Season 2, Episode 8
Before I jump into today’s episode, I thought it might be fun to give you a little backstory aboot my relationship with Fifteen. In 1992, I was a drunken 22-year-old college dropoot living with a roommate in a shithole apartment in New Brunswick, NJ. I spent much of my time splayed oot on the sofa with a six pack, staring idly at the television. These were the early days of Roseanne, and I remember taking in many episodes of that sitcom in its indisputable heyday. But there was one show that was prominent above all the rest in my viewing rotation and that, of course, was Fifteen. Initially, I just stumbled upon an episode in progress and immediately understood its infinite potential for parody, which in those days consisted of me yelling stupefied vulgarities at the TV screen. But that alone wasn’t enough to make me obsess over a poorly produced Nickelodeon children’s soap opera. It would take something more than that to jumpstart my lifelong fandom, something that reached into the very depths of my soul and made me question everything I believed. That something was Laura “Liz” Harris, the actress who played the part of the soft-spoken, inappropriately libido stirring, infuriating, bipolar waif named Ashley Fraser. In other words, it was L-O-V-E that made me a lifelong devotee of the students of Hillside.
And that’s why it’s all the more confounding as I revisit Fifteen a quarter of a century later to realize that Ashley is a fucking self-absorbed moron whose affections I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy. Alcohol can really mess with a lonely young guy’s sense of discrimination. Just ask Matt.
Matt, Dave and four members of the Jock Squad are crammed into a booth at The Avalon after the game. Apparently, Matt scored two points during his brief time on the court and now he’s feigning humble embarrassment while Dave and his teammates shower him with effusive praise as if he’d just bested Wilt Chamberlain’s all-time scoring record. Following an impromptu chant of “MATT-MATT-MATT-MATT!”, the four jocks get up to leave, and a briefly audible moment of their simultaneous banter while they gather their things reminds me that “turkey” was still considered a viable insult in 1992. On the one hand, it’s a relief to be rid of this boisterous crowd of cliché-spouting stereotypes, but on the other, their departure just leaves us with Dave sitting across from Matt and I fear that taking in much more of his deadpanned verbal chloroform may trigger a spontaneous acute encephalopathic coma from which I’ll never awaken. Such are the risks of great endeavors performed for the betterment of humanity.
I’ve meandered too far from the action at hand, and for that, I apologize. Dave gives his hero a boring little pep talk, telling him that in no time, he’ll be back to scoring 18 to 20 points per game and “it’ll be just like old times.” Matt responds, “Not exactly. If it was like the old days, I’d be sitting here with Ashley.”
In the student lounge, Brooke is giving Who Farted’s old lady thrift store ootfit a thorough once over. She concludes that her new little minion could look really good, “if you just put yourself together a bit better.” Who Farted moans that her “clothing allowance” doesn’t allow for her to make high fashion choices, and Brooke is absolutely dumbstruck at the idea of being so financially limited. Brooke offers to accompany her to the mall at lunchtime to help her pick oot a more suitable ootfit, but Who Farted expresses hesitation at using her dad’s credit card for such a frivolous purpose.
Dylan enters The Avalon and approaches Chris at the counter.
Dylan: Mind if I sit down?
Chris: It’s a free country.
Dylan: Yeah. Listen, the band’s going nowhere unless we get it together. Together, like all of us. You, me and Billy.
Chris: You, me…and Billy the Kid? Terrific.
Dylan: He’s okay.
Chris: Yeah, sure.
Dylan: Aboot the other day…
Chris: Yeah, what aboot it?
Dylan: Could we just forget it?
Chris: Forget it?! You tried to show me up…in front of Ashley!
Dylan: You were being a jerk.
Chris: Don’t push it, Dylan! Ashley’s a big girl now. Besides, she can take care of herself.
Dylan: She’s a friend of mine. Okay, look, could we just get on with it? I’ll stay off your toes, you stay off mine, deal?
Chris: Yeah, okay. Deal.
Dylan: Have you got that?!
Chris: I said deal, didn’t I?
Dylan: Okay. Now aboot the band…we need a good lead singer and I think I’ve got an idea.
Deadpool sits down next to Ashley in the student lounge. As they engage in small talk, Billy’s mannerisms betray more than mild infatuation with his sister’s former bestie, though she doesn’t seem to be picking up on that vibe. She asks him how the band is doing and he replies, “Hey, we’re getting real good! We’re doing some New Kids stuff…and some metal.” Ashley feigns interest before asking Billy if he’s seen Courtney. She asks him to tell his sister that she’s looking for her, and he invites her to stop by the garage some time to hear them play. In case you weren’t paying attention, what she’ll be hearing if she decides to take him up on his offer is some New Kids stuff…and some metal.
Pivoting from one pubescent crush to another, he walks over to Amanda’s table.
Billy: It’s great to see her back, huh?
Amanda: Yeah. You two seem to get along real well.
Billy: I guess not everyone finds me hopelessly immature.
Amanda: No? Then why don’t you ask her oot?
This is a tangled fucking web in which you’ve ensnared yourself, Wade Winston Wilson. And since you mentioned it, who’s balls did you have to fondle to get your very own movie?
Dylan spots Ashley at her locker and asks her if it’s rough being back, leading me to wonder what the hell they’ve been talking aboot since she set up camp in his garage almost a week ago. They’re interrupted by Matt greeting Dylan with a sarcastic, “Hey, it’s the Big Rocker!”, to which Dylan replies, “Hey, it’s the Hero of the Hoops!” Somebody needs to school these two idiots on the nuances of trash talk stat. As Dylan stands awkwardly between them, Matt and Ashley exchange some words aboot Friday’s basketball game and the fact that Matt had been hoping to see her there. Reluctantly realizing he’s a third wheel, Matt finally takes his leave. Ashley tells Dylan, “i wish you guys would get along,” to which James Dean replies, “Hey, we get along. We have a great relationship. I can’t stand him and he can’t stand me, either. It’s perfect!” He changes the subject and tells Ashley that he didn’t just come here to watch her throw around books and lunch bags as she struggles to locate her math book. This leads to Dylan’s previously quoted declaration that “there’s more to life than a math book,” and when Whisperella retorts, “like what?”, he enthusiastically responds, “Rock and roll! R & B, metal…heavy metal!” This is, of course, Dylan’s lead-in to asking Ashley to audition for the band’s lead singer spot, a proposition she deems ludicrous because she can’t sing. She insists that it’s a crazy idea, but he just tells her to be at the garage to audition after school.
Oh man, I didn’t realize it would happen so early on, but we’re aboot to get our first glimpse of the fabled mall to which these little douchebags are always referring. The scene opens on this generic shot of shoppers strolling past various stores and kiosks:
However, the only establishments we will ever see these kids patronize for the remainder of the series are the clothing store in which we now find Brooke and Who Farted that boasts approximately four racks of shirts and skirts and the tiny café adjoining it. Don’t any of these adolescent shit stains ever get a hankering for Orange Julius?
Brooke is holding up a black skirt with white polka dots to Who Farted’s shapeless frame, declaring that she looks “really good!” Who Farted is still hesitant to use her father’s credit card for the purchase of new clothes, but when the girl behind the register presumptively asks, “Will that be cash?”, Brooke’s subsequent antagonism causes her to cave and buy the skirt.
Ashley sheepishly approaches the table in the lounge where Courtney is doing homework and apologizes for how she acted yesterday. Headband turns the tables and apologizes for almost dating Matt and it seems all is right with the world again before Ashley dramatically whispers, “things have changed, haven’t they? a lot of things are different. i gotta go.” Maybe it would be best if you just kept your apologies to yourself, Asshole.
At The Avalon, Matt is either pretending to play or dry-humping the dysfunctional pinball machine when Dave tells him that he was talking to Coach Williams earlier and the coach “wanted to know if you had your…problem under control.”
Matt: My problem?
Dave: Yeah…you know.
Matt: No, I don’t know.
Dave: You know, your drinking and all.
Matt: Hey – I don’t have a drinking problem!
Dave: Yeah, I know, but—
Matt: So what is this?! The coach got you spying for him?
Dave: No! Hey, look, he was just worried.
Matt: He’s worried? So you told him I have it all under control, right?
Dave: Yeah, I told him—
Matt: That’s just great! Thanks a lot! Man, I used to have a couple beers on Friday night and all of a sudden – wham! – everyone thinks that I’m some kind of alcoholic or something! Well, I’m not, so do me a favor, will ya? Run along and tell Coach Williams that I haven’t had a beer in weeks! Nothing! Not one drop!! ZIP!!! That oughta satisfy him. And while you’re at it, do me another favor – STAY OOT OF MY FACE!!
That was fucking awesome, but it would have been even better had it been Jake instead of Dave on the receiving end.
Back at Hillside, Ashley’s still searching for her math book in the student lounge when Deadpool walks over and asks if she’s looking for something. When she explains her predicament, he reaches down to the chair right next to him and holds up the missing textbook that this moron somehow failed to locate even though she’s been ostensibly hunting it down since the beginning of the fucking episode. She tells Billy that he’s sweet and that she’ll see him after school when she comes to Dylan’s garage to audition, sending him into a daydream involving him and his newest crush in formal wear at a candlelit table. In his fantasy, Ashley showers him with adoring praise and declares that he “really made it” while Deadpool casually brushes off his myriad accomplishments with false humility. She tells dream-Billy that he’s got “a boyish charm with a macho edge” and that he’s “dangerously irresistible”. What’s ironic, of course, is that in aboot 20 years’ time, young Billy’s fantasy will pale in comparison to Ryan Reynolds’ reality.
Who Farted is wearing her new ootfit when she enters the locker vestibule with Brooke. Chris, leaning over the stairway bannister, leers at her as she approaches and asks her if she got a new haircut or something. While she’s drinking in his flattery, the Jock Squad gallops down the stairs and each of them immediately starts fawning all over her as if she actually acquired a new face rather than a fairly standard-issue polka dot dress from the only clothing store at the only mall in town. She walks off with the jocks, bumping into Amanda who enthuses, “Nice ootfit!” Finding herself alone with her little sister, Brooke complains aboot the shallowness of people who overreact to something like a new dress, when “it’s what’s on the inside that really matters.” Amanda sneers, “Right. You know, you’re looking a little bleak. You should get Stacy to go to the mall with you…maybe she can give you a few tips.” All of that would probably have been quite amusing if I didn’t fucking hate Who Farted with every fiber of my being.
It’s audition time! Even though we’re only afforded two verses of Ashley’s cringe-worthy performance of some hastily penned fake pop song, I feel compelled to say so much more aboot it than I’m probably capable. You know, I used to devote my blog to things like quantum mechanics, Zen Buddhism, and a host of other ontological and epistemological topics, but never have I found myself so bereft of adequate words as when I need to verbally illustrate the indescribable phenomenon that is Laura Harris’ portrayal of this pink lunatic. Billy gushes that she was great while Chris makes it abundantly clear that he thought she sucked, so Dylan asks Ashley to come back later so that the band can discuss things. The ensuing band meeting goes exactly as you’d expect, with Chris advising Dylan that it’s his responsibility to tell her that she’s too shitty to sing for their shitty band: “She’s rotten, and you’ve got to tell her. Your problem, Rocker.”
At The Avalon, Brooke is trying to get Who Farted to rethink her perplexingly popular new look, declaring that she may have made a “terrible mistake” for talking her into something that “basically just doesn’t suit you.” Sensing that her newly stylish underling isn’t persuaded by her insincere words, she steps it up a notch and tells her that she looks fat, just as Deadpool walks past and enthusiastically tells her that she looks great. You decided to play Dr. Frankenstein, Brooke, and this is your monster.
Ashley returns to the garage where Dylan proceeds to nervously inform her that she didn’t make the cut. He seems enormously relieved when it becomes apparent that she doesn’t give a flying fuck, even though she made it pretty clear when he first approached her aboot this that she didn’t give a flying fuck.
In the boys’ locker room, Dave is making to leave when Matt calls oot to him. He starts to apologize for blowing up at him earlier but ends up getting all riled up again in the process of explaining how much it bugs him when people think he has a drinking problem. I seem to recall several such “apologies” from Matt over the course of the first season. Regardless, Dave indicates that everything’s cool between them and Matt thanks him with an affectionate pat on the shoulder.
In the garage, Dylan is noodling on some pedestrian blues riff when Chris enters to make sure that Ashley was informed of her inadequacy for their crappy band. After Dylan confirms that she was, Chris advises that they’ll need to find a decent singer fast because “Jerry down at The Avalon just offered us a gig.” It seems that The Avalon is starting to host bands on the weekend and Jerry (Filth Pig?) has been tapped to scout oot talent for this new venue. However, Chris slightly overstated the situation because first Jerry needs to check them oot and, “if he likes what he hears, we’re in.” He again tells Dylan to find a good lead singer ASAP before they ecstatically high-five each other in reaction to their big break.
Have you noticed that Janice has been AWOL for two whole episodes now? Where could she be? I’m starting to get a little concerned that something tragic may have befallen her — and so are you. So stay tuned, Motherfuckers!