I was a child of the 80s, so I am in hog heaven with the pop culture blitz going on right now. Not only are we seeing the return of 80s heroes to the big screen (with Indiana Jones in May and The Incredible Hulk coming up a few weeks from now), but the studios seem to be unloading all of their awesome 80s content on DVD before hi-def saturates the market in a few years.
In this unloading process, I’m able to relive some of my fun but turbulent formative years. The latest 80s flashback to come across my desk is the short-lived but much beloved television series Square Pegs.
Created by SNL writer Anne Beatts in 1982, this show followed two geeky girls named Patty and Lauren (Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker) as they enter their freshman year at Weemawee High School. Lauren is obsessed with clicking with the popular crowd, but they always misfire. Still, they find fast friends in Marshall Blechtman (John Femia) and New Wave fan Johnny Slash (totally Merritt Butrick… totally).
If Square Pegs had come out today, it would have run for at least seven or eight seasons on a mid-tier network, or at least on cable. Sadly, back in 1983 (when it was cancelled), networks were looking for massive, wide-demo appeal. Still, with only nineteen episodes, the series helped launch the careers of Sarah Jessica Parker and Jamie Gertz.
In some ways, Square Pegs reminds me of That 70s Show, considering how steeped in pop culture it was. The only difference is that That 70s Show was made as an homage to an era while Square Pegs simply existed in its own time. The language, the styles and the music were utterly contemporary when the show was made, and watching it today makes me want to break out the parachute pants and checkered shoes.
Sure, the stories were corny, and the characters were often shallow. However, we forget that the show centered itself around high school students who (no offense to any high school students reading this) aren’t known for their depth.
Lauren’s obsession with popularity seems hyper-realistic, but I remember a friend of my sister’s who had the same single-mindedness for popularity. Marshall Blechtman’s somewhat annoying stand-up attempts grate on the nerves a bit, but even my wife noticed the similarities between his personality and a high school friend of mine.
I really wish that Square Pegs had clicked beyond just the high school crowd back in the early 80s. It could have been a Saved by the Bell for my generation, with better stories and funnier situations. If you weren’t alive in the 80s, you might not get all the jokes and references, but the situations and humor should be timeless enough to enjoy.
The DVD, which features all 19 episodes produced for the series, includes Weemawee Yearbook Memories, which are sit-down interviews with Anne Beatts, the surviving members of the cast and a tribute to Merritt Butrick who died in the late 80s. There’s also minisodes of an episode of The Facts of Life and Silver Spoons, which condense the half-hour shows into 5 minute bytes.
THE UPSIDE: A great piece of nostalgia from the 80s.
THE DOWNSIDE: There’s only one season ever made.
ON THE SIDE: Go to The Minisode Network to watch 5-minute episodes of everything from Diff’rent Strokes to T.J. Hooker! Totally awesome… totally!