Square Pegs

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Square Pegs
Squarepegslogo.gif
GenreSitcom
Created byAnne Beatts
StarringSarah Jessica Parker
Amy Linker
Merritt Butrick
John Femia
Tracy Nelson
Jami Gertz
Claudette Wells
Jon Caliri
Theme music composerThe Waitresses
Composer(s)Tom Scott (pilot)
Paul Shaffer ("Special Musical Material", pilot)
Jonathan Wolff
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons1
No. of episodes20 (list of episodes)
Production
Producer(s)Anne Beatts
Luciano Martino
CinematographyBrianne Murphy
Richard N. Hannah
Emil Oster
Editor(s)Joy Kamen
Joy Wilson
Camera setupSingle camera
Running time22–24 minutes
Production company(s)Embassy Television
DistributorColumbia Pictures Television
Embassy Telecommunications
(1986)
Columbia TriStar Television
Sony Pictures Television
Release
Original networkCBS
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseSeptember 27, 1982 (1982-09-27) – March 7, 1983 (1983-03-07)

Square Pegs is an American sitcom that aired on CBS during the 1982–1983 season. The series follows Patty Greene (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Lauren Hutchinson (Amy Linker), two awkward teenage girls desperate to fit in at Weemawee High School.

Overview and setting[edit]

Created by former Saturday Night Live writer Anne Beatts, the pilot introduces an eclectic group of eight freshmen on their first day at Weemawee High School. The series was much acclaimed by critics at the time for its realistic look at teenage life, reflecting a sensibility somewhat similar to the John Hughes teen comedies of later years.[1]

Main characters[edit]

Sarah Jessica Parker as Patty Greene in the episode "It's All How You See Things"

Patty Greene (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a budding young woman, not quite beautiful yet, but well cultured and intelligent. While clever and seemingly well-adjusted, she seems awkward and a social misfit (i.e. a square peg) when amongst the "popular" students. Patty hates her eyeglasses, but her father won't let her get contacts (because, he says, her eyes are "still growing").

Patty's very close friend Lauren Hutchinson (Amy Linker) struggles with her weight (the actress needed to wear padding for the role), has braces, wears unusual clothing, and also does not fit in with the popular crowd. However, much more so than Patty, Lauren constantly desires to be in with the in crowd, and the series' episodes revolve more or less around her dragging Patty into various schemes in attempts to make them more popular.

Lauren and Patty are surrounded by colorful supporting characters. Their friends Marshall Blechtman (John Femia) and Johnny "Slash" Ulasewicz (Merritt Butrick) are a pair of lovable geeks. Marshall is a motormouthed would-be comedian, while Johnny is a soft-spoken new wave fan (not punk... "a totally different head... totally.") Though seemingly off in his own reality most of the time, Johnny Slash states that he "[does not] do drugs and isn't a hippie" and on more than one occasion displays unexpected intuition and empathy, particularly regarding Marshall and the girls. The two help to maintain a school radio station. Several episodes indicate that Marshall is attracted to Lauren and Johnny to Patty.

The popular kids whom Patty and Lauren are usually trying to impress are Jennifer DiNuccio (Tracy Nelson), the quintessential buxom Valley girl, her boyfriend Vinnie Pasetta (Jon Caliri), a handsome greaser hood, and LaDonna Fredericks (Claudette Wells), Jennifer's friend and the sole minority character in the cast. Vinnie is cool but dense, using the "Why don't you make like a tree and get out of here?" line three years before the character Biff in 1985's Back to the Future. LaDonna is known for sassy remarks such as "Shoot, child, you think this place is crowded? You should have seen our living room when The Jeffersons went to Hawaii. Those were the three worst Sundays of my life."

The typical official high school activity culture is personified by preppy Muffy B. Tepperman (Jami Gertz) who is the endlessly chipper chairperson of the Weemawee Pep Committee, head of the Morals Club, chairman of the Science Fair Committee and member of the Future Nurses of America. Muffy has a memorably pompous, oratorical speaking style and begins many sentences with "It behooves me to tell you..." or an elongated "People...". Though perhaps even more socially inept ("I’m going to ignore that because, frankly, I don't get it"), Muffy's unawareness and/or lack of concern with her failure to fit in with the popular kids is in stark contrast to the motivation of the show's protagonists, and does not stop her from relentless involvement in peppy activities.

An ongoing gag throughout the series is Muffy's fundraising for Weemawee's adopted "little Guatemalan child," Rosarita. As the series progresses, Muffy's charitable intentions become more and more frivolous, asking the school community to provide the girl with her own apartment away from her parents, cable TV, a second pair of culottes, swimwear, a split-level duplex, and finally, her own cleaning lady.

This group of eight students, though clearly of varied academic standing, are always in the same classes.

The recurring staff members at the school are:

  • Ms. Alison Loomis (Catlin Adams), a feminist liberal arts teacher who often complains about her ex-husband
  • Mr. Rob "Lovebeads" Donovan (Steven Peterman), who continuously brings up his antics in the 1960s and always stops just short of completing references to smoking pot
  • Mr. John Michael Spacek (Craig Richard Nelson), the affected but married drama teacher
  • Dr. Winthrop Dingleman (Basil Hoffman), the grinning, square principal

Series creator Anne Beatts appeared in two episodes as Miss Rezucha.

Home life of the students is rarely depicted, but Patty's father is prominently featured in the Christmas episode, played by Tony Dow, best known as the character Wally Cleaver in Leave It to Beaver.

Opening dialogue[edit]

Before the opening credits and theme song begin, every episode starts with the following dialogue appearing in a montage of stills from the school:

Lauren: Listen. I've got this whole high school thing psyched out. It all breaks down into cliques.
Patty: Cliques?
Lauren: Yeah, you know. Cliques. Little in-groups of different kids. All we have to do is click with the right clique, and we can finally have a social life that's worthy of us.
Patty: No way! Not even with cleavage.
Lauren: I tell you, this year we're going to be popular.
Patty: Yeah?
Lauren: Yeah. Even if it kills us.

Episodes[edit]

No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
code
1"Pilot"Kim FriedmanAnne BeattsSeptember 27, 1982 (1982-09-27)101
Freshman Patty gets the chance to "click with the right clique" when she attracts the attention of a handsome senior.
2"A Cafeteria Line"Kim FriedmanJanis HirschOctober 4, 1982 (1982-10-04)102
The romantic leads in the school musical lead to romance for Patty and Vinnie.
3"Pac Man Fever"Terry HughesMarjorie GrossOctober 11, 1982 (1982-10-11)105
Marshall loses his comic touch when he becomes possessed by a video game. His only hope for salvation: exorcism by the cleric of comedy, Father Guido Sarducci.
4"Square Pigskins"Kim FriedmanAndy BorowitzOctober 18, 1982 (1982-10-18)104
Lauren talks Patty into joining the Weemawee girls football team — coached by a gung-ho army vet and a women's libber who bristles at the slightest slight.
5"Halloween XII"Terry HughesMarjorie Gross and Susan SilverNovember 1, 1982 (1982-11-01)109
The Weemawee High School Halloween dance gets canceled when Muffy spends the entire budget on unnecessary decorations. She feels so guilty that she begs Ms. Loomis to have a slumber party for the girls; Patty and Lauren see this as an opportunity to join in with the popular girls. The girls become scared when they hear noises outside, only to discover that it's Vinnie, Johnny and Marshall. They all calm down until they think they see a dark, monster-like figure moving towards the door...
6"A Simple Attachment"Terry HughesDavid FeltonNovember 8, 1982 (1982-11-08)107
Hopelessly in love with Lauren, Marshall takes an opportunity with the science fair to build a "love detector." His project backfires on him. It also causes problems for happy couples by making other love matches for them.
7"Weemaweegate"Kim FriedmanChris Miller and Michael SuttonNovember 15, 1982 (1982-11-15)108
Vinnie is attempting to become the school mascot but keeps running into problems. School newspaper reporters Patty and Lauren decide to investigate the strange happenings. The clues quickly point to Marshall, but is he being set up?
8"Open 24 Hours"Kim FriedmanDeanne StillmanNovember 22, 1982 (1982-11-22)106
Marshall becomes Johnny's manager and books his band, a band no one's ever seen, for the gala opening of a supermarket deli counter.
9"Muffy's Bat Mitzvah"Kim FriedmanMargaret Oberman and Rosie ShusterNovember 29, 1982 (1982-11-29)113
When she leaves them off her guest list, Lauren and Patty scheme to get invited to Muffy's bat mitzvah party.
10"Hardly Working"Terry HughesAndy Borowitz and Janis HirschDecember 13, 1982 (1982-12-13)112
Jennifer does the uncoolest thing possible: she gets a job.
11"A Child's Christmas in Weemawee: Part 1"Terry HughesMarjorie Gross and Janis HirschDecember 20, 1982 (1982-12-20)115
Patty's in a quandary: should she spend Christmas in an isolated cabin with her divorced father, or the way she'd prefer — with her friends at school?
12"A Child's Christmas in Weemawee: Part 2"Terry HughesMarjorie Gross and Janis HirschDecember 20, 1982 (1982-12-20)116
Patty wants to patch things up with her dad in time to still attend the all-important Weemawee Christmas party.
13"It's All How You See Things"Kim FriedmanJanis HirschDecember 27, 1982 (1982-12-27)110
Patty thinks that wearing glasses is the cause of her problems, and therefore decides to stop wearing them.
14"Merry Pranksters"Kim Friedman and James Nasella Jr.Deanne StillmanJanuary 10, 1983 (1983-01-10)111
To gain popularity Patty and Lauren become expert pranksters. The joke is on them, however, when someone else gets credit for their stunts.
15"It's Academical"Terry HughesAndy BorowitzJanuary 24, 1983 (1983-01-24)114
The kids are excited when Dan Vermillion (Martin Mull), host of channel 124's quiz show It's Academical, announces that Weemawee High School has just been selected to compete. This will be a big competition since they will face their arch-rivals, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Tech. Patty is selected along with Muffy and Larry Simpson since they have the three highest grade point averages. Patty sees this as another chance to gain popularity, and maybe Larry as a boyfriend.
16"The Stepanowicz Papers"Terry HughesSusan SilverJanuary 31, 1983 (1983-01-31)103
When Mr. Stepanowicz starts his new job as the school janitor, Lauren dreams of becoming Mrs. Stepanowicz. Patty tries to talk some sense into her friend, but it looks like Lauren needs to learn the hard way.
17"To Serve Weemawee All My Days"Kim FriedmanAndy Borowitz and Janis HirschFebruary 7, 1983 (1983-02-07)117
Mr. Donovan's job is in jeopardy because the school board has discovered he is living with a woman.
18"No Substitutions"Kim FriedmanAndy BorowitzFebruary 14, 1983 (1983-02-14)119
Jack McNulty (Bill Murray) is a substitute teacher who fills in for Ms. Loomis while she is in Reno for a teacher conference. Mr. McNulty sets the kids up with mock marriages to teach them about life, and he quickly becomes their favorite teacher. The kids end up learning a life lesson, just not the one that was planned.
19"No Joy in Weemawee"James Nasella Jr.Marjorie Gross and Deanne StillmanFebruary 21, 1983 (1983-02-21)118
The Weemawee Braves are holding baseball tryouts when star pitcher Vinnie harasses Johnny until he finally has had enough and takes a turn at bat. Johnny hits three consecutive pitches for home runs and immediately makes the team. Coach Donovan is beside himself since his school has not won a single baseball game since 1955. Special appearance by then-Los Angeles Dodgers' second baseman Steve Sax.
20"The Arrangement"Craig Richard NelsonAnne Beatts and David SkinnerMarch 7, 1983 (1983-03-07)120
Vinnie needs Patty to help him study for a big math test. If he doesn't pass it, he can't have the party he wants to throw to celebrate his six-month anniversary with Jennifer. By helping Vinnie, Patty and Lauren think the popular kids at school will finally accept them.

Theme song and other music[edit]

To accurately reflect high schoolers' tastes of the moment, new wave music was an important facet of the show's style. The show's opening and closing theme songs, "Square Pegs", and an untitled instrumental reminiscent of "Chopsticks" composed by Tom Scott, are performed by The Waitresses. In some episodes, "Chopsticks" is the opening theme and "Square Pegs" the closing theme, and in others these are reversed.

  • The Waitresses appear in the premiere episode as a band performing at the school dance. They sing "I Know What Boys Like" during a scene, and "Square Pegs" during the closing credits, with the characters dancing along. Their song "Christmas Wrapping" is playing in the popular hangout diner ("The Grease") during the Christmas episode. They are mentioned by Jennifer in the episode in which she works at the diner.
  • John Densmore, original drummer for The Doors, plays himself as a member of Johnny Slash's new wave band, "Open 24 Hours" in the episode: "Open 24 Hours" (episode #8). He plays the drummer in Johnny's band "Open 48 Hours" in the episode "Muffy's Bat Mitzvah" (episode #9).
  • Also performing in "Muffy's Bat Mitzvah", the new wave band Devo appear as themselves.
  • The walls of the school radio station, run by Marshall, are covered with posters from then-current New Wave acts, including Berlin, The Clash, Missing Persons, Squeeze, Devo, The B-52's, and Laurie Anderson.
  • Billy Idol's song "Dancing with Myself" is featured in episode #18 ("No Substitutions") which guest starred Bill Murray. The song is replaced with generic music in the DVD release, but the original audio is in the version available on iTunes.

The music supervision for the show was handled by Stephen Elvis Smith, although he is credited as Program Coordinator, and later as Associate Producer. The 2008 DVD release of the episodes, which included interviews with the cast, was directed by Stephen Smith and produced by his company Abbey Entertainment.

Reception[edit]

US TV Ratings

Season Episodes Start Date End Date Nielsen Rank Nielsen Rating Tied With
1982-83 22 September 27, 1982 March 7, 1983 58[2] N/A N/A

Series cancellation[edit]

Square Pegs creator Anne Betts revealed the show's abrupt demise came from things going on behind the scenes - specifically, drug abuse among the teenaged cast members. Betts revealed in 2015 "I think that certainly, there was some drug abuse or drug traffic that may have happened, because I would say that that is norm for a set". Devo member Gerald Casale also confirmed in 2009 about the drug use on the set, saying "The girls were out of control—they were doing drugs and they were making out and they were coming on to us in a big way... They might have been 15 or 16, but in their heads they were already 40. I don’t think there was a virgin on the set, except maybe a couple of the guys".[3] Most of the show's scenes were filmed at the abandoned Excelsior High School in the suburb of Norwalk, California. Because Norwalk was twenty miles from Norman Lear's studio and CBS Television in Los Angeles, it was hard to know what was happening during filming. Embassy Television received numerous reports of drug and alcohol abuse in the presence of minors, which caused Embassy president Michael Grade to ask for an investigation and led him to pull the plug on the show shortly after they wrapped up filming.[4]

Broadcast history[edit]

  • Original broadcasts: Square Pegs debuted on CBS September 27, 1982 in the 8 P.M. Monday slot, and remained in that slot throughout its one-season run. The show struggled in the ratings against That's Incredible on ABC.
  • Syndication: WGBO in Chicago showed reruns of the series in early 1986, and episodes were shown on USA Network in the mid-1990s, and later on Nickelodeon, TVLand, MeTV and Decades.

DVD releases[edit]

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment released the entire series on DVD in a 3-disc set on May 20, 2008, to coincide with the theatrical release of Sarah Jessica Parker's film Sex and the City: The Movie. On the DVDs, the episodes have been digitally remastered and include eight featurettes called "Weemawee Yearbook Memories." Each featurette focuses on a different cast member and has new interviews with the actors and creator Anne Beatts.

Also on the DVD are two minisodes from 1980s sitcoms The Facts of Life and Silver Spoons.[5]

Because the two parts of "A Child's Christmas in Weemawee" appear together as one episode, the DVD packaging states that it includes 19 episodes rather than 20.

On August 27, 2013, it was announced that Mill Creek Entertainment had acquired the rights to various television series from the Sony Pictures library including Square Pegs.[6] They re-released the complete series on DVD on October 21, 2014.[7][8] Unlike Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release, the Mill Creek Entertainment release is two discs instead of three and the featurettes in the former release are not included in the latter release.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Frank Halperin. "Sarah Jessica: Before 'Sex,' she was 'Square'" ("It List" column), The Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey), August 23, 2007.
  2. ^ Lina. "The TV Ratings Guide: 1982-83 Ratings History -- Soap Bubbles Rise, Several Veterans Part and NBC Renews Poorly Rated Masterpieces". Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  3. ^ "The Future is a Memory". heebmagazine.com. Heeb Media, Inc. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  4. ^ Ihnat, Gwen. "Behind-the-scenes chaos derailed Square Pegs' new-wave promise". avclub.com. Onion, Inc. Retrieved 2018-08-01.
  5. ^ "Square Pegs" DVD News: Announcement for "Square Pegs: The Complete Series" Archived 2008-02-28 at the Wayback Machine., TVShowsonDVD.com, February 25, 2008
  6. ^ Mill Creek Entertainment Signs Deals With Sony Pictures Home Entertainment To Expand Their Distribution Partnership Archived 2014-10-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ Hold the Phone! 'The Complete Series' to Get a DVD Re-Release from Mill Creek Archived 2014-08-14 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ Mill Creek TOTALLY Provided Package Art for 'The Complete Series' Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.

Footnotes[edit]

External links[edit]