The Mary Tyler Moore Show: Mary’s Insomnia

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.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show Season 7 Episode 11

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's Insomnia (1976)

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.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show - Mary's Insomnia (Lou Grant Singing to Mary) -  YouTube

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.

101 Dalmatians: Smoke Detectors

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.

Boy Meets World: Teacher’s Bet

Boy Meets World" Teacher's Bet (TV Episode 1993) - IMDb

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.

Boy Meets World Reviewed: Episode 1x08 "Teacher's Bet"

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.”

Teacher's Bet - Boy Meets World Image (19058361) - Fanpop

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.

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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.

The Golden Girls: The Break-In

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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.

The Golden Girls" Break In (TV Episode 1985) - IMDb

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.

Family Ties: Speed Trap

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.

On a lighter note–just a quick plug: I’ll be participating in the 3rd Annual So Bad It’s Good Blogathon later this month. Stay tuned for my take on the CLASSIC film Her Alibi staring Tom Selleck and Mr. Feeney.

Laverne & Shirley: Why Did the Fireman

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.

Here’s What I Meant by “Culturally Heavy.”

A few years ago, I posted about a lost very special episode of Hey Dude. On Saturday Night, I got a notification that a podcasted aptly titled Hugging and Learning had used my post as a source for their recent episode, “Saved by the Cowbell” — once again awesome title.

The portion of the podcast I’m writing this follow up post in response to involves the character Danny Lightfoot, a member of the Hopi Nation, portrayed by Joe Torres. Let me pause here and acknowledge that this casting and the way the show’s creators have since described it could be its own separate post entirely. According to Michael Koegel in the book Slimed!: An Oral History of Nickelodeon’s Golden Age, when casting the show “we fudged it because Joe Torres was really Mexican-American. He had a little American-Indian blood in him, but once you get into that part of the country, there’s a fine line between what’s an American Indian and what’s a Mexican Indian. It’s a cultural divide.” This book was published in 2013 and even though it is an oral history, I am struck by how glib this statement is, right down to the “what’s” instead of “who’s”. And in case it needed clarification, tribal sovereignty is much more than a “cultural divide.”

In all fairness, I did not dive into the casting (nor did I research it) in my original post and it doesn’t appear to come up in the discussion between hosts Chelsea and Andrew on the podcast either, though I may have missed it. However, as anyone would in 2020, Chelsea and Andrew immediately zero in on the incredibly problematic line Danny says to describe why he would not go drinking with his coworker Melody’s brother. If you’re listening to the podcast, this section starts at about 24:52.

For those of you who haven’t read the original post, I’ve included a screenshot below for the section in question.

There is so very much to unpack here. The first of which is that I’d like to clarify that “betrayed” is my word. Chelsea refers to this in the podcast, but she attributes that word to the character (before she quotes the same section I quoted in the original post). To be clear, Chelsea says, “He had a friend of the family that he says betrayed all of them by becoming quote another Indian with a drinking problem.”

The text from the show is actually as follows, “it felt like he let us all down.” So here’s where this gets sticky and where I want to be very clear because this podcast is using a lot of my phrasing. Anything in the screenshot above that I did not directly quote came from me, not the show.

My interpretation of the line reading was that Danny and his community felt “betrayed” and I chose that word in 2017 because of my personal experiences with alcoholism and perhaps that’s unfair for me to apply to this situation. However, alcoholism runs in my family and I was very strict about experimentation (or lack there of) as a teenager because I personally would have felt that I betrayed my family if I were to become another member of the family with an alcohol problem: betrayed the experiences and examples of my ill family members; betrayed the expectations of my immediate family; betrayed the family name at large in our community. I don’t know what the writers intended, but Danny’s sentiment of not wanting to let anyone down or in essence “betray” them resonated with me. The most glaring difference here being that my perfectionism was self-imposed and Danny’s was the result of generations of oppression following a genocide.

Chelsea then goes on to say that, “He basically lays it out like therefore I can never drink because that would make me a stereotype, which is like a really weird thing for a writer to put into the mouth of a character who’s, I’m guessing, ethnic group they don’t share. You know what I mean? Like part of me is sort of like wow okay we like got culturally heavy here for a second.”

Once again, that “culturally heavy” is my interpretation of the actor’s line reading, one that Chelsea and Andrew appear to agree with. But I want to take this one step further and tell you exactly what I meant by that in 2017 because I didn’t lay it out and I should have.

To me, one of most devastating aspects of racism on a micro level is that individuals do not feel permission to express a full range of emotions, and there are often devastating consequences should they choose to do so. My interpretation of Danny’s statement is not that the show unfairly “puts” this desire to avoid “stereotypical” (and wholly untrue) behavior “into his mouth” so to speak, but rather that this statement reflects the innermost thoughts of a young man who is not afforded the opportunity to make mistakes in the same way that Melody’s white brother is.

And let’s be clear, Melody’s brother has a disease. All people experiencing alcoholism unfortunately face stigma and stereotyping. That said, the stereotypical interpretation of his disease is not nearly the same as it would be for Danny’s friend.

I do think this is an appropriate conversation to have. I do not think this is a “weird” statement for Danny to say because the pressure this character feels is very real and very relevant. He in fact states, “I don’t think there’s anyway I could have gone with Billy, even if I wanted to.”

What I find to be inappropriate in this episode and, more accurately, harmful is that this statement is said and dropped. Within this episode, there is no unpacking of Danny’s feelings or the systemic pressure that created them. There is no acknowledgment of the immense unfairness in the simple fact that he cannot make a mistake even if he wants to.

I wrote “culturally heavy” and I figured people would get it. But maybe what I should have written was “personally heavy” because we personally carry the pain of our cultures and for minority communities that pain is more than any individual should bear.

“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor.” — Anne Lamott

The BSC: The Baby-Sitters Remember

This post was originally posted in September of 2014.
Once upon a time in the ‘90’s, there was this little gem of a show based on Ann M. Martin’s classic book series about a group of middle school girls who spend their free time in a club devoted to babysitting. This show must have been filmed at Astoria Studios because even Dawn, who is supposed to be from California, sounds like she’s from the tri-state region. If you were a girl child of the ’90’s you could not escape this book series. There was bossy Kristy, artsy Claudia, fashionista Stacey, California Casual Dawn, good-girl Mary Anne, ballerina Jesse, and Mallory who had red hair, wore glasses, and other than that had no defining features. I hated this episode as a kid because I thought it was a flashback episode full of clips from episodes I had never seen. As it turns out, it’s a clip show full of new material. I guess these were ideas Ann M. Martin had but never felt like turning into a full length book, and the TV show decided that these random clips would make the best series finale, which just goes to show you that not all very special episodes are about terrible topics. It’s the last day of school and the BSC is having a slumber party. Jessie is nervous about going to dance camp, Kristy is excited about going to softball camp, and Mary-Anne is totally bummed that she see won’t see her friends every day for two months. All of these thoughts about their impending separation lead the girls to reminisce about how they first began the club.

Is this jersey from a 1970's athletics store?
Is this jersey from a 1970’s athletics store?

Cue Memory #1 in which Kristy is wearing this bizarre jersey that says Sport Shack in some seriously old school lettering. She gets in trouble for cheering when the last bell rings, and some hard-ass teacher makes her write one hundred words about the importance of decorum. Meanwhile, Kristy’s mom is stressing because she can never find a sitter. Most thirteen year-olds would totally ignore this because it’s not really their problem, but like two and a half seconds after talking to her mom, Kristy’s eyes get wild and she casts aside her homework to plot out her magnum opus: The Baby-Stitters Club. She tells everyone how she didn’t think she would survive her first job, in which the mom meets here at the front door and describes how she must keep her rambunctious three year-old twins locked in the laundry room until it’s time to “go out.” Kristy can’t resist the promise of some cold hard cash, so she doesn’t run screaming from this house of apparent child abuse. Luckily, the twins turn out to be two dogs instead of toddlers.

Sure lady, I would be happy to sit for the twins you keep locked away, just as long as I get paid.
Sure lady, I would be happy to sit for the twins you keep locked away, just as long as I get paid.

Memory#2: The girls head downstairs for snacks and Claudia finds her dead grandmother’s teacup, so the girls reminisce about that relationship for while. Kristy does a really offensive fake Japanese accent which all of the girls find funny except for Claudia who is too lost in her thoughts to call Kristy out for being such an insensitive loser. Truly, the best part of all of this is that the very next scene is a flashback with Mimi (Claudia’s grandmother) and she has no accent whatsoever. This is a truly rare very special episode because it doesn’t involve any drugs or pregnancy and includes a racist joke. Also, in this scene Mallory ends up being the only baby-sitter with lucky steam rising from her tea. They had to throw her a bone because Mallory never has anything else going for her. Memory #3: The baby-sitters share a creepy memory about “staging a ceremony” before Kristy’s mom’s wedding. This ceremony turns out to be a full on mock wedding between two of Kristy’s younger siblings, which has clearly been orchestrated by the baby-sitters club. They make everyone attend and the they make the two young siblings exchange wedding vows. Luckily, the little boy runs away when they tell him to kiss the bride,so no almost-incest was committed.

Creepy Fake Wedding
Creepy Fake Wedding

Finally, all of the baby-sitters get sleepy after a night of reminiscing and fall asleep at midnight in what must be the tamest slumber party ever imagined. Note: I didn’t include all of them memories. Some of them were really boring.

Very Special Lesson: You don’t always have to have a very special lesson to have a very special episode. Or maybe friendship…friendship was the lesson.

P.S. This set came from Ikea before everyone shopped there:

claudia ikea

The BSC: The Baby-Sitter’s Special Christmas

Happy Christmas in July! This post was originally posted in December of 2014.
The show opens with the baby-sitters perusing many different Christmas socks and oohing and awing indiscriminately over everything they pass. Then this bunch of 14-year olds descends upon a mall Santa’s lap, yet oddly it’s they who look like the creeps here—Jessie casually strokes Santa’s beard while he rolls his eyes and gently shakes his head. Poor guy, he’s just trying to make minimum wage around the holidays.

jessie creeps on santaAfter the mall, the sitters head on over to the hospital to throw a Christmas party for the kids. Everyone has markers and big pads of paper except for Mallory who gets the bitch job of sorting out the paper chain. Dawn wants to make Christmas cookies when she and Stacey babysit some obnoxious little boys, including little Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Dawn gets all self-conscious when she realizes that she’s totally disregarded Stacey’s diabetes. I don’t know how she forgot since Stacey mentions it like every other sentence.

Mary-Anne comes up with the idea to have secret Santa as soon as a couple of the girls complain that they don’t have enough money to buy everyone a gift. She instantaneously passes out slips of pre-cut paper. Probably a quiet power play since Kristy wouldn’t like someone else taking charge. “Oh I’ll just casually have these pre-cut slips of paper to pass out like I just thought of it.”

death by cookieLater on, whilst baby-sitting Stacey starts shoveling cookies into her mouth all cavalierly like she’s not stuffing her body with poison. Who even thought this was a good idea–o give already rambunctious children a ton of sugar? The only reason they didn’t totally destroy the house is probably that Stacey consumed a toxic amount of sugar herself.

Dawn totally outs Stacey at the Christmas party and super bitchily says, “I just don’t like it when people don’t take care of themselves.” Like she’s personally affronted by Stacey’s reckless behavior, but not because she’s concerned about her best friend but rather she doesn’t like it on principle. Dawn and her ideals. To be fair, the babysitters do seem to be exclusively having sweets at their soirees in the episode.

BSC X-masOf course, Stacey ends up on the hospital because all she has eaten in the past day is cookies and chocolate. I knew (of) a couple of diabetic kids growing up and once they were old enough to realize that sugar could literally kill them, I never remember any of them tempted to gorge themselves on it, so I can only assume that this is some kind of risky adolescent rebellion on Stacey’s part.  Drugs seem pretty hard to come by in Stonybrook, so it looks like everyone has to settle for a sugar high. Otherwise, this seems like a pretty serious cry for help. Why aren’t we talking about Stacey’s clearly self-destructive tendencies, instead of being all like “lay off the cookies, Stace.” Everything turns out okay though because Stacey gets to come to the party with all of the other children…which makes me wonder why the babysitters are only throwing a party for young children. Wouldn’t it suck to be thirteen and stuck in the hospital? I’m thinking that these girls don’t actually interact with their peers outside of this club. Would they even be friends if they weren’t also business associates?

Very Christmas Lesson: Don’t make your diabetic friends make cookies that they can’t eat. Ever hear of artificial sweetener, people?

 

Arthur: To Eat or Not to Eat

p184303_b_v8_adTIL Arthur is still on television. And you know what? That’s just great! Being a kid in the 90’s was pretty freaking amazing. I feel like being a kid now would be less amazing. I mean Sesame Street isn’t even on public television anymore. We now live in a time where your parents have to be rich enough to have HBO for you to watch Big Bird. And that’s just wrong man, that’s just wrong. So yes, it cheers my heart to know the youth of America still get to see Arthur (the aardvark? Was he an aardvark? Woah, I just looked up what an aardvark actually looks like. Crazy.)

Alas, I missed this episode because it aired like fifteen years after I stopped watching Arthur. But I’m excited to revisit the series.

In this episode, there’s a candy bar called “Rabid Dog.” The commercial makes it look like speed for children. It also makes sparkles come out of your mouth. You know what, I was a cautious child. I don’t think I would have wanted any part of this. But Buster, Arthur’s very best friend, is into it.

He sees the commercial on television and runs to the candy store. Arthur calls after him, “Don’t you want to watch the rest of the cartoon.” SCARIEST SENTENCE EVER UTTERED ON TELEVISION. You’re a cartoon Arthur. The cartoons you’re watching, look exactly like you. Do you know you’re a cartoon??? WHAT IS YOUR REALITY??

mv5bmtq3odiyndkwnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmta4njm0mje-_v1_uy268_cr870182268_al_When the lunch lady cannot read most of the ingredients on the label, she insists that Buster eat an apple instead. (I don’t know why he like asked the lunch lady to read his candy bar wrapper, but whatever.)

Binky (the resident jackass on this show) buys all of the candy bars at the store and resells them on the playground. I mean seriously, this dude is a criminal at like age eight. Someone needs to reign him in.

Meanwhile, a student, who seems to have a college level education in chemistry yet manages to somehow be a second grade student in public school, reads the back of the candy bar and identifies some of the ingredients as radioactive and others as being made of bugs. (Buster is most upset about the bugs, which is weird I think for a bunny.)1280x720-plw

Soon the students start to feel “hot and dizzy,” which seems pretty mild to me for having pounded a candy bar full of what I assume is the equivalent of pop rocks and coke.

hqdefaultBuster and his mom head down to the corporate headquarters of the candy bar company to find out what some of the agreements are. The “Supreme Dog,” as it were, tells them that it’s a trade secret. But he does explain what happens to your brain when you eat a Rabid Dog candy bar. And it’s meth. It’s literally meth.

Buster asks the Supreme Dog to eat one of the candy bars, but he refuses to get high on his own supply. I would say this episode is far-fetched even for a very special episode, but we’re living in Trump’s America…soooooo…

We see a newspaper article that informs us that the Supreme Dog has been arrested. This makes everyone quit the candy bars cold turkey. Ah, if only.

Speaking of cold turkey, has anyone ever seen the movie Cold Turkey? Yeah. It’s pretty weird.

That little girl wiping tears from behind her glasses is BREAKING MY HEART.

But like, back to Buster real quick. A bunny in the second grade managed to destroy an evil corporation and this happens OFF SCREEN?? That’s the show I want to see!

Very Special Lesson: I mean apparently, asking a few questions of an executive can expose an illegal drug trade, but I’m not sure because the writers of Arthur didn’t let me see that part. So all I can reasonably tell you is not to eat things that make sparks fly from your mouth. Yet somehow, I feel like that goes without saying.