Square Pegs


Rating 2

Created by Anne Beatts

Starring Sarah Jessica Parker (Patty Greene), Amy Linker (Lauren Hutchinson), Merritt Butrick (Johnny Slash), John Femia (Marshall Blechtman), Tracy Nelson (Jennifer DiNuccio), Jami Gertz (Muffy Tepperman), Claudette Wells (LaDonna Fredericks), Jon Caliri (Vinnie Pasetta), Steven Peterman (Ron Donovan), Catlin Adams (Ms Loomis) and Basil Hoffman (Principal Dingleman)

EP1 ‘Pilot’ (Written by Anne Beatts, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP2 ‘A Cafeteria Life’ (Written by Janis Hirsch, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP3 ‘Pac Man Fever’ (Written by Marjorie Gross, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP4 ‘Square Pigskins’ (Written by Andy Borowitz, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP5 ‘Halloween XII’ (Written by Marjorie Gross, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP6 ‘A Simple Attachment’ (Written by David Felton, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP7 ‘Weemaweegate’ (Written by Chris Miller, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP8 ‘Open 24 Hours’ (Written by Deanne Stillman, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP9 ‘Muffy’s Bat Mitzvah’ (Written by Margaret Oberman, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP10 ‘Hardly Working’ (Written by Andy Borowitz, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP11 & 12 ‘Child’s Christmas at Weemawee: Parts 1 & 2’ (Written by Marjorie Gross, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP13 ‘It’s All How You See Things’ (Written by Janis Hirsch, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP14 ‘Merry Pranksters’ (Written by Deanne Stillman, Directed by Kim Friedman and James Nasella); EP15 ‘It’s Academical’ (Written by Andy Borowitz, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP16 ‘The Stepanowicz Papers’ (Written by Susan Silver, Directed by Terry Hughes); EP17 ‘To Serve Weemawee All My Days’ (Written by Andy Borowitz, Directed by Kim Friedman); EP18 ‘No Substitutions’ (Written by Andy Borowitz, directed by Kim Friedman); EP19 ‘No Joy in Weemawee’ (Written by Marjorie Gross, Directed by James Nasella); EP20 ‘The Arrangement’ (Written by Anne Beatts, Directed by Craig Richard Nelson)

Lauren Hutchinson decides that the way she and her friend Patty Greene will become popular in their freshman year at Weemawee High School is to join the right clique, but her schemes to increase their popularity invariably go wrong and they remain misfits. Their best friends are a couple of geeks, Marshall Blechtman and Johnny Slash – Johnny is obsessed by New Wave music and has his own band, Open 24 Hours. Jennifer DiNuccio is the cool girl, Vinnie Pasetta is her greaser boyfriend and LaDonna Fredericks is her best friend. Muffy Tepperman is the head of the pep squad.


‘Square Pegs’ was a short-lived comedy television series that was broadcast on the CBS Network for one season of twenty episodes between 27 September 1982 and 7 March 1983 in a timeslot vacated by ‘M*A*S*H*’. It was well received by television critics at the time as an authentic depiction of American teenage high school life. It could perhaps be best described as the missing link between ‘Happy Days’ and ‘Freaks and Geeks’. The Wikipedia entry for the series indicates that drug use on the set was a factor in its early demise, although I don’t know if there is any substance to this suggestion.

The series was created by Anne Beatts, who had been a writer and performer on ‘Saturday Night Live’ during its initial golden era between 1975 and 1980 and prior to that was the first female editor on the National Lampoon. She now teaches screenwriting at the University of Southern California. The series provided breakthrough roles for Jami Gertz (‘Still Standing’), Tracy Nelson (‘Father Dowling Mysteries’) and most notably Sarah Jessica Parker. Bill Murray guest stars in one episode and John Densmore, the drummer with The Doors, rather bizarrely appears in two episodes as the drummer with Open 24 Hours. There are also appearances by The Waitresses, who wrote the memorable theme song, and Devo. Merritt Butrick, who played Johnny Slash and also featured in two Star Trek films, ‘The Wrath of Khan’ and ‘The Search for Spock’, died in 1989 at the age of 29.

Amongst the writing team, Janis Hirsch went on to write for ‘Murphy Brown’, ‘Frasier’, ‘8 Simple Rules’ and ‘Will and Grace’, Marjorie Gross went on to write for ‘Seinfeld’ and Andy Borowitz was the co-creator and one of the main writers of ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air’.

I watched ‘Square Pegs’ when it was shown on British television at the time and I loved it. The appearances by The Waitresses and Devo, two favourite bands of mine then and now, undoubtedly helped. The series back then, as I recall it after these past 26 years, seemed very fresh and almost subversive, so I was very excited to learn that it was to be released on DVD in May 2008. Does it still stand up? The answer is no, although the removal of the irritating, unnecessary and often inappropriate fake laughter track would be a big improvement and it should be noted the most of the songs featured in the original episodes have been removed for the DVD release, presumably for licensing reasons. These songs were an intrinsic feature of the series and their absence does rob it of much of its “New Wave” flavour.

American television has moved on a long way since the early 1980s and like ‘Happy Days’ before it, ‘Square Pegs’ seems almost banal now. However, that did not stop me really enjoying watching the episodes again after all these years. The influence it seems to have had, co-incidental or otherwise, on subsequent groundbreaking series like ‘My So-Called Life’ and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’ is very evident. As examples, ‘No Substitutions’, the episode guest starring Bill Murray, deals with a supply teacher who stirs up the class. The ‘My So-Called Life’ episode ‘The Substitute’ follows a similar theme. In the episode ‘Hardly Working’ Jennifer’s previously rich father falls on hard times and she is forced to take a part-time job as a waitress in the local diner. A not dissimilar fate befell the equally spoilt character Cordelia Chase in the third season of ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer’.

I have given ‘Square Pegs’ two stars, which is probably about right now, but for my own renewed viewing pleasure and the very fond memories I have of watching it first time around I would give it five stars.

Review posted 18 December 2009


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