So I finally, today, finished my last paper of this semester (!!!), which, by my peculiar procrastinatory habits, also means that I’m onto season two of my ONCE AND AGAIN dvds.
I just finished the episode “I Can’t Stand Up (For Falling Down),” written by Daniel & Sue Paige, who are not my favorite of the O&A writers, and some parts of this episode reminded me of why — like, because the episode’s framed around Eli’s struggles with the SAT, the episode starts with Eli, in one of the show’s trademark “artistic” black & white internal monologues, reciting SAT questions. For like five minutes. I am not joking.
But there was one scene that I admired for how it set up really obvious cliches, and then deflated them, all without making a huge deal of it. The setup is that Karen’s dorky boyfriend Leo has gotten her son Eli’s band a “possible gig.” (Said band, by the way, features a young and odd Adam Brody of THE O.C. fame.) The high school band is already such a cliche in and of itself*, and adding the first gig — it’s like, we may as well be watching the high school girl excitedly informing her parents of her first date and her dad settling in to interrogate the dude, is how high up we are on the list of things that happen on every tv show ever but in real life? Not so much by my count, but anyway — but the awesome thing is, the Adam Brody character in particular totally just mocks the shit out of Leo. There is no squealing over the gig, not even any Deep Pronouncements About the Art, just a mild sendup of how trite this all is. Nice.
Then, of course, we’re by extension into the territory of this scene’s other big cliche — Leo’s the guy who can’t quite accept he’s an adult and wants to be the one the high school kids think is cool — except when the Adam Brody character calls him on this by snarkily telling him he can’t actually be in the band, Leo basically tells him to go fuck himself. It’s very well delivered. And all this happens in the span of about two minutes, setting up and knocking down two easy chestnuts, so I’m all, “IIIIIIII’ve seen this befo– oh, nice! Oh, I know what they’re d– oh, heh!”
Well played, Paiges. Well played. Now, though, about those SAT questions. Please don’t do that again.
* By the way, the time I’ve seen the high school band/”soulful” musician device put to best use despite the cliches — and yes, it pains me to not have this be MY SO-CALLED LIFE’s “On the Wagon” episode, which is a total classic — is in pretty much every episode of FREAKS AND GEEKS. Jason Segal’s alacritous** embracing of every humiliation imaginable is put to the best possible use. So painful. So awesome.
** In reaction to the episode, I am now making up my own SAT words.