Sunday, November 16, 2008

"I gotta go now, my ride's finally here": Are You Afraid of the Dark, 1.12 - The Tale of the Prom Queen

I was thinking about doing another Hey Dude recap since I've only had one so far, but my Hey Dude dvds have really messed-up volume, so I'm going with an Are You Afraid of the Dark episode. I wasn't planning on doing many recaps of this show since another blog already exists for it, but I'll throw a few in here and there for variety.

The thing that sticks out to me from the show in general is that creepy-ass clown doll (or whatever it was) in the opening credits. That thing was freakier than most of the things that appeared in the actual episodes. The episode that scared me the most was that one where the girl and her older brother sneak up to the apartment on the top floor of their building, where these aliens in disguise invite them to play games that are really tests of how the girl would adapt to conditions on their planet, and at the end it's revealed that she is the aliens' daughter and they bring her home. The aliens' faces had no eyes or nose or mouth, and that really freaked me out. And at one point, the mother alien talks to the girl by appearing on her TV set at night when the TV wasn't turned on. That scared me so much that for awhile I unplugged my TV before bed every night. I'm such a loser. 

Anyway, from this episode in particular, I  remember the creepy old car playing "In the Still of the Night" as it drives off into the distance at the end and disappears as it drives through the graveyard gates. To this day, that song always sounds creepy to me. It's the backing vocals.

I usually list the main characters in my first recap of a particular show, but there's no real major characters to this show because each episode has a different cast. I tried making a list of the Midnight Society members, but it's hard to describe them without visuals since lots of them have no real distinguishing characteristics. But anyway, this show revolved around a group of teens who called themselves the Midnight Society and met in the woods once a week at night to tell each other scary stories. I refer you once again to the Are You Afraid of the Dark blog where you can find screencaps for details because I am not skilled enough to put any together myself.

A ghostly figure in a white dress with a veil over her face glides toward the campfire, where the members of the Midnight Society are sitting around bored, complaining that scheduled storyteller Kristen (the blond girl) is late. They notice the approaching ghostly figure and freak out, but surprise! It's only Kristen, played by a young Rachel Blanchard. Kristen is literally the polaroid of perfection. She could be a part-time model (but she'd probably still have to work her normal job). Apparently being scary involves talking in a weird accent, because Kristen launches into her story in a vaguely foreign "fortune teller" accent. Submitted for the approval of the Midnight Society, she calls this story "The Tale of the Prom Queen." It's business time.

We're in a graveyard, because this show is full of originality, where a girl in mom jeans is leaving flowers at a grave. She hears mysterious laughter as she's walking away, but she ignores it. Something jumps out in front of her face! --But don't worry, it's just birds. She should know that nothing scary really happens until right before the commercial break. Someone else jumps out at her, and she screams, but it's only two random guys whose idea of fun is apparently hanging out in a graveyard. The guys introduce themselves as Greg and Jam, and judging by their names,  Greg is obviously the "nice guy" and Jam is the asshole who thinks he's cool but is really pretty lame. He has feathery hair. Super cool. Jam tells Dede (the girl) that Saturday is prom night--the night of the prom queen. Dede turns to look at him in recognition of those words but then plays it off like she's never heard about this legend. Could that be significant? 

They tell her the story of a girl a long time ago who for some reason was waiting for her prom date outside the cemetery (did emo kids exist back in the 50s?), but it was a foggy night, and a car struck her in a fatal hit-and-run. They found her and buried her a few days later in her prom dress. Because that isn't weird at all. Every year on prom night, it is believed that the ghost of the prom queen returns to this spot, waiting for the ride that never comes. Greg and Jam have been looking for a grave that might be hers, and Dede thinks it sounds kind of cool and offers to help. Jam just said "let's go ghost hunting, boys and ghouls." No wonder he has nothing better to do with his life than hang out in a graveyard.

Greg points out that they should probably make sure that there really was a car accident, otherwise they could be searching for nothing. So they head off to the local library to scan old newspapers on microfilm. yay! I always thought searching old newspapers on microfilm was so cool. I'm such a loser. But not as big a loser as Jam. They find the article they're looking for in 1956. Judy Larson had been waiting for her boyfriend Ricky to pick her up, but Ricky never got the message. Ricky also accidentally drove his 1955 Chevy off a bridge, so there were two tragic deaths that night. God, it sounds like one of those smarmy 1950s doo-wop teenybopper love songs. "Oh where oh where can my baby be" and such. Oh, weird! Someone apparently created a video of that song I just quoted using clips from this episode. We think alike. Dede seems really concerned by news of Ricky's death... could that be a clue? During all of this, the doorknob to their room starts to open slowly. Oh no! Could it be the librarian out to get them? It is! And even worse, she's bringing tea! Frightening.

Dede comes up with the idea to help Judy by trying to contact Ricky and telling him to pick her up. Dede uses the word "keen," which confuses Greg, and I wish the writers would stop beating me over the head with their clever little clues. They meet that night and travel to the bridge where Ricky's car went over, and they rent a boat (after dark?) to head out to just under the bridge to hold a seance. Dede leads the seance, and creepy things start to happen. They start to hear a bubbling noise in the water, which Jam is afraid is being caused by a rusty Chevy. Dede tells Ricky's spirit to pick up Judy by the cemetery, and the bubbling noises get louder. The three get freaked out and row away as quickly as possible. 

The next day, prom night, the kids find the grave of Judy Larson at the graveyard. They wait in a spot where they can see both the grave and the gate at the same time. Greg is whining about getting cold. But then they hear windchimes, which obviously means it's a ghost because ghosts carry windchimes. Ha... and then a ghostly figure carrying windchimes appears. I had meant my windchimes comment to be snarky, but then it actually happened. Greg cautiously approaches the ghostly figure... but it is only Jam's cousin who was set up to scare Greg and Dede. Jam is enjoying this and thought Greg was going to "have a cow." Jam is totally awesome. 

Greg and Jam are fighting when Dede notices a shadowy old car coming out through the fog. It is, of course, a '55 Chevy creepily playing "In The Still of the Night" on its radio. Dede is letting her hair down and freakishly singing along with "In the Still of the Night." Greg is all "wtf???" as Dede spins around and is suddenly wearing an elegant ball gown. Shocker! She is really Judy Larson! I never saw it coming. Turns out Dede's her nickname--her real name is Judy (is Dede ever a normal nickname for Judy?). She gets into the car with ghost-Ricky and they head off through the cemetery gates as the car slowly disappears.

Random Thoughts:
-Wikipedia tells me that this show was released on dvd. Is this true? It wasn't part of the Nick Rewind collection, which makes sense given that it wasn't a Nick original. Was it released only in Canada or something? Any Canadian readers out there know anything about this?
-Ricky's Chevy is pink. Umm... creepy?
-So, if Dede didn't know that Ricky was dead, was she leaving flowers at her own grave in the first scene? That's really sad and pathetic.
-My dvd kept skipping near the end. It got really annoying. All the more reason to track down this supposed official release dvd.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"TV or not TV--that is the question": Clarissa Explains It All, 1.03 - No TV

I'm trying really hard to get back to somewhat regular posting with this blog. That being said, I also decided at the last minute to take part in "NaPlWriMo" or National Playwriting Month. It's the playwriting version of NaNoWriMo, where the goal is to write a 75-page play in one month. I think I mentioned it in this blog before, but I'll be starting up an MFA in playwriting next fall (unless I can't make the financials work out, which would be sad). I've had ten days of writing so far, and I am at the top of page 32. Not too bad. But I'm also trying to be rededicated to this blog, so I'll do my best to juggle both this month.

The thing I remember most about this episode was when Clarissa and Ferguson are arguing over the TV, and their remotes turn into lightsaber-like swords and they start fighting with them, and then Janet walks in and says in a Darth Vader-ish voice "That's it. No more TV." I loved that scene.

Clarissa is spying on her family from outside. She reports that Janet has declared no TV for a week to build some family togetherness. She says that she believes it was Karl Marx who said that religion is the opiate of the people and wonders what he would've thought of TV--perhaps it's the potato chips of the people? And, as Clarissa notes, potatoes do have some nutritional value.

The Darlings are sitting in the quiet living room. Marshall is working on a project for his job, Janet is creating a home library card-catalog system, and Ferguson is pretending to read while playing a hand-held video game inside the book. Clarissa, because she is awesome, is staring at the blank TV screen in protest, because it's a "great way to make parents suffer." The family tries to think of something to talk about and sits in silence for a few seconds. Marshall finally remembers a funny story to tell--he was walking by a clothing store and the sweater in the window looked so familiar, and he finally realized that it was one Bill Cosby had worn on The Cosby Show. Soon, Clarissa, Ferguson, and Marshall are laughing over memories of the Cosby episode. Janet disapproves.

Clarissa tells us the story how the family got into this sorry state. A Star Wars-like graphic that reads "Control Wars" flies across a starry background as Clarissa tells us of two warring tribes fighting over control of the TV. She and Ferguson were fighting over the remote, until one day Clarissa sent away for this super-remote that lets her change channels from 30 miles away. Then, all-out war breaks out, and Clarissa and Ferguson lightsaber-battle with their remotes until Darth Vader Janet enters and announces "That's it. No more TV."

Ferguson sucks up to his mother and says he couldn't agree with her decision more. He tries to make it sound like he's spending his time reading educational astronomy books, but as Clarissa points out, it is a book of the complete scripts of Star Trek. The phone rings, and it's Clarissa's friend Jody! Continuity! Jody asks her what she's watching, and she doesn't understand what Clarissa is saying when Clarissa says she's not watching anything. Clarissa tells her mother that without TV she will fall behind the cultural level of her peers and asks where else she can experience the "vast wasteland that we call the 20th century." And she misses Johnny Depp.

Clarissa is up in her room, staring at an empty space where an animated TV is drawn in. She had to turn in her bedroom TV to her mother. Sam enters through the window. He invites Clarissa over, but unfortunately, Janet has decreed that they must be a family together, while Clarissa just wants to be "a family apart, like normal people." She asks Sam to watch this weekend's episode of The Simpsons for her and to tell her what happens to DJ on Full House. And now I miss my childhood.

The next day in Clarissa's room, Sam comes over with a TV scanner for Clarissa, who also has a gigantic roll of wire in her room in an attempt to get a TV signal on her computer. She plans to use her Captain Video's Home Broadcasting and Reception software, and along with a satellite dish on the roof, she should be able to receive signals from around the world by using Sam's "scanning digitzer" to digitze the signals and create the image on her computer. I am loving the 90s pre-internet-ness of this episode. Janet comes up to tell Clarissa that lunch is ready and makes no comment about the giant roll of wire in her bedroom.

In the kitchen, Clarissa tells her mother she's thinking of joining a radical feminist folk-singing group. Ha. Or a fanatic religious cult where you have to shave your head, paint it red, and worship lima beans. Janet is clearly not listening and just says "that's nice dear" to everything, until Clarissa tries to slip in the prospect of maybe just watching some TV, and Janet tells her to forget it. Clarissa gives us a Special Report on "A World Without TV: One Family's Story." Marshall is running around the house fixing things that weren't broken. Janet is making weird health food combinations that would make Dawn Schafer happy such as "alfalfa parfait" and is also getting kind of cranky. Ferguson has passed out at the table and has made the shape of a whale with his drool. Classy. Marshall gets a phone call about a Lakers/Knicks game that's tied in the fourth quarter and runs to the TV. The kids and Janet follow. Janet asks if they're forgetting something, and Ferguson says yes, they forgot halftime snacks. But if the game's in the fourth quarter then halftime is already passed. Good job, writers. Janet's pissed that Marshall would consider breaking her no TV rule. And Marshall is obviously not happy with missing the game.

Whoa. Sam just entered through the front door. Crazy. Sam and the Darlings sit in awkward silence for a few seconds while Janet tries to make small talk with him. Clarissa begs for the return of the TV because it's been a whole entire day. They start up a game of charades, which Clarissa uses as a ruse to set up a signal booster to the downstairs cable for her computer before acting out the charade for "TV repairman." I didn't even realize the TV was broken--I thought it was just voluntarily turned off. Janet's angry that they can't think of anything but TV.

Clarissa and Sam are up in Clarissa's room talking about how weird Janet's being. She likes TV too and grew up with it, "when Laugh-In wasn't in reruns" as Clarissa points out. Clarissa thinks something weird is going on--today she caught Janet spraying aerosol air freshener in the kitchen, when she's usually a total environmentalist. They hook up Clarissa's computer TV, but all they can get is a Russian Home Shopping channel selling potatoes. Sam thinks that's kind of cool, but a loud electric spark kills the power. Clarissa thinks the cable booster must have overloaded. Downstairs, Marshall had apparently tried to turn on the TV when it exploded. Janet comes in to see what the noise was, and she's smoking a cigarette, which she hasn't done in forever. Marshall and Clarissa think that's very weird. She says she needed to calm her nerves because the family was driving her crazy. Can they show smoking on Nick now, even if it's an adult and everyone else comments on how gross it is? Marshall notices Clarissa's cable booster, and Clarissa confesses her computer scheme and offers them a deal on Ukrainian potatoes. Ferguson comes downstairs, looking like he's been through an explosion and screaming about how he won Mega Man 12, even though I don't think that game existed in 1991 or if the series ever even got up to 12. He stops his celebration short when he notices Janet smoking, which he also thinks is very weird.

Clarissa is outside, telling us that now the TV, computer, and Ferguson's "Game Pack" are all in for repairs, so now it's no TV for real (see? It wasn't broken last time... so why did Clarissa act out "TV repairman"?). Janet has thrown away her secret stash of cigarettes. Clarissa thinks it's gross that her mother used to smoke in high school and thinks that sometimes what you don't know about your parents you really don't want to know. She goes back in the living room where Sam and the Darlings are playing another round of charades, more spiritedly this time. Clarissa tells us that she thinks it was famous mime Marcel Marceau who said, "The family that plays charades together, stays together."

Random Thoughts:
-Ha. Clarissa calls Ferguson "pimple-head."
-Sam says he and his dad watch the generically named "sports network" all the time now.
-Sam's really into surfing in this episode because he and his dad got into it. He wears tie-dye and neon "surfer" clothes through the entire episode. The sad thing is that they probably didn't look too outrageous in 1991.