, Preppy, all of the 25 year-old actors playing our classmates are doing it.

By the way, did I mention that the car is Lisa’s parents’ Mercedes? Lisa’s parents are out-of-town, so they have the car towed to Zack’s house. I do not understand this part of the plan. Wouldn’t you want to take the car to a place with no parental supervision? This feels like a rookie mistake. I truly expect better form Zack Morris, but they say alcohol makes you dumb and this is some pretty dumb stuff indeed. Luckily for the gang, Zack’s dad doesn’t question anything even though everyone is wearing a toga and it’s the middle of the night. The next day everyone is hung over. They’re also at school, so this was apparently a weeknight party? But the worst part for everyone seems not to be oh—that they could have easily died while driving buzzed down the road—but that they feel sooooo guilty for lying about it. And also A.C. Slater can’t play in the homecoming game because he broke his arm in the accident. He’s managed to completely repair, buff, and wax the car, but throwing a football would be too much for his injury. But the car won’t start and Zack’s dad comes out as they’re trying to explain and all of the lies pile up until they have to come clean! The guilt is too much!

Very Special Lesson: The lies you tell to cover up drunk driving are more painful than the actual drunk driving—wait…that can’t be right.

Okay, I think I have it this time:

Very Special Lesson: Tori sucks. I think it is safe to say that this never would have happened without Tori. I know, I know, you’re like “But aren’t you being a little unfair to Tori? She didn’t even drink!” Listen, if it weren’t for Tori being a totally insufferable addition to the friend group, Kelly and Jesse would have been at that party and Jesse Spano would NEVER let her friends experiment with alcohol and other drugs after what she learned from her own addiction.

Sabrina The Teenage Witch: Pancake Madness

If you were a kid in the ’80’s or ’90’s chances are you saw a lot of very special episodes. You know, that 30 minute comedic romp through things that will totally ruin your life forever but it’s okay because we’ve all learned a valuable lesson and will never again drink/do drugs/go on a crash diet/hide our dyslexia? That emotionally driven, powerfully profound vicarious lesson that made you think, “As God as my witness, I shall NEVER give in to that seductive temptress known as peer pressure! I will overcome my insecurities with the support of my family members, quirky next door neighbor, and this laugh track!” Oh you didn’t think that? That was just me? Well, maybe that’s why I love Very Special Episodes from a very special place of my heart.

But enough about me, remember Melissa Joan Hart? Although her classic ’90’s sitcom (no, not Clarissa, the other one) about Sabrina Spellman’s adolescent transition from average girl to amazing witch was typically light hearted in nature, the show opted to deal with a heavier subject matter in this very special episode.

 

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As far as I’m concerned, Melissa Joan Hart wins the ’90’s.

The day starts off calmly with Sabrina attempting to enjoy a hearty pancake breakfast before school. But before she can take a bite, her aunts whisk the fluffy pancakes away and warn her of their highly addictive nature. Pancakes are in fact so addictive to the Spellman family that they cannot even have a single bite without going on a bender. Sabrina, however, cannot resist the temptation of that syrupy deliciousness.

 

True to her aunts’ word, the addiction overtakes her quickly. In the very next scene, she goes through the trash at school looking for pancake remnants. The resident mean girl, Libby (did anyone else think she looked vaguely like Monica Lewinsky?) comes by and makes a joke about homeless people (comparing Sabrina to a “bag lady”). But this is a very special episode about addiction not about socioeconomic class relations, so let’s move along here people.

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“I’m in the mood for pancakes are you holding?”–Actual Quote

At the end of the school day, Sabrina has the shakes. Witches really can’t handle their pancakes. In the middle of the night, she tries to make them from scratch without magic. She needs a fixfat sabrina! At school the next day, Sabrina is totally out of control. She finally loses the remaining shreds of her self-control and binges on stacks of buttery carbohydrates at the pancake breakfast prom fundraiser. Then she ends up looking like Violet from Willie Wonka. Now, that is one scary overdose.

But what really sets this episode apart from most sitcoms that deal with addiction is how it deals with detox and withdrawal symptoms, including a super weird dream about attending a pancake themed high school and hallucinating this terrifying syrup-person.

Sabrina's scary friend
Now, that’s enough to scare anyone straight.

At the end of the episode, Sabrina still craves pancakes but she knows that her friends and family are more important than throwing her life away for some silly old pancakes. She knows that hers will be a lifelong struggle but she’s committed to staying away from the pancake crowd. She even stages a catnip intervention with Salem during the closing credits—wait how did this become the most realistic very special episode of them all?

 

Very Special Lesson: Just say no (to pancakes)