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OMFG? Not so much . . . – The Top Ten “Been There, Seen That” Teen Television Cliches (Part 1 of 2)

It is probably no secret to anyone who has ever stopped by this blog before (or even just examined the above “collage”), that I am a sucker for Trash-tastic Teen Television.  I have been a fan of these types of shows since the age of eight.  That was when I first decided that I desperately wanted to be a teen.  And I have no doubt that I will remain a fan, long after I have cruised past “old age,” and am forced to squint through my coke bottle glasses, and smile through my dentures, at the sight of some pipsqueaks (who bear a suspicious resemblance to my grandkids) attending prom on my small screen.

“That is one hot threesome.  Oh, when I think back to my first threesome . . . ah memories!”

Having been around the “teenage television” block quite a bit since my eighth birthday, I have come to notice a few patterns among my favorite teen dramas.  Over the years, I have watched in wonder, as certain storylines traveled across decades,  time zones, and networks, just to reach my lowly television set, over and over (and over and over) again . . .  So I’ve decided to investigate these storylines, in hopes of FINALLY figuring out what makes them so “gosh darn special!”

1) “Hit me with a baby, one more time!” – The Pregnancy Scare and/or Actual Pregnancy Plotline

The Storyline: Our teen female protagonist has sex . . . usually for the first time.  Her partner is either a long, LONG time boyfriend, with whom she has been discussing doing the deed for the ENTIRE season . . .

 Or, conversely, he is a one night-stand, who she (a) barely knows; or (b) seemingly despises.  There is never any in between. 

In the very next scene, our protagonist learns that she has missed her period.  She is FLIPPING THE F&CK OUT!

She keeps her discovery a secret from everyone, except for her best friend.  And the best friend is inevitably the one who convinces the protagonist to take the pregnancy test.

Regardless of the pregnancy test’s ultimate result, inevitably there comes a time when our protagonist has to have “The Discussion” with “The Maybe Baby Daddy.” 

 Sometimes, he takes it well . .  . usually, he doesn’t . . . at least, not at first.

Now, if the protagonist ends up not being pregnant . . . well then . . . THAT’S IT!  Our protagonist is RELIEVED!  She feels brand NEW!  She’s CHANGED!

She will pretend this whole little sweeps week episode never happened (or, in the case of Manny Santos, and Degrassi, the U.S. will pretend this whole episode never happened . . . by NOT AIRING IT, until about 3 years after it was actually filmed).  However, if our protagonist IS pregnant . . . we get stuck with a baby storyline for ALL ETERNITY (or at least it will seem that way  . . .)!

Examples: Brenda on 90210 (not actually pregnant); Andrea on 90210 (actually pregnant / had baby / raised baby); Summer on The O.C. (not actually pregnant); Manny on Degrassi: The Next Generation (actually pregnant / had abortion); Liberty on Degrassi: The Next Generation (pregnant / had baby / gave baby up for adoption); Emma on Degrassi: The Next Generation (not actually pregnant / feeling left out because EVERYONE else on her show actually was); Blair on Gossip Girl (not actually pregnant);  Georgina on Gossip Girl (To Be Determined?); Amy on Secret Life of the American Teenager (actually pregnant / had baby / is raising baby); Quinn on Glee (actually pregnant / had baby / gave baby up for adoption).

Why it’s a cliche?

“Hey there, boys and girls!  I’ve got a message for you!  Premarital sex is BAAAAAAAAD!”

Teen television programs tend to be written by adults.  And even the most hip and forward thinking adults, don’t like to think about their 15-year old kids f*c*ing eachother’s brains out like bunny rabbits on acid. 

So they ever so subtly try to scare the crap out of their kids, by showing them how having sex once can RUIN THEIR LIVES FOREVER!  It doesn’t really work . . .

This storyline is SO overdone that precisely NO ONE is shocked or dismayed by the prospect of a female protagonist  . . . missing her period.  Hey writers, want to REALLY scare your kids celibate?  Give your television characters crabs. 

That will permanently glue your teen’s legs shut for sure!

2) “OH NO!  You killed .  . . what’s his name again?” – The Death of the Peripheral Character Plotline

 

The Storyline:  There is this recurring character on your favorite show that has becoming increasingly annoying, of late. 

You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you just think the character really sucks. 

And you can’t wait for him or her to leave your television screen ALONE! 

You spend WAY too much time bashing this minor character on online message boards, and in snarky recaps of the show.  In those messages, you may or may not beg the show’s writers for said character’s untimely demise. 

Then the character actually DIES. 

And you’re secretly happy that you got what you wanted. 

But NOW you’re convinced you are very sh*tty person.  Because, REALLY, what kind of nice, normal person is HAPPY when someone dies, real or fake?  Even though very few of the characters on your show seemed to like this character any more than you did, while he was alive, they all make a big show of mourning and /or having a funeral for him or her.  

Your favorite character will inevitably give the eulogy for this character.  And it will be all warm, and fuzzy, and heartfelt . . . and, of course, totally depressing. 

And YOU will surprise yourself by crying like a baby when you watch it (probably out of guilt for openly hating the character so much . . . or . . .  maybe the scene just reminds you of a dead relative).  After the episode airs, the show’s entire cast will COMPLETELY forget that this dead character ever existed . . .

Examples: Scott on 90210, Abby on Dawson’s Creek; Rick on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Johnny on The O.C., that dude Serena supposedly “killed” on Gossip Girl, Percy and Reed on Grey’s Anatomy (not technically a teen show, but still . . .), Vicki on The Vampire Diaries

Why it’s a cliche?  The “Very Special” Dead Person episode of any teen show is sure to be a ratings grabber, no matter how unlikeable the soon-to-be dead character was before he met his demise.  Plus, killing any character on their show (even if it’s just a one-episode guest star) allows producers to run that oh-so-original . . . “SOMEBODY WILL DIE!” promo the week before their episode airs, and you know how ALL producers LOVE that promo! 

3) “Hot for Teacher!” – The Inappropriate Student / Teacher Relationship Plotline

The Storyline:  The protagonist has a crush on his or her very attractive (yet obviously lonely, and very desperate), teacher. 

The teacher makes a lame ass attempt to rebuff the protagonists affections, but fails miserably. 

Soon the student and the teacher are doing the horizontal mambo together in secret. 

Someone always finds out.  Someone always exposes them for the sluts they both are. 

It always ends badly . . .

Examples: Pacey and Miss Jacobs on Dawson’s Creek, Paige and Mr. O on Degrassi: The Next Generation, Dan and Miss Carr on Gossip Girl, Aria and Mr. Fitz on Pretty Little Liars

Why it’s a cliche?  Forbidden love is HOT!  And cougars are all the rage!  Plus, who HASN’T had a crush on one of their teachers and indulged in a naughty fantasy, or two (or twenty) involving same? 

 Mine was my freshman history teacher in high school.  He was pretty young, compared to most of my teachers at that time . . . probably in his mid-to-late twenties . . . and single.  Actually, he kind of looked like this . . .

 . . . only he was a wee bit older . . . and he generally wore shirts (unfortunately).  Coincidentally, Mr. Devlin, if your reading this . . . 😉

4) “Cheaters never win, and winners never . . . whatever.” – The Cheating on a Test / Plagiarism Plotline

Storyline: The protagonist REALLY needs to pass a particular test or ace a certain paper.  He or she is under a lot of external pressure to do so. 

 But something happens, so that he or she doesn’t have time to do the appropriate amount of studying and /or research.  He or she is tempted, upon receiving answers to the test or a pre-written paper, to . . . CHEAT!

The protagonist struggles with whether or not to enter into the dark evil world of “school crime,” but ultimately does. 

Because the character cheated, he or she does so well on the test or paper that his teacher inevitably wants to enter him or her in some national competition of some sort related to the aforementioned paper or test.  Smothered by guilt, the character eventually comes clean.  He or she then gets in trouble . . . 

But not in nearly as much trouble as the character would, if caught, in . . . say . . . the REAL WORLD . . .

“It can’t possibly be worse than when I got that awful haircut . . .”

Examples: Felicity on Felicity, Andie on Dawson’s Creek, Rusty on Greek, Lindsay and Daniel on Freaks and Geeks, Spencer on Pretty Little Liars

Why it’s a cliche?  One word:  schadenfreude.  You see, here’s the thing . . . every teen show has that one uptight overachieving character, who always gets A’s, is super judgmental of all of her “less brilliant” friends, and never seems to do anything wrong.  Admit it!  It’s kind of fun to see tight asses like that crack under the pressure . . .

Make that VERY fun!

5) “I’m gonna do real bad things to you .  . . and make you DO real bad things!”  – The “Bad Influence” Plotline

The Storyline: Our protagonist is going through kind of a “rough patch” in his or her life.  He or she is therefore looking to let loose, and have some sort of emotional and/or physical release.  In walks a character who is fun, adventurous, and more than a little dangerous. 

Our protagonist starts hanging out with the “dangerous” character a lot. 

(Click the internal link to watch!)

Before you know it, he or she is behaving just like the “dangerous” character, and getting into all sorts of trouble as a result.   

 The protagonists other friends are jealous of all the fun their typically boring protagonist is now having.  But they are also worried.  Inevitably, the moment comes when protagonist is about to get into a cr*p load of trouble with the “dangerous” character. 

 The friends stage an intervention of sorts. 

It works!

 The dangerous character rides away on the evil broomstick by which it came.  All is, once again, right (and boring) with the world . . .

Examples: Abby influencing Jen on Dawson’s Creek, Georgina influencing Serena on Gossip Girl, Damon influencing Caroline on The Vampire Diaries, “The Freaks” influencing Lindsay on Freaks and Geeks, that character Paul Wesley played on Everwood influencing Hannah on Everwood, that character Paul Wesley played on The O.C. influencing Ryan and Seth on The O.C.

Why it’s a cliche?  Everybody’s got a dark side.  Secretly, we all want to be a little “bad” sometimes.  The good news is that we can do it safely and vicariously, by watching our favorite “good” television characters “go bad,” albeit temporarily.  They have fun while doing it . . . and so do we, at least until their lame friends bring them back to earth.

Well, that’s all the teen television cliches I have for tonight.  But please tune in tomorrow, when I tackle love triangles, love-hate relationships, prom, the ever enlightening “trip to Europe,” and, of course, the dreaded ski trip  .  . .

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Filed under Freaks and Geeks, Glee, Gossip Girl, Greek, Pretty Little Liars, The O.C., The Vampire Diaries, Top Ten Lists

Don’t Cry for Me, Sue Sylvester!: A Recap of Glee’s “Home”

  

Glad to see my girl, Mercedes, happy and smiling again!

This week’s installment of Glee might not have been the show’s most GLEE-FUL (Everyone was CRYING during it!), but it was certainly its most heartfelt.  As you can probably gather from the title, the episode’s theme was “home” (and just in case you didn’t get the theme from the title, the entire cast hit you on the head with it, sledgehammer style, by using the word, about every 5 minutes).

The “home” in question, referred to a house, in the literal sense, like the one Mr. Schuester was trying to sublet, pending his divorce.  It also referred to “home” in the more abstract sense, like the inner peace Mercedes had to regain, regarding her body.

“All this talk about HOME is making me HOMESICK, Toto!”

Let’s revisit, shall we? 

There’s No Place Like Inside Will Schuester’s Pants . . .

When the episode begins, the Glee club is homeless, due to Sue Sylvester’s commandeering of the auditorium for use by her Cheerios (of which, by now, half of the Glee kids just so happen to be members).  Ummm . . . to be honest, I’m not sure why this was such an issue.  I always thought the Gleeks held their practice sessions in the music room, you know, the one we always see them practicing in.  Anyway, as a result of this plot device unfortunate circumstance, Mr. Schuester (a.k.a Will) is forced to search for a temporary “home” for his Glee club, and randomly decides that the 1980’s would be a perfect place for them to go (last week, after all, was the Madonna episode). 

So, our favorite Glee coach travels back in time . . . to a roller rink . . . and to a previous episode of the show, guest starring Kristin Chenoweth . . .

Yes, boys and girls, you probably remember Kristin’s guest starring role on Glee, during the first half of the season, as the boozy songstress, April.  Well, now, apparently, April is back, and conveniently in charge of the roller rink that constitutes the “only possible” place for our Gleeks to practice (aside from the music room, of course).  April gallantly lets Will use the roller rink as Glee Club practice space.  She’s also willing to prospectively help him find a subletter for his home.  Why, you ask?  Because April is a girl, and everyone knows that all GIRLS on Glee (except for maybe, Sue Sylvester)desire a coveted spot inside the Schuester pantalones (a spot which is becoming increasingly less exclusive as the weeks progress)!

“Come on inside, ladies.  There’s room in here for EVERYBODY!”

April swings by Will’s place, ostensibly to check out the apartment, but ends up spending the night.  Surprisingly, these two don’t actually do it!

I know, Mr. Monkey, I was shocked too!

However, they did sing a couple of rousing show tunes together, about how lonely they both were.  And nothing says foreplay like SHOW TUNES!

After the foreplay show tunes singing, Will goes into Daddy mode, and self-righteously lectures April on how crappy her life is right now.  (Right, because YOU are the epitome of healthy living, Man Slut Will).  And to his credit, Will Schuester must be REALLY good at singing show tunes, because one talk with him is all it takes for April to decide to clean up her life and head out of town, but not before she buys the Glee club its auditorium, of course .  . .

Our Parents are Dating Eachother, So We Should TOTALLY Date TOO . . .

“You’re so TENSE future step-brother.  Maybe a full body massage would help.”

Speaking of pantalones, I’m not exactly sure what gave Kurt the brilliant idea that, if you have a crush on someone, becoming related to them is the PERFECT way to get them to do it with you (particularly if that person is straight, and you are gay)!  And yet, that was precisely our boy Kurt’s dastardly plan at the beginning of this episode.  We watch as Kurt deftly orchestrates the coupling of his widower father (played by Mike O’Malley) with Finn’s widowed mom.  And, wouldn’t you know it, these two fall completely in love, during the course of a SINGLE EPISODE!

Finn, who sees any “moving on” he and his mother might do, as a direct betrayal of his deceased dad, is not too happy with this new state of affairs.  And he lets both Finn and his mother know it, in no uncertain terms.  I love how when a very hurt Kurt sings “A House is Not a Home” directly to Finn during Glee practice, Puck mouths to Finn “Are you gay?”  (It might have been wise for Kurt to ask Finn this same question, before he started going through all this trouble!)

To further complicate matters, when Kurt and Finn, and their respective parents, all go out to eat together, Kurt’s dad starts talking football with Finn, which makes Kurt, who has always desired a closer relationship with his “man’s man” father, extremely jealous.  But . . . wait . . . isn’t Kurt on the football team too?

Did Kurt not WIN a football game for his school, by distracting the opposing team with his hypnotic “Single Ladies” dance, just a few months ago?

I mean that’s gotta count for something, right?  During the episode, Kurt comes to terms with his relationship with his father, while Finn comes to terms with the loss of his.  Ultimately, Finn allows Kurt’s dad to sit in his father’s sacred chair, while the two bond over a college football game.  Kurt looks on wistfully, but with a new understanding of the situation.

What it takes to be Beautiful . . .

“Just for cheering, not for EATING!”

Poor Mercedes!  The minute Sue Sylvester calls her and Kurt into her office, we just know she’s in for some trouble.   “How do you two not have a show on Bravo?”  Sue inquires, as the spunky pair banters with one another, just seconds before Sue rips their hearts out.  (And, she’s RIGHT!  I would TOTALLY watch a Bravo show starring these two!)

Check out Kurt and Mercedes in Bravo’s new hit show “Girl Talk,” on Thursday nights (right after Project Runway)

In preparation from an upcoming interview with a premiere journalist, Sue Sylvester has given her newest Cheerio an ultimatum: “Lose ten pounds, or you’re off the squad.”

To her credit, Mercedes initially goes about losing the weight the right way, by ordering a healthy lo-cal lunch at the cafeteria.  Unfortunately, Mercedes’ “friends” intervene, giving her “advice,” ranging from the bad to the downright insulting.

“Don’t ruin this for me!” Kurt says.

“Would you rather feel bad and look good, or feel good and look bad?”  Santana asks, after suggesting that Mercedes drink a “meal replacement” shake, that will cause her to instantly regurgitate all her food.

“We like you no matter what you look like,” says Artie (good sentiment, poor delivery)

“I’m pretty sure my cat has been reading my diary,” says Brittany.

(LOVE this girl!  I’m so glad they’ve decided to upgrade her to series regular status.  She totally deserves it.)

 . . . and so does her cat. 

Mercedes soon begins starving herself, to the point where she faints in the lunchroom.  Surprisingly, the only person with anything remotely supportive to say to Mercedes throughout this entire ordeal is Quinn.

In a very touching scene, Quinn visits Mercedes in the nurse’s office, offers her a granola bar, and tells her she is beautiful.  “You’ve always been at home in your body.  I admired that about you,” Quinn counsels.

Having had body issues in the past, and having gained a new understanding about healthy eating, as a result of her pregnancy, Quinn is able to commiserate with Mercedes, and provide her with some good advice.  I love the journey the writers have taken with Quinn this season.  She has certainly come along way from the shallow self-righteous girl we knew from the pilot. 

At the pep rally, Mercedes surprises everyone by giving a heart-warming speech about the importance of feeling comfortable in your own skin.  She then asks the entire student body to join her in a rendition of Christina Aquilera’s Beautiful, that, in my opinion, was by far, the best performance of the evening.  (Then again, maybe that’s just because I’m not a big fan of show tunes.)  You can hear Mercedes, in all her glory, here:

After the performance, a nervous Sue Sylvester . . .

 . . . meets with the journalist, who she is convinced will berate her for the impromptu performance.  And, initially, it seems as though he will do just that.  “The minute I met you, I instantly disliked you . . . Twice you called me Rerun, and I was also beginning to think you were a little racist.”

NOT the journalist!

While the journalist initially had plans to expose Sue for her bad behavior, he was pleasantly surprised by what he saw during the pep rally.  Assuming that Sue had orchestrated the whole thing, he calls her a visionary, and promises to “open doors for her,” by writing a highly laudatory article about the cheerleading coach.  To Sue’s credit, she ACTUALLY looks like she feels kind of guilty about all the undeserved praise she is receiving.  But just like the other few times us viewers have been made privy to Sue’s softer side, I’m sure it won’t last very long . . .

  • That’s all folks.  It was definitely not my favorite Glee episode, but it had some good moments.  What did you think?  Are you excited about the prospect of Kurt and Finn as step-brothers?  Were you as shocked as I was that Jesse St. James had NO lines during this episode, and Rachel only had one?  Would you watch a Bravo show starring Mercedes and Kurt?  If you were Brittany’s cat, would you read her diary too?

 

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