Feb 3, 2023

"On My Block: Freeridge": Gritty Urban Drama Changes to Comedy, and the Bi Guy Gets the Girl


On My Block: Freeridge popped up on my Netflix recommendations.  Wait -- this looks like a comedy.  Wasn't On My Block a gritty, violent series about gangs, drugs, urban decay, and police targeting of minority communities?  I've got to see how they created a comedy sequel.

Scene 1: Gang members and passersby run into Freeridge (The sign goes by too fast to see what it is) to watch two girls fighting: "Y'all callin' me crazy!"  "Hate-ass bitch!"  The fight lasts for a long time, and is rather brutal, but portrayed as humorous.

Scene 2: The girls continue to argue and punch each other in the principal's office (Freeridge is a high school), but their street accent fades away.   Plot dump: they are sisters, Ines (thin, wearing pink) and Gloria (chubby, wearing blue), the latter sophomore class president. So she's about 15? Their guardian, Uncle Tonio (J. R. Villareal),  comes in and promises to keep them in line.  As punishment, they each owe him a hundy ($100). Gloria (blue) walks off in a huff.  Ines (pink) yells that she wants enchiladas for dinner.

Scene 3: Gloria in the supermarket, shopping for enchilada ingredients with her two friends, a boy (Tenging Norgay Trainor) and a girl.  She blames them for the debacle, because they were supposed to keep the sisters from attacking each other.  "You couldn't stop me anyway!  I hate Ines!  She ruined my reputation!"  

The friends note that Ines is ruining all of their reputations, so could Gloria please dump her?  The boy also promises to end his toxic relationship with Andre.  A boyfriend?  Please?  I'm getting tired of all heterosexual all the time teencoms (or gritty urban dramas).

Another problem: Uncle Tonio's fines are adding up. Now she owes over a thousand dollars.  How can she pay all of that?  

Scene 4: Gloria in the garage, going through the box of her old baby stuff, looking for the silver spoon her aunt gave her.  Too bad, Sister Ines already sold it.  

Dad comes in and gets all verklempt over a memento of a date with their mother.  Wait -- I thought Dad was dead.  Why is Uncle Tonio their guardian?  Did he lose custody somehow? Plot dump: his birthday dinner is Saturday, and he invited "a friend."

Uh-0h, they forgot to buy a birthday present.  Ines orders Gloria to buy one for both of them.

Scene 5
: Gloria and her two friends at a fast food joint, fuming: "This toxicity has to end!   Eject Ines from the friend group!"  Whoops, Ines shows up.  "Do it!" the they snarl.  "Dump her!"

Suddenly Andre, a super-swishy gay stereotype  (Zaire Adams). rushes up and hugs the boy.  He recoils in disgust.  If I didn't know that they were dating, I'd swear that he was homophobic.  The girls glare: "Do it!  Dump him!"

Gloria and the boy (Cam?) both lose their nerve and run away.  Ines tells the remaining girl (Demi) that they should get rid of the dead weight in their friend group: dump Cam!

Scene 6: On the way home, Gay Friend Cam tells the girl, Demi, that he's into her.  She cuts him off; "Your obsession with me is just an excuse, to justify dumping Andre."  So Cam is bi?

Cam agrees.  He should try being single for awhile.  Besides, he couldn't date Demi because "you'd wreck me."  Is that a sexual expression?  Demi lags behind, overcome by the realization that she is in love with Cam.  That gushy, starry-eyed, way overacted sitcom love.  So when he wants you, you don't want him, but the minute he stops being interested, you fall in love?  Only in a sitcom!

Scene 7: Gloria dumps Sister Ines: "You're out of the friend group.  Go make your own friends."  But instead of ostracizing her altogether, she make Sister Ines her bitch (servant).  

Scene 8: A yard sale to raise money for Uncle Tonio's fines.  New problem: the next door neighbors are having a yard sale, too, and want Gloria out -- until she demonstrates that she is an excellent salesperson, and offers to help.

Cam  bought a box monogrammed MM at the neighbor's sale.  He's going to give it to soon-to-be-ex Andre: "Wrong initials.  A box. Perfect!  He'll dump me for sure!"  

Uh-oh, the shoes of a scary elderly lady approach.  She wants the same box -- and is willing to pay $200.  Maybe don't wait for a yard sale?   When Gloria rushes to fetch Cam, the lady has vanished.  A bruja!

Scene 9: The box contains only a  pocket knife and a photo of the lady in her younger years..  Disappointed, Cam rushes off to give it to soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend Andre.  Then the elderly lady knocks on the door.  Now she'll pay $1,000!  "That box is cursed!" she exclaims.  They close the door to consult with Uncle Antonio, and when they open it, she's gone!

Scene 10: Demi,  who is into the paranormal, says that the curse will affect them all unless they learn more about the box. The other girls scoff.  Then it's time for Dad's birthday dinner, with his "friend" Lucia.  The girls text disgusted comments to each other.  

Lucia: "I'm a lawyer."

Girls: "Greedy loser.  All you can think of is money."

Lucia: "Most of my work is pro bono."

Girls:  "Broke loser!"

The girls give Dad the pocket knife from the box.  He slices open his finger with it, then throws his back out.  The curse!

Scene 10: At home, New Age Demi is using a tarot deck to find out about the curse.  Cam comes in: "The box is definitely cursed.  I gave it to Andre so he would dump me, but he loved it!"  

Demi grabs his hand and feels all love-struck, but backs off.

Scene 11: The girls in bed, discussing Dad's new girlfriend.  Are they having sex?  Why did he give her their dead Mom's scarf?

Scene 12: At school, Cam is elated because Andre hasn't texted in 15 hours.  "Because he's dead," the girls suggest.  "The curse killed him."   He scoffs.

Then Andre appears, with his face all swollen.  They all scream.

Scene 13:  They interrogate the neighbor who sold Cam the box. The old lady in the photo they found inside is dead!

Scene 14:  Sistern Ines, Cam, and Demi discussing the curse.  Gloria is upset that they've allowed Ines back into the friend group, and goes downstairs to pout.    Uncle Tonio appears to work on his laptop.  He gets a mysterious phone call.  A new mystery to solve!

Later, Ines and Gloria break into his computer (his password is the uber-heterosexist Boobies69) and discovers that he's been researching cancer.

While they are reading, Uncle Tonio appears from shower (no beefcake). "We're sorry that you have cancer."  "I don't," Tonio bombshells.  "Your Dad does.  He doesn't know yet.  The call was giving him the results of the MRI."  

Scene 15: Now Gloria believes in the curse.  "We've got to work together to save my Dad."  Meanwhile, the elderly dead lady is staring at them from her car.  The end.


Gay Characters: Andre.  Cam is bi, but he spends the entire episode trying to dump a guy and romance a girl.  Which do you think will get the fade-out kiss? .

Heterosexism: Only Cam and Demi express heterosexual interest in this episode, but Gloria gets a boyfriend later on (Michael Solomon, left)..

Drama: Mom's death and Dad's cancer.  Otherwise this is played as a comedy.  I'm interested in seeing the previous series, to see how the producers made the drama-comedy switch.

Jan 31, 2023

Laverne and Shirley

Laverne De Fazio (Penny Marshall) and Shirley Feeney (Cindy Williams) first appeared on an episode of Happy Days, when Fonzie hooks himself and Richie up with two "loose women" who are sure to "put out."

In 1976 (after Cindy Williams took time off to star in The First Nudie Musical)they spun-off into their own series, Laverne and Shirley (1976-83).  Theirr characters became more stable, friends and roommates who worked as bottle-cappers at Schotz Brewery in Milwaukee while waiting to "make all their dreams come true."  Those dreams involved snaring rich husbands.

It wasn't one of my top 10 programs, but everyone else in the family watched, so I saw it relatively often.  And, in spite of the heterosexist premise and standard 1970s obsession with sex, there was quite a lot of gay content.

1. In 1950s lesbian culture, you had to decide whether you were a butch or a femme, and date only the other type.  It was scandalous for two butches or two femmes to hook up.  Laverne was strong, aggressive, a good fighter and a hard drinker, into sports and home repairs, while Shirley was soft-spoken, polite, retiring, sexually repressed, and into frilly lacy things. I didn't know anything about 1950s lesbian culture in those days, but it wasn't hard to figure Laverne and Shirley out.

2. Shirley had a sort-of boyfriend, sort-of big brother in Carmine (Eddie Mekka), an aspiring actor-dancer-singer-boxer.  Carmine's main source of income was an older woman named Lucille, who gave him gifts and money in exchange for unspecified favors. Outside of work and friendship, Carmine didn't seem particularly interested in women. I didn't know much about hustlers in those days, but it wasn't hard to figure Carmine out.

Actor Eddie Mekka has been the subject of several celebrity hookup stories.

3. Carmine was amazingly hot, though rarely shirtless on the show (the photo is from Circus of the Stars).  And lots of other hunky guys paraded through Laverne and Shirley's apartment, as boyfriends or relatives,  including Christopher Guest, Ted Danson, Ed Begley Jr.,  and Ed Marinaro.

4. The annoying upstairs neighbors, Lenny (Michael McKean, middle) and Squiggy (David L. Lander, left), made the usual hand-biting gestures and kissing noises whenever they saw an attractive women (or in this case, an attractive man), but they rarely attempted to actually date anyone. They were  devoted to each other, permanent, exclusive, passionate partners.

In a 1996 episode of The Nanny, David L. Lander, swishing it up as Fran's gay-stereotype landlord, states that he has been with his partner "Leonard" for twenty years (that is, since Laverne and Shirley premiered).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...