Discussion for Episode 1: the Pilot

General discussion about the nineteen episodes of "My So-Called Life". Note: Our episode guide can be found here.
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Natasha (candygirl)
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Discussion for Episode 1: the Pilot

Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 5:05 am

Welcome to the first official MSCL.com episode discussion!

If you haven't already done so, please read the info about the weekly discussions here.

I highly recommend reading both part one and part two of the Angela's World essays that pertain to this episode.

Other threads related to the Pilot that may be of interest are:
"she did it to get a reaction..."
pilot episode
"you're so beautiful it hurts to look at you"

Some threads about recurring themes:
hair as a metaphor
food
baggage
Angela, Rayanne, and Rickie
Last edited by Natasha (candygirl) on Jan 13th 2003, 8:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Angela's purse strap

Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 5:25 am

This might sound really weird, but tonight I immediately picked up on Angela's purse strap. It seems that she doesn't like to put it in her backpack, so she often has her purse visible. You know how when you see groups of people together they seem to dress similarly and accessorize similarly? In the opening scene of the pilot when Angela and Rayanne are asking people for spare change, Angela's purse strap is hanging on her shoulder (we don't see Rayanne's bag too much in this episode, but when it isn't dangling from her hand, it is on her shoulder). In the next scene (when Angela is walking down the hallway with Sharon), her purse strap is diagonal across her chest, as is Sharon's.

I therefore equated the diagonal strap placement with Sharon and all that Sharon means - safety (literally because there's no way a purse can fall off when the strap is like that), security (in an old friendship), and the more conservative attitude that comes with being friends with Sharon. Similarly, I equated the purse strap dangling from one shoulder with Rayanne which indicates the possibility of the danger of slipping (both literally and figuratively). Angela's changing purse strap position seems to be a symbol of her struggle to be friends with Rayanne and Sharon in the Pilot, as well as a symbol of her struggle to remain obedient or become rebellious.

The day after Angela dyes her hair, we see her in the hallway wearing a black sweater (which provides a contrast with her crimson glow hair) and her purse strap is dangling from her shoulder as she goes into the bathroom with Rayanne. Angela's hair color is the first visible sign of her association with Rayanne, so I would like to think it is appropriate that when she debuts her new hair color at school, her purse strap is on her shoulder in Rayanne's fashion.

The next day Angela's appearance (aside from her hair color) seems to be a step back to her pre-Rayanne days; hence the jumper and a shirt with rosebuds on the neckline (the entire outfit seems to be closer to Sharon's color palette). Angela has her purse strap diagnonally when she tells Rickie and Rayanne, "Oh gawd, that's the second bell...I mean, I might as well go to bio." Her diagonal purse strap in this scene mirrors her inately obedient nature and her urge to attend class, follow the rules, and go when the bell rings.

The next day (Friday, the day after the party), Angela has her purse strap on diagonally again when she is in the cafeteria, trying to resist Rayanne's suggestion that they go to Let's Bolt. Again, I believe that the diagonal purse strap reflects her reluctance to break the rules. The old Angela, the Angela who was friends with Sharon, would never lie to her parents about sleeping over and then try to get into a club.

Finally, on Monday morning, Angela's purse strap is hanging from her shoulder once again. She has made a definite break with her past and become part of Rayanne's world.

All that overanalysis of a purse strap - you would think that I was a lit major! (I wasn't, I swear) :D
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 5:33 am

Okay, let's get this out of the way. Nine years (almost ten years when you consider that the pilot was shot in March 1993) gives you a lot of perspective on fashion, so let's get this out of the way so we can move on to some serious stuff :wink:

First of all, Rickie's Cosby sweater when Angela is dying her hair in the bathroom

When Sharon and Angela are walking down the hall, the guy with the total mullet

Rayanne's bra top in the cafeteria

All of Sharon's outfits (the black sweater with the big flowers, the peach dress with the big print)

Rayanne's tan baby doll dress the day after Angela dyes her hair

I look back with a combination of nostalgia and cringing!

And the accessories: Rayanne's yin/yang earrings in the opening scene, Angela's weird earrings with the black sweater (are they supposed to be fish?), Rayanne's cross earrings and Angela's peace sign earrings at Let's Bolt :D
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 5:48 am

Some questions:

When Patty and Angela are in the kitchen, Rayanne and Rickie come in and then Rayanne hides a picture frame behind her back - why?

In the same scene, Patty take the cheese out of the grocery bag for the kids to eat but doesn't unpack the rest of the groceries. Was the rest of her food non-perishable? Or did they give her a big bag just for the cheese?

When Graham is fumbling with all the assorted junk from upstairs (when he and Angela "discuss" Anne Frank), is that stuffed bunny he is holding? If so, is it Danielle's (she seems a little too old for that)? If it IS Danielle's, why is he bringing it into his bedroom with the other stuff?

Why on earth is Brian wearing that awful headband during the yearbook meeting?!

How does Angela get to and from the party?

Why is Jordan watching videos with the sound off?

What is Graham twisting in his hands while he and Patty quasi argue about Angela going out on a school night? The mail?

Who is Rickie's cousin? It isn't Tino, who is supposed to meet them at Let's Bolt.

When did Angela get Rayanne's bustier? Rayanne told her about going to Let's Bolt that day at lunch, so should we assume that Rayanne went home after school to get it and then brought it to Angela's house before Patty came home? (we know that Angela didn't go to Rayanne's house to get it because in Other People's Mothers, Angela says, "I'd been friends with Rayanne Graff for half a year but I'd never been to her house.")

Where did Angela's duffel bag go? When she left her house, she had it and you can see it when she gets into the car, but then it disappears - it is not seen when they are at the Let's Bolt parking lot or when the police officer takes Angela home.

Can anyone read what it says on the police officer's patch? I couldn't make out the words :?

Why does Patty balance her checkbook in bed when we clearly see a home office with a desk downstairs earlier?
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Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 5:52 am

Moments that I loved in this episode:

Rayanne going through the medicine cabinet while Angela dyes her hair (foreshadowing or just an indication of her nosiness?).

Rayanne says, "Rickie, give us the male perspective," as we see Rickie applying eyeliner.

Patty saying to Graham, "You never had sex in high school."

Angela wearing a pastel floral print dress to a party that is full of people wearing plaid flannel, leather jackets, and even a guy with a mohawk!

The face Angela makes right after she says, "So that's how I know," to Jordan.

The way Rayanne sprays her perfume and then ducks her head into it.
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Re: Discussion for Episode 1: the Pilot

Post by NIGHTJESSI » Jan 13th 2003, 12:03 pm

Wow, candygirl, you certainly started off this discussion with a lot to think about! Then again, when it comes to MSCL, there's always something to think about and absorb.

I think I'll try and tackle some of the questions you came up with:

In the same scene, Patty take the cheese out of the grocery bag for the kids to eat but doesn't unpack the rest of the groceries. Was the rest of her food non-perishable? Or did they give her a big bag just for the cheese?

This is probably a rhetorical question, but I think Patty was really upset at these new people in Angela's life. She just wanted to avoid the situation by leaving the room and leaving them. Patty is so used to quiet and mousy Sharon that two larger-than-life people in her kitchen, when she just expected to come home to a quiet house, was probably quite unnerving especially in light of Angela's changing attitude.

Why is Jordan watching videos with the sound off?

I'm thinking Jordan might have liked the band playing outside but didn't want to deal with all the screaming people so he came inside to watch something but still hear the music. Either that or he just didn't like the song but liked the visual. In either case, he sure looked good in the glow of the TV.

When did Angela get Rayanne's bustier? Rayanne told her about going to Let's Bolt that day at lunch, so should we assume that Rayanne went home after school to get it and then brought it to Angela's house before Patty came home? (we know that Angela didn't go to Rayanne's house to get it because in Other People's Mothers, Angela says, "I'd been friends with Rayanne Graff for half a year but I'd never been to her house.")

Given Rayanne's bag and the many goodies in it, I wouldn't put it past her to have been carrying the bustier somewhere in the bag. After all, she seems to carry a lot of things with her so she's prepared for whatever may come.

Why does Patty balance her checkbook in bed when we clearly see a home office with a desk downstairs earlier?

I'm thinking Patty was doing the finances upstairs in the bedroom because she didn't want to appear like she was waiting up for Graham even though that's exactly what she was doing. If she was downstairs at the desk, then it would just aggravate him and it would probably start them off on the wrong foot when he got home. Also, it's possible that she was trying to sleep but couldn't so broke out the finances to occupy herself.

And now for my thoughts on this one ...

One thing I never noticed that was simply another instance of the synergy of this show is when Sharon and Angela are walking through the hall and Sharon is bitching about the girl who joined yearbook just to be close to Scott. It's foreshadowing of Angela's attitude later in the episode when she is taking part in activities to be closer to Jordan and also when she quits yearbook, two things that Sharon definitely doesn't like because of the wedge it causes in their friendship.

I have always loved how everything connects in this show. Here, we have Angela saying close to the top of the episode how Jordan is "always closing his eyes like it hurts to look at things," and then later when Rickie asks what would be the perfect thing for someone to say at a romantic moment, Angela goes back to her initial thoughts on Jordan: "You're so beautiful. It hurts to look at you."

I love the energy surrounding Angela's fascination with Jordan, and she really lucks out in ending up at the party and finding Jordan alone for a moment and later seeing Jordan at Let's Bolt. What I find interesting is how Jordan always initiates conversation with Angela. He could have just ignored her, especially since they didn't know each other, but he does the exact opposite. And I can see why Angela is radiant after Let's Bolt since Jordan knew who she was. Crushes have a way of making the worst nights (falling in mud and being put into a squad) seem like the best nights simply because of that one moment involving the object of affection. And it's no different for Angela because she "had a time."

It didn't surprise me that Brian asked Angela if she was meeting Jordan. He watches her enough that it makes sense that he would pick up on her liking Jordan. Still, it had to feel like an invasion of her privacy that her dorky neighbor actually knew about something that she thought was something that she was sharing with her new friends, Rayanne and Rickie.

I did feel bad for Angela when she saw Graham and the woman around the corner from her house. The immediate assumption would be an affair. After all, Graham said he was shooting pool with Neil and Patty already noted that it was the second time that week that he was getting together with Neil. I think that's the real reason that Angela was apologizing to Patty. She might have been talking about her hair and the problems she and her mom had been having, but maybe deep down inside, she felt guilty somehow for causing problems between Graham and Patty. She mentioned falling asleep right there, so where did Graham sleep when he finally got in?
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Post by K-man » Jan 13th 2003, 2:24 pm

O.K. girls, as usual I didn't get the assignment finished on time. :( I will watch the pilot tonight (I hope) and try and join the fun tomorrow.
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Random Musings On The Pilot

Post by Nostradamus » Jan 13th 2003, 6:37 pm

What's with that cheerleader crying in the hall? Does it tie in thematically with the scenes it divides, or is it just establishing the mood of the school, as with the drone of the lighting? There seems to be fewer of these stylish cut shots and intros as the series continues.

What headband? Or did you mean that his hair is partly tied back?

Closer inspection of the framed picture reveals two figures, white-clad and black-clad; the Chase's wedding? Maybe Rayanne was going to make an off-color comment about it (70's hair, etc.) when she saw Patty and thought better of it.

Try a frame-by-frame advance of the dissolve from Angela to Anne Frank. Eerie!

Gawd, that is a butt-ugly mural in the cafeteria! Is that a lunch-lady standing in front of it? She looks dead!

Brian gets his lunch tray shoved into his shirt, but there is no stain when the tray falls away.

The patch says "Three Rivers Police" with what looks like a generic coat of arms in the center.

What is Brian working on in the tree? With a pirate on the cover? Maybe last year's yearbook with the mascot?

Check out the look of terror that flashes across Graham's face after Patty tells him to go shoot pool with his brother "or wherever the hell you're going"! I don't think she knew about his clandestine meeting, but she sure scared the hell out of him!

The pale colors of the pilot remind me of the filters used in the espionage thriller "Ronin". Some of the scenes feel more like the Old World than LA or Pittsburgh.

Rayanne's booze at Let's Bolt reads "Cameron Castle". Just out of curiosity, what type of spirit do you suppose that is? (DVD quality note: I couldn't read that on my first edition disc, but it's quite legible on the new set.)

Angela's tumble in the mud foreshadows Rayanne's knockdown at the club.
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the pilot

Post by likelife » Jan 13th 2003, 6:56 pm

wow, candygirl. you sure gave us a lot to think about..

as for the strap --
i never really noticed it specifically but i did notice a difference in stance and posture that angela seemed to take on as the show progressed. she definitely seemed more closed off and "together" in the first few episodes. if i had looked closer i would have noticed the purse strap. also, her old backpack looks SO awkward when she wears it with only one strap -- like it was not meant to be held at a slant.

as for her clothes --
i noticed several things. first, i agree that angela's clothes did change slightly after the pilot. her pastel dress and little white tights were never to be seen again. this obviously reflects changes in her character, but i think there may be other reasons as well -- the amount of time between when the first and second episodes were filmed, to begin with. angela gets more grungy as the grunge movement progresses. 93 was the end of the early 90's and 94 was the mid-90's and the grunge era. another reason i can think of is that there were some decisions made about the direction of angela's character that did not happen until after the first episode was filmed. but what do i know.
but back to the original idea that her change in clothes mirrors her change of lifestyles and best friends... even in episide two, the dress she wears to brian's is somewhere on the border between flowery eighties material and something else.

patty and the check book -
right ON that she stayed up waiting for graham! i agree completely. also, patty is the sort of person who TELLS herslef that she is relaxing in bed, meanwhile, she's balancing her budget. how relaxing can that possibly be?

angela on their bed --
i assumed that she fell asleep there but then woke up five seconds later and went to her own room. i think that if graham had "not come home that night" that everyone would be suspiscious. i think that the thought of angela partly apologizing for everything to patty being related to seeing graham with the the woman makes perfect sense. i had not thought of that before.

jordan with the sound off --
typical jordan behavior. too spacy to actually watch tv, but present enough to change the channel to something he might find interesting. when i watch the show over and over again, i am pleasently surprised to note how many of angela and jordan's conversations are ones that he starts. especially in the first few episodes. if angela had more self esteem and savvy with guys, she might have taken this as a sign that he actually liked her.

ricky's cousin --
is technically ricky's cousin but actually the kid who he lives with as his brother. that's who that is. i believe he drove them there and then disappeared.

-- but about rides in general --
it seems that sometimes in the show people need rides places, sometimes they just materialize, and sometimes they can walk or ride bikes. what IS the actual geographical radius that we are talking about here? i've never been too sure. also, for those pittsburghers; are pike street and other such locales real or imaginary?

angela and sharon --
i agree that angela would like to stay friends with sharon but does not know how to demote her without being passive agressive. i also realize, though, that even when you DO want to demote a friend or get rid of one, how do you do it actively without being a real bitch? i mean, how could angela have told sharon about rayanne and gotten out of doing things with sharon without admitting that some things about her life were bothering her? like, her best friend....
i, too, love the way sharon is complaining about a girl joining yearbook for a boy and how lame that is. we know that angela can identify with the girl and therefore not with sharon's point of view.... but we also know that later sharon will start dating a high-profile jock (and why exactly, does she do that? i think she likes to be seen in his letter jacket and likes to have sex... neither of which are very noble reasons..). sharon's many extra-curricular activities may make her well-rounded in the eyes of a college admissions team, but i'd argue that to angela, joining a group because it would look good on your resume is just as lame as joining one for a guy.

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cheerleaders etc.

Post by likelife » Jan 13th 2003, 7:04 pm

i notice the cheerleader every time and i wonder what the deal is.... i like the addition, like, she's just there in the hallway as part of the scenery, but also setting the mood. part of the lack of those types of shots later in the show probably has to do with a, lack of extras, b, cramming as much as possible into each episode.
the cheerleader also might be put there to juxtapose angela's statement about cheerleaders, "why can't they cheer.. on their own?" she seems to have that well-accepted attitude that cheerleaders are annoying and cheery and prob. the happiest, most popular girls at the school. i know cheerleaders always annoyed me in highschool (though they were not necessarily popular). i guess her crying is indicative of the fact that h.s. is a battlefield foe EVERYONE'S heart.

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Re: Random Musings On The Pilot

Post by Natasha (candygirl) » Jan 13th 2003, 8:16 pm

Nostradamus wrote:What is Brian working on in the tree? With a pirate on the cover? Maybe last year's yearbook with the mascot?
I always wondered about that too - I thought that the pirate on the cover meant that it was a textbook that he had covered with one of the free book covers doled out by the school during the first week of classes.
Check out the look of terror that flashes across Graham's face after Patty tells him to go shoot pool with his brother "or wherever the hell you're going"! I don't think she knew about his clandestine meeting, but she sure scared the hell out of him!
Graham looked like a deer caught in the headlights. The look of horror/shock/guilt on his face was similar to one you would see when someone has just been told, "Hey did you know I saw your mom in a porno?"
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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 13th 2003, 10:18 pm

The duffel bag -- I thought about the missing duffel bag, too. My guess is that Angela left it in the car and someone returned it to her later. Also, forgetting things will become a pattern for Angela later in the series.

Patty and groceries -- We don't know it in the Pilot, but the kitchen is Graham's domain. He probably puts away most of the groceries. He probably buys the perishable items, too. Of course, she could have just been flustered by having Angela's friends in the house.

Patty and Graham -- Patty's telling Graham to go wherever he is going definitely is a sign that she suspects him of having an affair. He has probably started acting differently while he thinks about pursuing this other woman. He probably never spent so much time with his brother before. So, in some way, Graham now knows that Patty might know what he's thinking about doing.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
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I love this episode...

Post by Lindsay » Jan 13th 2003, 10:19 pm

This episode covers so much ground. It introduces everyone very well at the same time, for setting up so much.

A few comments:

When Patty says "Or wherever the hell you're going!" I find it so strange. I don't THINK she suspects anything at this point, but at the same time, don't you find it weird that she chose to use that phrasing?? It makes it sound like she doesn't believe he's hanging out Neil "again." Plus, she WAS waiting up for him- but that's kind of normal Patty behavior. What do you think? I almost think she does suspect....

I love the whole scene/conversation between Brian and Angela near the end. Priceless.... Brian, by the way, is a great actor, IMHO.

On that note, did "in my humble opinion" begin with Angela, or Patty. Because both use it, could Angela have got the expression from Patty, or vise versa??

The one thing that bothers me with Angela & Jordon (everything else I find very realistic!), is when she's getting in the car, and he yells out her name. I don't know why, but it just seems unrealistic that HE would know HER name. I think he likes the idea that she's in a squad car...hehee....

Another great thing about this episode is Angela, Rayanne, and Rickie. I love the group together!! When Rayanne is yelling "Jordon!! Jooordon!!" drunkenly..... priceless.

Angela, by the way, looks much better with red hair.

The whole episode I find I can relate to ALOT. I love it.....

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Post by TomSpeed » Jan 14th 2003, 1:05 am

The saying IMHO -- Sounds like Patty to me. Teenagers like to think they are nothing like their parents, but they are influenced by them in hidden ways. Patty probably picked the saying up from her mother.

About Jordan and Angela -- They are in some of the same classes. They saw each other briefly earlier in the week outside of school. So, I think it's natural for him to know her name. He probably knows the names of most of the pretty girls in school. Plus, seeing someone you know put into a policecar will definitely jog your memory.

I think Brian and Angela's talk near the end is very important. The cop told Brian to look out for her -- he has been (knowing she likes Jordan, asking her not to act stupid). He helps her when she stumbles after seeing Graham and the other woman by the car. The way Angela starts to go away, then comes back while they are talking about the yearbook theme. More is being said than is really said. It's not anything major. But, in some ways it's obvious that there might be a mutual attraction between them.
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Patty: If Rayanne's not seeing you, and we're not seeing you, who is seeing you?
Graham: And how much of you?
Angela: Dad!
Graham: Oh, I'm sorry! I asked a question about your life, didn't I? Woah, what came over me?
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Other pilot episode thoughts.

Post by vampyr » Jan 14th 2003, 3:17 am

Let me first point out that I didn't start watching MSCL until the middle of the 94-95 season, and I don't have cable, so no MTV reruns. That is, I never got to see the first half of the series until the DVDs came. In other words, I haven't memorized every nuance of the show yet. But I can now (finally) identify the source of practically every scene in the opening credits. I've always wondered where they came from, they looked so unlike the rest of the show.

Apologies for the scattered rambly feeling in the following, but I somehow can't sort all these pieces into any semblence of rational order.


> What is Graham twisting in his hands while he and Patty quasi argue about Angela going out on a school night?

I think it's a dishtowel.


> Where did Angela's duffel bag go?

I wondered where it came from. When she storms out of the kitchen, she doesn't have it. I thought she went directly outside without it, but suddenly she's out there and she has it. And then she hangs around until Brian comes by before ducking into the bushes to change so she can tell him to "get out of here". One would think if she was after a stealthy departure she'd hide and wait until he was gone, or at least be less overt in making her escape. Where did her original shoes go? And her socks, she got in the car with some, but they seem to have disappeared along the way. Was she wearing them when they traded shoes?


> What's with that cheerleader crying in the hall?

I wondered about that, but I decided they probably had somewhere to go with it when they shot the scene, which somewhere disappeared by the time they put the episode together. I figure we have to forgive them a lot of continuity failures (something they definitely have) and storyline goofiness because it is after all the pilot. Like while Angela and Brian are out in the street talking and a figure is moving around in the background, I'm betting that's a member of the crew caught by accident. It also appears from assorted other weirdness that their director was probably new to the biz and hadn't quite figured out what worked and what didn't.


There was a moment I wondered what was being said, so I put the subtitles on, and... they lied to me! At "Let's Bolt" the subtitles have Rayanne saying "Rickie loves cuter feet", but I'm sure she actually says "Rickie, who has cuter feet?". Then they have him saying "Me?", when what he really says is "Me!".

Now that I don't trust the subtitles, I wonder when Graham is asking Patty to have Angela not walk around in a towel, she says he should tell her himself, and he says "If I could tell her, I would", except I'm not sure he doesn't actually say "I wouldn't". There's a tiny stutter there that I can't really decide.

I find it interesting that virtually every classroom in which any meaningful teaching occurs is a science classroom, despite that Winnie Holzman obviously hasn't a scientific clue. (The nearest star is not 5 trillion miles away, it's 25 trillion; a million light years puts you way outside our galaxy, about halfway to Andromeda; the purpose of an experiment is to gather data, not solve a problem; you get the idea.) (I may have paraphrased; remember what I said about the nuances...)

I hated when Angela came back from the party and Patty goes all mom with the "what happened" panic but then is so busy overreacting to the imagined horror and arguing with Graham that Angela can't tell them. I don't think any parents, especially not hers, are so self absorbed that they can't focus on the important part of the situation. Mostly I just want to give Patty a smack. If I were married to her I'd run off with Hallie.

A favorite line: "You have to work up to a thing like that... I don't open that wide at the dentist." And an observation: She can think and vocalize so well under what we must consider highly stressful circumstances with a complete stranger she has a crush on, but when Sharon asks "what did I do" she can only stutter something idiotic about "it's not any one thing" and just make matters worse? These people (all the characters seem to do it) are so verbally competent except when the writer needs a situation, then suddenly they turn into stumbling idiots.

And did high school kids really say "or something" as often as these do?


> The saying IMHO -- Sounds like Patty to me.

Disagree. The way Angela says it, it sounds like something she read in a book or heard on TV, and she's using it to be simultaneously impressive (the way cops say "vehicle" and "apprehended" because they think it makes them sound smarter and more official) and apologetic (she's still not that sure of herself), whereas the way Patty says it, it has the tiniest hint of affectionate mocking to it, like echoing her daughter back at her.


Alas, I can't be sure no one ever mentioned it before, so I must ask: For those who don't read the credits, did we all notice that the cute black girl in the bathroom who says "good question" is also Kendra the Vampire Slayer?
Last edited by vampyr on Jan 14th 2003, 3:21 am, edited 1 time in total.

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