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.


Molly said...

You know, as an adult, I'm really appreciating the awesomeness of Clarissa in ways I never really did as a kid. I mean, a character in a kid's TV show referencing Karl Marx? That's amazing. They really don't make clever shows for kids these days.

nikki said...

Janet makes a card catalog for her home library. Heh...I tried to do the same thing when I was about 12 years old. I always wanted to be more organized than I actually am!

Recap That! said...

Wow. I wasn't remembering this episode at all until the health food. I REALLY remember that. :D

And I also tried to make a card catalogue for my library, but I was ten, and it was after getting the idea from a BSC book.

Great post as usual!

Peter Fallow said...

I Just wanted to add that ( is a great resource for finding out where reception problems are most likely to occur.

colleenn said...

Molly - Yeah, the Karl Marx reference took me by surprise too. I definitely underestimated the awesomeness of Clarissa as a nine-year-old.

Nikki - I had visions of creating a home library when I was younger, but I never actually did it. I probably got the idea from a Baby-Sitters Club book though.

Recap That! - It's funny , because the health foods were one of the details I didn't remember at all about this episode. It's funny what stays with you.

And "Peter Fallow," thank you so much for my first spam comment. I'd delete it, but then my sarcastic comment here would make no sense.