Category: 90’s Sitcoms

A Thing You Need To Check Out

I’m not one for usually posting this sort of thing here, but I’m such a fan of this podcast, I had to at least tell people in the only “permanent”, “official” capacity that I have.

If you’re a fan of the show, Saved by the Bell, as you know so plainly know that I am… you need to check out April Richardson’s podcast, “Go Bayside!“. For real, it’s hilarious.

Basic premise: Comedian April Richardson (a devout, seriously if not oddly obsessed fan of the show) invites a different friend (also, a comedian) each week to watch an episode (being done chronologically) on her couch, then they record themselves discussing the episode in-depth for about 30-45 minutes.

Suggestion: Go to the site or to iTunes, find an episode you remember watching, and listen to that podcast. You’ll know.

Let’s Make Fun of a Movie: The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story

If you had a life or discerning taste, you very well could have missed Lifetime’s original movie, “The Unauthorized Saved by the Bell Story”. There was no advance screening of the movie, it made its debut at 9 pm on Labor Day with very little fanfare… you sort of get the feeling that the people at Lifetime almost didn’t want you to know any of this was happening.

I hadn’t caught wind of it myself until late last week. I was led there after I’d come across this link for another (sure-fire piece of trash) Lifetime original movie, “The Brittany Murphy Story”*. And so, I watched the clips that had been put out there for the Bell movie, inspired I had been led to believe by Dustin Diamond’s tell-all Behind the Bell.**

If you’ve read this site before, you’d know I enjoyed the show. So, naturally, I was convinced this was now something I had to see*** and I had the following thoughts:

  1. At best, a few of these kids kind of resemble the people they’re portraying. At worst, they’re at least all humans.
  2. This seems so literally low-budget and so low-quality, I can’t help but expect actual pornography.
  3. Why on Earth is this from Dustin Diamond’s perspective?
  4. The fact that the word “Unauthorized” is right in the title immediately makes me smile.

After watching the movie, here’s how I’d address each of those:

  1. Yeah… The kid playing Mario Lopez, with the wig they gave him, looked like a failed extra from “Thriller”Or an-as-yet-unborn son of the bad guy from “The Mask”. The rest were fine, I suppose, aside from Elizabeth Berkley’s character. I think I look as much like Jessie Spano as she does.
  2. Sadly, there was no sexual activity. In fact, I believe there’s only two kisses in the whole thing. So, yeah.
  3. Because no one else wanted anything to do with this burning dumpster of a film, either because they’ve moved on or have more important things going on in their lives. Or both.
  4. Still makes me smile. As did the hashtag at the bottom of the screen #unauthorizedsavedbythebell. Nice try, Lifetime. Next time, make the hashtag so long you can’t even fit any negative criticism in the actual tweet.

Before I continue bashing this movie, I should say (as we all should when talking about this thing) that I knew what I was getting myself into when I sat down to watch a Lifetime movie. I saw the clips, I saw the makeup and the wigs, saw the befuddling casting decisions. But, most importantly, I’d seen the real Saved by the Bell. A show, mind you, that while wildly popular, was never any fucking good. At best, it was a cheese ball show that only made you feel uncomfortable on a cringe-level of awkwardness (either due to storyline or acting or both) three or four times an episode. At worst… well, you know, you watched.

We all loved the show, but it wasn’t any good. So, it’s really only fitting this movie could somehow manage to be as dull, heavy-handed with plot points (WE GET IT, SCREECH WAS AN OUTCAST!), cheesy and poorly acted as the show whose story it was attempting to tell.

For two hours, we are smashed over the head with the same few ideas… Dustin Diamond doesn’t fit in (more on this in a moment), Mark-Paul Gosselaar has difficulty adjusting to being America’s teen heartthrob, cast members (aside from Mario Lopez, whom the movie portrays as not giving much of a shit one way or the other) don’t want to be typecast and yearn to live their lives!… And you know what, that would be fine if there was more to the movie. But, much like the show itself, there isn’t.

Scene after useless scene passes by as we wait for something (ANYTHING) interesting to happen… and yet nothing does. The craziest it gets is when Dustin Diamond has some vodka poured into his soda before an SBTB meet-and-greet. By the end, I found myself wondering if the Zack-and-Kelly fuck scene simply didn’t make the final cut for this one.

The plot tries, desperately, to make you feel something for Diamond as the outcast, but all I wind up doing is disliking him more. He acts like an immature ass in the movie, laughing at Berkley’s first run-through of the “Caffeine Pills” scene when no one else is, getting publicly drunk when no one else is, smoking weed when no one else is… But Scott! He just wants to fit in, he’s awkward, he’s the youngest one in the cast! OK, fine. Still, don’t give a shit.

Dave Chappelle once joked about going to see Siegfried and Roy, that “that’s why we really go to the tiger show… You don’t go to see someone be safe with tigers. You go, thinking in the back of your mind, this [guy] might get bit”. And the same holds true for this movie. No one was watching this movie to see a bunch of miscast actors in a shoddy, sloppy script deal with, at worst, PG-level problems. You wanted the scandalous shit. And sadly, you got none of it.

I was hoping this movie would be awful enough to at least recommend to watch for humor purposes, but impossibly, it’s not even at that level.

 

*I’d love to meet the drunkard that approved the wigs being used for the girl playing Alicia Silverstone in that ‘movie’.

**You remember that one, right? The one where he basically attempted to make himself relevant again by putting out a book filled with some of the most salacious shit imaginable (orgies with creator Peter Engel, a rape accusation for Mario Lopez, rampant drug use, wild sexual activities and claims), only to slowly and pathetically retract many of the things he said, ultimately leading to the claim in a TIME article that “‘They gave [him] a ghostwriter who just talked to [him] for a few hours here and there on the phone’ and then came up with a false, final manuscript he was “powerless” to change”.

***While I realized the movie wasn’t airing on Showtime, I was surprised that the most controversial scene that was put out there for the movie featured a (gasp!) near shoving match between Diamond and Mario Lopez after a push-up contest on the set.

 

Thomas Pickles and Friends: 90s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the sixth of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

I’ve met a decent number of people in my life, but I don’t know of any of them that haven’t liked Rugrats.  That show was my shit, I was glued to it for years. Debuting in 1991, taking hiatus in 1994, and finishing up it’s original run in 2004 (Yes. Remarkably the show went for that long), Rugrats was one of the best kids cartoons around.

Of course, in watching it over again for this post, I can’t stand one second of it, but I suppose that’s to be expected now that I’m no longer 6 years old.

There’s a number of ways we could break down this show (a few quick examples that come to mind include: how big of a bitch Angelica was, how nearly all of the characters were voiced by women, the All Grown Up! spinoff not being as terrible as it probably should’ve been), but I think there’s one thing that keeps the show on my mind (aside from re-runs at midnight).

This:

Oh, how I love this song and video, let me count the ways.

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Douglas Yancey Funnie: 90s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the fifth of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

So we’re moving to cartoons. If you’ve enjoyed this series, that’s great news. If you’re everyone else, this just reeks of desperation.

And I’m fine with that.

Thanks to a tip from a friend, I discovered that a bunch of cartoons from our youth (commonly known as Nicktoons) were being re-aired as a part of “The 90s are All That” on TeenNick. Obviously, I was all in.

In reminiscing about the show, I remembered that it was divided into two distinct sections, its Nickelodeon origins and its Disney re-boot.

No self-respecting child of the 90s preferred the Disney version to the Nick version. In fact, if you even so much as remotely enjoyed the Disney version, please stop reading this immediately and never return to this website (Unless of course you want to purchase a copy. Then, by all means, come back).

Beyond the fact that the Disney Doug simply wasn’t better than the Nick Doug, there was the fact that we were in prime cartoon age when the first one came out. From 1991 to 1994 (I was 5 to 8), Nickelodeon was pumping out fucking bangers and I was there for all of them (except the Ren and Stimpy Show, which I’ll get into at a later date, believe me). But it wasn’t just that. They changed the guy who voiced Doug and Roger (a fact that guy wasn’t happy with), they changed their clothes, and they didn’t make Roger as big of a punk to Doug as he was originally (I always maintained, if you weren’t supposed to hate Roger every time he popped on screen, what was the point of him as a character?).

Because this is our first cartoon look-back, let’s do this one (and all other cartoon ones in the future) a little different. After thinking about it for thirty seconds, I decided to use a rubric. Grades won’t be given out, but judgements will be passed. Continue reading

My Dog Ate All My Homework: 90s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the fourth of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

Good lord. I honestly have no idea where to start with this one. Truth is, the idea for this whole ‘let’s review ’90s sitcoms’ thing came from watching this show on MTV2 at noon nearly every weekday for the last month or so.

At first I waited to write this one because I figured it would be obvious to start with The Bell, too predictable. As time went on, I realized I was putting it off because I had no idea where to start, where to finish, where to go. There’s just so damn much.

Without exaggeration, I think I could honestly write a full post on any of the following topics related to this show:

  • How fucking hot was/is Kelly Kapowski? Is it possible that she’s hotter now than she was then? Was there a more masturbated to teen star from 1990 to 1995?
  • This book. How much of it was true? How much of it was made up to stir trouble? Would it be better or worse if it was mostly accurate? (I vote, better, personally)
  • The cool of Zack Morris. Topics of discussion include making the prep look “in”, his slicked blonde locks, the ability to freeze time by saying “Time Out”*, how he macked it with basically every female on the show and none of them ever really seemed to mind, and his amazing, Frank Abagnale-esque ability to con anyone.
  • The incredibly awful overacting job by Screech (and subsequently, the over-reacting to his role on the show by becoming the what he’s become).
  • Why didn’t they actually do a full reunion on Jimmy Fallon?
  • The incredible theme song, those great MTV2 commercials (this, this, or that), or the great openings where Zack would talk to the camera to open up the episode. So smooth.
  • How incredibly old they all looked as the show clearly went on too long.
  • The fact that they even had the nerve to make the New Class. Or, that they made the College Years as awful as they made them.

I could keep going, but I’ll spare you.

Instead, what I decided to do was just go character-by-character and give my random thoughts on each. It’s not the best idea, but it’s better than writing a book about it. Which, best believe, I considered.

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Everywhere You Look: 90’s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the third of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

Let me say that while I never was a die-hard Full House guy, the show was fantastic. When you look at the show conceptually you have to admit it was pretty well done, especially for what it became. The dynamic between the sisters (how often do you see shows with no brothers of any kind?), the fact that the mom was killed off before the show even started (Single fathers? What is this, a Matthew Modine film? Dated reference in a dated blog post, hey now!), and the idea of three men (one nincompoop best friend, one studly, albeit too cool for school, brother-in-law, and a neat-freak morning TV show host—now how’s that for diversity?).  All of those ideas were and continue to be fairly original in the world of sitcom television (which isn’t such an original place to begin with).

There was also a really neat little theme song (ridiculously/unnecessarily long version, yes sir) and all of the cheesy cheese we come to expect and love from these type of shows. And, all of the cast members seemed to actually get along.

Maybe I did like it more than I remember… I digress.

I think the important thing to note (besides the Uncle Jessie-led efforts of a Full House movie, but more on that later) is that any serious discussion about Full House should truthfully start with the debate over which of the women on the show was the hottest.  Then, and now.

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It’s the Bigger Love of the Family: 90’s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the second of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

Before I get into this wonderful show, I think it definitely bears mentioning that it’s no longer in syndication. Anywhere. Aside from how big of a crime against humanity that is*, I’m sure it helps me remember it fondly.

When your only memories of a show are from 5, 10, 15 years ago, it tends to play with exactly how well you recall each and everything about it.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way… I’m not sure Family Matters was my favorite family sitcom of the 90’s (although, it’s certainly close), but it may have been the best.  It had basically everything** that makes a show great, almost literally from start to finish.  Let’s take a look.

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Boy, Meet World: 90’s Sitcoms, Revisited

One of the benefits of working frequently between the hours of 4 PM and 2 AM is that you are available to watch some great afternoon TV.  Recently, I discovered that MTV2, in addition to actually existing, shows two hours of Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World back-to-back from noon til 4.  As you’d imagine, this was a revelation and ever since I’ve been reliving some of my favorite childhood shows.  What follows is the first of several look-backs at some of those incredible shows and what made them so (not-so) great.

It should be clarified, Boy Meets World was never one of my must-watches as a kid.  Something about the show, even then, pissed me off.  Watching it as an ‘adult’, I’m now able to pinpoint exactly what that was: incredible amounts of unnecessary drama.

Maybe I’m imagining this, but I feel like there was a 3 to 4 season span where every single scene that involved Shawn Hunter* had something to do with him doing one of the following things: 1) Telling Cory he “just doesn’t understand”… 2) Running away, but “this time I mean it”… 3) Feeling like an outcast for no particular reason.

Looking back, I think what made it so frustrating on the whole was that all the characters changed almost completely throughout the course of the show.  Except of course for Mr. Feeny but his refusal to either move to another part of town or simply get a job at any other college in the United States has to serve as a demerit on his personal character.  Hard to take life lessons from a guy that decides it’s a good career move to teach the same group of kids from 6th grade to college graduation.  Anyway…

Cory starts out as the plucky, precocious one looking to find his way (listening to Phillies games on the radio in class, what a kidder!) and ultimately winds up married to his high school sweetheart (fine) and acting like a goofy, old grandfather at age 22 (not OK).  I could describe Eric’s transformation for you, but Wikipedia does it justice in a way it does no other entry on the entire site:

Early on in the show Eric is portrayed as suave and popular, this contrasts with Cory, who has trouble finding his niche in school. Eric’s character devolves from a suave elder brother to an irrational moron serving as comic relief.

He went from being the cool older brother dating the hot chicks in school to the moron that one of the Lawrence brothers (does it really matter which it was?) had to literally put in a helmet to make sure he didn’t hurt himself when they left the apartment. Again, not OK.

Topanga doesn’t really change much, at least not her character, so I guess I’ll give her credit for that.  However, was there a more ambiguous “hot/not hot?” female character in a 90s kids sitcom?  Some episodes she was hot, some she was cute, some she was fat, and some she just looked like a caveman with longer than normal hair (that space between her eyebrows and hairline could most aptly be described as a twohead.  Hiyo)**

Even the theme song changed a bunch of times, starting off in the first few years with that paper airplane and goofy tune.  Then it went to the open road scene and finally settled on the one where everyone is having a fun time on the street, dumping buckets of water on people and ending with the catchy, original line “when this boy meets world”. Personally, I was a fan of the last.  The characters seemed to have more fun during that little open than at any point in the episode.

The only thing the show had going for it was that it didn’t do anything ridiculous as a final episode.  Everyone kind of goes their expected ways and shockingly Mr. Feeny has just one more life lesson: don’t expect to have a real career after spending the first seven years of your acting life on a overly dramatic, horribly overacted, morally heavy-handed tv show.

A few quick hits before I go…

  • Am I the only one that was amazed by how much black leather Shawn/college girlfriend/the enormous redhead wore around campus? They looked like they were ready to go and shoot up a middle school in those trench coats.
  • Speaking of that enormous redhead, how tall was she?  5’10” is what I found online, but I have to believe it was closer to 6’6″, 6’8″.  That girl’s neck and dome were at least 3 and a half feet alone.
  • Mr. Turner, despite wearing WAY too much denim (even at the time), was and still is the man.  Well, I have no idea what Mr. Turner is currently doing, but it’s for damn sure he didn’t follow his students to college like a loser (ahem, Mr. Feeny).***
  • The whole “bully-groups” in high school lead by Harley and later Griff (yes, that was Adam Scott) was too unintentionally funny to be left out of here.  Not only did Harley look to be at least 35, but he and his goons spoke like they were uneducated street urchins that had just got done selling newspapers on the corner for a nickel.  Griffin Hawkins… well, his name was Griffin Hawkins.  ‘Nuff said.

*The actor that played Shawn was Rider Strong which has to be one of the few people with a way, way cooler name than the made-up character he was famous for.  While we’re on the subject of Strongs, his dad is King Strong and he was a firefighter.  No joke.  With a name like that, I have to imagine Rider’s pops was the inspiration for the Bill Brasky character from SNL.

**Speaking of female characters and hotness… the actress who played the early version of little sister Morgan (not only an oft ignored character, but a completely meaningless one as well, a true double whammy) turned out to be quite hot.  Lily Nicksay.  Look her up.  Or, just click on the link and save yourself the time.

***If I had to bet I’d put some serious cash on his current actions involving riding motorcycles and reading X-men comic books.