Questions I Have About the 1985 Film Gymkata

I never blog anymore because I’ve got book writing deadlines to meet, but last night I watched a film so puzzling, so thought-provoking, so totally bonkers that I am dedicating today’s writing time to exploring it. So to my editor at Macmillan who expects a first draft of my next book in a few weeks, head’s up that I may be a little late.

Because I have to talk about Gymkata.

My husband and I sat down to watch this 1985 cinema classic last night because he’d heard it was “so bad it’s good” and I must say at least the first half of that phrase is absolutely correct.

Gymkata stars American gymnast and Olympic star Kurt Thomas as Jonathan Cabot, and it’s quite clear to me now why Kurt Thomas earned medals in gymnastics as opposed to any Oscar noms.

The film hinges on an idea so bizarre I forced my husband to pause the film so that I could review with him the exposition and initial incident that sends our protagonist up Freytag’s Pyramid.

Essentially, the character of Jonathan Cabot is recruited by United States secret intelligence to participate in a game of endurance on the fictional island of Parmistan in which all the losers die and the winner is given one request that must be fulfilled by the King of Parmistan, a la the Godfather on his daughter’s wedding day.

Got that?

So…the U.S. government convinces Cabot to play the game and, if he wins, he will use his one wish not for a new cherry red Corvette or sacks of gold bullions but (wait for it) for permission for the United States government to be able to use the island of Parmistan as a site for a U.S. satellite monitoring station, further cementing America’s dominance in the geopolitical crisis known as The Cold War.

Wait, hold up. First plotting issue.

Are we really to believe that a young man at the peak of his virility and athletic prowess would be willing to sacrifice his own life for a satellite monitoring station? I know it was the 80s and we were all jamming on Red Dawn and Ronald Reagan, but I found this to be a bit of a stretch.

Still, Cabot says yes, and we have the ubiquitous training montage that involves a lot of 80s tropes, including a second rate Mr. Miyagi-type, who forces Cabot to train for “the game” by climbing up stairs on his hands. The trainer also has a pet falcon, so you know he’s wise.

Now plotting issue number two. There is a very attractive woman known as “the princess” who is part of Cabot’s training sessions because she’s an expert at “the game.” (At one point the U.S. intelligence officer who recruits Cabot tells him, “She’s got a pretty interesting back story………….her mother’s Indonesian.” That’s it. That’s her interesting back story. That her mom happened to be born in Indonesia just like roughly 4 million other babies per annum and yes I did just look up the birth rate of Indonesia.)

ANYWAY, turns out this princess is actually the princess of PARMISTAN. So here’s my question. Why and how was the U.S. competitor to “the game” given the advantage of having a native of Parmistan flown out to our country to give him tips as to how to win? Seems really unfair to me and beneath the sportsmanship of an Olympic athlete such as Thomas/Cabot.

It’s also unrealistic that Cabot and the princess get together all hot and heavy after she has delivered approximately no lines of dialogue, but okay, the language of love is universal and whatnot plus, ya know, sexism in Hollywood.

Let’s get to Parmistan. There’s a long set up to “the game,” where the princess gets kidnapped and there’s a lot of shooting and running around, but all of this is just boring build up to what we’ve all been (sort of) waiting for…“the game.”

As my husband and I watched the climactic portion of the film, I became utterly consumed by numerous questions.

First of all, why does the King of Parmistan look like a poor man’s Mel Brooks?

Second, how does this country of Parmistan have the ability to allegedly fulfill any request for the winner of “the game,” yet the bulk of its citizenry seems to live as if it were medieval times with no electricity, indoor plumbing, or access to dental care?

Third, why do so many of the “ninjas” who help operate “the game” do little more than stand there, evoking a pose not unlike the one I struck while a member of my school’s 6th grade safety patrol?

Fourth, why do the competitors from other countries wear track suits, but Cabot is wearing khaki slacks and a black turtleneck and looks like he’s about to take Ashley from 5th period on a date to the Cineplex to watch Fletch starring Chevy Chase?

Fifth, why is the movie called Gymkata, yet this word is never once uttered or referenced in this movie?

Sixth, at the end of “the game,” Cabot is forced to run through an abandoned hamlet filled with “crazy people,” that is referred to as “the cuckoo’s nest.” It was the mid 80s, so the stigmatizing of mental illness was to be expected, but my question is…why is it “crazy” for a man to have two faces? Yes, in this part of the film a man with TWO FACES tries to kill Cabot. Biological IMPOSSIBILITY and not really a sign that someone is “crazy,” per se.

Seventh, also present in crazy town is a man in a white robe who beckons to Cabot. When White Robe turns around, his bare ass is exposed. Explain to me what the hell is going on here.

Eighth, as the villagers of the cuckoo’s nest surround Cabot, how is it that there happens to be a pommel horse located in the middle of the town square? Did the residents work out on it? Did it serve some other unknown purpose? And why do they keep approaching the pommel horse as Cabot spins and spins, knocking them out with his furious feet? I guess cuz they’re “crazy.”

Ninth, just as we think Cabot is gonna die, a seemingly sympathetic ninja saves him. Turns out – it’s Cabot’s DAD, who played “the game” over 20 years ago but allegedly DIED but was actually “used as diplomatic bait,” and has been hiding out on Parmistan for lo these past two decades while his son is becoming a medal-earning Olympic gymnast back in America. Now how on Earth did U.S. intelligence allow this man to languish here?!? HUGE plot hole!

Tenth, how was this movie made?

In case you’re wondering, Cabot wins “the game,” wins the girl, and the United States gets its satellite monitoring station. And I spent two hours of my life I’ll never get back watching a little film called Gymkata.


If Caillou’s Mom Kept a Diary

caillou mommy oneFebruary 26, 2013        

Caillou’s Daddy hasn’t touched me in weeks.  Make that months.  I don’t get it.  To be honest, I’m not entirely sure how Caillou and Rosie even entered our lives.  It’s like they’ve always been here.  Caillou has interrupted us in bed so many times, but God knows he’s never interrupted any lovemaking.  The last time he sauntered in here whining about shadows and some nonsense, Caillou’s Daddy actually got out of bed and made him hot chocolate.  That child is never going to learn proper boundaries with that kind of parenting.

I’d accuse Caillou’s Daddy of sleeping with Miss Martin, but he’s such a eunuch I don’t think that’s possible.  I’m sure Miss Martin wouldn’t turn him down.  She’s such a floozie and a complete alcoholic.  I smelled vodka on her breath this morning, I’m sure of it.  But truthfully, how can I fault her?  She teaches preschool for God’s sake.  To that red-headed little heathen Leo, no less.  God knows it takes me at least two cocktails to make it through breakfast with the rest of this Sunshine Family.

March 3, 2013

Let’s get real for a moment and talk about the color scheme of this house.  My eyes bleed each time I walk into the kitchen.  Red and blue and yellow this and red and blue and yellow that.  I feel like the colors are mocking me and my true nature.  I’m an introspective woman at heart, and I prefer muted tones.  Tans, beiges, a nice ecru.  I ask you – who the Hell has a bright red roof over a bright blue primary structure?   Me, that’s who.

And to think I used to listen to Bauhaus in college.  Le sigh.

cailloumommytwoMarch 14, 2013

Grandma and Grandpa are coming over AGAIN tomorrow, damn it.  I feel like clipping some research about the importance of the nuclear family having time to strengthen and develop on its own and leaving it in a prominent place in the (primary-colored) living room.  Grandpa with his forced joviality and aggressive masculine nature, Grandma submitting to such obvious heteronormative roles (not that I can talk, truth be told).

Oh, wait, Grandma is an artist.  I forgot.  Throw some pots at the Senior Center once a week and now you’re Marina Abramović.  As if.

March 22, 2013

Caillou, that LITTLE TWERP.  I washed his shirt for art class and made him pancakes in the shape of a dinosaur and all I got was a whiny temper tantrum at the grocery store.  I know the doctor says there’s no way I can up my dosage, but I’m calling him tomorrow.  I simply must.

Rosie is a sweetheart and I clearly favor her, I realize, but it’s only because I see her future trapped in the same limited, thankless role while that bald-headed son of mine moves on to some other woman in some other ridiculously-painted house and expects her to make him dinosaur-shaped pancakes just like me.  Did the movement’s second wave ACHIEVE NOTHING?  Sometimes it feels that way, I will tell you.

Only Gilbert understands me.

 cailloumommythreeApril 2, 2013

Park, school, kitchen.  Park, school, kitchen.  And the mothers at the park.  Morons!  I tried to discuss Judith Butler’s latest essay with Clementine’s mommy and the mommy of those damn twins no one can tell apart, and all I got were vacant stares.

I’m a Vassar girl, for Christ’s sake!


Deep Thoughts About Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends

If you do not know anything about Thomas the Tank Engine, this post will make no sense to you.  But if you – like me – are the parent of a toddler who obsessively watches Thomas and if you – like me – find yourself falling to sleep with “They’re two, they’re four, they’re six, they’re eight, shunting trucks and hauling freight…” swimming through your skull, then I think you will relate to these deep questions about Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends.

1. How Much Autonomy Do the Engines Actually Have?

The older episodes refer to (and show) drivers inside the train engines, but these gentlemen become less visible in the later computer-animated episodes.  Still, someone must be driving these trains, right?  Or do the trains do all the thinking for themselves?  When Thomas and Toby hustle through the Whispering Woods, who is making the decision to actually go through the Whispering Woods?  Percy and Gordon do some pretty stupid things.  So do Rosie and Emily.  If they have drivers, don’t the drivers have some say in getting them to not do these stupid things?  Thomas just runs off to the country show without making sure his whistle is secured and the driver just lets him?  Come on, drivers.

2. Is Sir Topham Hatt Also the Mayor or What?

He is head of the railroad, right?  But is he also the mayor?  What is his jurisdiction?  Is the island of Sodor so dependent on a railway system that this has effectively given Sir Topham Hatt the power to control everything that happens there?  If he is also the mayor, that would explain the fancy suit, but I seriously doubt the head of Union Pacific gets to march around ordering everyone around all the time while dressed in a tux.

3. Why Does Sir Topham Hatt Have Gentlemen-in-Waiting?

Who are these two guys who just follow Mr. Hatt around?  They’re just looking around, nervous, ready to do Sir Topham Hatt’s bidding.  These guys needs some lessons in self-esteem.  They look like they’re going to start crying if Sir Topham Hatt even looks at them cross-eyed.  That dude must be the mayor if he evokes that much fear in these minions.


4. Why the Relentless Capitalist Message?

Everything is about being a really useful engine – even at the expense of one’s dignity and personal health.  Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Edward – how many times have we seen them debase themselves and humiliate each other in an effort to prove to Sir Topham Hatt that they are a “really useful engine.”  I truly wish Thomas and friends would consider collective bargaining for at least one day off a week.  The trains have nothing to lose but their chains.

5. Is the Overt Sexuality Appropriate?

Percy pumped his pistons.  Bust my buffers.  I’ll be your back engine.  Emily is proud of her big wheels.  Also – what the heck is “shunting” all about?  I’m not sure my toddler son should be watching this.


All right – that’s it for now, but I admit these questions are on my mind way more often than I feel comfortable admitting.  I’m not kidding, either.  I seriously ask myself these questions when Elliott watches this show.  Maybe next week I’ll take the time to share with you my thoughts on The Backyardigans (Is Uniqua transgender?), Curious George (Why is The Man in the Yellow Hat so weak?) and Caillou (Does Caillou have cancer and is this why he is bald?).




What We Talk About When We Talk About The Cutting Edge

Here’s my theory.  There is a certain kind of woman of a certain age who has a very specific response when someone brings up the 1992 cinematic masterpiece known as The Cutting Edge.

If you are that certain kind of woman, you are still reading.  If you’re not, you’re not.  Now you know what camp you fall into.

So now that you’re still reading….welcome, friend.

You know who you are.  You saw the film in theaters in junior high or high school and were smitten, you watched it every single day during that uncertain summer between senior year and college, in your early twenties you developed a drinking game surrounding the phrase “toe pick,” and you plan on introducing it to your toddler daughter as soon as she is old enough for a movie with the word “foreplay” in it.

What was it about this film experience?  Why, why, why did it suck so many of us in?  On its surface, it’s a light romantic comedy (will-they, won’t-they get together?) combined with a typical sports film (will-they, won’t-they win the medal?).  Of course from the opening sequence (“Honey, where I’m from, we stand for the National Anthem”), you know they will and they will.

But yet this movie has a way of captivating and sucking us in, so much so that if The Cutting Edge comes up at a party (you’d be surprised how often this has happened to me), it’s possible to get worked up into a quoting competition with a fellow cult member.

Who the hell do you think you are?
I know exactly who I am, sweetheart. I’m a guy who came a long way for lunch.
Well, please don’t let me keep you from the trough.

I wanna see your ass in the air!
Until Hercules here learns how to lock his grip, this will have to do!

If you’re so bored, why don’t you read?
What, you mean like a book?
That is a traditionally accepted format, yes.
Is this the beginning of a conversation, here?
I was just simply asking if you knew how to read.
Yes. Doug can read.

Okay, slow down there, Jennifer.  Woah, nelly.

So what is it that makes this movie so special?  Well, I have a few theories.


The witty banter

It’s almost like The Cutting Edge is our generation’s The Philadelphia Story.  Need proof?  See above.  Unlike most sappy rom-coms, Kate and Doug don’t sound like a Hallmark card when they talk to each other.  The banter is sharp as a steak knife and lots of fun.  Obviously.  I mean, how else would we remember this little exchange twenty years later?

What do you do, shower once a week? 

Is that an invitation?


Doug Dorsey sort of oozed sex.

 Now D.B. Sweeney isn’t exactly famed in the same way Brad Pitt has been revered as a sex god (the last time I saw him was in a Lifetime movie playing a harried suburban dad, and honestly he looked a little bloated), but somehow as Doug Dorsey he gave off the essence of being a total dynamo in the sack.

When I saw this in the theater, I remember my incredibly naïve 16-year-old self being totally shocked (and quite excited) by the idea that Doug Dorsey had to go on a weekend trip to Boston to get his sex groove on (or as Kate put it, to go “whoring”).  How randy was this guy that he couldn’t handle going a few months without Doin’ It?  He was preparing for the Olympics, but still, he had to go have anonymous sex in Boston for two days just to survive day to day.  Wow.

He knew it, too.  I mean, would a man who boasts, “I only do two things well, sweetheart, and skating’s the other one,” lie about his skills in the sack?  That is the greatest bad boy line since Brando’s “Whaddaya got?” in The Wild One!

Also, Lorie `Sit Spin’ Peckarovski couldn’t fake that morning after glow.  (“It’s a little early for practice, isn’t it?”)  Dang, she was trashy.


The skating!

The skating really sent us over the edge, didn’t it?  The jumps, the twirls, the early 90s neon spandex, and of course, the mind blowing Pamchenko!  (“Legano, no legano – ees gray ahrea”).  There is a part of almost every lady who loves to curl up in front of her television every four years and watch prepubescent girls do things with their bodies on the ice that they themselves could not even do in their early twenties on the GROUND.  And The Cutting Edge satisfied that part of us.  Especially the training and spinning montages.  (“Everybody move…everybody groove…keep on groovin’!)

Seriously, remember the Pamchenko?  I still don’t know if that defied the laws of physics or what.


It gave us just enough but not too much

The Cutting Edge knew just how to tease us.  It didn’t ruin the love affair by showing Doug and Kate racing back to the hotel to rip their clothes off.  (Not that we wouldn’t have watched.)  It didn’t show Kate’s narcissistic father or Doug’s bartending brother or the bearded Russian coach’s reactions to their innocent kiss on the ice.  It didn’t even show Doug and Kate winning the gold medal (we just knew they DID though, with that Pamchenko!).  No, it just built and built and built the tension and released it just enough with that lovely smooch in the middle of the arena under the bright white spotlights.

And then these magical last lines:

You didn’t have to do this.

Yes, I did.


Because, I love you.

Just remember who said it first.


Ah, yes…witty banter until the end.  Love you, Kate and Doug!!!   xoxoxo



TLC Channel vs. Lifetime TV In a Battle for Women’s Souls

I feel sort of like a soldier committing treason or a gang member wearing the wrong colors for saying this, but I must speak the truth.

Lifetime TV better watch its backside because TLC is coming at it ninja style with the current quality of its Ladyvision programming. 

I have been a Lifetime TV addict ever since I realized I was a woman.  This happened in college when I began to understand the way that patriarchal oppression affects nearly every facet of my life.  To be honest, I also realized I was a woman when I found out I could get away with doing “girl” push-ups.

Anyway, ever since realizing I am a woman, I have loved me some Lifetime.  And what was not to love?  Tori Spelling getting stalked and countless reruns of The Golden Girls.  Female empowerment indeed.  (I’m only being partly facetious there.  The Golden Girls was actually one of the most empowering shows for women in the history of television, for serious.)

But despite the greatness of Lifetime, lately, I have to give it up for TLC.  Let’s see which shows are keeping me coming back for more.

Four Weddings

Well of course the ladies are gonna love this.  It’s about stuff ladies love to do.  Namely, planning weddings and talking shit about each other.  And not just talking shit, but talking shit in, like, the super nicest way possible?  Where everything they say comes out like a question?  Like you know what I mean?

The deal with this show is four ladies attend each other’s weddings, compare and contrast, cast a secret ballot, and then the winner of the “best” wedding gets a dream honeymoon.

And as you watch you can talk about, like, did she know the line for the food was gonna be this long?  And like, do you think she knew her dress was god-awful ugly as sin?  And, um, don’t you think their vows were sort of overdoing it?  Like, not to be mean but you know?


I Didn’t Know I was Pregnant

Since most people who get pregnant are ladies, this is super perfect for TLC’s lady-driven programming.  This show is about the dumbest women in the world and how they give birth in amusement park toilets after riding a roller coaster.  (True episode.)

What I love are the reenactments where the newborn baby is played by a six-month old covered in red Jello.


The Little Couple

One half of The Little Couple is a woman, hence its inclusion in the TLC line-up.  The deal with this twosome is that other than being little people, they have to be the most boring couple I’ve ever met.  They’re affluent with a lot of disposable income, so I get to watch little people golf, travel, build their own home, have nice dinners, etc.  Fantastic.  It would be more exciting if they were alcoholics, or they got into knife fights with other little couples, or just something like that.


Cake Boss/Next Great Baker/DC Cupcakes/Fabulous Cakes

Women eat cake, right?  Like, especially when they’re PMSing like sooooooo bad?  So this is perfect.


19 Kids and Counting

Okay, so despite reading this well-researched, well-written book about the repressive and sexist Quiverfull movement, I can’t help but get all transfixed by the country-kitchen vibe of Mama Michelle Duggar, her hubby Jim Bob, and their brood.  What amazes me is how GOOD Michelle looks for having had and raised 19 children.  I don’t know what her secret is.  Perhaps it’s quality skin moisturizer, or perhaps it’s the fact that she uses child labor to do her dirty work.  Of course I’m talking about her eldest daughters, who are apparently forced to sublimate all their own dreams into clean laundry and tubs of mac and cheese as they care for their younger siblings in a patriarchal-driven environment that reduces women to only one basic role of wife and mother while limiting their contact with the outside world.  Woah, woah, woah!  Sorry about that…getting all college on ya.


Sister Wives

The title alone tells you how perfect this is for a female audience.  Women are sisters and women are wives, and in this show, they are also polygamists!  Four ladies center their lives around Kody Brown and his dreamy golden locks.  Where the appeal is after that, you got me.


Make Room for Multiples

The show that all ladies who are also mothers should take the time to watch just in case they’re ever feeling overwhelmed.  Today I watched an episode where a couple had four kids under two.  I want you to think about that for a minute, parents.  Four kids under two.  I know, right?  After the show was over, I went and took every birth control pill in my pill pack, just to be safe.


Toddlers and Tiaras

There is nothing to say.


So there.  That wraps up my review of TLC’s best and brightest.  Lifetime, are you listening?  Because pretty soon, TLC isn’t going to stand for The Learning Channel anymore.  In my eyes, it’s gonna be known as The Lady Channel.

What I Learned From Watching 1950s Melodramas

I’m not ashamed to admit some of my favorite films include wonderful old frothy 50s melodramas like All That Heaven Allows, A Summer Place, Written on the Wind, Magnificent Obsession, Peyton Place, and many more.  And after years of watching these films, I’ve learned a few things about life.

Men Should Always Wear a Suit No Matter What

Whether they’re eating breakfast, talking on the telephone, or going for a light jog, a man is not a man unless he wears a full suit.  I know sometimes it got hot, especially with Lana Turner and a very fetching young Lauren Bacall running around, and yes, air conditioning was a rarity back in the 50s.  But gentlemen, we’re sorry.  You’re wearing a suit.  Constantly.  The moment you emerge from your bed, put on a suit.  Go everywhere all day long in that suit, and don’t let anyone see you in anything but a suit except for your wife, who can glance at you in your pajamas from her own bed way on the other side of the master bedroom.

Also a must – you need to Brylcreem the Hell out of your hair.  Seriously.  You should be able to ride a roller coaster during a high-powered tornado without those locks moving a centimeter, and if you can’t, you definitely need more Brylcreem.

Every Move Should Be Choreographed to a Very!  Intense!  Classical!  Score!

In case you don’t know how to feel while watching a 1950s melodrama, just listen to the classical score.  Someone accuses someone of being a loose woman?  A shocking crescendo will accompany that.  Two passionate lovers clutch each other in the dark recesses of an attic or a cave by the beach?  A shocking crescendo will accompany that, too.  Actually, now that I think about it, these films are just one shocking crescendo and slam of crashing cymbals after another until the very end.  By the way, you’ll know you’ve reached the end when there’s a swell in the music and THE END scrolls across the screen in a super gorgeous 1950s font.


Life Is Just Full of Moments of Unintentional Humor

Now I know it’s probably not what the original directors had planned, but 1950s films are full of moments of unintentional humor, some of it quite incredible to behold.  For instance, in All That Heaven Allows, Rock Hudson asks Jane Wyman to come over to his house to “see my silver-tipped spruce.”  Oh ho ho ho, Mr. Hudson.  We all know Miss Jane was not who you were really interested in, hence the equally hilarious line from the same film: “I can’t even shoot straight.”  Yes, Rock, we know.

Then there’s Written on the Wind, a film that has a trailer so shocking (crash of the cymbals), so over the top (crash of the cymbals) and so freaking hilarious, it must be seen to believed.  Robert Stack and Rock Hudson punch a bunch of dudes and then you’ve got a man yelling, “I didn’t take her to the motel, she took me.  Your daughter’s a tramp!”


They Were Real Weird About Sex…Like REAL WEIRD

Ladies, remember how you would come home from a date in high school and then your mom would have the friendly neighborhood gynecologist over to check and make sure you were still a virgin?  Yeah, me neither.  But that DOES happen to poor little Molly Jorgenson in A Summer Place.  Seriously.  I know if I had been shipwrecked on a private island with Troy Donahue, I’d have given up the goods.  But poor Molly doesn’t even get any action and she still has to submit to a humiliating examination to make sure her maidenhead is still 100% USDA certified virgin.


And then, of course, there are the old people in Peyton Place who like to watch teenagers swim naked.  So…yeah.

Black People Hadn’t Been Invented Yet

Or gay people.  Or feminists.  Or poor people as protagonists.  Or anybody who wasn’t an upper middle class hetero white person with a sex complex.  Yeah, I know all of these movies are really just a mind trip and a way to escape the confines of our modern existence (and what cute furniture and fashion to look at, too!).  But they are also a way to remind ourselves just how far we’ve come as a society.  In today’s films, women and men of all colors and all walks of life are shown dealing with real problems, and often the only soundtrack is incidental music by some hipster indie artist.  Which may or may not be a good thing in terms of visceral film pleasure, but at least it’s a bit more egalitarian.

Plus, it’s nice to know that if Rock Hudson were alive today, he could have saved his silver-tipped spruce for a nice-looking young man.


My (Still!) Unanswered Questions About Saved by the Bell

As a lady of a certain age, I spent too many of my teen years zoning out to Saved by the Bell on Saturday morning. As a young adult, I spent much of my twenties drunk and watching reruns of said show on TBS and other stations. But despite watching countless hours of Zack, Kelly, and the gang, there were some questions that were never answered, and I find that years later I still ponder them. (Hey, some people study particle physics. Others of us study the inner-workings of teen feminist Jessie Spano. Is that so wrong?) So here now are the top 10 things I never understood about the greatest show to ever air on network television.

10. Why Didn’t Mr. Belding Have a Secretary?

Presumably, Bayside High was a large, coeducational learning facility with many students. Yet somehow, Mr. Belding was denied a secretary. Even stranger was the fact that his office was located in the hallway by some lockers. I don’t know about you, but in my four years of high school, I never saw the principal’s office. It was locked away somewhere, down cavernous hallways, protected by secretaries and assistant principals and deans of instruction. Yet at Bayside, any student could just open the door and saunter in to find Mr. Belding at his desk. There wasn’t even someone to field his calls? (Also, why the hell did he keep saying, “Hey, hey, hey, what is going on here?” You know, maybe if he’d had a secretary, he wouldn’t have had to ask so much!)

9. Why Were The Nerds So Intensely Nerdish?

Saved by the Bell was so fundamentally classic in its understanding of high school, so by-the-book in its peer group analysis, so trapped by outmoded stereotypes, that the writers of Saved by the Bell made John Hughes look like Jean-Luc Godard. (Did I just type that?) Regardless, what I never understood about the nerds at Bayside was that they were the kind of nerds you dress up as if you are going to be a nerd for Halloween. The pocket protectors, the glasses with the tape in the middle, the high-waisted pants. What people, nerds or otherwise, actually dress in this fashion? They were even named things like Maxwell Nerdstrom and Melvin Nerdly. I mean, come on. I recognize that The Bellwasn’t aiming for complete reality, but most nerds I knew in high school looked like ordinary people, except they were, like, obsessed with D&D and never looked up when they walked. Would it have killed the creators to do a little research?

8. Wither Tori Scott?

Genius pop culture writer Chuck Klosterman has written quite eloquently on the so-called Tori Paradox before, but I’ll go ahead and restate it here. Wasn’t it strange that in the final season, a new character named Tori Scott (played by Leanna Creel) was a sort of substitute for Elizabeth Berkley and Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, both who had refused to renew contracts? What was strange about this is that the final season took episodes starring Creel and mixed them in with episodes that had already been shot which featured Berkley and Thiessen. What were we supposed to think? That while Tori Scott was hanging with her new pals at Bayside, Kelly and Jessie were doing lines in the bathroom? Of course not, because Kelly and Jessie would never do such a thing (I think). Still, they could have at least mentioned them. And in the final episode where they all graduate, Tori Scott is nowhere to be seen. Maybe she got expelled.

7. Was There An Upstairs? And If So, Why Didn’t They Have Classes There?

It was not an infrequent event to see the Bayside kids trotting down the stairs to the first floor. Yet there seemed to be no classes upstairs. All coursework took place in one classroom conveniently located across the hall from Mr. Belding’s secretary-less office. History, economics, English, mathematics. It didn’t matter. It all took place in the same room. What was this, Bayside One Room School House? Utilize the full space, Mr. Belding.

6. They Did it ALL! Are We Supposed to Believe This?

Track, cheerleading, newspaper, football, planning Homecoming, planning Prom, organizing the visit of drug-abusing anti-drug speaker Johnny Dakota (the irony!) — oh, were the Bayside kids in the thick of it all. But not all the Bayside kids. Just our pals Zack, Slater, Kelly, Jessie, Lisa, and Screech. Granted, all of us remember that coterie of elitists in our own high school that seemed to run the place and garner 23 pages in the yearbook every year, but even they shared duties with some of the plebeians once in a while. I seem to remember one episode where they all packed into Mr. Belding’s office to talk with him about the Prom. What, did he bring snacks?

5. Where Was Mrs. Belding?

I suppose you could argue that Mrs. Belding was the Vera Peterson of children’s television, having stayed out of the limelight throughout the run of the series despite several mentions. Now while it was easy to see why Vera wouldn’t want the boorish, drunk Norm around all the time, I wonder what the hell Mrs. B thought about her husband spending the great majority of his days hanging around teenagers who manipulated him and made fun of him on a regular basis. I’m sure Mrs. Belding could have done a lot better…if there even was a Mrs. Belding!

4. Would Teenage Boys Actually Lip Sync and Dance Together to Barbara Ann?

Oh God, the infamous Barbara Ann dance moment. Now, I’ve known some teenage boys in my day, and I have a feeling when they got together it was more like a scene out of Superbad than Saved by the Bell You know, trying to score booze, chicks, and maybe some porn. But Zack, Slater, and Screech were apparently so innocent in their desires that their spontaneous fun consisted of dancing around in their neon-colored shorts, pretending to lip sync to a hit by the Beach Boys. Oh, and acting out a guitar solo on an electric broom and trying to surf the couch. Even as a 14-year-old, I recognized this scene as complete BS.

3. What Happened to Max of The Max?

One minute Ed Alonzo is a magician slash waiter slash adult confidante at The Max, the next minute he’s gone. Like Coco the chef from the pilot of The Golden Girls that little girl on Family Matters who went on to star in porn, their characters disappeared into the sunset with not even a hint of an explanation. You would think Max of The Max would have demanded a name change of the restaurant to something else.

2. The Girls of Bayside Calendar…Really?

Ah, Bayside, a school where feminist dreams can come true. Like appearing in a Girls of Bayside calendar or competing in a swimsuit for Miss Bayside! I love how the writers created a feminist-ish character in Jessie Spano who essentially made teenage feminists look like ranting loons except for when they decided to forgo their principles by appearing in a bathing suit or short cheerleading skirt.

1. If Anyone Was Going to Get Addicted to “Drugs”, Wouldn’t It Have Been Screech?

Ah, yes. You knew I was going to end with this one. The infamous “I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m so…scared,” moment, an iconic event in television history, fer sure. But why write Jessie Spano as the “drug” addict who couldn’t stop gulping caffeine pills? Seriously, don’t you think Screech was the better candidate? Here’s a young man who is essentially ridiculed by his group of friends on a regular basis and constantly shunned by the woman of his dreams. If anyone was going to ride the dragon, wouldn’t it have been Screech? Besides, his jerky movement and weird vocal inflections tipped us off that something illegal was definitely lurking under that curly head of his.

(Originally published on Heartless Doll.)