Fifteen Questions

…with Robyn Ross!

robyn ross

Perhaps you know her as Mrs. Klump on the CW’s Riverdale. Or maybe Marnie from The L Word? Or Ellie Holman in the film Suck It Up Buttercup? Oh, screw it, what the hell do I think I’m trying to pull here? — you know her as Hillside High’s very own Brooke Morgan! Robyn Ross generously agreed to answer fifteen questions that I devised and I can think of no better coda for Notes From The Avalon than an honest and revealing chat with the person who drove more traffic to this site than I ever could have with a gracious and unsolicited link on Fifteen’s Facebook fan page.

This is a long one, but unlike most of the silliness on this blog, I think you’ll find it well worth your time. Read it in installments if your attention span demands. If you stick with it, perhaps you’ll be rewarded with a photo from Halloween 2011 of Your Humble Narrator doing a full-on, shaved-headed Heisenberg. Robyn recorded her replies for me, so that’s why the tone of my questions is far less conversational than her answers. Her “oots” and “aboots” aren’t nearly as pronounced as my text implies but, you know…site consistency. Aside from a few flattering asides aboot my writing that would make me blush to publicize, everything here is verbatim from the audio file she sent me. So if you want to dig into some juicy insider info aboot everyone’s favorite teen soap, this is for you. Conversely, if inspiration in these trying times is what you’re after, this is also for you. Robyn is a bright, funny, down-to-earth and exceedingly compassionate person, as you’ll soon see. So let’s waste no further time on my pointless pontification and settle in for an intimate chat with Robyn Ross!

Before we strap into the Way Back Machine, I wanted to start off with something a little more current and topical. How has Covid-19 affected your current projects and how have you been keeping busy during the pandemic? I know that production on Riverdale was forced to shut down with 19 of 22 episodes already in the can, which must be frustrating, to say the least. Do you know what the plans are going forward? Will there be a fifth season and if so, will we be seeing more of Mrs. Klump?

Well, during Covid-19, I was supposed to be permanently moving back to a place in New York City – I was in Vancouver for a bit and I was supposed to be going back and then I just couldn’t go, for obvious reasons. It was better to stay in Canada. My child was here and we have social Medicare so if anything went wrong, we would all be taken care of. Self-employed people made good money every month from our government here. I have to say, as much as I love New York and as much as I love America in so many ways, I think Canada did it quite a bit better so I felt very lucky that I have citizenship in both places and that I could be here during this with my family making sure that they’re okay and I’m okay.

I stayed up in a place called Whistler, British Columbia. My parents have had a cabin up here for 30 years and now it’s quite a tourist destination but it was absolutely dead quiet – no one was here. It was literal Armageddon – you could walk around the village for 20 minutes that it’s usually packed and not see one soul. But I did see bears and I did see birds. In fact, I trained birds to eat oot of my hands – wild, beautiful, stellar jays. So here’s ‘big city girl’ – big New York City girl – way up in the mountains and I never thought in a million years that I’d say I loved it, but if we have to say that there was a silver lining to it all, it was the fact that I got to learn this side of me. I absolutely loved being here, walking on trails every day. That’s coming from someone who was so used to working seven days a week – between acting and voice work and teaching acting and working on set and doing makeup jobs (because that’s my second career – I’m a makeup artist) – it was so incredible to have this break that I would have never taken myself and literally smelled the air and could feel all the appreciation I have for life. I know there was so much suffering in the world but at least I found the positive through it all and hopefully, I’ll come oot being able to help people in their darkness if they’re still there because I feel a lot stronger for it.

All the shows had been forced to shut down. Productions, all the auditions, everything. They’ve started up now – we’re recording voice auditions and live camera auditions from home, so I have the whole set-up. But other than that, it was a good two months of literally just getting to know life and appreciating every moment that I had with family or alone time, time to read, all those things, so that was amazing. I think there’s going to be a fifth season of Riverdale. I’m not ‘in-the-know’ anymore. I think my character is done, which is too bad, but you never know. I wasn’t expecting her to come back a third season and she did, so who knows? I loved working on the show. The team is absolutely great – the crew, the writers, the show runner – everybody’s great, but I don’t know if Mrs. Klump will be back. I’m just happy it’s going on – I heard that Sabrina, which is a sister show, unfortunately shut down, but as far as I know, Riverdale’s gonna keep going.

I still pick up an Archie Double Digest every time I’m in the grocery check-oot line. In other words, if it wasn’t bad enough that I’m a card-carrying Fifteen geek, you can add to that the fact that I love the original Archie Comics more than I love my own mother. That being said, I don’t ever recall a mention of Midge’s mom in the comics, as Midge herself was treated as sort of an ancillary character. Were you afforded any creative independence in perfecting the role of Mrs. Klump or did the writers already have a fully-fleshed oot character envisioned?

Yes, I loved Archie Comics when I was a kid! I looked for Midge’s mom through everything on the internet that I could possibly find and I never found Midge’s mom, either. I got to create her, so that was wonderful. I mean, obviously I had the script that the writers had written but I had done research and couldn’t find anything so I kind of just read more aboot Midge – read into Midge – and tried to use my psychology to figure oot why Midge was the way she was. I know that I (Mrs. Klump) didn’t have a husband that existed, so that could add to a lot of the character of Midge’s mom. But I have to say this: considering the first episode shows me at her funeral with my daughter dead, it didn’t take much as a mom myself to imagine how horrific that sort of thing would be, so we just kind of jumped in full-throttle and went from there. Then when she shot Fangs (Fogarty) because she thought he was the murderer of her daughter and then was put in jail, she’s just a mom who was oot of her mind with grief and wanted justice for the killing of her daughter who she loved more than anything in the world – it was her only child. So, I mean, what would any mother do if you thought that the man who killed your daughter was walking free? Yeah. And that’s why she ends up – spoiler alert – joining a cult! So we don’t see much of Mrs. Klump in the cult or aboot the cult, you just see one episode where she stands up and she’s part of The Farm, but that’s it and I think The Farm is done, so maybe Mrs. Klump is done. Anyway, I loved how much freedom I had with her character, and Roberto, the show runner and the writer was really great aboot everything.

klump

Excuse the wordiness of this one, as it necessitates an anecdotal intro. One of the first times I ever found myself in awe of an acting performance involved Caroll O’Connor in an episode of All In The Family. Briefly, Meathead had invited a friend who had dodged the Vietnam draft over for Thanksgiving dinner. Archie was certain that his guest, an old über-patriotic army buddy, would side with him in chastising Mike’s draft dodging friend. To his shock, his friend expressed support for the kid, adding that if his own son had done the same thing, he’d still be alive. The camera zoomed in on Archie’s face for an extremely long shot in which no dialogue was spoken. I watched as Archie’s entire belief system – his worldview and the very foundation on which he built his self-image and his life – crumbled like a house of cards. Mr. O’Connor pulled all this off withoot a word and that’s when I understood what first-class acting entails.

In the final hospital scene of Suck It Up Buttercup, you and (co-star) Gregory Konow are waiting in a corridor while the doctor is tending to Jackie. The tension – along with the shame, judgment, anxiety and guilt – is palpable. Not a word is spoken for this entire extended scene and yet, you managed to say more than pages of dialogue could have expressed with nothing more than your facial expressions and mannerisms. Does such nuanced acting come natural to you or are there actors – either those with whom you’ve worked directly or those of whom you’re just a fan – whose work directly inspired your own growth as an actor?

Wow. What a fantastic question! Holy shit. Okay, first of all, I loved how you described that scene with Carroll O’Connor. Acting like that is also what inspires me to work to try and get to that level. You almost made me cry by saying you saw that in Suck It Up Buttercup, in which I owe so much of my performance to my incredible director, Malindi Fickle. She knows me, she knew how to get in me, she knew how to pull it oot of me and I literally owe my performance to her. She is the most incredible director to work with. She is a joy and she can make any actor be their best actor-self. There aren’t enough words to describe how incredible she is as a director. I hope she directs more. I hope I get to work with her again, but she is fantastic.

(NFTA: Here Robyn goes off the record to recommend a French film called “Of Gods and Men” — Grand Prix winner at the 2010 Cannes Festival — for the superb and poignant performances of the cast. I’ll be checking it oot at my first opportunity.)

That being said, I have trained as an actor for years and years and years. Obviously, you didn’t see a lot of nuance in my character Brooke in Fifteen, but I was training as an actor at the time and that was a very specific genre. It was very two-dimensional. It was a kids’ teen soap so every time I would try to give a little bit more realistic and nuanced performances, the director would say, “Come on, energy up! Energy up!” and I was just like, “Why doesn’t he see that I’m trying to make it more real?” but at the same time, I didn’t realize then that there are different genres and the kind of overacting, campy, smirking-off-into-the-third-camera for that end shot – that is the genre and I didn’t understand there were different genres so you can’t apply all types of acting to all the types of genre. You have to definitely adjust and learn the different types of techniques you need for the different genres.

I never think I’m done (learning) acting. I still to this day work oot with peers – we do scenes, we coach each other on auditions and I still, at my age, have a-ha moments where I’m like, “What? I remember my acting teacher in New York saying that 25 years ago and I didn’t get it but now I do – crazy!” Or when I’m coaching someone or when I’m teaching my kids in my acting class, sometimes I learn from that, too.

(NFTA: Here Robyn pauses to greet and feed a bird at her window. She also sent me a beautiful video of her fearless feathered friend eating oot of her hand. If I can figure oot how, I will post that video at the end of the interview. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait until a more tech-savvy friend stops by to do it for me.)

Okay, I’m back and I have to admit I cheated because I knew I had to list my all-time favorite actors whose work has inspired me and constantly inspires me and helps me grow as an actor and people whose work can pretty much be anything (other than a couple things, maybe) that they can be in that I will watch just because they’re in it. So here we go. This is my list of favorite male actors. We’ve got Daniel Day-Lewis; Mahershala Ali; Timothee Chalamet – who is new, young, up-and-coming, but, holy cow, his performance in “Call Me By Your Name”, especially those silent moments were phenomenal; Denzel Washington; Morgan Freeman, who is famous for telling the writers to take away his lines because he’d rather say it in his breathing and his face and his expression than the actual lines because he agrees with you that you can say a million more things in a look than you can by actually saying it; Heath Ledger; and Don Cheadle.

For women, there are so many good women but I had to limit it. We’ve got Meryl Streep, of course; Cate Blanchett who is the young Meryl Streep, as far as I’m concerned; Viola Davis, who also gave one of the most stellar performances I have ever seen in a movie called “Doubt” where she was acting in a scene with Meryl Streep and she made Meryl pale in comparison – there are no other actors I know that can do that other than Viola Davis; Julianne Moore; Frances McDormand; Octavia Spencer; and Kerry Washington, also – younger, but she’s going huge places (well, she already is…but she will continue to!) So that is my list! These are the ones that inspire me that I can only hope and pray to one day have even one half of their talent even though I’ll keep studying for the rest of my life but you know, sometimes it’s otherworldly. Sometimes you’re just given this talent – I know they’ve honed it and they’ve studied – but I could hone and study for the rest of my life and I will never touch them. They were born with this God-given talent, or Universal-given talent, and God bless them for that. Anyway, lucky them and I’m glad they’re using it because they’re phenomenal.

Okay, now let’s get into some stuff I’m sure my faithful readers will be curious to know. Assuming IMDB is accurate, you were one of the only main cast members of Fifteen to already have some acting credits under your belt. How was the character of Brooke presented to you? Did the director simply shout “EMOTE!” every time you were getting ready for a scene or did you intuitively realize that over-the-top was the perfect – and only – way to play her?

Ha ha ha! We practically already – I discussed this in one of the other questions but this is what happened with Brooke. I was with an agency – you did your research and you saw that I did have acting credits before – I had been acting since I was six years old so I had some experience, I’d say. I told my agent I’d heard aboot these auditions and asked if I could go and they just said, “No, you’re not right for it,” so they didn’t send me. I was kind of pissed because I was like, “How can I not be right for it? I’m a teenager.” But they were a huge agency and I was just like, “Oh, okay”. But then, I think it was my mother who had read something in the paper that said they were having huge open casting calls, as well, because they really wanted to cast real kids, the real age, the whole shebang, and didn’t want just ‘actor-y’ kids and ones that were older than actually fifteen (that’s a whole other story…but anyway).

So I decided to go down to the open call and I think there were 2,000 kids that turned up to this open call and they literally hustled us through lines. We were in groups, we’d go in a room, they’d give us a line, we’d say a line and depending on how we said it, they’d narrow us down and put us in another group. We’d go through this all day long just being narrowed and narrowed and narrowed down. Then we were put into some improv situations which was great for me because I’ve always had such an issue memorizing lines because I am dyslexic as well as ADHD so lines have always been a challenge for me, so improv was my thing. So we got into groups and they had us do different role-playing of different scenes — this, that and the other — and the funny thing was, in the beginning, I guess looks-wise, they had me going oot for Ashley, the sweet girl, and they had Laura Harris who played Ashley going oot for Brooke. Except when it came to improv, I had so much fun playing the bitch and, you know, the sweet girl was fine, but they switched us and they saw that she couldn’t go all oot there – “especially, like, with her acting voice(NFTA: Here Robyn imitates Laura Harris in the same exact way I meekly typed her dialogue in all lower-case. Yes, that means she actually managed to speak in lower case.) – they were like, “Okay, I guess she can’t do the bitch,” so they switched us around. We got called back the next day – so there was a full day of auditioning, we get called back the next day and now it’s down to very few for each role and we did more improv. I think we did a couple of scenes with the creator of the show, John Binkley, the writer Ian Weir and a couple of their assistant directors and producers. That’s how I got it! I got it oot of 2,000 kids in an open call and then all the kids from the agency so that was a huge deal, a huge win. The funny thing was, my agent wanted to take commission and I was just like, “Do you think I’m insane? I might be young, but I’m not dumb,” and I left that agency. So that’s the story of that. As far as Brooke was, the more evil and the more over-the-top and the more horrible I was, they loved it – the better it was for them, so yes, they’d push it.  As I said in the question before, it was far bigger than I felt comfortable with as far as what I knew reality was, but —genre, genre, genre. That’s why people love to hate me to this day – I still get hate mail! So I guess I did that job right – I guess some people also do believe it. So there you go. And it’s nice playing the bitch because once you got all the bitchiness oot all day long, all you want to do is just be nice, so you’d come home like the nicest person on the face of the Earth. My daughter was very upset when she was little and she saw the show and she said, “Mommy, why do you have to be the mean one?” So I had to tell her that usually the ones who play the mean people are the nicest people on the face of the Earth, so that gave her some solace and comfort. (Laughs) And then she tried to keep proving that right throughoot her life with different actors.

brooke gif

You had to know this one was coming: any dirt to dish on off-screen romances that may have occurred betwixt members of the Fifteen cast back in the day? You can take a pass on this one, of course, but just like every Brady Bunch fan greedily lapped up Barry Williams’ scandal-filled memoir “Growing Up Brady”, I assume the perplexingly small but passionately dedicated Fifteen fan base is equally eager for gossip.

Hmm – gossip, gossip, gossip! Okay, let’s see…I was actually three years older than the rest of the cast (I lied – oops – aboot my age). I was actually 18 when we were literally supposed to be the right ages – we were supposed to be 15 and 13. So the younger siblings were 13, the older ones were 15 and (whispering) I was 18 – I already lived on my own. So that was interesting at times but that’s a whole other story. So I was obviously too old for everybody although, you know, some of the younger characters might have been crushing on me, the oldest girl that, you know, graduated and lives on her own. There’s that. But I had my boyfriend at the time that I was going oot with that I was very serious aboot. In fact, here’s a little Easter egg: if you see when Brooke opens up her locker, there’s a black and white picture of a model-looking guy in her locker on the set – that was my boyfriend at the time, his name was Bill Morgan. And yeah, I was so in love with him then. We’re still friends today, so that’s cool. So I didn’t have a romance there. I did have a car so I ended up driving a lot of the cast members to and from work. I don’t think anyone else had any kind of thing going on while the show was filming – as far as I know. I don’t think so – you’re relying on my memory and this was decades ago.

But I do have a juicy piece of gossip – and don’t get me wrong, a lot of the guys were also very in love with Laura Harris who played Ashley. But Laura and Chris Martin – who was known as Corky Martin back then, who played Dylan – they got married at first for his green card because she had American citizenship, I think. And then, you know, it wasn’t for real so they got divorced. But then years later, they got married oot of love — for real — not for a green card but because they wanted to…and then they ended up getting divorced. So they were married twice – Dylan and Ashley or Laura and Chris. So that’s interesting but that’s pretty much aboot it. Ryan Reynolds at the time, we were doing some mall tours with the show and we did one with Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All at the time and Ryan Reynolds had dated Melissa Joan Hart for a while back then. That’s all I can remember. I was friends with some of the guys from Salute Your Shorts – still friends with them today. And that is it – I can’t think of anything else. If I think of anything, I’ll let you know, but that’s all I can think of so far.

Since you started acting at an early age and understand what it entails, are there any current child actors whose talent or potential have caught your eye?

Well, when I first saw Natalie Portman in “The Professional”, I said, “This kid is going to be hugely famous – she is incredible,” and there you go. She was – Natalie Portman – professional when she was like 12. I called it also for Leo DiCaprio, when he was in Gilbert Grape, I said, “Yeah, this kid!” As well as Timothee Chalamet that we just mentioned and…man, I have been impressed by some young child actors but I’ll have to give that one a thought and get back to you on it but yes, there are some incredible actors that I don’t know how they do it. Another one – the kids in the show “When They See Us” – those kids blew my mind. There were a lot of incredible actors in that show. There’s just so many. I mean, the competition is so tough these days since there are so many good actors coming up. I teach a lot of really good actors and sometimes I’m just flabbergasted that they seem like they have a world of experience and knowledge and they’re only 16 or 15 and I’m like, “How do you look like you’ve already lived a lifetime?”

Deserted islands seem like horribly boring places, so I’ll rework this obligatory interview question for aesthetic purposes. The CSA has perfected hyperspace travel and chosen you to be the first resident of the closest habitable planet in the galaxy. So you’re on your way to a deserted planet. Aside from survival essentials, you can bring: 3 movies, 3 books, 3 albums. What are they?

Okay, wow, one of the most difficult questions ever because I am a Libra and it is next to impossible to have me limit things like this, but I’ve done my very best after deliberating here. It was very difficult. So my three top movies would be “Across The Universe”, “Life Is Beautiful” and “Cinema Paradiso”. So I pretty much have two Italian and one directed by a woman because I love The Beatles’ music so that adds to the music that I get on my island (NFTA: planet). My three books would be some compilation book of world history to date because history is my all-time favorite subject. I love history, learning aboot history, the different times throughoot history, everything. So that would totally satisfy my geekiness and plus I’d have a lot of stuff to read, which is great, so some huge compilation of world history to date. That being said, too, I am not a religious person but I would definitely bring the Bible because it is the number one best selling book in the world and it also delves into historical events, almost biographical, because it’s telling the stories of all these “people” that existed at those times so we would learn a lot aboot those times and, you know, they’re excellent stories aboot overcoming and perseverance and betrayal and all the good things that you would get in movies or films today were written then — and fantasy and all these kinds of things. So I would take the Bible, which would be the Old and New Testament in the one Bible. And then I would take, being the actor that I am, Shakespeare’s works, which are also an account of a historical time and have all the same types of things the Bible has.

As you can see, I’m trying to do my best limiting in a non-limiting kind of way, which means compilations but…that being said, let’s go to my compilation albums! I would definitely have an album that is a Ladies of Jazz compilation, which would include Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, maybe some Roberta Flack and a gazillion other wonderful ladies of jazz that I’m not thinking of at the moment but I would want one big, fat compilation of some beautiful, gorgeous jazz music with smoky, velvety voices. Then I would definitely bring the Gipsy Kings because the Gipsy Kings always make me happy — I feel like I’m on vacation and I just love their music. It makes me want to dance and it puts a smile on my face. And then Prince because I love Prince and I don’t need to say much more than that. Prince is the ultimate musical virtuoso of today. He is the Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart of today. Yeah, Prince. But again, not one album.  Well, I guess if it was one album it would be Purple Rain…but I would prefer a greatest hits. So that’s it. I do have to mention, though, my other movies of honorable mention because I have written these lists before because sometimes people ask me what my favorite movies are. So my movies of all-time, like I said, “Life Is Beautiful”; “Cinema Paradisio”; “Across The Universe”; but then I have “Inglorious Basterds”; “Of Gods and Men” which I was mentioning before because of that one freaking scene that blew my mind; “Strictly Ballroom”; “Annie Hall”; “Slumdog Millionaire”; “When Harry Met Sally”; “Amelie”; “Call Me By Your Name”; “Leon: The Professional”. And then, honorable mention goes to “Wizard of Oz” because as a kid, it was my most magical movie; “Grease” because I wanted to be Sandra Dee; “Some Like It Hot” because it was hilarious and incredible and I loved the comedy of it and all the actors were great; “E.T.” because it’s classic and part of childhood; and then, newly, “Hamilton”, even though technically it’s a play, it was fucking stellar.

If you could choose to star in a documentary or biopic aboot the life of any historical figure, celebrity, politician, activist, musician, etc. (living or dead), who would it be and why?

I realize in this question that most of the people that I would want to play their lives, I can’t because they’re not Caucasian – they’re either not white or they’re too young. But these are the people whose lives I find extremely fascinating: Rosa Parks; even Oprah Winfrey’s life; or Anne Frank, but it’s too late now. So I think…I was vacillating between Veronica Franco who was a poet and courtesan in sixteenth century Venice. She was the intellectual of her time; you could only have access to reading and writing if you were a courtesan, which was considered a non-respectable woman, but she chose it because she had a thirst for knowledge and reading and writing. They did do a movie aboot this; it was called “Dangerous Beauty” and I loved it, so I can’t believe I didn’t mention it in my movie list but if they made a remake of that, I would love to be her. But that’s a remake so if I had to be somebody from more modern times, I would be Marie Colvin. She was an American journalist who covered the Middle East and her life was super interesting because she was involved in all kinds of circles, infiltrated them where they would have been completely dangerous if they knew why she was a part of them, but her thirst for understanding and knowledge and her love for journalism and getting to the bottom of things would make for such an interesting character to study. She did end up losing one of her eyes from an improvised explosive device that somebody had set up to kill her but it didn’t; it just maimed her and her photographer or cameraman that she had with her. So yeah, I think at the end of the day, I’d have to say Marie Colvin. She seems like she had an incredible, amazing life…and she was Caucasian…and around my age, so I guess that’s within my limits, but she was amazing, nonetheless.

Do you think the global artistic community in general (actors, writers, musicians, visual artists) has an obligation to address critically urgent social issues like racism, sexism, anti-Semitism and homophobia? Is there an issue aboot which you’re specifically passionate that you would like to have an opportunity to address through your work?

This is what I love in life, I love having these discussions with people. There’s no point in wasting time on the superficial. Yes, I think anybody who is in the public eye has a responsibility. There comes a responsibility with being in the public eye, whether you want it or not. People who tend to look towards you, look up to you, whether you deserve it or not, whether you signed up for it or not — they do. So therefore…it’s not to say that people need to take what you say as the word of God, by any means. I mean, who’s to say that actors or musicians or whoever else in the public eye is even intelligent or has something worthy of saying – but there is a responsibility that comes along with it. So therefore, if you have that soap box to stand on, if you have that opportunity to make a difference and make the world a better place, fuck yeah, you should seize that. I mean, to be honest with you, as much as I love acting and getting into the challenge of becoming someone else, when I was a child, I remember people asked me why I wanted to be an actor and they asked me if it was because I could be famous and I said, “No, I don’t care aboot that.” Sorry, I’m going off on tangents, but I remember as a child, saying that I want to be an actress so that when I’m finally famous enough so that people actually care aboot what I say and do, then I could get investors to invest in a shelter for animals. I could open a shelter for animals because of my name, so people would give me money to open it. Then I could have children who are poor – children of poverty – pair up with an animal at the shelter and that could become their friend and they could take care of that animal and they would have each other and it would give them both reason and purpose to live and it would be such a beautiful community of all the kids and all the animals there together. Then eventually the animals would eventually get adopted, or the kids would adopt the animal…and la de da de da…this is all so idealistic and beautiful and I think of that dream and I just love where it came from. Maybe one day it could still happen – who knows? (NFTA: I really, really hope so!)

But yes, causes are important and using your platform to help to create change or help to fight for rights of people and to make this world a better place is so effing important. If you go on my Facebook, my Instagram, my Tik Tok, everything that I’m on right now, Twitter – everything has been consumed with Black Lives Matter. So many of my friends throughoot my life are black and I’ve been educated to know now that just being friends with them wasn’t enough when they weren’t seeing the same opportunities or equal rights that I had and I’m so glad that I’m open-eyed to this now but knowing this is just the first step. The next step is making sure that all these people that have brought so much to my life and enhanced my life in so many ways – and I have friends of all different ethnic backgrounds, religious backgrounds, gender identifying backgrounds that have added so much to my life – that I need to fight for all of them so that we all have everything the same. Equal. Equal human rights. I mean, is that so much to ask for? But anyway, so yes, I’m all-consumed with that right now. A part of this passion I have for that right now is – I don’t know how many people might know, but I am Jewish and as a child, I kind of tried to hide from that or have people not know that. I knew from studying World War II or growing up in a very, very German area in Canada, I was ostracized and picked on and made fun of a lot and this was, you know, 30 to 40 years after the war had ended and still these prejudices and these stereotypes occurred. So I always considered myself growing up as one of the “others”, even though I’m white-passing and that did make my life easier; but people knowing I was Jewish did make it harder so I always chose friends who also felt like ootsiders and I’m so thankful for that experience because it opened up my world so wide to so many incredible people from so many incredible places, so I’m very thankful for it. So again, like I said before, I’m not religious, but culturally, I am Jewish and I’m proud to be Jewish and I love my culture and I am going to stand up for everyone, including my people, and against anti-Semitism as well, because lately more than ever, I’ve been seeing so many things circulating online which are just such non-truths and painting everybody with one brush and thinking we’re a monolith and we all have the same thoughts and we all do the same things and make the same choices or have the same politics and we don’t. We’re all just different and you can’t paint one race, one religion, one gender all with the same paint brush, People. So look at people as individuals. Don’t try to categorize them by these superficial labels – just individuals. So yes, I’m fighting for equality but I’m a fighter in general.  My mother calls me a justice seeker – that’s probably the part she hates the most aboot me in the sense that I’m always fighting for the things that are right. But again, I am a Libra and as much as I vacillate, I don’t vacillate over my passion for good in this world and for the causes to create betterment and love and peace.

You’re sick in bed and you have a choice of passing the time with an all-day marathon of Breaking Bad on AMC or iCarly on Nickelodeon. Which will you choose? Be honest!

Well, I’ve never seen either of those so…everyone has said such great things aboot Breaking Bad. It would probably make me very cynical aboot the world and everything but I heard Bryan Cranston was amazing as an actor, so I’m just gonna have to go with Breaking Bad. It’s on my list of things to do. I’ve never seen an episode of Lost or Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead or any of those…I have a lot of catching up to do.

walt
Then maybe your best course, Robyn, would be to tread lightly

I just saw House of Cards over Covid, though – went through all 7 seasons. Phenomenal acting – too bad aboot Kevin Spacey.

When production of Fifteen was moved to the studios in Orlando, did you become friends with any performers from the other shows airing on Nick at the time? (For instance, did you ever have an opportunity to just sit back and let Clarissa explain it all?)

Yeah! Chris Lobban from Welcome Freshmen and Melissa Joan Hart from Clarissa Explains It All. We did the mall tour, like I said, with them — Mint Condition was a band at the time; Hulk Hogan and Clarissa and a few of us – I have pictures to prove it and it was fun! I think pretty much just Chris Lobban and I – he’s a great guy. We still talk on Instagram and it would be great to catch up and see him. There were some game shows and we were friends with the game show hosts with the slime and all that, but nobody we kept any long-lasting relationships with. I do know when we were filming at Universal Studios in Orlando, though, we became friends with a lot of the performers – the musical performers in the theme park. We didn’t have e-mail back then or social media so unless you were really good at being a pen pal and keeping up with letter writing or typewriting letters, you know, connections kind of got lost so…it’s too bad. It would have been a whole different thing in this day and age but it was what it was.

I’m gonna slip a completely self-serving question in here and hope nobody notices. To the best of your knowledge – has Ryan ever visited Notes From the Avalon?

To the best of my knowledge, I don’t know. I’m gonna say probably not. I wish he did because it’s great and you did a freaking great job and I’m so glad I got it to the writer/creator. I don’t know if he’s written you back after reading it. He’s going through some personal stuff with the family right now but hopefully when he gets time…um, Ryan – I kept in touch with him for a long while. He was a great, great guy, we were really good friends right after the show ended for a good 7 or 8 years. He came and hung oot with me in New York, he hung oot with me in L.A. I introduced him – it’s on my IMDB, I don’t know how it got there or who knew it – but I introduced him to Rich Ruccolo, the guy that starred with him in 2 Guys, A Girl & A Pizza Place. They both came to my house on Valentine’s Day one year because I was single, Rich had just caught his girlfriend cheating on him and Ryan’s girlfriend was in France, I think, at the time, so it was like the Lonely Hearts Valentine’s Night. I introduced them that night and then less than a year later, they’re both starring in a TV show, a sitcom, together, so that was crazy. Then when he dated Alanis, I was still in touch with Ryan at that point but unfortunately, when he went on to date Scarlett Johansson, a lot of ties with his old buds were cut off. But then Blake (Lively) was in town in Vancouver while I was in Vancouver – she was doing a movie here and I know Ryan came to visit her and Chris Martin who played Dylan had a small part in Blake’s movie “Age of Adaline” and so our makeup artist on Fifteen was also the makeup artist on this movie so she told me to come to set and I missed Ryan that day because I got there too late but I did say hi to Blake and she told me that “the boys” were talking aboot me all day so that’s kinda the last I spoke to him. You know, he’s busy in his life – lots of kids, Hollywood, that kind of thing, but he’s a great guy with a great heart and I’m so glad he keeps giving Canada a good name. I send nothing but love to him.

Had your life not taken the trajectory that it did and you had never broken into acting, what career do you guess you would have pursued? Is this something that still interests you?

YES – okay, in my next life or maybe when I quit acting and realize I have to give it up for – it feels like an addiction – I was gonna say “for my health”, but I was always thinking of going back to school. I love art, I love galleries, I love Renaissance art, I love Impressionist art, I love all of it, so I would love to work in a museum as an art appraiser or in a gallery or something. I would love to go on archeological digs — an archeologist. All those kinds of things – again, history and arts and culture. But you know, I’ve been very lucky in my life because I have done other things than acting. I have an equally fulfilling career as a makeup artist, which I love. I did it in the fashion industry in New York for a long time and now I do all kinds of projects makeup-wise and I teach and I love that; and I teach acting and I love teaching. Teaching brings me so much joy, so I will be doing that for the rest of my life, for sure, and helping young artists find their truth and their voice and guiding them in directions so that they don’t get hurt and damaged along the way. I love my voice work that I’ve done, my voice career – I wish it was singing. I used to do musical theater back in the day but then I went to New York and realized I don’t have 1/100 of what those people have on Broadway. So I meant voices in cartoons and video game acting. I just feel so blessed and lucky to be able to do so many amazing, fun things. I guess I felt like I had no choice because I didn’t think I could do anything else! So there you go…when you’re limited, sometimes there’s a silver lining to thinking you’re limited. But yeah…art appraisal, museum.

Before I took it upon myself to usurp somebody else’s fictional characters, did you ever imagine what grown-up Brooke’s life might look like? What details – family, career, habits, general personality – did you imagine for her?

Oh my gosh! No, it scared me to think aboot what Brooke would be. Brooke would be everything I cannot stand in a person. She is so far from what I want my life to look like or me to carry myself as, but then again, that’s why it made it so much fun to play. I loved what you wrote for Brooke – I completely saw that for her. The only way Brooke would have changed is if there was some major trauma or something that happened in her life where she literally hit rock bottom. So if someone died who was close to her, she got sick and didn’t think she was gonna live, or she lost a child or something horrific would have had to happen to make her realize that her life was like First World problems and, you know, there was more to life than the drama she causes. She was very insecure, obviously, and needed to feel like she always had to impress people or be feared. So no, it would take a lot to have changed her but I would have hoped she would have gone to some major therapy and found a heart that was kind and decided to kill people with kindness, not with cattiness, and become a good person but…chances are, she might not have been, which would have made her an awesome adult villain in an adult soap or some kind of other dramatic series. But nonetheless, I would love to play her in your series one day – yes. (NFTA: No one else would do!)

This one’s not really a question, but a request. Tell us something good. Exciting news, an inspirational message or just general silliness…anything at all.

I have my health. I have my life. I have my family. I have my friends. I have a roof over my head. I have food to eat. And I woke up today. So to me, honestly, what more do you need? I am one of the luckiest people on the face of the Earth. So that’s as good as it gets. I wish it were far more fun or silly or anecdotal but that’s it! I’m pretty much happy and filled with gratitude every day to have that. It’s what I want and it’s what I need. And if I were to die tomorrow, then please know I died happy and satisfied and fulfilled. But please don’t let this be a self-fulfilling prophecy because I still have so many things to do! That’s it. Fighting for my passions, loving raising my daughter who is now 20 years old and my best human being friend and everything else in the entire world — my confidante. I feel like I have so much more to do, and I will! Let’s keep talking, Guys. I want to hear your stories. I love people, I love life, I love life experiences. That’s where I’m gonna leave it.

 

 

Halftime

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Hey, Kids!  Since we’ve arrived at the halfway point of our reunion story, I thought it might be a good time to take a breather, stretch our legs, wash our hands 50 to 100 times and take stock of where we’re at.

*Spoiler Alert*  I know Chris was a pretty consistent thorn in my teenage side, but Jesus, Curmudgeon!  A fucking shank to the throat?  So much for subtlety, eh, Wordsworth?

Also, I couldn’t help but notice that you actually managed to plagiarize my fucking personality.  At least the inevitable rash of civil cases filed against you for this creative usurpation will establish some interesting legal precedents.  Whatever gets you in the history books, I say.

And now for the silver lining of that fucker of a microorganism called COVID-19.  It hasn’t escaped my attention that the programming choices on both network and cable TV have suddenly expanded in response to half the world living as shut-ins.  It’s the least they could do, really, but still a welcome diversion.  Last night, as I was responsibly self-quarantining, I noticed that Nick At Nite aired the pilot episode of Clarissa Explains It All, circa 1991.  Clarissa and Fifteen ran concurrently on Nickelodeon, which means we’re getting closer to a long-awaited return to syndication of the Greatest TV Show Of All Time!  You know what to do, Kids.  Let’s kick that letter writing campaign into full gear: Nick At Nite, 1515 Broadway, 44th Floor, New York, NY 10036.

We’ll be back with the second half of Fifty in two shakes on a urinal cake but for now, enjoy this little ditty from The Venue’s first big performer, Vancouver’s own New Pornographers:

Corrections, Retractions & Apologies

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Can you believe we’re not even two full episodes into the reunion and I already have to put my tail between my legs (note: I don’t really have a tail) and acknowledge some less than consistent things aboot the story thus far?  In order to distinguish my writing from that of the endearingly sloppy Ian Weir, I feel it necessary to clarify a few things:

  1. I originally had Dylan’s near death experience occur on December 24, 2021.  I went back and changed the date to December 28, 2021.  What the hell difference does that make, you ask?  A big one, really.  I followed up that scene with Ashley receiving Dylan’s text informing her that he almost died “last night”.  That would mean that Ashley received his text on Christmas Day, yet Matt was on his way to show a house.  Realtors don’t show homes on Christmas Day.  Ever.
  2. Some of you may have already seen my editor’s note on this one, but in case you missed it: Ashley and Matt are currently living in a suburb of Toronto, not Vancouver as I originally indicated.  This is significant, since several plots revolve around their current locale.  This has been corrected, too.
  3. Are there already too many major coincidences going on for you to continue suspending disbelief?  Are you upset aboot my decision to afflict Brooke with a frighteningly serious health condition?  If so, my reply on both counts is “too bad”.  Concerning the unlikely synchronicity of events, remember this is still a soap opera, thus such fantastical events aren’t just forgivable, they’re downright de rigueur.  And if you think I’m throwing too much at any individual character, I’m pretending that the original cast are reprising their roles as I write this.  Thus, if I found it appropriate to give Brooke cancer, that’s because such a nuanced performance of an empathetic adult remaining consistent with the narcissistic teenager she once was could only be pulled off by a top notch actor.  Robyn Ross would be more than capable.  You might have noticed I didn’t bother with much of a backstory for Who Farted.  Same reason, in reverse.
  4. Where the hell is Olaf, right?  Patience, dear readers.  Good things come to those who wait.

Thanks for your kind understanding.  We’ll return to our regularly scheduled program shortly.  In the meantime, here’s a word from our sponsor:

Reunion Teaser!

billy wow

Now that I know the precise location and function of Jesse’s duodenum, I think it’s time to start filling the gaps between online lessons with the first draft of my Fifteen reunion show script.  Alright, it’s a bit of a misnomer for me to call what’s to follow a “script” because I’ve decided to present it in more of a narrative form for easier reading because this is a blog (<– the dumbest non-word I’ve ever had to begrudgingly add to my vocabulary).  However, should the need arise (Why won’t you return my phone calls, Ryan?), I’m prepared to rework it into a script format at a moment’s notice.  Or someone else can do it for me.  I don’t know how these things work and the odds of this story finding a reason to work are slim to none, but I’m approaching it with every bit of optimism available in my paltry and ever-dwindling reserve thereof because I want this to be fun…

…but maybe not too fun?  Here’s where you can have some input, my friends, though my mind is all but made up aboot the uncharacteristically darker vibe this reunion story will take on.  Should I adjust the dialogue to reflect the times or is everything still tragic in the lives of the Hillside High Class of 93?  Less camp, more realism?  Or fuck realism, you can’t get enough of the glorious cheese?  An equal measure of both would be challenging, but I think I’m up to the task if that be the consensus. Feel free to leave any ideas you may have aboot possible scenarios involving your favorite Hillside alumni.  I’ll do my best to work any plots you’d like to see into the larger story.

Also…how would you ideally like to see this if it were an actual production?  Feature film?  Made for TV movie?  Miniseries?  This will give me an idea of whether or not I can pepper the dialogue with F bombs, as you all know I’m wont to do, but if the consensus is for family-friendly, that’s cool.  Believe it or not, I can work with that.

For now, all I can give you is this very short teaser of the opening scene I’ve envisioned.  If suggestions start to fill up the comments section, I’ll consider those before going any further.  Otherwise, I’ll be back in aboot a week or so to serve up the first full installment of Fifty: The Reunion!

luxor-hotel-casino-las-vegas

Backstage
Atrium Theater, Luxor Casino
Las Vegas, NV
December 24, 2021

Beep…beep…

“Do we have a pulse?”

“Yeah.  Blood pressure 180 over 110 and rising.  Prepare the defibrillator and try to find a contact while I stabilize him for transport and wipe this shit off his face.”

“Does he have a phone?”

“Yeah, here.  Call it into General, too.  Dylan Blackwell, 45-year-old male Caucasian, possible narcotic overdose resulting in cardiac arrest.  Judging from the marquee, he probably did the audience a favor.  Who the hell does a Hendrix tribute in blackface, for Christ’s sake?”

Beep…beep…beeeeeeeeeeeeeeppp

 

Boxing Day Eve: Recognizing Recognition

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Happy Boxing Day Eve, Hillside Fans!  First-rate blogger and long-time Avalon denizen Tom of TomBeingTom.com has chosen me, among others, to be an honored recipient of a non-existent award aptly entitled The Blogger Recognition Award, necessitating this temporary, set-to-self-destruct post recognizing Tom’s humbling recognition of the web’s indisputable premier destination.

Apparently, we’re to tell our blogging origin story as part of this online acceptance speech, so I’ll keep mine as succinct as possible.  Notes From The Avalon was not my first blog, but it is the only one worth mentioning since it is the only one still in existence.  Earlier this year, while wasting time on YouTube for the better part of an afternoon, it became apparent that the “Information Superhighway” contains precious little information aboot the greatest television program that ever aired.  “Somebody should do something aboot this,” thought I, and thus Notes From The Avalon was born.  If you were hoping for something a bit more detailed regarding my relationship with Fifteen, I elucidated much of that in this post from back in June, along with the only picture of my ugly mug to appear on this page: Breaking The Band.

Thank you, Tom!  And to all of my friends north and south of the border: I wish you all a blessed and joyous Boxing Day and a prosperous 2020.

 

Featured

Gratitude / Episode Guide

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To everyone who played along with Notes From The Avalon, THANK YOU!!  You made it all worthwhile.  I’d also like to thank the cast and crew of Fifteen, as well as the entire nation of Canada for a bottomless supply of inspiration.  Although this officially marks the end of my run as a blogger, I do not intend to remove NFTA from the internet or sully its purity by utilizing it for writing aboot other topics– it is nothing less than my gift to humanity and my online legacy.

For anyone coming late to the party, below is a handy-dandy chronological guide to all of the episode posts.  Long live Fifteen!

Season 1

Intro – Deadpool: The High School Years

S.1 E.1 – The Nightmare Commences

S.1 E.2 – Freaks, Faggots, Drunks & Junkies

Intermission (Go For A Soda)

S.1 E.3 – Jag ar en javla nord

S.1 E.4 – Purgatorio

Fifteen Minutes of Fame

S.1 E.5 – No Exit

S.1 E.6 – Hinterlands

Season 1 Promo Trailer

S.1 E.7 – The Grapes

Six Hours On Facebook

S.1 E.8 – Sturm und Drang

S.1 E.9 – Revolving Doors To Hell

Mama Says Be Glad

S.1 E.10 – Party Till The World Obeys

S.1 E.11 – The Sorrow & The Pity

Fuck You (for Jake)

S.1 E.12 – Kiss of Death

S.1 E.13 – Nevermore

Season 2

Intro – Deadpool 2: Sophomore Year

S.2 E.1 – I Don’t Know You People…

S.2 E.2 – The Pariah

Happy Victoria Day!

S.2 E.3 – An Awkward Pause

S.2 E.4 – Return of the Phantom

S.2 E.5 – Hell Is For Children

Dear Jake

S.2 E.6 – Entropy Storm!

Baguette Battle

Janice: A Psychological Profile

S.2 E.7 – Boiling Point

S.2 E.8 – Breaking The Band

S.2 E.9 – Sanitarium

NFTA Wins An Award!

S.2 E.10 – Crime & Punishment

Conform Or Be Cast Oot

S.2 E.11 – That Scar Loo’s Nii

S.2 E.12 – Lollapalooza

S.2 E.13 – Chinese Foods

Season 3

Intro – Deadpool 3: Junior Year

S.3 E.1 – Danse Macabre

We’re Back!

S.3 E.2 – Rage Against The Machine

Friends of The Avalon

Miscellany (Feeding Your A.D.D.)

S.3 E.3 – Hair of the Dog

S.3 E.4 – Some Hospital Place

Ashley & Chris: A Reader Poll

S.3 E.5 – Sister Margaret’s Home For Wayward Girls

S.3 E.6 – Get Cool, Daddy-O

S.3 E.7 – Blue Velvet

An E-Mail From Deadpool

S.3 E.8 – TV Party

S.3 E.9 – JoJo Siwa On Infinite Repeat

Dreamline

S.3 E.10 – Wild Sex In The Working Class

S.3 E.11 – Joe Superstar

S.3 E.12 – Yoko

S.3 E.13 – Red Wedding

Season 4

Season 4: Deadpool Goes To Hell

Pre-Reunion Miscellany

Post Script: Vindication!

Boxing Day Eve: Recognizing Recognition

Happy New Year & T.T.F.N.

Fifty: The Reunion

Reunion Teaser!

Ep. 1, Pt. 1: Coming Home To Roost

Ep. 1, Pt. 2: Old Ghosts

Ep. 1, Pt. 3: YYZ

Ep. 2, Pt. 1: Karma Calling

Corrections, Retractions & Apologies

Ep. 2, Pt. 2: The Gathering Storm

Ep. 2, Pt. 3: Dog Days

Ep. 3, Pt. 1: Manifesting Destiny

Ep. 3, Pt. 2: Taking A Stand

Ep. 3, Pt. 3: Old Friends

Ep. 4, Pt. 1: Deviant Fates

Ep. 4, Pt. 2: Original Sin

Ep. 4, Pt. 3: Collateral Damage

Halftime

Ep. 5, Pt. 1: Bars & Bistros

Ep. 5, Pt. 2: Belated Betrayals

Ep. 6, Pt. 1: Reckonings

Ep. 6, Pt. 2: Morning Headlines

Ep. 7, Pt. 1: Lopun Alku

Ep. 7, Pt. 2: Interventions

Ep. 8, Finale: Requiem

The Credits!

That’s A Wrap

Fifteen Questions With Robyn Ross!

Season 4: Deadpool Goes To Hell

s4 intro

Season 4, Episodes 1 – 26

Even though very few readers of Notes From The Avalon have any recollection whatsoever of Fifteen’s existence, it must have gotten fairly good ratings for the first three seasons.  I can’t think of any other reason why Nickelodeon would have made the decision to shell oot a bunch more cash in order to double the size of the cast and the number of episodes for the show’s final season.  Know what they got for all that cash?  A steaming pile of dog shit.  Now, you may be wondering how I can differentiate between good and bad when we’re talking aboot the most poorly produced and abysmally acted TV show of all time, but there are two distinct types of “bad” when it comes to productions of this nature: the type that lends itself to endless mockery and which we end up finding hopelessly endearing for this very reason, and the type that’s so bad that it doesn’t even deserve to be mocked.  Fifteen’s unfortunate fourth season is of the latter variety.  Even though over 5 years elapsed between the final episode of Fifteen and the premiere of Two Guys, A Girl and A Pizza Place, it still boggles the mind that Ryan Reynolds managed to eke oot such a successful Hollywood career after having had such a ubiquitous presence in the 26-episode mess to which this post is dedicated.

As you know, Brooke is no longer in the show and neither is Courtney.  At least they went to the trouble of writing Brooke oot of the script properly.  For Headband, they use the exact same lazy explanation that was employed for Theresa’s sudden disappearance at the start of Season 2: “she’s off at that school for the arts”.  I don’t have a clue what the fuck happened to Jake and Erin.

Let’s take a quick look at the horrible new Season 4 characters who, taken collectively, form the primary reason that I cannot re-watch these 26 god-awful episodes for individual analysis.  First, there’s Pepper, Dave’s repulsive little sister.  This rubber-faced, ginger-haired parasite serves no discernible purpose, but she gets more screen time than almost anyone else even though the only plot revolving around her is an ultimately successful bid to get on the boys’ soccer team.  I used to wonder how she achieved such an undeserved starring role until I found oot that the actress’ full name is Pepper Binkley.  Coincidence?  Next, there’s Jennifer, an obvious but woefully inadequate Brooke replacement.  Sure, she’s kind of a manipulative bitch, but she manages to be completely unentertaining in the process and the actress playing her possesses none of Robyn Ross’ unearthly emotive qualities.  She has a brainy little brother named Jason who doesn’t piss me off nearly as much as the rest of the incoming cast, but he’s never involved in anything exciting.  Micah is a kid on Pepper’s soccer team.  Liz is… Liz.  Characters don’t come more nondescript than this top-heavy anthropomorphic Valium pill.  Loyal, who is introduced in the last few episodes of the series, is Billy’s new stepbrother.  I’ll put as much effort into my critique of this character as the writers employed in the process of crafting him: he sucks.  Russ is the only new addition to the Hillside student body that doesn’t piss me off.  He was the nameless accordion player in round 2 of last season’s talent contest and even though he usually kicks around with the boring new characters I’ve already mentioned, I can tell that he would have fit in nicely had he been introduced sooner in the series and he also plays a pivotal role in the curious transformation of Chris towards the end of the season.  Finally, there’s Brittany, a new arrival whose alleged sexiness I personally find to be very overstated.  Regardless, all the guys at Hillside go absolutely ga-ga over this vapid, self-absorbed American dick tease, especially Deadpool who makes a first-class ass of himself in the desperate pursuit of her affections.

Now the good stuff.  I’ll dedicate the rest of this post to a character-by-character summary of the Season 4 story arcs for each of Hillside’s veteran students – Dylan, Matt, Ashley, Billy, Arseman, Roxanne, Chris, Dave and Who Farted.

Dylan

For the first few episodes, everyone’s favorite dropoot just sort of treads water in his self-imposed exile.  Occasionally, Arseman drops by the garage to offer moral support and seek comfort after the death of her grandmother, leading to an inevitable and ill-advised romance between Leather Jacket and Sassy Pants.  Eventually, Dylan lands a job at the 3-table café attached to the only clothing store in the mall that these little shits ever patronize.  His uniform consists of an apron over a humbling bright pink shirt, but the worst part of all this is his frequent utterance of the word café, which for some reason, Corky Martin pronounces “c’fé”.  Near the middle of the season, Dylan’s parents kick him oot, rendering him homeless.  After spending a night sleeping in the park, Matt rallies to his aid and lets him move in and sleep on a couch in his basement.  So now Hillside’s former mortal enemies have become roommates, something aboot which they both marvel aloud with such frequency that I honestly believe there is no limit to their oot-sized incredulity.  While living on Matt’s couch and ostensibly dating Arseman, Dylan starts getting so cozy with Ashley – often right in front of Matt’s face – that I often expect them to just undress and start boinking right in his basement.  Understandably (and far later than you’d expect), both Matt and Arseman reach the ends of their respective ropes aboot the shameless public treachery of their significant others.  Arseman is so hurt at the sight of seeing her best friend and her boyfriend feeling each other up that she buggers off to Mexico and sits oot the last 5 episodes of the season.  Matt, however, after briefly venting his justified ootrage at this turn of events, decides to forgive everyone involved and suffer in silent martyrdom, even continuing to let Dylan crash in his basement.  Dylan, of course, starts dating Ashley and with her encouragement, enrolls in an “alternative school” to complete the remaining credits needed for his high school diploma.  At one point, he punches the cool right oot of Chris at the mall café, but I’ll save the details of that plot for Chris’ overview.  Finally, towards the tail end of the series, while still dating Ashley, Billy drops by the café and sees him hanging around with some hot chick he met at the alternative school.  The series ends before we get the full story here, but the clear implication is that Dylan the Scamp is incapable of romantic fidelity.

dylan cafe

Matt

St. Matthew of Hillside High.  The writers take such pains to turn Matt into the quintessential “stand-up guy” that he nearly morphs into Dostoyevsky’s Idiot.  For the first half of the season, he and Ashley are so in love that it seems nothing could possibly come between them.  Then all the betrayal ootlined in the previous paragraph goes down, but our former eternally hassled drunk develops the ability to meet all adversity with Zen-like acceptance.  Towards the end of the season, Matt finds oot that his father is being transferred, so the entire family will be moving clear across the country in the very near future.  In the meantime, he continues to let Dylan crash on his sofa and molest his ex-girlfriend in plain sight.  For his selfless actions throughoot the season, Dylan has a trophy made to memorialize Matt as an ootstanding role model or some shit, to be permanently displayed in Hillside’s trophy case.

Ashley

I guess I kind of already covered Ashley’s story in the process of talking aboot Dylan and Matt, so I’ll simply add that my only regret at the conclusion of the series is the fact that we never get to see her reaction to Dylan’s infidelity.  For some reason, though Ashley is still mentioned often, Laura Harris fails to appear in the last five episodes of the series.

Billy

Jesus, Ryan.  How in the fuck did you manage to fight your way through the painfully ridiculous plots Ian Weir relentlessly threw at you in this season?  To be as succinct as possible, since Billy’s bullying phase has come to an end, he now has plenty of time to dedicate to the development and fine-tuning of the qualities and skills required of a shameless whore.  Deadpool works his way, respectively, through Who Farted (this is mercifully brief, but no less unforgivable for being so), Roxanne and Brittany.  Believe it or not, it’s actually Billy that shit-cans Roxanne when his libido decides that newcomer Brittany is far more worthy of his attention.  Brittany’s effect on Deadpool is to turn him into a blithering idiot of transcontinental proportions.  Since she seems to have a thing for jocks, he joins the football team in an effort to impress her.  Then he scores tickets to a Salt ‘N Pepa concert, neglects to invite Roxanne who he’s still ostensibly dating in the hopes that he can woo Brittany with an invitation, and ultimately has the whole thing blow up in his face, leaving him through a convoluted series of events to end up taking Jennifer’s geeky little brother Jason to the show.  I am 100% convinced that Ryan Reynolds was giving a sly nod to his largely unknown participation in Fifteen when he made “Shoop” by Salt N’ Pepa such a centerpiece of the first Deadpool film.  Oh, and then for a few episodes towards the end of the season, Billy also has to pretend that his stepbrother Loyal is anything but an unnecessary leap on water skis over a caged Great White.

Arseman

Her grandmother dies and the writers spend at least the first half a dozen episodes of the season trying to make us care aboot the demise of an unseen character who’d never even been mentioned before she fucking croaked.  Regardless, her habit of commiserating with Dylan over the loss leads to an unplanned kiss that leads to a relationship marked by betrayal and neglect.  As I already said, Arseman’s reaction to Dylan publicly cavorting with Ashley is to take a trip to Mexico with her family (sans Grandma) and sit oot the last 5 episodes.

Roxanne

Roxanne mellows a bit this season, even treating Who Farted like a friend as opposed to the gnat-like annoyance she is.  Early on, she counsels Who Farted to change her look, prompting her new tagalong to show up at Hillside dressed in black leather and chains, inspiring the justified mockery of her peers.  At the onset, she’s still dating Chris, but when the already precarious couple gets their turn to perform a concert at The Avalon, it’s such an utter disaster that Roxanne breaks up with her perpetually antagonistic boyfriend right on stage in front of the entire student body.  Shortly thereafter, she starts dating Billy until he fucks her over in favor of new arrival Brittany.  Towards the end of the season, a short-lived plot develops wherein Roxanne hesitantly admits that her father hit her – once – and then apologized for it immediately thereafter.  This hardly rises to the level of high drama, but they treat it with all the implied intensity of an After School Special.  Finally, when she sees Chris develop a new compassionate streak in his budding friendship with leukemia-stricken Russ, she agrees to explore the possibilities of romantically reuniting with him, but only after they take some time to get to know each other better.

Chris

After being publicly kicked to the curb by Roxanne, Hillside’s resident dirt bag just sort of drifts along being a pain in everyone’s ass until he decides to show up at the mall café and provoke Dylan into a fight.  Averse to jeopardizing his job, Dylan suggests that they meet up behind The Avalon the following day to duke it oot.  When Chris and a crowd of gawkers arrive at The Avalon to find that Dylan failed to show up, they head to the mall to confront him.  After several attempts to defuse the situation, Dylan finally knocks the swagger right oot of him with a single punch to the gut.  Chris is never the same after this public humiliation.  Shortly thereafter, he scrapes past Russ in The Avalon and is confused to see that such a slight bump causes Russ some pretty severe distress.  After several episodes of Russ going to doctors and getting tested, he finally divulges to Chris that he has leukemia.  From this point on, Chris starts wearing Matt-style polo shirts and showing up at Russ’ house to drop off homework and offer oddly antagonistic-sounding moral support to his new little terminally ill friend.

Dave

Believe it or not, Dave actually manages to adopt several more shades of boring for the fourth and final season.  He essentially spends all 26 episodes getting repeatedly fucked over by Who Farted while simultaneously realizing that there’s not a chance in hell that he’ll ever win the affections of someone better.  Also, since the hideous Pepper is his little sister, her frequent presence at his side transforms David O’Brien from inconsequential to utterly unwatchable.

Who Farted

I saved the worst for last.  As bad as she’s been all along, in Season 4, Who Farted takes intolerable to a whole new level.  She starts pseudo-dating Dave, then accepts Deadpool’s invitation to a party being thrown in Matt’s basement and claims that she had every right to do so since Dave never bothered to “officially” invite her.  Whenever someone, especially Dave, dares to call her oot on her general shittiness and self-absorption, she reacts by confronting the individual with that ever-increasing motorized groan that prefaces her every word and in the snottiest of tones, sneering shit like, “I suppose you’re all mad at me now!” as if this somehow turns the tables and exonerates her for being a hideous douche canoe.  Fuck you, Who Farted.  Just fuck you.

wf leather

Thus ends the greatest television show ever to grace a box of tubular cathode rays.  On behalf of the entire Hillside student body and your humble narrator, thanks for watching.

Red Wedding

good guys

Season 3, Episode 13

Show them how it feels to lose what they love. – Catelyn Stark

This is it.  The final episode of the third season of Fifteen.  It’s been quite a ride, eh?  Although I will post an overview of what happens to the remaining veteran characters in the otherwise unwatchable fourth season, this is the last of the grand episode summaries covering what I consider to be the classic seasons of the show.  Before we get down to business, here are a few thoughts aboot the last episode that I neglected to include in its synopsis:

  • Dave’s performance in Courtney’s play is the first and only time I have ever witnessed an actor put effort into overacting the act of underacting.
  • When Chris asks Tony and Ben how they know Roxanne, Tony answers that they belong to “a kind of club”, causing Ben to react with a sinister laugh and sarcastically remark, “Yeah, that’s what it is”. I can only think of two possible things for which “a club” might be a euphemism in this case: 1) they belong to a gang, perhaps of the white supremacist variety; 2) they cook meth.  I knew Roxanne was a badass, but this kinda takes things to a whole new level.
  • Suzanne, the mind behind MyDangBlog!, has an eye for detail, as she noticed some striking similarities between Roxanne’s extra-curricular acquaintances and another renowned Canadian TV duo. Extrapolating from her observation, let’s do a little predictive time-lapse to get an idea of what Tony and Ben might look like today:
farm
He blowed up reeeal good!

We open in the student lounge on a curiously extended shot of Jake’s brooding face.  It lingers on screen long enough for me to briefly wonder if the DVR froze up until we finally hear Matt continue the somber conversation in progress.

Matt:  Okay, I guess I could feel a little better.  I mean…if things weren’t quite so, well, confusing.

Jake:  “Things” meaning Ashley?

Matt:  Yeah.

Jake:  Yeah, that’s kind of what I was wondering aboot.

Matt:  Courtney says she broke up with me because she couldn’t handle hurting Ashley’s feelings.  As far as I can see, Ashley doesn’t care one way or the other!  So where does that leave me?

Jake:  Confused.

Matt:  Bingo.  Ah, look, I don’t even want to think aboot it.  I’d just wreck a perfectly good day.  I’ll see ya around.

Who Farted walks into The Avalon and spots Roxanne sitting at the counter.  She asks her newest girl-crush if she heard the news aboot Brooke, then elaborates that she found oot Brooke is going to be leaving Hillside to spend a year in Paris, adding something aboot Brooke’s father belonging to a “service club” that facilitates exchange student programs or some such shit that I admittedly just kinda tuned oot.  As Roxanne reacts to the news, Brooke breezes into the café.

Brooke:  Bon jour!

Roxanne:  Give me a break.

Brooke:  Guess what?

Roxanne:  We know.  Paris.

Brooke:  Oh, it’s wonderful!  Tres wonderful!  N’est-ce pas?

Roxanne:  Oh yeah, it’s terrific!

Brooke:  Thanks!

Roxanne:  Because it means we won’t have to see you for 12 whole months!

Brooke:  Exactly.  Which means I won’t have to see you people for a whole year, either, which is the best part of all!

Brooke walks off as Roxanne turns to Who Farted.

Roxanne:  You tell me you’re gonna miss her, I’ll stuff your head in the sink.

WF:  Hey, would I say something like that?

Matt sees Dave at his locker and compliments him on his performance in the play, causing Dave to marvel at his newfound popularity, explaining that even girls are talking to him so there’s a chance he might even be able to convince some of them to dance with him tonight.  Aside from a hand-printed sign just visible through the small window of the door into the locker vestibule in the last episode that read “Dance – Friday – Gym”, this is our first official notice that there will be a dance at the Hillside gym tonight.  Spotting Ashley standing by the bulletin board on the other side of the lounge, Matt stops paying attention to Dave and strolls over for another round of masochistic miscommunication with his old flame.  They both confirm that they’re going to the dance alone, but before Matt gets a chance to ask if she’d like to go with him, she once again vaguely indicates that she has to run and cuts him off before he can deliver the dreaded invite.

matt rejected

Later at The Avalon, Jake is miraculously managing to make Ashley ever-so-hesitantly own up to the fact that she still has feelings for Matt.  He tells her that “it’s pretty obvious” and admonishes that since this is the case, she’s got to talk to him aboot it, sending her into a low budget daydream of reignited love.

ash fantasy

A day late and a dollar short, Courtney approaches Deadpool at the soda machine and reams him oot for his recent spate of bullying.  Dylan may have put an end to Billy’s reign of terror, but he still clearly harbors an assload of justified animosity towards his horrible sister.  Billy splits as Matt comes down the stairs to get himself a soda.  Courtney says hi, he says hi back and then the fucking scene just ends right there.  I re-watched this 5 second clip a few times before moving on just to make sure I didn’t miss any subtle looks or mannerisms that might have served to infuse this exchange with some discernible purpose, but nope, that was it.

Billy sees Dave studying at a booth in The Avalon.  He strikes a contrite tone and nearly apologizes for having been such a douchebag before losing his nerve and saying, “Just forget it,” as he turns and flees the café.

In the student lounge, Courtney and Arseman are flapping their gums aboot the difficulty of getting through to Billy lately before Headband changes the subject and tells Sassy Pants that she finally had a big talk with Matt wherein they both apologized to each other for how everything went down.  Arseman cheerily remarks that now they can go back to being friends again.

Courtney:  Absolutely.  Sure.  That’s just what I wanted.  To get back to being friends again.

Arseman:  Hang on.  If that’s what you wanted, then why aren’t you looking a little more cheerful?  Courtney?

Courtney:  Because it’s NOT what I want!

Arseman:  You don’t want to be friends with Matt? (holy fuck, you’re retarded, Arseman)

Courtney:  I wanna be more than friends with him!  A lot more!  I have wanted that for ages, but every time it almost happens, I find another way to screw it up!

That’s right.  Will this brief moment of self-awareness extend to a realization that it’s now officially too fucking late for you to try again, or are you gonna go for round four to maximize Matt’s alcoholic relapse potential?  The timer on my media player indicates that your remaining time at Hillside High is precisely 14 and a half minutes.  Better make up your mind fast, Headband.  Your entire legacy is at stake.

Dylan’s strumming his guitar in the garage when Billy enters.  He thanks Leather Jacket for setting him straight and for exercising restraint in the process, and just like that, Dylan and Deadpool are friends again.  After filling him in on how things are going at home, Billy tells Dylan that he’s heading over to the dance and asks if he wants to come.

Dylan:  Are you kidding?  I don’t go to Hillside School anymore.  I’m a dropoot.  Dropoots don’t get to go to school dances.  Have a good time.

billy garage

Meanwhile, Chris and Roxanne are venting their mutual animosity at The Avalon counter.

Chris:  Are you gonna finish that?

Roxanne:  I’m working on it.

Chris:  (checking his watch)  God, it’s 25 after 7:00!

Roxanne:  So?

Chris:  The dance starts at 7:30.

Roxanne:  What’s your hurry?  I thought you really didn’t want to go in the first place!

Chris:  I don’t!  School dances are totally boring.  But if we’re gonna go, we might as well do it.

Roxanne:  We’ll go just as soon as Tony and Ben get here.

Chris:  Tony and Ben?

Roxanne:  Yeah.  I invited them to come along.

Chris:  But the school dance is supposed to be for Hillside students only.  Tony and Ben don’t go to Hillside.

Roxanne:  What is your point?

Chris:  Well, how are they supposed to get in?

Roxanne:  By walking through the front door, obviously.  Same as everyone else.

plastic ono band
Walking through the front door, same as everyone else

In the student lounge, bunches of bright red balloons cast a reddish hue across the walls and confetti litters the floor.  Did you notice I said “student lounge”?  This is not the gym.  At this point, I view Hillside’s mythical gymnasium the same way I do the Chupacabra.  We can debate “what ifs” all day long, but it won’t lend any further credence to either of these legendary entities.

dance

Courtney approaches Jake and asks him to dance, but he declines on the basis of his abysmal lack of coordination and offers to get them both a drink instead.  As he departs for the refreshment table, Brooke swoops in with a voluminous “Bon Jour!” and makes sure that Headband is all caught up on her impending yearlong Parisian odyssey.

The Aryan Nation swaggers through the door into the locker vestibule and encounters Dave standing alone on the stairs.

Ben:  What are you starin’ at?!

Dave:  Nothing!  (to Chris and Roxanne) Who are those guys?

Chris:  What’s it to you?

Dave:  Well, they don’t go to Hillside, right?  So they’re not exactly supposed to be here.

Roxanne:  Why don’t you go kick them oot, then?

Dave:  Look, all I’m saying is—

Chris:  Why don’t you mind your own business?  They’re friends of ours.  We invited them.

Matt approaches Ashley near a large ice sculpture in the shape of the word Hillside.  Yeah.  A school that can’t afford workable lockers splurged for a fucking ice sculpture:

ice sculpture

He tells her that she looks really nice, then averts the otherwise inevitable awkward silence to follow his compliment by saying that he has to go find Jake.  Ashley bites her lip and stares after him as he fades into the crowd.

ash infatuated

Deadpool walks in and finds himself face to face with Arseman.

Arseman:  So, how’s it going?

Billy:  Hi!

Arseman:  Planning to have a good time tonight?

Billy:  I guess.

Arseman:  Planning to let everyone else have a good time, too?

Billy:  Don’t worry.  I was just over at Dylan’s place.

Arseman:  You guys had a talk?

Billy:  Sort of.  I asked him if he’s coming tonight.  He said dropoots aren’t invited.

Arseman:  Well, unfortunately, he’s right.

Billy:  You know something?  I’m really worried aboot him.  You know what he’s like.  Dylan hides his feelings pretty well, but it looks to me like he’s really depressed.

Billy goes to mingle as Arseman high-tails it oot the door.  In short order, Deadpool finds himself surrounded by Chris and The Plastic Ono Band.

Tony:  Is this the guy you’re talking aboot?

Chris:  Yeah, this is him – the one that thinks he’s so tough.

Billy:  Come on!

Chris:  Hey, don’t be modest, Bill!  I hear you’ve been acting like you’re real tough, lately.

Billy:  Don’t be stupid!

Tony:  (grabbing Billy by the sleeve)  You callin’ my friend stupid?!

Ben:  That’s the word he used, alright.  You better learn some respect!

Ben shoves Billy, knocking him back a few feet as Matt and Jake approach the melee.

Matt:  What’s going on?

Chris:  Mind your own business!

Jake:  How aboot answering the question?

Chris:  Oh, I’m shaking in my boots!

Matt:  Just knock it off!  No one wants any trouble.

Chris:  Well, too bad, ‘cause you’re just aboot to get some!

Before the brewing rumble has a chance to get off the ground, Roxanne rushes in between the rapidly forming battle lines.

Roxanne:  Don’t be stupid!  Not at a school dance!

Chris:  The guy’s trying to throw his weight around!

Roxanne:  Come on!  We’re leaving – now!

rox peace

Arseman enters Dylan’s garage to find him sitting on a stool by the door, holding his guitar.

Dylan:  …so, what are you doing here?  What, did Billy tell you I was feeling all tragic or something?

Arseman:  Well, he didn’t use those words, exactly…but more or less.

Dylan:  Well, he’s wrong.  I’m fine.

Arseman:  Are you?

Dylan:  No.  Are you kidding?  Go ahead, say it.

Arseman:  Say what?

Dylan:  I’ve blown it, totally.  I made the world’s stupidest mistake and now I’m stuck, right?

Arseman:  Well, I can’t exactly disagree with you, can I?  I’m not exactly gonna tell you to look on the bright side, either.

Dylan:  Because there isn’t one.

Arseman:  Well, not that you’d notice…but just remember, you’ve still got friends!  People care aboot you and that’s something!

Dylan:  You mean it?

Arseman:  Hey, I never say things I don’t mean.

dylan smiles

Back at the dance, Billy sees Dave and this time, he gives him a proper sincere apology for having been such a shithead over the course of the past few weeks.  To Deadpool’s pleasant surprise, Dave accepts his apology, just like that.

Elsewhere at the dance, Brooke is chewing Jake’s ear off aboot her upcoming year in Paris.

brooke jake

Brooke:  Naturally, I won’t be studying all the time, so I’ll be able to see all the sights in Paris!

Jake:  Right.

Brooke:  The Eiffel Tower, St. Peter’s Basilica…

Jake:  Actually, St. Peter’s Basilica’s in Rome.

Brooke:  Right, of course it is.  Well, I should be able to visit Rome on the weekends.

As Brooke continues her last big self-promotional display, her voice becomes noticeably shaky and more than a little choked up.

Brooke:  Living in Paris for a whole year…halfway around the world…thousands of miles from everyone here…I mean…

Brooke’s lip begins to quiver and her eyes well up with tears.

Jake:  Hey, are you okay?

Brooke:  (sobbing) Jake…I don’t want to go.

Jake:  What are you talking aboot?

Brooke:  All my friends are here…everyone I care aboot.  I don’t want to lose all my friends!

jake embrace

Who Farted approaches Dave at the punch bowl and almost asks him to dance.  This is good practice for the upcoming season, wherein they spend all 26 episodes almost dating since neither possess the requisite mental or motor skills to move beyond this awkward and endless mating ritual.

Ashley’s kicking it on the dance floor with some kid that looks like he was ripped from a Hitler Youth propaganda film while Matt looks on.  The music stops and Matt approaches.

Ashley:  so, how’s it going?

Matt:  Oh, not bad.  Kinda different, though.  First time in quite a while I’ve been to a school dance sober!  It’s also the first time I’ve been to a school dance when I wasn’t here with you.  Listen, if I’m way oot of line here, just tell me, but I’ve gotta ask you…Ashley, do you think there’s any chance for you and me to try again?

Ashley:  so many things have changed…even the thought of getting back together.  how could we make it work?

Matt:  I don’t know.

Ashley:  we still care aboot each other, don’t we?  so if you wanna try…i mean, if you really wanna try…then i’d like to try, too.

Matt:  You wanna dance?

Ashley:  yeah.

last dance

That just warms the heart, doesn’t it?  Savor it while you can, because you know goddamn well that Drinky Crow and Whisperina won’t be able to maintain this romantic Kismet for long.  I’ll be back shortly to put a small Season 4 cherry on the otherwise complete Hillside sundae.  Now go blow your nose and fix your makeup before you find yourself at a loss to explain to someone why you’ve been crying.  Come on, now, chin up.  There you go.