Monday, May 19, 2008

Sepinwall on TV: 'Square Pegs' on DVD

Today's column takes a look at the "Square Pegs" DVD (out tomorrow) and notes that not all fondly-remembered series play that well when you catch up with them years later.

22 comments:

Kristen said...

Link's broken.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Sorry. Should work now.

Stef said...

I *loved* this show when it was on. Then again, I was 7, so perhaps it is best not to revisit it...

Alan, since you mentioned "China Beach," I'm wondering if you're going to do a recap of the Desperate Housewives finale. I know you don't regularly cover it, but Dana Delany has brought such a huge amount of talent to that show, it seems she may be the rising tide that has raised all of the ladies' games. Good finale.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Stef, I recorded the DH finale, so if I get a chance to watch it in the next couple of days, I'll write it up.

Tom said...

I noticed in the list of celebrities that were on the show, you left out Bill Murray. He played a substitute teacher on one episode. Was his show not included for some reason?

I too loved this show. I saw some repeats on TV Land a few years back and had the exact same reaction. At least Barney Miller Season 2 is finally coming out. I know that will hold up.

Alan Sepinwall said...

I noticed in the list of celebrities that were on the show, you left out Bill Murray. He played a substitute teacher on one episode. Was his show not included for some reason?

No, his episode's on there. But he's still working and famous, and so his appearance isn't quite as of-the-moment as The Waitresses or Father Guido, or (to pick another guest star I didn't mention) Dodgers second baseman Steve Sax.

Bobman said...

Slightly off-topic, but you mention The Wonder Years in your review, and I always wonder how "prohibitively expensive" those songs really are - so many people are dying for that DVD set that at least the first 3 or 4 would be some of the best-selling DVD sets of all time (I kind of assume that with long-running shows later sets probably taper off in sales).

Grumble grumble.

R.A. Porter said...

I'm had the same reaction to repeats a couple of years ago. In addition to how dated it played, it was extremely sitcom-y and the rhythms were totally off.

Grunt said...

I adored Square Pegs when it was on. On the other hand, as a Geeky 12 year old I was probably the target demographic. It's no wonder the show failed.

On the other hand, just as much of the stuff I watched as a child/teenager now seems dated and not nearly as good as I once thought it was (Don't get me started about the movie 'Say Anything'. Lloyd Dobler is a doormat) watching an episode of Sqaure Pegs a few years ago on TV Land reminds me of how much I've grown. I'm glas it's out on DVD, but I have no plans to buy it.

electricia said...

I too remember loving this show, but I was six, so what did I know? I liked the theme song, I think. This is one of those shows from the early 80s that for some reason I seem to remember but none of my friends do. "Jennifer Slept Here" starring Ann Jillian and "It's Your Move" with Jason Bateman fall into that category as well.

The show I'd most like to see on DVD is "Parker Lewis Can't Lose". I remember that as edgy and groundbreaking in the early 90s, though I wonder how it would look now. Of course I also have an inexplicable love for Abraham Benrubi. He just makes me laugh.

Anonymous said...

I was too young to have watched the show when it aired, but was really excited to see it when they aired it on TVLand a few years ago because I'd always heard such great things about it. But it was a total letdown. I agree it didn't age well at all, but it didn't just seem dated it didn't seem that funny period.

barefootjim said...

As a life-long Giants fan, I always love a slam at Steve Sax, though I think that he's still working as a color guy during FOX's dreadful baseball broadcasts.

The cool thing about "Square Pegs" was that it was the first mainstream TV show to look even slightly at the burgeoning alternative Gen-X culture -- and that's why so many people (me included) loved it even though it seemed kind of slight even then.

Also some trivia: The Waitresses EP that featured their full-length version of the the "Square Pegs" theme song also featured the instantly awesome "Christmas Wrapping," quite possibly the best rock Christmas song ever recorded.

Devin McCullen said...

I remember "Jennifer Slept Here" too, although nothing about it besides the premise. And "It's Your Move" - I wonder how that might have held up, it wasn't standard sitcom fare.

And I'll throw a couple of 80s obscurities back at you - "Roomies", with Burt Young and Corey Haim (my dad thought the Singing Freshmen were the best), and "Empire", with a bunch of That Guys as backstabbing corporate execs, might have lasted 6 weeks. Still probably better than "Big Shots".

electricia said...

Also - I think almost any musical act or cameo on a show is going to date it 20 years later. I've been watching 90210 in reruns (thanks unemployment and SoapNet!) and some of the musical guests they've had on there came and went so fast in the 90s that I had to look them up on the internet to figure out who they were.

Was America ever really a culture that found Father Guido Sarducci funny? Ah, the 80s.

Jim - I used to love "Christmas Wrapping", until Jack FM moved to L.A. From November until January, they seem to play it about every third song. It eventually made me go slowly insane.

I have to admit a cheesy love of the Spice Girls cover of it, and there's also a slightly amusing version (with altered, L.A.-centric lyrics) by Save Ferris. I suspect it's one of those things that has been covered a zillion times.

Alan Sepinwall said...

Also - I think almost any musical act or cameo on a show is going to date it 20 years later.

True, but "Square Pegs" was so thin that it relied on all that pop culture stuff (whether references or cameos) in lieu of actual jokes (or, at least, good ones).

Alan Sepinwall said...

The cool thing about "Square Pegs" was that it was the first mainstream TV show to look even slightly at the burgeoning alternative Gen-X culture -- and that's why so many people (me included) loved it even though it seemed kind of slight even then.

Yeah, I get that. Like I said in the column, the idea of the show was great, but the execution fell far short. "Freaks and Geeks" is essentially the show "Square Pegs" wanted to be, but couldn't for various reasons.

Mo Ryan said...

I had such a crush on Johnny Slash as a 15 year old suburban wannabe New Waver. Didn't Muffy, Jami Gertz's character, always call him Mr Ulaszwicz?

I seem to recall her always using his full name and also calling meetings to attention by yelling "People!" in that imperious voice of hers.

Ah well, maybe it's best I don't run out and buy this DVD set. Yet I'm still tempted. So many memories of being a teenage nerd and loving this show.

As for Wonder Years -- not to be a killjoy but I wonder how much all the seasons would sell on DVD. The bar would have to be set very high to make back all the music licensing costs, and the show's been off the air for a long time, so the studio would have to promote the heck out of the release, if there ever was one...

And barefootjim, I would respectfully submit that the best christmas song of all time (though I love the Waitresses' one) is "Christmas in Hollis" by Run-DMC.

barefootjim said...

"Christmas in Hollis" ... certainly can't argue with that, though it was part of the Less Than Zero soundtrack -- which was definitely another type of look at Gen-X culture.

I'm very much enjoying talking Xmas songs when L.A. is in the middle of a midsummer heat wave.

Totally agree that Freaks & Geeks was the superior show (but then, it's pretty much the superior show to just about anything), but having not watched Square Pegs in 25 years, I'm still feeling a bit buzzkilled, even though I remember wanting to like it (especially because of the SNL heritage) much more than I actually did.

It may not actually be possible for any TV show from the early 80s to age well.

bill p said...

I'm pretty sure when It's Your Move gets released on DVD it will seem as fresh and funny as I remember it being in 1983.

Maura said...

I was a huge "Square Pegs" fan (I wish I had the excuse of being a little kid. I was in my 20s),and was also disappointed when I watched it recently and realized how bad it was.

In addition to how dated it played, it was extremely sitcom-y and the rhythms were totally off.
Precisely my complaint. The timing was awful, although I agree with Alan that Butrick brought something special to the show. And I would watch every episode of "Square Pegs" in one sitting before I'd watch Sex and the City again. I've seen maybe a half dozen episodes of SatC, and that was enough for me.

Barney Miller season 2 is coming out? That would be worth any amount of money.

lambertman said...

Perhaps "Police Squad!" has aged well enough, but yeah, time's been rough on '80s sitcoms not named "Cheers".

Random factoid: I remember seeing the Waitresses album that included the "Pegs" theme (may have been Greatest Hits, not sure) at my college radio station. The liner notes dismissively read "we're really busy so please make up your own lyrics."

Christmas music: the hip portion of me swears by the Ramones' "Merry Christmas (I Don't Wanna Fight Tonight)." The lamer majority of me leans to the Beach Boys' "Little Saint Nick."

The "Pegs" DVD sadly came just a few days to late for a marathon leading up to the Preakness. Ah well.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the consensus. I loved this show as a 6th grader, but seeing it on TV Land made me realize that its one-and-done cancellation was not a cruel injustice.

However, the show gave "Seinfeld" two of its more memorable female guest stars---Jerry lookalike Tracy Nelson and square-hoarding Jami Gertz.

SJP lived near me in Englewood during her "Annie" years. I never met her, but the man who owned the discount sneaker store that my family patronized proudly displayed her autographed picture and always raved about how talented and polite she was. Among non-sixth graders, he was definitely the #1 Square Pegs fan.

Now, I can brag to my wife that SJP and I did our shoe-shopping at the same place.