7 Lessons from TV Romances of the 90s

June 5, 2012 § 6 Comments

I was a child of the 90s and a child of television, so it goes without saying that my view on real-life romances is somewhat ingrained from 90s TV.  Maybe that’s why I can’t find a girlfriend.

Because real life is not TV and movies.  The stories we watch on the breast tube are meant to be more interesting and engaging than real life because that’s why we watch them.  If they were not, we wouldn’t watch TV because we could get that same entertainment outside.  (Entertainment outside you say?  Yeah right.  Now THAT’S a tall tale, my friend!)

Television romance usually starts with anguished longing for another and so we follow.  We watch and wait and see if our hero will get the girl and inevitably they do.   The two loves are united and as viewers, we are satisfied because that’s what we were waiting for all along.  However, how many of my real life crushes became sweethearts?

I think I’m about 0-for-2,513 in that category.

Relationships don’t always bloom from a crush.  Sometimes they just happen.  Whether organic or forced, sometimes love sparks from a drunken makeout behind a dive bar or from a friend right in front of you that you had never noticed before.  And sometimes, it is from a crush.

But maybe the inherent problem with “crushes” is that they are so one-sided.  If a crush is reciprocated early on, then you should be able to spot it.  Returned flirtation should soon turn into something real and if it doesn’t, then it’s probably never meant to be.  Yet on television, romances almost always start off as unrequited love and almost always turn into the requited version.

I thought for awhile yesterday not about the crushes I had (because that would require me to think about my actual life and NO THANKS!) but on the best television romances that I grew up watching and the lessons we learned from these relationships.

What started as a crush, soon turned into these 90s TV Romances and the lessons we learned:

Ross and Rachel, Friends

Lesson: Sometimes you never get over a crush or past love.

The show may have been called “Friends” but the stage for show was set in the pilot episode when we found out in the beginning that Ross had always loved Rachel and now she had appeared back in his life, without any idea that Ross had ever felt this way.  So everybody was immediately trapped in this universe of “Is Ross going to win her over?”

Which was bullshit because Ross was never my favorite character.  A bit too whiny, know-it-all, and pretentious for my liking, the only characteristic of Ross that I could relate to was this unrequited love that he had been holding onto forever.  And clearly since Rachel was too good and too hot for him, it was almost like additional icing on the cake for every guy that had ever loved a girl that was out of his league.

On-again, off-again, will they ever?, “we were on a break,” the romance literally lasted from episode one to the series finale without ever being a sure thing.  Ross and Rachel will always be remembered as the quintessential television romance of the decade, but the writers knew what they were doing and screw you writers.

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Back to the Nineties: The Top 5 TGIF Sitcom Neighbors!

February 28, 2012 § 5 Comments

If my generation is your generation, then your childhood was captured in a photo that looks like this:

If someone asked you “Who raised you?” you might say something like “You know, the usual.  Mom, Dad, Miller, Boyett…”

We grew up in front of the television and then right around the age of eight, ABC started putting their best television on the air on Friday nights.  Thank God it is Friday, indeed.  It’s time for Perfect Strangers, Full House, Family Matters, Step by Step, etc.  It’s funny how we can define certain eras in our life by television blocks; from TGIF to SNICK to Must See TV and to that 30 minutes on Public Access that you can’t believe they’re allowed to show, even if it is 1:30 AM!

In the late eighties, ABC started to go crazy with comedy blocks and after they had success with “Terrific Tuesday” they decided to expand to Fridays and created “The Friday Fun Club.”  You see, back then sitcoms were made for families and did not feature the adult themes that you normally see in sitcoms today.  Remember that?!  So it was normal to have your best shows on Fridays and Saturdays, and not re-runs of Jag or The Ghost Whisperer.  These days, Fridays and Saturdays are for the old folks.  Back then, it was about us!

In 1989, TGIF officially debuted with a couple of cartoon mice singing: “Time for fun (thank goodness!)/Time for a good laugh (it’s funny!)/Time, time, time, time for fun! (T-T-T-Time!)”  

Yeah, that’s pretty much 1989 in a nutshell for you.

The four shows airing in that 1989 block were Full House, Family Matters, Perfect Strangers, and Just the Ten of Us.  These shows were about families and the wacky antics that families are so commonly known to get themselves into (two prom dates?!) but they were also about the company we keep.  They had friends and neighbors that often stole the show because while the core of your nuclear family had to be somewhat sane, your neighbors could be anything.  And as we know, your neighbors are often a little different because we’re forced into those relationships unlike most.

Perfect Strangers had no real neighbors of note because Larry and Balki were the crux of that show.  They appeared in almost 50 more episodes than any other character.  Just the Ten of Us… I hardly knew ye.  Still, here are the top five friends or neighbors from the TGIF shows that I do remember…

#5 – Monica Devertebrae, Dinosaurs

Dinosaurs was dreamed up by Jim Henson but he died before he could ever see it come to fruition.  A story of a family of dinosaurs known as the Sinclairs living in “60,000,003 BC” debuted on April 26, 1991 and ran on TGIF until 1993.  It’s not the most memorable show but I’m working with what I’ve got.  Monica Devertabrea was the neighbor and best friend of the Sinclair wife, Frances.  She had no memorable lines that I can think of but remember this: “I’m the baby!”

That was a big thing for awhile.

Monica was an Apatosaurus, which is commonly mis-referred to as a Brontosaurus.  If you ever see one of those old, purple-haired ladies with a pearl necklace, refer to her as an Apatosaurus.

Fun Fact: Stuart Pankin, who voiced the father Earl Sinclair, was recently in the Oscar-winning silent film, The Artist.

#4 – Shawn Hunter, Boy Meets World

Fact: Boy Meets World is a legitimately funny show that holds up much better over time than Family Matters ever will.  In watching re-runs on ABC Family when I was 25 younger, I found myself having actual laughs not at the show (as if it was Full House) but with the show.  The adventures of Cory, Shawn, Eric, Topanga, and Mr. Feeny were good even into their college years, giving it a much better send-off to advanced education than the Saved by the Bell crew.

Boy Meets World ran on TGIF from 1994-1999 and was the story of Fred Savage’s younger brother meeting the world and getting boners in class when he looked at Topanga.   Shawn was the best friend of Cory, and not really a neighbor but he sure felt like one seeing as how he was always at the house.  (Because he was basically homeless and his parents did not love him.)

Despite my genuine affection for the show, I rank Shawn 4th for several reasons:

  • He is played by Rider Strong.  What kind of a name is Rider Strong?  You can blame your parents (his fathers name is King) for that one!
  • I never liked the fact that he was supposed to be sort of the “bad influence, bad boy” to Cory and then all of a sudden turned into the biggest pussy on the show at other times.
  • Way too dramatic and serious.

I’ll give Shawn credit for being the first white young man on TV to have a black girlfriend, but otherwise the stars of the show were… all of the other main characters, including Matthew Lawrence!

3. Cody, Step by Step

In 1991, Miller and Boyett produced another mega-hit when they got this guy:

and this lady:

to get married and bring their wretched kids together because neither one of them wanted to do it on their own.  They fucking HATED raising their kids alone and they each had three.  It was like The Brady Bunch but totally different because it wasn’t that they each had boys or girls, because you see they each had boys AND girls.  So it was totally different.

You see Frank Lambert had a girl that was like a boy and Carol Foster-Lambert had a boy that acted like a little girl.  And then Frank had a boy named JT that was totally a guys guy and then Carol had a girl named Karen that was totally a girly-girl.  Then you had Dana the bitch and then Frank had another little boy that literally nobody remembers.  At this point comedy was merely a formality.

As if that wasn’t enough, Frank’s nephew Cody ended up moving into the backyard.  He lives in his van.  He promises he’s not going to rape anyone.  Per Wiki, here are Cody’s catchphrases:  “Dude!” “Dude-sy!” “No way!” and “Ch-yeah!”

Those catchphrases undoubtedly will go down in history as some of the greatest of all-time.

2. Steve Urkel, Family Matters

Miller-Boyett’s answer to The Cosby Show was a spin-off from Perfect Strangers that centered around The Winslows: Carl, Harriette (the last known Harriette), Eddie, Laura, and Judy.  But they soon realized that their show sucked and so mid-way through the first season they introduced the neighbor-boy Steve Urkel and nerdy black kids were officially created for the first time.  (You’re welcome Tyler, The Creator)

Urkel’s entire motivation in life was to bang Laura, even though she was a complete biotch to him.  He should have dropped her quick but 90s TV taught us that nerds love black chicks and then those black chicks are mean to nerds and then they’re still hopelessly in love for all time.  (Screech and Lisa)

Steve… you built a fucking time machine.  You also built a machine that changes people’s personalities.  You’re going to be richer than Zuckerberg, Gates, and Jobs combined.  Don’t trip on Laura f-ing Winslow, okay?  Get over it.

(And Screech, you built a robot.  An actual robot that communicates and seems to have feelings.  Get over Lisa Turtle.)

And to answer your question Urkel; Yes, you did that.  You actually fucking did that.  You built a jetpack that sent you all the way over to the Step by Step household and showed them how to do the Urkel.  You don’t need to be Stefan.  Stefan sucks.  These aren’t the kinds of lessons that we want to teach young geniuses.  If you do, I’ll never get an iPad 10 or a 4D television because every nerd that ever wanted to bang a “6” will focus more on how to get her to fall in love with him than how to transcend the space-time continuum.  Get over it.

1. Kimmy Gibbler, Full House

The God damn dominator of TGIF was Full House, which ran from 1987 to 1995.  The show started with heartbreak when it opened on a family that was still getting over the death of the mother and then quickly turned to redemption when the sleazy, greasy uncle and the creepy, in-no-relation-to-the-family friend moved in and helped Danny Tanner raise his three little girls.  It was clear that Danny needed help raising three little girls when he… let those two help raise his little girls!

Still, they somehow made it work and everything turned out to be fine.  Though I still don’t condone Joey taking advantage of Danny in a time of need because he needed a place to stay because he was a shitty comedian.  Reason 1 that you are a broke, loser comedian: You work in San Francisco and never seem to do a show, ever.  Most comedians end up doing several shows a night, every night of the week, hoping to catch their big break.  GO DO SOME WORK JOEY!

Living next door to the Tanners (and the other two) were the Gibblers.  We never got to know any of the Gibblers except for one, D.J. Tanner’s best friend Kimmy.  She was always over at the house even though everyone seemed to literally hate her, including D.J.  I’m not even kidding when I say that the adults treated this pre-teen like she was a full-grown adult that could handle such severe bullying from a group of men.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Kimmy was one of the first cases of Cyber-Bullying, but she was strong enough to overcome it.

Gibbler didn’t follow trends, she set them:

Kimmy, you may have sucked at life, but you told it how it was.  You weren’t afraid to speak your mind and to call out Danny and Jesse on their shit when nobody else would.  You were constantly bullied for being a freak, but you didn’t let that change who you were.  Even to this day, there are people that still hate you and the bullying continues.  But I’m sure someone out there, you’re just letting it all slide off of your deformed, probably scoliosis-riddled back.  And for that, you have earned the #1 spot on this list.

Now go home, Kimmy.

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