I remember early in the year 2000 listening to a local AM Talk Radio Station in Los Angeles (I believe it was Phil Hendrie). The topic of the hour was "What's your favorite TV Show currently on the air?" For the next hour I heard a lot of references to two shows: "Malcolm in the Middle" and this other show, "Popular." I couldn't believe what I was hearing. I had already seen "Malcolm" and knew it was hilarious. But what about "Popular?"
The commercials made it look like a typical weekly teeny-bop High School show, a la "Saved By The Bell," but in Prime-Time (lest we forget Zach did go to college in the evenings though). The amount of praise I heard for "Popular" made me check it out.
The advertisements were wrong.
What I found in this show was a sleek, hilarious, dramatic, clever, filled to the brim with 80's references show not about kids in High School today (circa 1999-2000), but if kids from my generation were to go to High School today (yes, I went to High School in the 80's).
I think the failure of "Popular" was the advertising I referred to earlier for the show...it was going after kids in high school for ratings. But the show was made for (I feel) an entirely different generation. If only the ones it was made for had watched....it would probably still be on.
This is one of the few programs I have ever seen that managed to balance outright slapstick comedy with serious drama...and it did it so well in my opinion that I seriously mourned the loss of the show when it was canceled.
My favorite Season Two moments -
1) Mary Cherry's (Leslie Grossman) audition for judges, including Jim J. Bullock (way before "American Idol" became a household name). "Rock Me Amadeus, by FALCO!"
2) Nicole Julian's (Tammy Lynn Michaels) "rise" to Class President (one of the most clever and complex episodes ever written for television -- flat-out incredible comedy).
3) Every scene with Michelle Phillips ("Abra-abra-cadabra!!!!").
4) The "Gay" episode about Bobbi Glass (Diane Delano) - it gave me chills and again proved how the writers were almost magically able to juggle comedy and drama every week.
The casting of the show was simply brilliant. Everyone did an incredible job and I am pleased to see several of the cast riding other roads to fame as of 2008 (Christopher Gorham on "Jake 2.0" and then the successful "Ugly Betty").
The only thing I can pray for at this point are either reruns (Lifetime or Oxygen I'm guessing...but maybe Comedy Central?) or, *gasp* -- A DVD Release. Then a lot more people can have a chance to see a show that I firmly believe should have been "Popular."
*EDIT* Both Seasons are on DVD now. There really IS a God!
My personal thanks to the callers of that Los Angeles AM Talk Radio Program who touted the praises of this show. You got it right, and I'm glad I saw of it what I did.
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