I know I’ve been sporadically posting for the last few years. The truth is, I just cannot stand the way WordPress is setup now.
Oh how I long for the days of that old school “classic editor”! I can’t tell you how many times I accidentally deleted shit when writing last year’s Summer of Swayze and I kinda just didn’t want to finish it because the formatting process was so cumbersome and unfulfilling. And I don’t feel good about how many projects I’ve deprioritized because it takes too long to make them work on here.
That’s why I’m going to move on over to Substack. I hope you’ll join me! You can either read “The Very Special Blog” directly on Substack or subscribe to receive my newsletter directly to your email. It’s real easy, just head to: https://theveryspecialblog.substack.com/
I’m starting a new series this summer where I will be covering the “Malibu Sands” episodes of Saved by the Bell. In addition to my hot takes on Jesse Spano’s perfect beach waves, you’ll also be receiving a cool homemade ice cream recipe with each episode. (I couldn’t even crack an egg when I started this blog, so if I can make ice cream, then you can too!! As an added bonus my recipes do not require an ice cream machine.)
I’m keeping this blog active because there’s almost eight years worth of content on here! And I’m not ruling out posting on here in the future…but I think it’s time for something new.
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”:
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!
After Mary struggles with insomnia three times in one week, so goes to a doctor who gives her a magic little pill that makes everything better. Lou is immediately concerned that she’s in some kind of Valley of the Dolls situation. She tells him it’s really none of his business, so he tells her that it is work related because he’s putting together a documentary “on the dangers of sleeping pills.”
Mary reassures Lou that she isn’t addicted and that she’s taken them for fourteen consecutive days without issues. Lou challenges her to try to go one night without taking them (because he’s damn sure she is addicted). I mean wow what a strange way to handle a health concern with your subordinate.
That night Mary tosses and turns. She finally breaks down and takes a pill. But she feels pretty crappy about this because it proves that Lou is right that she is, at the very least, reliant on the pills. The next morning, Mary lies to Lou and says she didn’t take the pill. So he heaps praise on her…until she finally admits she took the pill as he suspected all along.
According to Lou, getting over insomnia is easy. He says, “All that you have to do is make yourself go to sleep at night.” Oh boy, if only someone had told me this in my mid-twenties. Could have saved me a lot of sleepless nights!
Lou urges Mary to skip the pill that night and promises to come over if she needs support. When he doesn’t hear from her, he goes over to her apartment, and the super just straight up lets him into her place. When Lou enters Mary’s apartment, he notices the phone is off the hook. Fearing the worst, he frantically searches for her presumably lifeless corpse. But she’s really just in the bath, reading a book and drinking some milk. Yikes.
Mary is understandably upset that Lou is in her bathroom. But he gets offended because he was only worried about her and he isn’t a pervert, he just insists that she is a dope fiend. So my GOD there is NO reason to be OFFENDED. WJM should be counting their lucky stars it’s the 70’s and they don’t have an HR department because this justifiable lawsuit would surely put them under.
Murray barges, quickly followed by Ted (who is as oblivious as Lou). Murray at least has the decency to turn around and face the wall. Murray and Ted leave but Lou stays behind to make sure that Mary doesn’t take a sleeping pill. She’s understandably a bit agitated and tries to sneak pill behind his back. So he puts them down the garbage disposal.
Lou wraps Mary in an afgan, sits her down on the couch, and puts his harm around her. He tells her to breathe deeply and pretend she is asleep. He then says he will sing to her just as he used to sing all of his children to sleep. I’m having a full on panic attack at the thought of being in this situation, so I’m not sure how Mary is feeling. For the record, Ed Asner has a pretty decent voice though.
Against all odds, this actually works. Incidentally, this is the first time that Mary Richards, a woman in her late-thirties, has had anyone tell her that she snores. It’s never too late for some good old fashioned self-discovery.
Very Special Episode: Evidently, the cure for insomnia is an Ed Asner a capella album of Irish lullabies and a warm afgan blanket. For best results, exhaust yourself beforehand by moving into a building whose super will gladly let all of your coworkers into your bathroom without your permission.
In the mid-90’s Disney had an animated television series based on the 101 Dalmatians movie. Personally, I think the 90’s animation is way less cute than the original 1961 animation. But anyways, in this episode Cruella De Vil is forced to stop smoking cold-turkey after she slowly sets every single room in her house on fire. Her insurance company gives her an ultimatum and refuses to let her live in her house again until she is a certified non-smoker. So she moves in with Anita and Roger temporarily. (This adaptation is a weird version of the story in which they appear to be neighbors and on rather cordial terms.)
In all seriousness, the amount of smoke coming from her house is sheer sweatshop level. It’s so bad it keeps the puppies awake at night. But the only thing worse than the constant air pollution is the possibility of endless cohabitation with the woman who is constantly trying to murder them for their fur.
Faced with a literal hellscape, the dogs decide to help Cruella with her smoking cessation plan if only so they can sleep a little better at night (a.k.a. without the constant threat of death). They spend a lot of time snatching cigarettes out of Cruella’s mouth and blowing out her matches. After realizing that this is a Sisyphean approach, they decide to lock her in the bathroom while they destroy her stash.
While Cruella is dazed and locked in the downstairs bathroom, these puppies create a literal assembly line to move several thousand boxes of cigarettes to the upstairs bathroom where they intend to flush them down the toilet. At this point, I have to ask where even are Pongo and Perdita?? It seems like these puppies could use some adult supervision!
As the puppies set about ruining the plumbing in this old house, Cruella breaks out of the downstairs bathroom. Just as she is rushing toward the stairs, the toilet over flows and floods the entire house. After that the puppies decide to try a different approach.
As it turns out, Roger stopped smoking his pipe by using a self-help tape in his sleep. That night, after Cruella returns home, the puppies break into her house with a boombox. Unfortunately, the puppies cannot read, so they accidentally play a puppy training tape for her instead of the anti-smoking tape. This somehow hypnotizes Cruella into a dog-like state. At one point it seems like Cruella is seriously considering urinating on a fire hydrant but opts to bite a delivery person’s leg instead. I never thought I would say this, but I am genuinely beginning to feel bad for Cruella De Vil.
Roger manages to snap Cruella out of her hypnosis, but it turns out this has all been for the better because she has finally hit rock bottom. Anita offers her a pack of gum to help with her craving.s And it turns out that’s all she needed! Except then she chews so much gum that she destroys her house with that too.
Very Special Lesson: Everything in moderation. Except for cigarettes. No cigarettes.
At the top of this episode, Shawn and Cory decide that Feeny’s job is so easy that even a kid could do it. Meanwhile, Mr. Feeny introduces that week’s lesson: Prejudice. The class will be covering Black slavery in the American South, The Holocaust, and several other issues concerning prejudice. ALL OF THIS IN ONE WEEK, FEENY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?
He sends this kids home with the first thirty pages of Anne Frank’s diary, but pulls Cory aside at the last minute to scold him for acting up in class. Cory and Feeny argue that it’s easier to be in the other one’s shoes, so they decide to swap places for the week. Cory will teach his class while Feeny sits in front of Shawn and acts up. To make it interesting, Cory bets his new bike and Feeny bets 20% of his weekly paycheck. If more kids do well on the test than usual, then Cory wins. Cory thinks it will be a breeze because: “The book does all the teaching. Feeny’s just Vanna White pointing at the letters.”
At school the next day, Cory tells all of the kids in class that they can wear their baseball caps and should refer to him as “Hey Dude.” That’s my kind of teaching! Topanga requests that Cory waive the entire dress code so that she can be more free to culturally appropriate and wear a sari to school. Cory agrees.
Back at Cory’s house, Morgan cramps Eric’s style with his new girlfriend Linda because she’s really nice and Morgan wants to be her new BFF. But I think this really works out for Eric because Morgan seems so endearing and it makes Eric look like a family man. The next day, Linda sends Eric home with a Japanese lantern for Morgan.
As Cory’s first day of teaching comes to a close, his father (who is very concerned about the new bike he just paid for) inquires about the details of Feeny’s grading. In the course of their conversation, Cory reveals that Feeny is going to take the test since he’s a student this week. Alan explains that Feeny will get the highest score, thus breaking the curve, and will win the bet.
Cory is STRESSED when he returns to class the next day. Topanga decides to sit on a yoga cushion instead of at her desk. She’s wear a sari, as promised, and there’s a whole joke about how “scary she is when she meditates. (For an episode that is all about everyday racism, this whole bit is a sour note.) Minkus decides to goof off for once in his life. And Mr. Feeny shows up wearing a Phillies jersey just in time for Shawn to deal him into poker. Suffice it to say, Cory isn’t able to get any teaching done and is bike is effectively toast.
When he arrives home from school, he agonizes over how to get through to the class. As Cory is trying to figure out a game plan, Eric arrive home with a sobbing Linda. Someone at the mall called her a racial slur. Cory, a white boy from suburban Philadelphia, is fully shocked that prejudice still exists in the modern world of 1993.
The next day at school, Cory goes fully Feeny and wears a suit. (Feeny wears a Meat Loaf sweatshirt.) Even though everyone is goofing off, Cory proceeds on with his lecture: “Class, I’d like to talk to you today about prejudice and how it still exists in today’s world. I didn’t even know that until last night when I saw a real smart totally cool Asian girl crying her eyes out because some idiot at the mall called her a bad name. My lesson for today is that when people treat other people badly because of their skin color, or their religion, or where they come from, then real smart totally cool people can really suffer.”
No one listens to him. Cory is totally dejected and is about to walk out of the classroom (and away from his proverbial bike) when Feeny gives him a meaningful look. Corey turns back around and asks Shawn what his mother’s maiden name is. Then he uses a slur for Italian people. When Shawn is just about to deck him (Feeny is allowing all of this to happen for “education purposes”) Cory points out that not everyone has the luxury of being able to stand up for themselves. (Cory doesn’t say this here but if you were listening to his lecture earlier it’s obvious that his larger point is that they shouldn’t even have to.) Cory concludes the class by reading the most famous quote from Anne’s diary.
The next day, Feeny reveals that the exact same number of students passed, so the bet is a draw. Cory keeps his bike and Feeny keeps his full paycheck. Cory is disappointed and feels like he wasn’t a good teacher. (Turns out it’s a lot harder than it looks.) But Feeny lifts his spirits by revealing that Shawn scored a letter grade higher than he usually does. He got a B! Feeny also reveals that Cory learned something as well. Oh Lord, this brought me to tears multiple times. This episode is AMAZING.
Okay, this episode is especially cute in the context of Girl Meets World where Cory really does grow up to be a teacher. It totally works. I love it.
Something that I think is particularly great about this episode is that it doesn’t stop at raising awareness. Part of this, yes, is Cory becoming aware of the fact that racism exists in his world — something he has never personally experienced as a white child in an upper-middle class bubble. But Cory quickly realizes that raising awareness to this issue through his lecture didn’t really get anyone’s attention. So he quickly moves on to a different approach: he provokes Shawn.
Shawn is a safe person to try this with. If he’s going to punch Cory, there will at least be a bit of a lead up to it (and hopefully time to de-escalate). And with this lead-time, Cory starts a conversation. It’s an inflammatory conversation, but it’s with someone who he knows will continue to listen even if things get tense because Cory has that kind of relationship with Shawn. Cory then uses a series of very pointed questions that provoke Shawn. He questions him on what he would do in this hypothetical situation and then remind him that he doesn’t have the power to actually do anything.
When Cory confronts Shawn in front of the class, it’s like he’s doing his own mini blue-eyed/brown-eyed experiment where he, Cory, is the powerful blue-eyed boy while Shawn (the proverbial brown-eyed) can’t do anything to better his station in the classroom. Our budding activist wraps the class up with a call to action. He reminds everyone that it isn’t enough for the people who are suffering to stand up for themselves, but rather that the people in power must stand up for them too. It’s not a very great call to action because it’s pretty vague and evidently left a lot of kids still missing the point. But he’s only eleven, so we’ll give him points anyway. And hey, Shawn got a B on the final assignment, which really is saying something.
Is there some kind of campaign I can get behind to show this episode of Boy Meets World in every classroom in America? And also maybe every church and every office space? I know a lot of adults who could really benefit from this clip:
This episode may have aired in 1993 but it certainly feels like it could be describing life in 2021.
I recently rewatched Sofia Coppola’s The Bling Ring. Days later, I’m still thinking about it. So obviously I had to rush right over to the episode of The Golden Girls where the girls arrive home late after a Madonna concert and find that their house has been robbed.
It’s very interesting to see how differently each of the girls respond to the break-in. Dorothy responds by mis-quoting Dirty Harry in a loud voice (to threaten any lingering robbers). Sophia is utterly unafraid because she is old and “bathtubs are dangerous.” Blanche frantically searches the house for any missing expensive item. And Rose freaks the f**k out.
I’m reading a book called Chatter by Ethan Kross and I would definitely say Rose has been overtaken by chatter in this episode. She purchases a guard dog (even though she is afraid of big dogs). She purchases mace (which Blanche borrows when she mistakes it for hairspray…that doesn’t end well.)
When Rose comes home one day with a gun, Dorothy urges her to see a therapist. The girls decide to go as a group and they all feel better except for Rose. Things get so bad that Rose sleeps during the day and stays up all night.
One night as Rose lies awake in the darkness, she hears a disturbance at the front door. With their new alarm system wailing, Rose takes a shot. And thank God she’s a horrible shot because she almost killed Blanche’s date but luckily killed her vase instead. (Interestingly enough there is a big continuity error with the vase because it reappears fully intact in subsequent episodes.)
Things continue to escalate when Rose is in a parking deck and knees a parking attendant who chased her down to return her keys. To be fair, this guy should have yelled out something more informative than “hey lady” while in hot pursuit of an old woman, so I can’t really blame Rose for going for the “safe deposit box,” as she calls it. Anyway, this all somehow makes Rose feel better and in control of her life again.
Very Special Lesson: Losing your sense of reality and kneeing an innocent person in the family jewels will somehow help you regain your sense of power in the world –wait what? No, no, no. That’s not right. Buying a gun and shooting a vase will…no, sorry that’s not it either…um…when something traumatic happens and you find yourself stuck in a constant thought spiral, get a good therapist who helps you work through difficult emotions with strategic interventions that support healthy cognitive functioning. Yes, that’s the one. Third time’s the charm.
Want to spend a little more time with this episode? Check out the “Fudge, Yarn, & Gun” episode from Enough Wicker.
I know you’re all very familiar with Jesse Spano’s caffeine pill problems, but did you know that Alex P. Keaton once took diet pills so he could study more? (Honestly, it sounds like your mileage may vary. Comedian Elna Baker describes taking phentermine and spending several intense hours making a really shitty birthday card in her book, The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir. So in my very special opinion, you’re not gonna get quality results on your mind or body with speed.)
In this episode, Alex wants to stay up all night working on school work. He enlists his sister Mallory’s help in getting diet pills (a.k.a. speed) from a friend of hers. Mallory obtains the pills from her reluctant friend with the promise that Alex will take her out on a date — even though he’s super not into her and fat shames her to Mallory when she tells him the details of the transaction. Oh my gosh the 80’s, there is soooo much that is wrong with this situation. And you can betchya only the pill issue will be addressed in this episode — and only as it relates to Alex.
Alone in his room, Alex delivers a lengthly soliloquy (and a little more fat-shaming) as he agonizes over whether or not to take the pills. Seeking the advice of his framed 8×10 photo of Richard Millhouse Nixon, Alex eventually pops some pills (off-screen).
The next time we see Alex, he’s high on stimulants playing Monopoly with his family (as if Monopoly could be any more aggressive). Alex’s ex-hippie parents are very oblivious to the fact that their son is high. I would truly expect better of people who met at Berkeley.
Later, Alex approaches Mallory for more pills and when she tries to cut him off, he breaks cardinal rule number one (never go through a teenaged girl’s purse) and takes the pills for himself. Mallory tells Alex that she never wants to speak to him again. Alex tells Mallory that if she tells their parents about what he’s doing then she’ll be in trouble with them too. (Seriously? The hip Berkeley parents of the 80’s?? Mallory isn’t all that smart, so she believes this to be true.)
Alex becomes increasingly exhausted and irritable. This culminates in a fight with his mom after he catches her watching a documentary with Jennifer about the human reproductive system. He turns off the television, calls it smut, and says Jennifer should believe in the stork until she’s twelve. Oh boy, the Reagan Years.
Alex’s mother tells him that it isn’t his house and sperm-egg fertilization is science not smut. His mother decides to punish him by having him clean the house — which his speed-addled-heart loves. Come on parents, why so slow on the uptake???
Alex later tries to bribe Mallory for more pills, which doesn’t work. He then calls her friend directly. (On a cute little yellow touchtone phone. Oh man don’t you miss how fun landlines were???)
Mallory’s friend hooks Alex up with more pills (also off-screen). The next time we see him, he’s studying while painting his room bright blue at 3:30 am. This finally causes his father to realize something is up. He then discovers that Alex has only slept four hours total during the past week and finally realizes his kid is on drugs.
Alex tells his dad that he’s doing great on pills. (He isn’t. He started digging trenches for a sprinkler system nobody asked for in the backyard.) Alex’s father tells him that when he was younger he took speed too, which is why he can say that this is a horrible idea. He tells Alex that they both need to go to bed and will discuss this further in the morning. Alex falls asleep mid-lecture. He continues to sleep through his big test.
Waking up an hour late, he frantically tosses his room looking for more pills. It’s so poorly written but Michael J. Fox is so good. He’s really, really too good for this writing. Alex finally realizes he can’t stave off the inevitable crash and that his whole speed plan seriously backfired. We then end with Mallory reminding Alex of the details of his date with her friend — oh and another fat joke.
Very Special Lesson: Sleep is super, super important. Like SO important. It also just makes me sad when people abuse drugs for the purposes of studying. Like damn, I know our education system is broken but still. I suppose the one good thing about this episode is that even model-student goody-goody Alex P. Keaton is not immune to the cycle of addiction. But that’s about all this episode does well. Diet pills and supplements are often terrifying. And popular culture knew that when this episode was released–at least in terms of OTC pills. Allowing for the fact that doctor prescribed diet pills are largely a sign o’ the times in this episode, it’s a real shame that neither Alex nor his (formerly) hip-to-drugs father spare a moment for Mallory’s friend, who was taking those pills to impress people like Alex while most likely suffering the same side effects he found so debilitating. For all we know, she wasted several hours off-screen making him a shitty card, risking her life in an attempt to satisfy conventional beauty standards. But Alex was too busy insulting her, using her, and worrying about his grades to think about how she might be feeling.
First of all, I’m sorry. This episode is a real downer. (For once, I’m not being hyperbolic.) But it features the lovely Ted Danson and it feels right to post this as he embarks on yet another starring role in a TV series with tonight’s premiere of Mr. Mayor.
In this episode of Laverne & Shirley, we see a young Ted almost three years before he became everybody’s favorite bartender on Cheers. And I’ll be honest, he seems a little wooden. He’s still affable and charming, but you can see the inherent shyness that Ted describes having to overcome in order to portray Sam on Cheers. On Laverne & Shirley, he’s playing Laverne’s fireman boyfriend, Randy.
He’s just such a sweetheart who likes Laverne for her brains and her bod. He’s the total package. And did I mention he’s a fireman? (Okay, seriously you’ve been warned to bail on this post now if you don’t want to be very, very sad.)
Laverne and Randy are desperately in love. They’re both a little weird and they both can’t get enough of each other. They share milkshakes, they play with puppies at the fire station, and they even want to get married. Unfortunately, Randy doesn’t make it much farther than halfway through the episode. You see, this is a very special episode after all — which means it’s a total bummer.
Laverne hears the news of Randy’s death from Lenny and Squiggy (who have somehow become volunteer firemen). I think this show is supposed to be a lesson in denial, but I really can’t say I blame Laverne for not believing Lenny and Squiggy. How could anyone take these guys seriously?
The denial really kicks into high gear when Laverne won’t listen to Shirley either. Laverne keeps doing her hair and waiting for Randy to show up. The next morning, she’s still getting ready for Randy when her father arrives to try to get through to her. Laverne refuses to listen to her father, saying that Randy will only be dead if she believes it, which is not exactly how denial works. However, I understand we’re trying to cover a lot of ground in this twenty-five minute episode so broad brushstrokes it is.
Laverne’s dad finally gets through to her by reading from the morning’s newspaper, which describes how Randy died in the process of saving a family. He then describes how he went through the same stages of grief when Laverne’s mother died. This scene is strong even though the episode overall is a bit uneven.
Very Special Lesson: This episode feels a little unnecessarily cruel. Like damn that’s a lot of emotion in twenty-five minutes. This might even be worse than that time Growing Pains killed off Matthew Perry. At least we got a few episodes with him! However, I think it’s still better to have loved and lost Ted Danson than to never have loved him at all.