Everything I Remember Buying At Claire’s, 1994 – 1999

Claire’s has filed for bankruptcy, and my 90s self would be shocked.  Claire’s was a boutique in the loosest sense of the word – it was more like a Toys R Us of tween accessories, and if my niece’s recent purchases of JoJo Siwa bows and unicorn hair extensions are any indication, it still is. Claire’s may be the latest victim of private-equity fund stewardship, but I think they may emerge victorious — after all, no store is better at giving tween girls exactly what it’s told them they want. I was never one of those kids with an allowance or parent-funded spending sprees, so each of my Claire’s purchase was long-coveted. That’s why, in 2018, I can still remember everything I bought at Claire’s during my childhood:

A Heart-Shaped Locket With Nothing In It

The nostalgia machine remembers the 90s in a few ways: bright and neon in the post-80s years, earth-toned and grungy in the middle, and pop-y and futuristic at the end. However, there was also a weird kind of neo-Victorian thing happening if you looked hard enough (see: country geese , Little Women, Titanic mania). Case in point: lockets, which always seemed kind of important and mysterious even if you had nothing to put in them. We can thank Annie and the American Girls Collection for this.

Mood Ring

You always blushed a bit if it landed on In Love. As a cold person with a low heart rate (actually… what do mood rings even measure?), I think the technical term for my mood ring results was Clinical Death.

Sunflower Hat

The sunflower hat was THE must-have accessory when I was in second grade, c. 1994. Different versions were out there but the staple was a denim bucket hat with a yellow sunflower on it. A little bit Michelle Tanner and a little bit Blossom, you could be any middle-class girl from a family sitcom you wanted in this number. The decision to wear it straight versus tilted was hotly debated … in the before-school lineup at Sacred Heart Cathedral School, anyway.

Confession: I scoped out sunflower hats at Claire’s but mine was actually from Bloomingdale’s. It was Quality Millinery, thank you very much.

Scrunchies

They were gentle on your hair and you could buy one in any finish or pattern you wanted. Bring back the scrunchie.

Velvet or Lace Choker (Cameo Optional)

This was the more early-90s choker. Like the locket, it was part of the Interview With A Vampire aesthetic that was totally appropriate and not at all creepy for tiny children to be into.

Fake Tattoo Choker

This was more late 90s, and I only wore it once because I thought it looked cheap.

Which it did.

You could get them from gumball machines.

Fimo Necklaces

Popular in the 1996-1999 range, these necklaces had a nylon cord or stringed beads and a clay ‘hippie’-esque pendant.

In my personal suburban mall, there was a kiosk that sold these and also wizard candles. For the uninitiated, yes, I actually do mean candles that were shaped like an elderly wizard.

A Piercing

Thing 90s Kids Will Remember: getting your ears pierced by a teenager with a piercing gun and trying not to cry because strangers were eating Auntie Anne’s pretzels on a bench 5 feet away. My ear piercing was a First Communion present and it closed up within a few years, so I am in fact the proud owner of TWO Claire’s piercings. You had to search the earring racks specifically for the ones labelled stainless steel or else your ears would start burning. We had fun.

Headbands Headbands Headbands

Soft headbands, hard headbands that would dig into your temples, plush puffy headbands – if there was one constant in my life from 1995 to 1999, it was that my bangs were in a weird place and I needed hair accessories to deal with them. The worst ever, for my particular frizzy hair and iffy hairline, was the stretchy headband with teeth. They never looked good on me but I bought like 5 of them anyway.

I preferred a classic Alice band because I was a goody-goody, obvs.

Embellished Snap Clips

Remember those flat clips that all the gymnasts wore in the 1996 Olympics? Then, remember the teeny tiny version with daisies and stuff on them? You’d wear them right next to your part.

The real theme here is that as a people, we were dealing with a collective weird bangs situation for the better part of the decade.

Butterfly Clips

The last member of the wonky bangs starter pack, the butterfly clip spanned the difference between headbands and hair clips so you didn’t have to choose. I was pretty sure they looked rocking in my hair and in hindsight, I was entirely correct.

Butterfly Everything

Butterflies were so cool in the late 90s, and I’m so grateful that I was only in Junior High or else I definitely would have left the decade with a butterfly tattoo.*

*  I remember my junior high friends and I declaring that we’d totally get butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings when we were old enough. Now I can have as many butterfly tattoos and belly button piercings as I want, and it turns out I want zero.

Pen with marabou poof

You felt like Cher Horowitz until the ink ran out in a week and you were back to your Bics.

See also: gel pens, despised by every teacher I ever had. Now that my eyeballs are three decades old I Get It.

“Retro” “70s” Stuff

Especially during the 1996-1997 school year, 60s and 70s-inspired accessories were all the rage. We’re talking psychedelic colors, daisies, smiley faces, peace signs. The yin yang was pretty big starting in the earlier 90s but I seem to remember it fading out sooner.

I also remember combing my grandparents’ house for 60s-70s stuff during this time, only to find that most bona fide retro accessories were in the pukey oranges, avocados and browns of old appliances. Claire’s all the way.

Puka Shell Nonsense.

As of high school I had been to like 2 beaches and they were in New England, but still.


My Claire’s years mostly ended around 2000, when I started high school. Yesterday, today, and forever, Claire’s was a store that sold the idea of being a cool teenager to 7-13 year olds — not so much a store for real teenagers. Their financial situation may be bleak, but as long as 10-year-olds long to look 17, I think Claire’s will have a place in children’s fashion mistakes for years to come.

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Dawson’s Creek Is So Old That…

How old is Dawson’s Creek?
At 20 years old this month, Dawson’s Creek is so old that (in my subjective memory)…

I started watching Dawson’s Creek on Episode 4 … so I had to wait until summer reruns to see episodes 1, 2 and 3. No DVR, On Demand or Hulu!

But not to worry, because people online actually transcribed the episodes and posted them on angelfire/ geocities. (So Many Old Sites still exist! It’s like time travel.)

… And I got in trouble for tying up the phone line reading those websites.

If I missed an episode, I would read the recap on Dawson’s Wrap, the pre-pre-precursor to the long defunct Television Without Pity.

TV soundtracks were a big thing, and the WB would announce the songs featured in the episode, along with the albums they appeared on, at the end of the episode.

Speaking of which, the Dawson’s Creek Soundtrack was THE must-own album in 7th grade and I bought it at a mall in an actual CD STORE. And I didn’t know each jewel case had a different picture inside, so I was bummed to get the Joey one instead of the Pacey one.

Today, an actress the same age as youngest main cast member Michelle Williams would have been born in the year 2000.

Oldest main cast member James Van Der Beek is now 40 years old. If you’re keeping track, that’s only about two years younger than John Wesley Shipp was when he played James’s Dad.

(It’s also only about 18 years younger than Grams, but to be fair Mary Beth Peil was not really old in 1998, they just wrote her like she was 90.)

Dawson’s Creek was the anchor of the teen block on the WB, which hasn’t even existed for the past 12 years … aka, since today’s teens were babies.

There was a guide to the Dawson’s Creek stars – with full color pages! – in the paper Scholastic book order.

Two of the main characters – Dawson and Pacey, but you already knew – worked in a video store, which truly seemed like a cool job to have.

Dawson didn’t shoot on film because he was a hipster. He shot on film because it was the only way.

Also, the kids didn’t dress ‘normcore’ because they were hipsters. They dressed normcore because the show was literally sponsored by J. Crew at that point. Remember when Gap’s big campaign convinced middle school and high schoolers that frumpy khakis were cool? It was right around then.

Do yourself a favor and click on this to go to Buzzfeed’s post about the D.C. J. Crew catalog

Katie Holmes was so young then that she delayed her audition because she was in her high school play in Ohio.

It had only been two years since Joshua Jackson appeared in D3: The Mighty Ducks, and only 6 years since he was a tiny scamp in the original The Mighty Ducks.

The hot new musical of the year was …. Ragtime.

Teletubbies, a children’s show from a very long time ago, wouldn’t even premiere for another few months.

The furby hadn’t been introduced yet, but Beanie Babies were still a hot item.

 

TGIF Month: A Teen Angel Live Blog

Well, it’s the final installment of our month-long TGIF series is here, and we can no longer thank god it’s Friday after this. JK. What we can do is enjoy the presence of these shows back in our lives, fully embracing nostalgia and the way we were in the 90s.

And what better way to end it than with Teen Angel, a show that proves that even if you leave everything behind, you can still come home again (is that reach a bit too much? bear with me anyways).

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot/Marty Buys the Farm

Original Air Date: 09/26/1997

Pilot Plot: Marty passes on after eating a 6 month old burger under Steve’s bed. Steve goes into a deep depression, since not only is his best friend gone, but his father has recently left, and he’s picked on constantly at school. His mother, sister, and aunt attempt to help, but God’s cousin, Rod, sends Steve Marty as his guardian angel, or “Teen Angel”, as Marty dubs himself. Marty helps Steve conquer his fear of talking to girls, failing tests, and being unpopular.

T: This show only lasted one season, but I remember I was in it for the long haul.

M: I feel like I had a minor-league crush on Marty?

T: This room looks eerily similar to Cory’s room at the beginning of Boy Meets World. And they’re even playing “baseball”.

M: This was the requisite Teen Boy Bedroom In The Mid-Late 90s. See also: Dawson Leary.

T: Marty, the kid who’s about to die, finds the eight-month-old hamburger underneath Steve’s bed, and proves why boys are dumb. He immediately dares Steve to eat it. Not only that, but the reason he found the burg in the first place is because he was too lazy to go down to the kitchen and get real food. You can only really blame yourself here, Marty.

M: All those youths who think the 90s were really cool? Watch this show. Read this episode description. They were NOT.

T: “Alright, I will (eat the burger). It’s not like it’s going to kill me.” Literal famous last words.

T: Larry Wilmore, the writer on such shows as Bernie Mac, Sister, Sister, The PJs, and The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore, was a consulting producer on the show, because we all have that one thing on our resume.  Unless you’re the character actress who plays Angela the angel taking Marty up the elevator to heaven, in which case you’re entire resume is made up of Teen Angels (see: Full House, The Simpsons, Alf, Teen Witch).

M: “So which one of you angels is Farrah?” Yeah, this was not a current ref in 1997, either.

T: Marty’s in the court of eternal judgement and told he has a good soul but could never stay our of trouble. He’s only being considered for heaven because he’s a kid. He then is sent on a mission to be Steve’s guardian angel through this difficult period (puberty). This process seems questionable. Also, this news is being given by this head:

M: I’m going to say being assigned to a suburban white teen boy to help him get through his trying life sounds a lot like the opposite of heaven.

T: He cracked a joke about making a mistake with “the Chevy Chase show” and believe it or not, the joke doesn’t hold up.

M: This is like a really really terrible version of The Good Place.

T: Maureen McCormick is the mom!!!!

M: I remember  Brady Bunch nostalgia being huge in the 90s and it seemed like the original series was so long ago. Reality check: Maureen McCormick as the mom in 1997 is like, well, Ben Savage as the dad in 2017.

T: Apparently a lot of rock stars are in hell.

M: I swear kid sister Katie was the little girl in every TV movie in the mid-90s.

T: As angel, Marty can walk through walls, but “not thick walls, but certainly through any apartment building built after 1957.” That joke holds up.

M: Yeah, that was nice.

T: THE HEAD IS GOD’S COUSIN ROD. HE GOT THE JOB “ON HIS OWN MERITS”. THIS IS COMEDY.

M: OK fine, this show is not really really terrible.

T: Marty comes out of the closet and offers to let Steve touch his new wings, which Steve responds, “a guy doesn’t touch another guy’s wings”. Besides from the obvious, that is not a phrase anyone says.

M: Marty looks like a BSB/N*Sync video concept.

T: Marty’s parents sued  the burger company and won $11 million. How.

T: FYI: http://www.angel.marty.cooldude.com does not work.

M: But I DID find a Geocities page for Teen Angel still in operation! Ready to time-travel into the internet of yesteryear? Here.

T: If Rod thinks Marty could never stay out of trouble, why did he send him down to act as Steve’s guardian angel? It seems counter-productive, unless he had faith Marty would change. But as seen in the shenanigans in history class and called their teacher a wiener (thus giving the entire class a test on the Monroe Doctrine), Marty has yet to learn his lesson.

M: He has no special powers except for invisibility, saving a houseplant, and walking through some walls. Honestly he just seems like a liability.

T: Steve’s little sister gets trapped in a jungle net and Maureen McCormick runs over to help. But Steve’s all like, I’ll help by tHROWING THIS NERF FOOTBALL AT IT BC WE WANT TO SET UP MAUREEN TO LIT’RALLY SAY OW MY NOSE:

M: There was also another gag that was a setup for the phrase “you’ve been touched by an angel.” Oof.

Marty:  Isn’t this the one where everybody gets a second chance?

God: That’s the Arkansas Bar Exam.

M: I’m a lawyer and for the record that joke makes no sense.

T: Marty called up the ghost of James Monroe to scare Mr. Nitzke out of giving the kids an exam. There’s a learning curve with this guardian angel thing, I’m assuming?

M: Couldn’t he just, like… steal the exams?

T: Fun fact: The guy who plays Kyle, who calls Steve “Boat Chimp” & “Blow Chunks” is Aaron Lohr, a Mighty Ducks alum who grew up to become Idina Menzel’s husband.

M: I had NO IDEA. All right. Not only do they use “smooth move, ex-lax” as a joke, they use it twice. It’s not even a joke, it’s just sort of a stock phrase.

 

T: I liked it overall, but have some questions as an adult. However, my main takeaway is that the guy who plays Marty is like a mix of Zach Braff and overactor Seann William Scott.

M: I didn’t love it or necessarily like it, but for family TV in 1997 it was fine.

TGIF Month: A Dinosaurs Live Blog

Welcome back to another Friday installment of our TGIF live blog series! We’ve watched the pilots of Family Matters, Step by Step and Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper, and now it’s time for-NOT THE MAMA  – Dinosaurs!

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot/The Mighty Megalosaurus

Original Air Date:04/26/1991

Pilot Plot: Earl Sinclair must choose his role in life.

T: So here’s the thing – I remember watching only a few episodes of Dinosaurs, but thinking it was super weird. And perhaps not funny. But I think I was also just super aware as a kid that it was a weird show to begin with, and it might not have been up my alley. Could it have been the lifelike talking dinosaurs? Who’s to say. Never the less, I’m ready to give it another go!

M: I remember LOVING Dinosaurs and even having a Baby Dinosaur (… name?) figurine that I got at the corner store. To be fair, this was at the age where I was into weird humor – another fav was Ren and Stimpy. I also predict that I will not like it at all now!

T: I’d also like to note how vague the episode description is. It could lit’rally be about anyone, not even dinosaurs. I’m pretty sure that was the point of the show, but still.

M: I think it was very much a TGIF show but it’s Dinosaurs instead of people. I remember always thinking of Teen Boy Dinosaur as Dino Eddie Winslow and Teen Girl Dinosaur as Dino Laura. Yeah, I forget all the names except for earl.

T: The first scene is a fake newscast on “DNN” saying a giant meteor is heading towards Earth… this is a kids show. He says JK NO IT’S NOT right after but just so we’re all aware, the first joke is about impending death. Carry on.

M: I honestly blame/credit shows like this for instigating the weird meme-y culture our generation brought about.

T: I always forget Michael Jacobs, creator of Boy Meets World, also made Dinosaurs.

M: The more I think about it, the funnier it is that this concept was ever greenlit.

T: Guys, I think I didn’t connect with this show because it felt too much like Roseanne to me. Which I hateddddd. But again, people change.

M: Yes. I think Roseanne is a more apt comparison than Family Matters. They’re very blue-collar. You can tell because Earl has a shirt in a buffalo check pattern.

T: There’s another in TV set up, this time for the Dinosaur Shopping Network where a QVC-like commercial is going on and I can’t handle how real/fake this all is.

M: You don’t really see these Henson-y style shows anymore. It reminds me of Fraggle Rock, another fav during this era.

T: What is this pet they have? Oh it might be their dinner.

M: Everybody’s got that Winnie The Pooh style – shirt and no pants.

T: There are real people inside these costumes. Can you just image what this set was like on the down time? Fran is casually in the corner reading The Firm.

M: But like, how cool for those people to be getting residuals for this again, I guess.

T: Why

T: CHARLENE IS VOICE BY SALLY STRUTHERS! AND FRAN IS JESSICA WALTERS! BABETTE & LUCILLE BLUTH ARE DINOSAURS YOU GUYS.

T: ALSO Earl wants a brand new 90 inch TV but they are literal dinosaurs. HOW. I’m just putting this together.

M: The trick to watching Dinosaurs is not thinking about any of it.

T: The year is 60,000,003

M: “Why we countin’ backwards? What are we waitin’ for?”

T: Robbie is acting like he’s Danny Zuko.

M: I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY.

M: Why did I like this terrible baby? This baby is terrible.

T: THIS T REX AND HIS ARMS. HE’S HOLDING A CIGARETTE. I CAN’T

M: Earl asks for a raise and the dinosaur boss has a construction trailer with binders and blueprints everywhere. Again, you’re not supposed to think about it.

T:

“How was your day dear?”

“Compared to what Fran? Compared to walking off a cliff? Falling 10,000 feet, but living just long enough to see that first vulture swoop down and pick out my eyes? It’s a tie. Gimme a beer.”

Men, amirite?

M: The fridge is full of clamoring little critters. Heh.

T: YOU IN DANGER, EARL.

Frances, nothing in your little day is going to have an impact on how I live the rest of my life.

T: What if we just revealed pregnancies by moving our large dinosaur bodies just enough to reveal a large egg in a nest? And that women wouldn’t have to carry a human alien in our bodies for nine months?

M: Wait if that’s how it worked I 10/10 would have a kid.  Esp. the dramatic reveal & the part where nothing leeches my calcium reserves.

T: How do dinosaurs have sex? (This might be a rhetorical question)

M: Look at Earl. Look at Fran. Look at that terrible baby. No WAY is he the father.

T: While out on a temper tantrum in the woods, Earl encounters the creature he almost ate for dinner, Arthur Rizzic,  who changes his perspective on his own hardships. Teachable life lessons from dinosaurs – THEY’RE JUST LIKE US.

M: Disappointed they didn’t play the theme song, but slower, like they do in Full House or Family Matters.

T: Fran lures Earl back with a “Mastadon Surprise” which is probably just a casserole that’s been passed down in Fran’s family for years.

M: It might be how dinosaurs have sex.

T: Charlene doesn’t have pants on. She’s also looking straight down the barrel not apologizing for not wearing pants.

M: “Shirt, no pants like Winnie The Pooh” in the words of Lil Baby Aidy.

T: The baby sounds like a broken toy from Toys R Us.

M: Seriously f this baby.

T: Earl says dinosaurs are “going to rule the world forever” and it’s the most depressing thing I’ve ever heard come out of TGIF. And I’ve seen that Papouli ep of Full House multiple times.

M: We’re all careening towards oblivion WHEEEEEE

T: Well, safe to say I didn’t keep autoplay on for this.

M: Never again.

TGIF Month: A Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper Live Blog

It’s Friday and you know what that means: pay day!!! Yes, but also the continuation of our month-long TGIF celebration! We’ve revisited Family Matters. We looked back at Step by Step. And now, we’re watching the pilot of another classic show from ABC’s old school Friday night lineup: Hangin’ With Mr. Cooper! Get your pencils out boys and girls, it’s time to take notes on this 90s fave.

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Original Air Date: 9/22/1992

Pilot Plot: Mark is hired as a substitute teacher, but his roommate Robin must teach him how to control his students. Alan Thicke guest stars.

T: I’m 99% I’ve never seen this pilot. I would’ve remembered Alan Thicke. Pour one out.

M: I watched Hangin With Mr. Cooper but remember less about it than ANY TGIF show. Holy cow, it was on for 5 seasons?! Anyway from what I recall, Mark Curry is not-a-parent who is the cool adult/neighbor to Raven-Symone and a boy.

T: WAIT. Alan Thicke shows up as Alan Thicke, the star of Growing Pains, whose show was recently “retired” (you don’t say cancelled, you say “retired” or “rich” after seven seasons). All these shows from my past blur in my mind. It’s crazy to think Growing Pains ended before Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper began. I have no concept of time. ALSO THIS IS SO META WHAT IS IT DOING IN THE PILOT. MARK LITERALLY LOOKED DOWN THE BARREL OF THE CAMERA.

M: Alan Thicke just showed up to KOOL AID MAN THROUGH THE FOURTH WALL. Mark Curry is Mark Curry, preparing to star in HWMC & Alan Thicke is Alan Thicke, retiring from Growing Pains, talking about Mark taking over Alan’s time slot. Who thought this bit was at all good?

T: Alan legit just said “Good luck here in the ‘hood… if you ever need a white guy…” HUH?

M:  I’m going to say it. It’s the worst cold open I’ve seen in my life.

T: I was about to say, “the opening credits are very En Vogue-esque.” Never realized it was actually En Vogue.

M: This is our first TGIF pilot so far to feature a cold open, so it was a little trickier to clock the theme song time. AKA I had to do simple subtraction. One minute … of excellence. We should do a post about 90s R&B theme songs.

T: I have no recollection of Mark’s house being the exact same as the Seaver house. The living room at least. I have a completely different picture in my head when I think of the Cooper home.

M: Is it Martin? Because I was picturing the house in Martin.

T: This guy Holly Robinson Peete is going on a date with isn’t “fine”, he’s “foine”. I get this on a deep leve.

M: “He’s got a butt that makes me with I was his wallet.”

T: THIS IS LEGITIMATELY THE SEAVER HOUSE THO. WHAT’S GOING ON.

M: Did they change the set later? I do not remember Growing Pains well enough to be able to picture the house. I didn’t think the house was so beige and blah.

T:  Yes Mark, this warranted a “DAYUMMNNN”

M: It was probably the most “language” that had been used on TGIF to date. Holly looks smashing.

T: Omar Gooding, actor and brother of Cuba Gooding Jr. is one of the students in Mr. Cooper’s class, which makes sense since he’s a 90s TV staple.

M: Always wearing this exact outfit. Honestly, all the teens look so cool but ESPECIALLY the girl with the floral dress, black boots and blossom hat. That was 100% my dream look c. 1992.

T: As soon as the kids find out Mark’s a sub, they act up and start throwing papers at each other but Mark immediately lashes out and yells at them to stop, citing the fact he just got out of prison and I am DYING. On the verge of tears crying it’s so funny to me.

M: I rewound to watch it again!

T: Why is there a random boom box on the table next to Blossom?

T: Oh it’s so they can listen to Boyz II Men in class and dance to it.

M: Partially serious question, did ABC option the rights to Motown Philly? Because it also figured prominently into a Full House episode, which I’m sure you all remember.

T: Am I the only one finding this pilot is incredibly predictable? He picks unnecessary fights with Vanessa (because he likes her). He gives into the students’ wishes to have a dance party (and the principal walks in). He sits down in the chair after Omar/Earvin walks away from it (because he pulled a prank & did something to the chair). I’m not complaining, I’m just saying it’s typical ’90s fodder.

M: It’s like putting all the things that happen in 90s sitcoms in a hat and pulling them out. You can also tell from Episode 1 that it’s all about the Mark/Vanessa chemistry.

T: Mark was the kind of student that bullshitted his entire way through high school.

M: I can’t remember if they kept the Belding-esque principal and that Zach Morris-esque Omar Gooding character beyond this episode.

T: Do people actually work out in silence by themselves in their home? Also, she’s not even overweight in the slightest and she’s complaining about not being as sexy and thin as Vanessa.

M: Yeah you saw Vanessa in that mustard yellow dress, though. (Seriously, I DO remember it just being a very 90s thing that ladies in sitcoms/romcoms would talk about needing to lose weight but they never actually cast a fat person? It was v. Cathy comics.).

T: “Couch Potato or Stockbroker? Stud or Spud?” The live audience really loved that line.

M: Mark has said “dayumm” for the third time, proving the writers were really referencing the sitcom guidebook.

M: Vanessa bought one of that dress in every color, I think: comes down in a blue version. Mark is super weird with Vanessa’s date William, a boring stockbroker who will probably not be back. I realized why this wasn’t my fav sitcom until Raven-Symone and the little boy came into the scene: this is 100% about adults. Also Vanessa and Mark mention sex, which I bet means this was on my mom’s no-fly list (to be fair I was 6).

T: Coop shows the kids who’s the boss (not Tony) by supergluing Earvin’s chair, because that’s how you teach.

M: Confirmed: that’s Earvin’s only outfit, or all his outfits look the same.

T: Just before the show ends, there’s a scene where Mark introduces himself as Mark Curry… what is all this realism business? I don’t think I like it.

M: Makes no sense. I guess this is how you had to find out who people were before IMDB.

TGIF Month: A Step by Step Live Blog

It’s Friday during TGIF Month, and you know what that means: gonna have some fun, show you how it’s done, and liveblog another TGIF pilot from Hulu. Up today: Step By Step, the blended-family sitcom that we liked, but which didn’t gain the nostalgia foothold of a Full House or even a Family Matters. Like most TGIF sitcoms, it starts in the aftermath of something bad happening to a nuclear family. It’s the ’90s!

Season 1, Episode 1: Pilot

Original Air Date: 9/20/1991

Pilot Plot: While vacationing in the Caribbean, Frank and Carol get married, and when they return, have to deal with the conflicts between their children.

T: Definitely did not remember this show took place in Wisconsin. Definitely DID remember and will never forget this theme song/opening credits. Pitch: Step by Step cast reunites but they only recreate the opening credits as adults. That’s it. No episode. No series. Just that.

M: Yes, into it. For years I thought of the roller coaster every time I was (rarely) on one.

T: Port Washington, Wisconsin is a real town just north of Milwaukee on Lake Michigan. However, at the end of the credits when they zoom out on the roller coaster, the tide is so freaking strong it’s like the Pacific. What’s going on there?

M:  Before you @ us we grew up on a Great Lake, they’re massive and you can’t see across them but there’s not a TIDE.

We should have clocked the opening songs starting with week 1 of TGIF Month…  but this one was 1:51. Almost TWO MINUTES. Out of a sitcom episode’s 22 minutes. Just walking around a theme park in coastal Wisconsin.

T: I DON’T THINK I’VE EVER SEEN THIS PILOT. I have no recollection of ever being at Frank’s pig sty of a house before he moved in with Karen.  

M: If I saw it it was once, in maybe 1991. PS, I was always HORRIBLE at remembering which kids are bio-sibs. That’s why the Brady Bunch color-coded the kids’ hair.

T: I feel like there’s always a science project on the kitchen table.

T: Tag yourself, I’m Dana with a hint of Mark.

M: I’m also a Mark/Dana, with a bit of the littlest brown-haired boy who nobody remembers. Brandon or whatever. [Ed. note: Brendan I guess.]

T: That Suzanne Sommers sure is a fox.

M: Wait there was always a hair salon hooked onto the house? I have exactly ZERO recall of that. This is some Steel Magnolias nonsense.

Also, Suze and her blue kitchen both look GOOD and she knows it. I have the hugest crush on this kitchen.

T: Frank went on vacation. Carol went on vacation and met a man. Frank is Carol’s customer and they’re secretly dating/got married in Jamaica. You’re telling me that the premise of Step by Step is loosely based on Grease? Also is a marriage legal if you only get married in Jamaica?

M: What the hell sort of single parent who lives in a hair salon is going on freewheeling vacations to Jamaica? If they’d just throw us a line about Carol winning a radio contest this would make so much more sense.

T: Suzanne is classic 90s overacting and I AM SO INTO IT.

M: The music cues are every bit as dramatic, too.

T: LAKE MICHIGAN UPDATE: Found this on IMDb. Apparently I’m not the only one who noted this issue:

In the opening credits the amusement park is intended to be in Wisconsin on the shores of Lake Michigan. However at the end of the credits the body of water can be see to have rather large waves on a calm day. These waves are much too large for Lake Michigan in the absence of a storm.

M: Yeah, those were some Edmund Fitzgerald-looking waves. (SEE, WE KNOW THE GREAT LAKES. Traci even worked at an amusement park right on one, like in the credits!)

T: Patrika Darbo’s outfit is so 90s that it’s in right now. 

M: This happens every week, but I am floored by how young the kids are, particularly JT who always seemed like basically an adult.

T: Guys, I’m genuinely enjoying this episode.

M: It’s so much fun! Which is weird because Step By Step gets a lot less nostalgia cred compared to a lot of other 90s sitcom.

T: “My God, here comes the Joad family,” a reference I do not understand.  I have not read Grapes of Wrath.

M: I can’t believe that was a reference that in the early ’90s, writers of a family sitcom just assumed their audience GOT.

Frank & Co. move in with random chairs and wooden things strapped to the top of their vehicle.

T: 14:00 The fashion in this show is on point.

“I don’t think this is gonna work. Our kids hate each other. I’m a nervous wreck and to tell you the truth we just don’t like livestock all that much.” – a Carol line I actually LOLed at

M: Suzanne Somers, in addition to being a total fox, has good timing and delivery.

T: Do we think Frank and Carol are actually still together in 2017? Discuss.

M: Well. I actually paused my TV to think about that and I’m of a few minds. I could see them being one of those couples that gets together after divorces than stay together forever. On the other hand I could see them both leaving for greener pastures when that random little blonde girl they had later went to college.

T: CAROL IS WEARING A JUMPSUIT.

T: Also, do families still have breakfast together?

M: I think my siblings’ kids do? Not in a formal way, but they have cereal or whatever. Bleh. Leave me alone in the morning.

T: Al looks like Steve from Blues Clues’ sidekick.

 

M: I’m in Al’s corner. She goes from zero to moving in with this random family with a giant blue kitchen and getting taken to the doctor by her dad’s hairdresser. Adults are the pits.

T: Like Family Matters, are we going to get an explanation on what happened to Frank and Carol’s significant others? This is not a detail I’ve kept in my head for 25 years.

M: I decided they were divorced, but did the exes just disappear? This is probably addressed somewhere. It’s been decades.

The twinkly music starts while Carol and Al have a touching convo about blended families and appendices.

T: “I’d like to be your friend because that’s the first step in become a family.”

M: “You and I have something in common. We both love your father.” YEESH.

T: I can’t get over how into this aesthetic I am.

M: Future post: Step By Step Is Our Aesthetic. I keep thinking about that kitchen with stars in my eyes.

T: Note to self: visit exterior of the Lambert house in Pasadena.

M: Carol has the cutest tortoiseshell glasses!

T: The audience was actually clapping at the end like it’s a live theater play. They really don’t make shows like they used to.

M: For better or worse.

T: I think I’m going to keep watching to find out what happens.

M: I could consume an unhealthy amount of this show without even realizing I was doing it. It’s like the Goldfish crackers of 90s sitcoms.

T: EDIT: HULU AUTOPLAYED THE NEXT EPISODE AND URKEL CRASHES THE DINNER. LIKE LITERALLY HAS A JET PACK ON AND CRASHES ON THEIR PICNIC OUTSIDE. I CAN’T. (I am and I will).

 

TGIF Month: A Family Matters Live Blog

Welcome to the first installment of TGIF Month! Every Friday through October (and the first weekend of November), we’ll be watching and live blogging the pilot of five beloved sitcoms that aired during the iconic ABC TV block of programming, TGIF. Why? Because we can. Also, because a lot of these shows are now available on Hulu for the very first time, so we’re taking advantage of the nostalgia while we can.

First up is Family Matters, which centers on the Winslow family, a middle-class black family living in Chicago, Illinois. It is one of the longest-running non-animated sitcoms featuring a predominantly black family, having run 9 seasons. It was one of the biggest shows to come out of the TGIF lineup, and brought us one of the most iconic characters on TV history. #DidIDoThat. Let’s take a look back at the very first episode featuring the Winslows.

Season 1, Episode 1: The Mama Who Came to Dinner

Original Air Date: 9/22/1989

Pilot Plot: Mother Winslow asserts a little too much authority when she comes to live with her son Carl and his family.

T: Did we all know that Family Matters is a spin-off of Perfect Strangers (another TGIF program available on Hulu)? Because I definitely forgot that fact.

M: Definitely never knew it in the first place. We compared notes of our Perfect Strangers memories, and both of us just remember the opening credits. To be fair we were like 3.

T: There’s no cold open in the pilot, and it launches right into the opening credits with the unforgettable theme song, “As Days Go By”. It was catchy like a lot of the other TGIF theme songs – which makes sense, because many of them were written by a dude named Jesse Frederick, who’s probably super rich rn. Also, this reminds me of when we did our Cheers recaps because it LOOKS like the ’80s.

M: I still get warm, cozy feelings watching this theme song. It feels like being home after school during the winter when it was dark out early, to name a very specific cozy feeling.

T: This is an extended version of the theme song!!!

M: You know what doesn’t happen anymore? Those opening credits where (A) it’s a long – and I mean LONG – song and (B) they show little clips of the characters from the episodes.

T: Everything in their house looks so dark? As in the wood trim and paint look much darker than I remember? But that just might be a result of the TV pilot structure, when a lot of things are different than when they are in the rest of the series.

M: Funny enough, this came up in our Cheers recaps too – that it was so dark, not in tone but the actual palette. It is also of a fuzzier quality than I remember. I specifically remember watching ’70s sitcom reruns and being super-proud of the better picture quality of our early ’90s shows.

For what it’s worth, I’m sure the paint was brighter later. It’s a very dingy beige. The house is all shades of brown, like a McDonald’s meal.

T: I probably haven’t seen this show since I was living at home at watching reruns on Nickelodeon, but I don’t remember Carl having such an adverse reaction to his mother being around? Or is my memory just horrible and that was the entire premise of the show?

M: In my memory, the grandmother was BELOVED.

T: Is everyone overacting? Was that a 90s sitcom thing?

T: I’m V into Harriette’s sweater.

M: It’s the brightest thing in that whole drab house, is what it is.

T: Remember extemporaneous daughter Judy? I barely do.

M: In my memory she was Aunt Rachel’s child and they both moved, leaving Richie behind for whatever reason. Wrong. Just a childhood head-canon to make sense of Judy’s departure.

T: Eddie’s adorbs.

M: This show started when we were LITTLE (age 3) and as a result I always saw Eddie and Laura (and Judy for 5 seconds) as big kids. Oh my god, they are all absolutely adorable.

T: Wait, are they living in an apartment??

M: In later episodes the front door came from outside/the front porch, but here it definitely looks like an apartment hallway. Which is weird, because the house is, like the Full House house, ENORMOUS with extraneous doors and hallways everywhere.

T: Kind of upset this episode doesn’t have Urkel in it. Didn’t realize that he wasn’t introduced until halfway through the first season!

M: That’s right…  he wasn’t planned to be a big part of the show, but audiences loved them some Jaleel White.

T: Do they ever reveal why Rachel is a single mother?

M: Now I’m picturing 1990 execs suddenly realizing they had put a single mother on TV and pulling Rachel during hiatus.

T: This is the type of outfit I always picture Mama to be in.

M: I like how old people on TV always used to be stuck in another century. Speaking of which, I IMDB’d it and Rosetta LeNoire (Mama) was born in 1911. WHAT. Time is a crazy thing. We’re youngish adults in 2017 reminiscing about a lady who was born when the Titanic was still a promising venture. And her godfather was Bill Bojangles Robinson!

T: UPDATE: Rachel’s husband Robert died so that’s why Rachel and Richie had to move in with Carl and fam. It’s like Full House but Danny Tanner is a supporting character.

M: True Story: My brother and his kids moved in with my parents after my sister-in-law died and I always refer to our family situation as “a real Miller-Boyett production.” Also, why does Rachel ask Laura if she “remembers” an event that had to have happened a couple months ago, and is a huge deal? (Exposition, is why.)

Harriette: Girls, don’t argue at the dinner table.

Laura (to Judy): Ok, let’s take it outside

Do not mess with young Laura.

T: THIS BOLO TIE ENSEMBLE

M: If I was several years older I’d have been all about Eddie. Despite those pleated slacks.

M: Mama says “it’s almost the 90s.” Did we know that “it’s the 90s” as a catch-phrase started before the 90s even did?!

T: Carl’s heart-to-heart with Mama included a musical cue of emotional music as soon as he hit the main talking point in his conversation, which I just realized is a common denominator in all these 90s family sitcoms. Danny Tanner assuring Stephanie he still loves her after accidentally driving a car into the kitchen? Cue the emo music.

M: My main thing is when the emotional music is THE THEME SONG SLOWED DOWN AND INSTRUMENTAL. Full House always did that, but the Brady Bunch perfected it first. “it’s the sto-o-o-ry of the lovely la-a-a-dy”

T: Eddie moved to the attic to let his grandma stay in his room, but it still looks like an attic? Like they couldn’t have cleaned it up and moved the misc. furniture and knick knacks to another location?

M: And they live in Chicago, so that attic will be hot in the summer and freezing in the winter. And there’s a grandfather clock in the attic and downstairs. How many grandfather clocks does a family need?

T: Of course Harriette, Rachel and Mama are singing He’s Got The Whole World in His Hands and OMG THEY JUST PANNED OUT THE SHOW THE FAMILY IN THE WINDOW SURROUNDING THE PIANO AND SINGING, WHICH IS IN THE CREDITS!

M: During the credits I almost said “this show involves far fewer family old-fashioned piano parties than the credits would have you believe.” Which was all-the-way wrong.

T: I feel like I’ve never even seen this episode before, and despite the fact that it’s corny like most 90s sitcoms, I thoroughly enjoyed it!

M: I also don’t remember this one (and haven’t watched Family Matters since I was a child), but I could see putting on episodes as sort of soothing background TV now that it’s on Hulu. Love those Winslows!

What To Do If You Can’t Watch Spice World in the Cinemas This Weekend

Across the UK this weekend, thousands of people will to the cinemas to watch special screenings of iconic film Spice World, in honor of its 20th anniversary. Despite the fact it was panned by critics, it made $77 million worldwide and in the U.S. alone, it broke the record for the highest-ever weekend debut for Super Bowl Weekend with $10.5 million. Obviously at the height of Spicemania, it makes sense that it made so much money, but it also had no right making that much money.

It’s one of the most ridiculous movies I’ve ever seen, but it’s also meta, self-aware and just a fun, grand old time. If you’re a millennial who was into the Spice Girls, this movie was an important marker in your personal pop culture history. It wasn’t a Razzie-winning film. It was a movie that defined a generation.

So if you’re in the U.S. and can’t hop over the pond to see it in the movie theater, here are some Spice-inspired ideas that will fill the void.

Listen to the Spice World Album

The second studio album from the Spice Girls wasn’t just a regular album, it was also the soundtrack to the film, since an official movie soundtrack was never released. Just listen to this on loop.

Go to Karaoke and Sing a Spice Girls Song

If the karaoke bar you’re at doesn’t have Spice Girls, you’re at the wrong karaoke bar.

Watch This Meatloaf Video

http://dai.ly/x337wb

Acclaimed actor Meat Loaf played the girls’ bus driver in the movie, but if you don’t know his music, just start with this music video that REALLY tells a story.

Dress Like Your Favorite Spice Girl

Like, obviously, right? The 90s are back in!!

Dress Up As Your Friend’s Favorite Spice Girl

The girls had a ridiculous photo shoot, and ended up dressing in each others’ clothes. Grab a friend and do a switcheroo!

Find Out What Nicola’s Been Up To

She played the girls’ random pregnant friend in a plot line designed to encourage female friendship, and I’ve never seen her in anything ever since. But if you’re British, you might be familiar with Naoko Mori, who has been in shows such as Doctor Who, Torchwood, and Absolutely Fabulous.

Make a Documentary With Your Friends

Hire a few rando filmmakers looking to add to their sizzle reel and have them follow you around.

Or Watch This Real Spice Girls Documentary

First of all, I’d really appreciate a copy of the fake documentary they filmed in the movie. If that’s not available, just watch this real documentary about the Spice Force Five.

Go to Bootcamp

Get fit and get down get deeper and down just like the SG. Call up Barry’s and tell him you’re on your way in your platform sneaks.

Seek Out Aliens

Probably an easy feat to achieve.

Go to a Gay Club

ICONS.

Play with Toy Buses

… And recreate one of the most epic scenes in cinematic history.

Watch Rocky Horror Picture Show

There are two Rocky Horror alums in Spice World – Richard O’Brien, the creepy tabloid guy in Spice World and the creepy Riff Raff guy in Rocky Horror. Also, Meatloaf. Get a fix by watching another movie musical! Or don’t. In fact I take it all back, don’t watch it.

Watch the movie?

Seriously, just watch it from the comfort of your own home. It’s the best thing you’ll do this weekend, maybe even your life.

 

Pop Culture Blind Spot: Practical Magic

I have never seen Practical Magic. This, despite my love for Sandra Bullock (a love so deep I call her Sandy), comfy 90s movies where people wear sweaters, and witchy things. Most of my knowledge about Practical Magic comes from surfing past it on HBO during my childhood, and commercials for Charmed, a TV show about sister witches that is a different thing entirely from Practical Magic. Anyway, it feels like fall here in upstate New York, which means it feels like time for a fall movie… which I assume Practical Magic is, based on the witches.

The Netflix blurb:

Thanks to their powers, things come easy to these sisters… except keeping a man. Alive, that is.

First of all, this is some of the Netflix copy writers’ best work. Second, hard same.

We learn that the women in the Owens family have been witches since puritan New England. Oh, I love this already. If you haven’t gone down a Salem Witch Trials documentary spiral yet, I suggest it. Your YouTube suggestions will get a bit weird for a while but it will be worth it.

There’s a Victorian house, too! [Profiled here on my fav, Hooked on Houses]

The girls move there with their aunts after their dad falls victim to a centuries-old curse. Everyone wears draped, lacy dresses and florals with scarfs and floppy hats and statement earrings, exactly how you’d want witches in a Victorian house to dress. [I already feel a Practical Magic Is My Aesthetic post coming on.]

 

Work those April Cornell catalog vibes, ladies.

Child Sandy Bullock (Sally) looks like adult Sandy Bullock. Child Nicole Kidman (Gillian) does not really look like adult Nicole Kidman, but even casting directors are victims of All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome.

Child Sally, by the way? None other than little Camilla Belle, who actually DOES resemble adult Sandra Bullock these days, now that you mention it.

Adult Camilla

We’ve circled back to the late ’90s, fashion wise, and I like Sally’s straight-leg jeans. She also has one of those sweaters with the big stripe across the middle. REAL thing 90s kids remember: those sweaters with one big stripe across the middle.

IMPORTANT: There’s a scene where This Kiss by Faith Hill plays as Sally falls in love with a handsome man and, over time, marries him and has two kids. Practical Magic and This Kiss have definitely lived in the same mental file folder in my brain for these two decades. Meanwhile, Gillian leaves New England and dances whitely by a pool. Just watch it, it’s the best of comfy ‘normcore’ 90s romcom montages:

Like all of us, Gillian sings the soprano parts of Case Of You while driving and feeling some feelings.

On one hand, Gillian and Sally have a horrible curse wherein every man they love is doomed (RIP Gillian’s husband, Minute 5 – Minute 7, roughly). On the other, they have gorgeous, full blowouts and a bedroom fireplace.

If you didn’t get enough Practical Magic interiors from Hooked on Houses, click on this pic. I’m obsessed.

Whoopsie! The sisters killed a man by accident. He was Jimmy, Gillian’s garbage love interest who she drugged and brought cross country, but don’t feel too bad because he was secretly a killer as well . The gals take a real ad-hoc, non-Hogwarts-approved method of resurrecting him, doing the spell on their ample kitchen island. It doesn’t go great, so now they have to cover up his death. It’s a drag.

It’s not a movie about ‘strong female characters’ (TM Netflix) without a scene where they dance around the kitchen. Just ask Hidden Figures (a movie I loved, for the record).

A longer stretch of this movie than I expected is centered on covering up an accidental death. It’s fine but not what I was expecting. Aidan Quinn arrives to investigate Jimmy’s disappearance but also to fall in love with Sally. He is unusually handsome for someone named Gary. He’s ALSO the dream man Sally described as a child.

The reanimated corpse of Jimmy confronts Hot Gary  in the beautiful attic. I don’t know if witches need money, but they could rent that thing out for some serious bucks.

This is not an attack on anybody named Kylie or who named their daughter Kylie, but man, Kylie is NOT something a witch would name a child. [:Your Kris Jenner joke goes here:] I guess she was born during Sally’s trying-not-to-be-witchy phase.

The witch sisters need to expel Jimmy’s spirit and to do that they need a coven, which is basically like a quorum. Sally does what any small-town single mom would do: activates the school phone tree.

PS guess who Kylie is? A baby Evan Rachel Wood. I had no idea, this whole time. Along with All Redheads Look Alike Syndrome is the related Red Hair Renders You Instantly Unrecognizable Syndrome (hers is dyed, to perpetuate the one brown haired kid/one ginger kid thing her family has going).

She looks exactly like she does now, just with red hair.

In case you were worried, there’s a great witches-with-brooms scene. They just sweep with them, but still. They sweep OUT an evil spirit. The family curse is broken and now Gillian and Sally can fall in love without casualties.

The witches dress up as witches (but stereotypical ones) and fly from their roof on Halloween. The neighbors EAT IT UP. Just as I did this movie. It was cute.

 

P.S.: Not all of the music was by Bonnie Raitt and Mary Chapin Carpenter but it was all LIKE that.

 

Catholic School Back To School Shopping: Myths vs. Realities

Ah, Back-To-School Shopping : such a gentle, consumeristic way to get over the end of summer vacation. However, as two life-long Catholic school students, our experience wasn’t everything the Staples and J.C. Penney commercials led us to believe. I’m watching the cycle all over again with my nieces and nephews – the public schoolers getting cute new outfits and the Catholic school kids getting their first necktie at age 5. [Find me something cuter than a kindergartener in business casual.] In honor of our ’90s and ’00s memories, here is a study in the contrasts between back to school shopping for Catholic schoolers and, if not real public school students, at least the too-cool public schoolers we saw on TV.

Clothing

File under: My childhood as a walking Irish Catholic stereotype.

Expectation: I’m going back to school with a new wardrobe that will mark me as one of the cool kids!

Reality: I am wearing the same plaid jumper from the same Plaid Jumper Store as all of my classmates. Somehow, kids manage to sort themselves into Cool and Uncool anyway.

[Note: there is a 50/50 chance your uniform is a hand-me-down, or your mom bought it at the used uniform sale your school holds at the end of the school year.]

Expectation: At least maybe some fun, cute outfits for after school!

Reality: Those are called “play clothes” and they don’t come from the store, they come from a trash bag your aunt drops off every time your next cousin up has a growth spurt.

[Note: I realize there are Catholics without cousins but I’ve never met one.]

Accessories

Expectation: And don’t forget the accessories!

Reality: … Which are knee socks, a navy blue cardigan, and a shirt with a Peter Pan collar during that five-decade range after Peter Pan collars went out of style in the ’60s and before they came back in style on Zooey Deschanel.

If you’re fancy, please add a headband in the same plaid as your uniform.

Jewelry

Expectation: Wearing some jewelry, I guess.

Reality: Bracelets are not allowed. Non-post earrings are not allowed. Necklaces are a pendant on a thin chain. If you want to consider rosaries jewelry (“WHICH THEY ARE NOT” – every Catholic reading this post, before I could even say it, right?), you can have those. But you cannot wear them, for Pete’s sake.

School Supplies

Expectation: Lisa Frank binders! Lisa Frank notebooks! Lisa The Frickin FRANK IT ALL UP.

Reality: There is a specific, solid color that every subject uses. Does The Vatican secretly operate the Mead company?

Expectation: Don’t forget a trapper keeper to stay organized!

Reality: Trapper Keepers strictly verboten.

Hair

Expectation: It would be so much fun to try a bright color or a crazy new ‘do to show people how much I’ve changed over the summer!

Reality: “No extreme hairstyles” – Catholic School Student Manual 29:11

Shoes

Expectation: I will narrow down the most in-style looks and then pick out some sneakers, a pair of cute shoes, and maybe something a little dressier.

Reality: Your uniform requires shoes that meet all of the following criteria: black or navy blue. No laces. No wedges. No mules. No sneaker soles. Heel must measure less than one inch at the highest point. No ballet flats.

You are left with orthopedic nun shoes.

[Note: If you’re really wondering how we sorted out the cool kids, their moms bought them cute shoes that skirted the Shoe Canon of the student handbook, whereas uncool-kid moms followed it to the letter. As to what camp I was in, let’s just say I still like a sturdy pair of Clarks.]