Friday, April 9, 2010

Fifteen is more than a number, it's a state of mind...and a Nickelodeon show...and in March it's the day Caesar was killed

For the past week, I've been holed up in my room, mainlining Diet Sunkist, and watching the first season of Fifteen on iTunes. What's Fifteen, you ask. Uh, it's only the best Canadian teen soap opera EVER. And that's really saying something because Canadians do angsty adolescent melodrama like no one else. (They also have the balls to cast real-life (kinda ugly) teenagers as teenagers. Novel idea, I know.) Fifteen aired here in the States on Nickelodeon from 1991 to 1993 and a couple of years ago when many nostalgia loving 20-somethings were testifying before Congress, demanding the DVD release of Salute Your Shorts (which, incidentally, is also available on iTunes), I was starting a letter-writing campaign to get Fifteen out of the heavily guarded Nickelodeon vault (that also holds Round House and Welcome Freshmen) and into my house. Actually, that isn't true but those clever folks over at Apple Inc. are intuitive and knew that I'd pay $19.99 to download the first season. Anyway, I now have the opportunity to reminisce with those of you who remember Fifteen or alternatively introduce it to anyone who somehow made it through high school without this essential primer. 

The Cast
Overachieving, soft-spoken, goody-goody Ashley dates Matt, the captain of the basketball team. She is disgustingly cute and perfect. Her only flaw is how pale she is. But even that extreme lack of pigmentation is sort of gorgeous and actually makes her look ethereal and mythical and glowy like Liam Neeson in Clash of the Titans.

Sample Dialogue
Courtney: Ashley, what's wrong?
Ashley: It doesn't matter you're the one whose parents just got separated.
Courtney: Ashley, what's wrong?
Ashley: It's just my English test. We had a test on Monday and we're getting it back today.
Courtney: What's wrong with that?
Ashley: I failed it.
Courtney: How do you know until you get it back?
Ashley: I don't need to get it back. I just blew it.


Ashley: Courtney, guess what? I did okay!
Courtney: So what exactly does okay mean?
Ashley: Well, okay.
Courtney: About 96%?
Ashley: Not quite. 92.

Ashley's best friend Courtney dresses like Mrs. Cunningham, my first grade teacher. Every time she speaks, her voice quivers and it's like any slight shift in the wind could push her over the edge, leading to a complete emotional breakdown and a summer vacay in a psychiatric hospital. She's desperate to be loved but also, I think, a bit of a masochist and develops a crush on moody bad boy Dylan.

Sample Dialogue
Jake: I'm really sorry.
Courtney: (sigh) I know you are. So am I.
Jake: If there's anything I can do...
Courtney: Like what? (sigh) Look, it's all right. (sigh) Okay, so it's not all right. But what's anyone supposed to do? It's happened (sigh), now we've all just got to cope with it. (sigh) It's just weird. (sigh) When they told us they were getting separated it didn't...seem...quite...real. But all of a sudden..
Jake: How's Billy?
Courtney: I don't know (sigh) he seems okay, I guess. (sigh) But I don't think it's quite sunk in yet either. He's just a kid.
Jake: Like I say, if there's anything...
Courtney: (sigh) Yeah, sure. Hey, at times like this you're supposed to look at the bright side, right? 
Jake: Is there one?
Courtney: There's gotta be. (sigh) Besides, you know I like to write, maybe I should just look at this as the raw material for a really great story.

A-hole jock with weird 90s haircut and a drinking problem. When I was eight years old I was in love with this kid. Ashley used to sit on his lap in between classes, which I perceived as the end all be all of male-female intimacy. I imagined myself in high school sitting on lap after lap after lap.

Sample Dialogue
Matt: C'mon, you can't have a party without beer.
Ashley: Well, actually you can.
Matt: Aw man. Here we go. The "just say no to beer" lecture.
Ashley: I'm not lecturing.
Matt: Look, it's not totally unusual for guys to have a few beers on Saturday night. So what's the problem?
Jake: No one's saying it's a problem.
Matt: Good.

Matt's Asian best friend, Jake strokes the douche's ego while establishing his epicness for the audience by saying things like "You're Matt Walker" over and over again. Jake has a crush on Courtney (and probably on Matt as well, though that's never explored).

Sample Dialogue
Matt: I got a note from coach Williams. He wants to meet with me at noon.
Jake: Oh yeah? What's up?
Matt: Who knows.
Jake: He probably just wants to know if he needs to bring the rest of the team to the game or whether you think you can win it by yourself.
Matt: Yeah right.
Jake: Catch ya later, Ace.

The manipulative bitch of Hillside, Brooke tries to sabotage Matt's relationship with Ashley. She is pathologically evil, has mastered the diabolical bitch grin, and her hair is hella fly. 

Sample Dialogue
Brooke: If I want Matt to take an interest, he'll take an interest.
Kelly: Brooke the irresistible, huh?
Brooke: Theresa thinks it's terrible, of course. She thinks it's all horribly unfair to Ashley.
Kelly: Well, it probably is.
Brooke: Of course it is. That's the whole point. It's not my fault if I can't stand her, is it?

Kelly, Brooke's sidekick, is simultaneously the token black chick AND the token braces-wearer. According to the modern vernacular, Kelly and Brooke are frenemies. Although Kelly appears to be an underling, she isn't afraid of Brooke and has been known to carry an Afro pick. 

Sample Dialogue
Brooke: We've been spreading little rumors again, have we?
Kelly: Moi?
Brooke: Theresa tells me that people have been talking about me and Matt. Just a wild guess, but I wondered if you had anything to do with it.
Kelly: Oh, I might have dropped the odd comment.

Brooke's kid sister who is somehow able to refrain from poisoning her older sibling. 

Sample Dialogue
Brooke: It wouldn't be my fault if Matt was still interested in me.
Theresa: But that's not fair. I mean, Brooke, Matt's going out with Ashley. Don't you think you should just leave them alone?

Dylan wears a leather jacket, which is how you know he's a rebel and that his name is Dylan. But he's also a sensitive musician who'll occasionally make-out with emotionally unstable chicks who dress like grandmas. 

Sample Dialogue

Courtney's kid brother and fellow admirer of Dylan. Eventually dates Alanis from You Can't Do That On Television and then marries Scarlett Johansson.
Sample Dialogue
(Dylan plays tasty guitar riff)
Billy: Hey, that was really good.
Dylan: Oh. Hi, kid.
Billy: I mean, that was really good.
Dylan: I hack around a little.
Billy: That wasn't just hacking around. I didn't know you could play the guitar like that.
Dylan: Hey, did you know that Jimi Hendrix played guitar left-handed?
Billy: Who?

So I was in 2nd/3rd grade when Fifteen was on the air and I looked at everyone on the show with pure awe. Anxious to grow up and finally become fifteen, the show created all of these expectations and notions about what it meant to be in high school...

1. In high school you drink soda ALL THE TIME.
The kids at Hillside hung out at a place called The Avalon. This is where they discussed their alcoholism, cried about their parents' separation, but more importantly, this is where they drank tall glasses of soda. Actually, strike that. They never really drank from the glasses, they just played with their straws. How The Avalon stayed in business, I'll never know. A soda costs, what, two bucks? And no one ever ordered food. There was no way this place was making any sort of profit.

2. In high school people argue with you and then storm off. When this happens and you're left standing there in front of your locker all alone, you should stare off into space for ten seconds.

What the hell were they looking at? Were they watching whoever just yelled at them walk the entire length of the hallway? Were they contemplating life's mysteries? Perhaps they were thinking about what kind of soda they'd order and then NEVER DRINK later that afternoon.

3. In high school you never stand or sit. You pose.

I know, I know, after reading all of this you're dying to watch an episode. Well, if you don't want to shell out any money, I found this really crappy Youtube upload. Enjoy.


Jane Marie said...

FIFTEEN!! I was beginning to think I imagined this show because no one else I know remembers it. Remember Olaf, the chess-playing exchange student?

I loved this show. Like you, it made me long for high school. Also, our public library had a whole set of Fifteen BOOKS! Which were just as awesome as they sound. I wish I could find those.

Amber, you made my night.

miss. chief said...

Wow, I've never heard of this one, but as I am an avid Degrassi Jr.High (original series) lover, I'll be sure to check it out!

Amber said...

Jane: I don't think I've ever met another person who remembers this show. And Olaf was such a bizarre character. He was Swedish but spoke perfect english and had no accent.

miss. chief: You definitely need to check this one out. It doesn't really "go there" like Degrassi but it's still very enjoyable.

RAY J said...

omg I remember this show - almost forgot Ryan Reynolds was on it too!

I didn't watch it much though - my parents thought that a show about fifteen year olds was a bit too "mature" for my 7 year old self, despite the fact my best friend watched and her parents didn't seem to care (my parents were the uber strict ones, while hers were pretty laidback - I was always sooo jealous at the things they'd let her do that I wasn't allowed to, lol...)

I remember thinking how "grown up" these kids were, but looking at the pictures now - what little dorks they look like!

Funny you mentioned Roundhouse and Welcome Freshman - I loved watching the Welcome Freshman reruns and I remember when we visited Nickelodeon Studios at Universal Studios, Orlando we got to see the set of Roundhouse prior to the show airing - it was pretty neat!

Amiee said...

Never heard of this one, but loved the other great Canadian Ready Or Not. I'd much rather watch realistic ugly teens then 25 year olds a la Beverely Hills.

Amber said...

Ray J: First of all, I'm incredibly jealous that you got to see the Roundhouse set. That was really one of my favorite Nick shows and I was totally depressed when it was canceled. And you're right about how grown up everyone on Fifteen seemed.

Amiee: I looooooove Ready or Not. Busy and Amanda were the shiz.

No One Reads The Copy said...

I think we had the same childhood. I remember seeing the movie The Faculty and saying, OMG the mother alien is Ashley from Fifteen and no one but my brother knowing what I was talking about.

for the record, I didn't literally say OMG.

Christina In Wonderland said...

It would make sense I've never seen this, it being 1991- 1993 and all, and I was only six. :(

Ally said...

OMG! I just blogged about Fifteen last week. I loved Ryan Reynolds on this show.

Visit me at

nikki said...

I officially LOVE you Amber. I mean I always kinda liked you. But now I want to fucking marry you.

My sister and I actually have emailed Nickelodeon asking them to release Fifteen on DVD. So yeah.... I'm that big a loser. I can still quote from that show.
Matt: I'm not drunk.
Jake: Then why is there liquor on your breath RIGHT NOW???

I can't believe you forgot to mention the pinball machine at The Avalon. That thing was completely, deathly silent.

Way way back when I first started my blog, I reviewed a Fifteen book that I found at a used bookstore. Somehow it was worse than the TV show.

Copyboy said...

Such a complete review I feel like I've seen the whole season...And then some. Great post 'n dialogue.

Kara said...

I totally remember watching this on Nickelodeon!! Wow, blast from the past!! And I had no clue that was little Ryan Reynolds. My how he has grown.

Jen said...

Bad ass. I seriously love you for this. And I had totally forgotten that the alien girl from The Faculty was on this show!

Although, seriously, $20 iTunes? I'd pay $10, but they're not getting $20 out of me unless it's a physical release that I get to keep.

soft nonsense said...

Unfortunately, not one of the Nick shows in my basic childhood rotation fact, not one that I ever remember being on. Might just be a stupid Kansas thing though....

But mmm mmmmm Ryan Reynolds....God bless that man. Though he does look a little bit like Beaver in that first picture.

MC said...

See, I had a different teen soap memory from that era.

Swan's Crossing

Sadako said...

I never saw this one but I wish I had. Awesomely vintage!

Carrie said...

I'm Nikki' (above) sister. And yes, we loved this show. Ashley was also on a season of 24. She was a terrorist, ha ha.

Sarah said...

Oh, my gosh, FIFTEEN! Thank you for reviewing this. Like others who have commented, I thought I made the show up, because no one I know remembers it.
And a shout out to Roundhouse? I LOVED Roundhouse! No one ever remembers that one, either.

Another David said...

I've never seen this show, but now I really want to. And I wish more places served soda in those tall old-timey glasses :/

Pana said...

!!!!! !!!!! !!!!!

I can't believe that ever-elusive childhood treasure is available on iTunes! Sometimes I wondered if I dreamed Fifteen. I remember when I first had access to the novelty of a search engine in the late 90s one of the things I tried to look up was Fifteen. And there was nothing to find!

Ashley and her whispery voice have made their eternal stamp on my mind - I regularly picture her as a character in a (usually young adult)(usually about the end of the world) book.

As a kid I thought Matt was a dreamboat to the max yet in retrospect he is not so. Although he looks vaguely reminiscent of my favorite Mickey Mouse Club member, Marc - also Canadian, if memory serves.

On Fifteen there being a character named Roxanne, which was a billions thrills for me as a youngster, because that is also my name and - it seemed at the time - no one else's. So much so that there was never a keychain or magnet with my name preprinted for me to waste money on. And that was HARD.

Also! Dylan was later on Felicity and, most recently, Vampire Diaries, and then he was killed by vampire relatives and I thought, I hate this show! and then I kept watching it.

Oh! Plus! (because this comment isn't long enough) I sing the Roundhouse theme song ALL THE TIME. And by that I don't mean some vague idea about how I like it and remember it, I mean at least once per week it gets stuck in my head and I sing it aloud.

Amber said...

Nikki: You're right, the pinball machine was oddly silent. And personally, I think it's awesome that you're able to quote Fifteen. I really, really wish that I could get my hands on one of those books. I don't think they're available on Amazon.

Jen: Yeah, $20 is a little excessive but I'm kind of impulsive when it comes to this nostalgia stuff. I just bought the entire first season of Daria on iTunes as well when I should be using the money to pay my student loans off or some responsible crap like that.

Carrie: Thanks for stopping by! I need to watch that episode of 24. Now that you mention it, there was always something kind of terroristy about that chick.

Sarah: I'm starting to think the world can be divided into 2 groups: people who don't remember Fifteen and people who think that they made the show up.

Pana: I officially love you. Marc was also my favorite MMCer! That deep voice...sigh. I only remember a few of the lyrics to the Roundhouse theme song("down, down, down") but I always really loved that several members of the cast were background dancers in one of my all time fave 90s movies...Newsies.

MC said...

Daria is available on Itunes?!? I gotta look into that.

Alison said...

What exactly is on the left shoulder Kelly's sweater?
Cause I see misshapen genitalia...

Heather Taylor said...

I drank lots of soda in high school, but unlike these kids, I actually drank it. Who plays around with caffeine? Not this girl.

Pana said...

Oh fuck, I'm going to have "Santa Fe" stuck in my head ALL NIGHT NOW.

mmm, Newsies.

Kara said...

Oh man! Roundhouse and Newsies! I loved that stuff. I actually wore out my video of Newsies. Twice. And then, when I was finally able to find it on DVD in college, I shelled out $30 to get it.

Yeah, I'm THAT awesome.


I love this post!!!!! You are so funny! I'm going to go an pass this on!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I was 14 when this show came out and based on title alone, my parents wouldn't let me watch it. This post gave me my childhood back. I am forever grateful.

Angelica Wilson said...

Can we be bffs? I am still in love with fifteen to this day!! I pray they release the other seasons on iTunes. My VHS copies aren't too great of quality.

Dillon Whittier said...

Don't ever call my Aunt Robyn Ross that play as Brooke in show call fifteen a bitch don't ever call my aunt Robyn Ross a bitch for else I shut you down real quick L.O.B!!!

Rachel Ghoul said...

Dillon, nobody's calling your aunt a bitch... her character on this show, though, was a real piece of work.