What did you watch if it was a Saturday night, and you were too old for Matilda (as if!) and it was too 1995 for Orphan Black – but you still wanted a healthy dose of telekinesis and corporate/scientific threats to bodily autonomy? And you also wanted to see a wardrobe made 70% of overalls? Ladies and gentlemen, Alex Mack.
The Secret World Of Alex Mack was a super high-concept show about a typical junior high girl (a pre-10 Things I Hate About You Larissa Oleynik) who is hit by a chemical plant truck and develops strange powers. She also wore a lot of overalls.
Episode Title: Alex and Mom
Air Date: January 7, 1995
Alex “disorganizes” her mom’s files after a huge fight, causing Barbara to nearly lose her job at the plant. A remorseful Alex tries to make amends when Barbara’s final chance at saving face seems doomed to disaster. Incidentally, this is the only episode of the series where Larisa Oleynik wears a Bathing Suit.
M: Before we even get going, is “only episode where Larisa Oleynik wears a bathing suit” supposed to be a selling point, because I’m pretty sure she’s like 13. Grosssss. Plus is there a reason she’d be wearing bathing suits? It’s not like it was a beach show. Okay, let’s start now.
Opening Credits: T: I love when shows tell you the premise of the series in under 30 seconds or less. It’s one notch up from the ‘Previously on…’, and helpful for elders like me.
0:15 M: I am now realizing I have forgotten all of the characters except for Alex and her brainy sister, Annie. Also, Alex’s friend’s t-shirt with the earth-tone sun on it is the most 1995 thing ever.
M: I used to think Alex had the coolest tomboy outfits ever – growing up with two older brothers, I was outdoorsy – but her hat is just confusing me. There’s a strap in the front like it’s a backwards baseball cap, but then there’s no brim? WHAT IS THIS?
:55 T: Alex attempts to ask cute boy Scott if he wants to go to a screening of a new movie with her, but she asks if he has “plans for science”. What does this mean? Does he have plans for science class? Or like plans for science in general, particularly radioactive sludge that makes tweens turn into puddles?
1:03 M: Alex’s Mom: Isn’t Scott too old for you? [A beat, seemingly forgetting about too-old guy entirely] I need you to go to the store!
Alex: I can’t, I’m going to the movies!
Ah, yes. 1995. When “free range parenting” was just… parenting.
2:20 T: Now, I didn’t grow up in a town where I could easily go to the grocery store by myself then bring home said groceries, so WTF why isn’t the mom or dad doing this instead of a child?
2:45 M: Alex’s mom, Barbara, works at the chemical plant – but you already knew that. I just feel like in real life, these plants aren’t all shiny and futuristic, like an evil corporate overlord’s secret lair. They probably just look like factories, no?
T: Agreed. This chemical plant looks like Nickelodeon had to stay on budget and double up on the use of the Space Cases set.
M: Ah, yes. Space Cases. Hated the dude with the curly mullet and the pig-pink child, loved the flat-top and the girl with gay pride hair.
3:27 M: Alex fantasizes that she binds her mother with rope so that she can hang out with Scott and levitate soda cans and change the tv channels with her mind. Well that got dark fast. I can’t remember if these daydream sequences were a regular thing. By the way, we had remote controls in 1995, so changing the tv channel by pointing her finger at the tv didn’t really save much time.
T: “Why are you always treating me like a little kid? Why can’t you ever let me do what I want to do?”, whines Alex. Apparently what she wants to do is tie her mother up in a hostage-type situation, eat pizza out of the box with Scott, and use your powers to change the channels on the TV without getting up.
4:40 M: Alex and Barbara are having a weird argument about how Alex has to make dinner for Annie and her dad because Annie’s not home and Alex didn’t go to the store yesterday. This argument makes no sense, and sounds like two kids playing house and saying random things they think a mom would say.
4:55 M: Alex messes up her mom’s files via telekenisis, and once again, Alex’s powers aren’t allowing her to do anything that she couldn’t do as a regular human.
T: I mean, it’s a sick burn for someone who… hates unorganized accordion file folders…?
T: Alex’s mom’s boss is creepily leading this important meeting, but doing so in a way that rivals Dr. Evil. Except she’s stroking a silver letter opener and he’s got a cat.
6:45 M: Annie and dad have to go to the “Einstein Society.” Ughhh, that even sounds like an Asshole Club. Anyway, they won’t be staying for dinner so now Alex is cooking for no reason. I’m also sort of confused as to why they couldn’t just make their own dinner? This whole episode is like a bad childrens’ improv scene.
T: Yeah, why can’t the dad make dinner? If it’s some sort of sexist thing (which I hope it isn’t), then wouldn’t the oldest kid have to do it? Why is this 13 year old slaving away?
M: They NEVER EXPLAIN why Alex had to be the one to go shopping and make dinner. For some reason this is bothering me more than the chemical spill powers.
7:30 Barbara’s boss is being shot from a super weird angle. I’m assuming it’s to subconsciously show the viewer who is in charge, but I feel like it’s a very ’90s move to shoot from the bottom and angle it slightly so you feel like you could maybe be a lil’ inebriated.
8:40 M: Alex is going to Scott’s pool party tomorrow! I’ve found that as an adult, the pool parties – and pizza parties for that matter – really slow down.
T: Unless you’re me and went to a “pool party” this past Saturday (does 6 people count as a party?) and have friends who like to cook and own a chef’s jacket specifically for pizza parties. This is more of a ‘me and my friends are nerds’ situation, more than anything. I’m livin’ the life, y’all.
M: I don’t know what the cutoff is, but I feel like 6 people is just swimming with friends? I always think of “pizza party” in the context of it being a prize for something. Like your homeroom raised the most money in Operation Rice Bowl.
9:26 T: Barbara tells her hubs that she was all thrown off at the meeting because her files were out of order, and he’s all, ‘But what about the Einstein meeting?’ and she clearly forgot because of her horrible day. ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE ALEX GO IN YOUR PLACE FOR THAT TOO??
M: I shall sit at home and rock/ rise to heed a neighbor’s knock/ Brew my tea and snip my thread / Bleach the linen for my bed —- either Dorothy Parker’s poem about Penelope from The Odyssey, or Alex Mack’s chore list.
10:40 T: I totally forgot the sister knows about Alex’s powers. Is that why she’s overly sarcastic all the time??
“How do I look?” Alex, recreating the Deal With It meme
“I’ll look for you in next season’s swimsuit issue” Annie, Alex’s sister, says creepily
12:39 M: Barbara’s glasses are so Warby Parker.
13:40 T: What I can tell you is that our pool parties don’t consist of anyone playing water polo, like this nonsense. It’s mainly floating and eating/drinking by said pool.
M: I feel like all my childhood pool parties were mostly inventing weird pool relays, trying to get people to understand things you said underwater, and doing that thing where you pop up from the water with your hair flowing behind you like Ariel. Oh, and underwater handstands.
M: NOBODY in this whole pool sees Alex melt into a pile of mercury (or whatever it is)? Oh come on. Also wouldn’t she diffuse in liquid and scatter all around the pool?
Alex pops back up across the pool to catch the volley ball, and once again could have achieved that as a normal person by just swimming underwater.
T: Also, why does Scott all of a sudden look like he’s 18 years old?? It’s the water polo.
M: He’s TOO OLD. Barbara said.
14:12 M: Most unrealistic thing thus far: Alex’s ginger friend tanning with one of those open metallic folder things. See? I don’t even know what it’s called! Because redheads can’t tan.
15:27 M: Barbara’s caterers cancelled on a work event and Alex’s bitchy friends are harassing the guests. And, like, waiting on them I guess?
T: Ok, but how old are Alex and her friends supposed to be though? I would find it interesting to see high schoolers as waiters at a corporate event, but highly questionable of 13 year olds were serving canapes to chemical plant execs.
16:08 M: I forgot about this jaunty instrumental music that would play whenever Alex would get hardcore into using her powers.
18:59 M: Alex saved the day by getting the food ready and fixing a fountain. But she is also the one who ruined the day in the first place.
T: To reiterate, all this putting brie on plates and popping bottles are all things regular humans can do. And Alex isn’t even doing it at a fast pace, per se.
Also, Alex ‘fixed the fountain’ by becoming the water. This is the type of magical power shit I approve of. I may have totally seen it coming, but it’s better than putting shrimp cocktail on a plate without touching it.
M: I just feel like Alex’s set of powers is really poorly defined.
19:46 M: Let’s just see if we can mention overalls every day, shall we? Alex’s outfit reminds me of these black velour overalls I just HAD to have for a commercial audition in 6th grade. Why no, I did not book that job. Probs because I didn’t rock a bow tie like Alex.
M: But, I mean, Scott WAS too old for her. That’s some Stacy and Luca shit right there.
T: Relatedly, I would be PISSED if I was one of those kids who got pulled away from a pool party to put on a bow tie and serve rich folk. Did they get paid. I call child labor.