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.
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.
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.
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.
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'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).
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.
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.
Brooke: We've been spreading little rumors again, have we?
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.
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.
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.
(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?
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.