For the two or three of you who might not be aware of it by now, Nicolas Coppola is the birth name of Nicolas Cage. Here he’s just a decade away from banging broads in church confessionals in Zandalee, yet somehow his appearance in a wacky teen comedy show is more jarring.
In addition to just regular dudes and not aliens wearing human skin Crispin and Nick, there’s also Jill (Jill Schoelen), the cute girl next door, Julie (Julie Piekarski), the blonde cheerleader, Kevin (Kevin Cortes), the dorky wannabe ladies’ man, Lisa (Lisa Hope Ross), the kinda chubby girl who’s often seen eating (in one scene she goes cross-eyed in ecstasy while drinking a Slurpee), David (David Rambo), the nerdy guy, and finally Janet (Janet Robin), an aspiring rock star whom Crispin claims is fourteen but looks a decade older. Typical of most “average teens” on television, they’re all very white and very middle class, and their most pressing issue is who they’re going to take to the big dance next week.
Sounds pretty cut and dry, and not at all incomprehensible, right? Haaaaaang on, we haven’t gotten to the musical numbers yet. Or the jokes. Or the thoughtful discourse on what it means to be a modern teen. In fact, let me just give a play by play of this carnival of wonders.
2:12: After being bitched at by his off-screen mother and introducing his friends, Crispin, the ostensible host of this buffet of befuddlement, complains that white, suburban teenagers are “the faceless members of the society,” looked down upon by their elders, constantly harassed by the cops, and “everyone thinks you’re on dope!” And yet, he ends this gripe list with “Remember, these are the best of times!”
3:25: Kevin, a pleasant looking, perfectly nice young fellow rendered undateable because he wears glasses, makes one of several dozen attempts at finding a date to the big dance. He does it by phone, and if you guessed that this attempt ends with him not realizing he’s been hung up on and saying “Hello…hello?”, congratulations, you qualify for acceptance to our comedy writing correspondence course, please send a check or money order for $19.95 to Laff School, P.O. Box 4738, Hollywood, CA 90028.
4:26: Nick, already cranking up the Cageness to MAXIMUM and throwing air punches, extols the virtues of the Rocky movies to an unimpressed David, who asks “Don’t you ever watch Disney movies?” Surprisingly, the scene does not end with Nick beating David senseless with a weight bar.
4:56: Julie, while sitting at a makeup table with Jill and Lisa, talks about going on a driving date with a boy, and “before I knew it, we’d gone all the way…to San Diego.” The “beep beep beep beep boop” musical cue after that line helpfully lets the audience know that this is a “punchline.”
5:07: Now, if I was Kevin Costner in JFK, and this was my Zapruder film, here is the part I would become obsessed with, when everything goes haywire and nothing makes sense anymore. This is the moment where the show goes from Blandsville on the fast train to Kookootown. Crispin and the gang go to hang out at their local 7-11. Jackie Mason plays the gruff but mostly friendly store owner, Mr. O’Reilly, whose family evidently Americanized their name from O’Reillywitz when they came through Ellis Island. When Mr. O’Reilly grumbles about having to exchange hundreds of glass bottles the kids have brought in for dimes, they torment this decent, hardworking man by engaging in a musical number, dancing in the store aisles, beating on cans, and turning boxes and bottles into instruments. Because you can find anything on the internet, I managed to locate a gif from this scene, and it is profoundly unsettling: