Friday, May 31, 2024

freakboy on film: DEEP JAWS / THE DICKTATOR (a Walt Davis double feature)

As you remember, or maybe you’ve blocked the disturbing incident out of your mind, I stumbled upon a Walt Davis triple feature earlier this year.  The three early 1970’s films left my mind reeling and saddled me with a morbid interest to see more.  Walt’s IMDb page is filled with eyebrow-raising titles, but two caught my half-blind eyes.  So the search was afoot! 
Something Weird DVD of DEEP JAWS and THE DICKTATOR shows a woman staring happily into the distance while a blue cartoon fish with big lips says, the film you’ll love to see.  There is also a fist giving the middle finger which is shaped like a screw.  Text reads, Manuel Conde double feature. The  screwiest sex comedies you’ll ever see.
Something Weird Video had released DEEP JAWS and THE DICKTATOR as a double feature DVD in 2005, but it was out of print and out of my willing price range.  The film gods must have been watching over me because an eBay auction suddenly popped up.  It was a reasonable starting price, so I placed a bid for one dollar more.  For the third time in my eBay history, I won an auction by being the only bidder.  This may or may not have something to do with the sort of films I enjoy.  Anyhoo…as for this Walt Davis double feature…

DEEP JAWS (1976) 
screenplay by Walt Davis / directed by Perry Dell
Title sequence  from Deep jaws shows the title in bold  yellow text highlighted in red, with a 1976 copyright year.
Uranus Studios is on the brink of bankruptcy, even with the government financing a film about the U.S.-Soviet space race.  Realizing two of the biggest blockbusters in the last ten years was JAWS and DEEP THROAT, the studio decides to use some of the government money to simultaneously make a quick flick combining a disaster film with a porno.  Will Uranus Studios turn a profit or will both projects collapse under the craziness of demanding actors, an inebriated crew and oversexed studio heads?  Unlike the mermaids in the film, my lips are sealed.  
Scene from deep jaws shows Two women and three men sit in a screening room looking bored.  One man  is holding a teddy bear and another man is sucking a lollipop.
watched DEEP JAWS in a state of bewilderment.  Even knowing the general plot, it took me a bit to figure out what the hell was going on.  The acting is over-the-top, which makes sense since the script is ridiculously absurd.  Overall, I think I enjoyed DEEP JAWS.  Well, at least there were inappropriate moments that made me laugh. 

THE DICKTATOR (1974, according to IMDb)  
screenplay by Walt Davis / directed by Perry Dell
Title sequence from  The Dicktator shows the title  in bold white letters on a black  background and a fist giving the middle finger which is shaped like a screw.  1977 is listed as the copyright year.
To solve the problem of overpopulation, the United States government develops a temporary male birth control pill, but it ends up being a permanent solution.  Now the world leaders are demanding the U.S. President do something, but first he needs to play with his wind-up toys and take a dump in the Executive Bathroom.  Eventually five men, including a drag queen, who did not take the pill are located around the globe and are each christened The Dicktator.  Their mission is to impregnate fertile women…at any cost. 
Scene from The Dicktator  shows The president of the United States sits at the head of a table full of rulers from around the world as the reporters  look on.
This sociopolitical satire begins as a jarringly loud mess, far removed from political correctness, and doesn’t let up.  Unlike DEEP JAWS, THE DICKTATOR feels like it’s trying to say something about a lot of things Much like the script, the acting is all over the place, ranging from over-the-top to lackluster.  There are moments of absurd amusement, especially the spot-on jabs at the U.S. President, but some of the humor falls flat or is extremely uncomfortable.  I feel this is because the plot is more focused on sex and shocking the audience, but perhaps that was the whole point.   

I believe there are two reasons why DEEP JAWS and THE DICKTATOR are not as entertaining as the Walt Davis triple feature I reviewed in March.  First, this double feature lacks female lead characters, which made his other films far more interesting.  Second, Walt Davis did not direct DEEP JAWS and THE DICKTATOR, which is maybe why they still have their moments but aren’t quite as good.  Sort of like an Ed Wood script directed by someone else.  It’s still very much Ed Wood, but it lacks that magical spark.

In conclusion…
Neither DEEP JAWS nor THE DICKTATOR are an ideal introduction to Walt Davis.  Yet, if you’re in the mood for a couple of low-budget 1970’s softcore sexploitation flicks, they are strangely watchable in a different sort of way.  Just be sure to remove the stick before sitting down! 😉 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. click the pics ⤵️ to learn more about my other 1-bid eBay auction wins… 

A scene from let my puppets come shows a human Pinocchio dancing on a glam-rock stage.

A scene from Weirdo the beginning shows a young man and a young woman standing in nature.
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Visit the town of STURGEONS today! 📗 
The book Sturgeons, the complete serials by john L. Harmon is displayed on a library shelf.
Available from an Amazon near you!

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

freakboy on film: ANNIE (1982)

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This post is part of the IT'S IN THE NAME OF THE TITLE BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews & Rebecca from Taking Up Room.
Poster for  the IT'S IN THE NAME OF THE TITLE BLOGATHON, hosted by Gill from Realweegiemidget Reviews & Rebecca from Taking Up Room shows the poster for Rebecca
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🎵Annie…Annie’s her name, if you please.  If you don’t believe me, ask any one of the fleas…🎵 Oh wait, this song is about Sandy the dog.  We’re here to talk about Annie. 
The DVD of Annie shows curly red-haired Annie hugging the dog sandy.
Yes, I own this!
What do you think when you hear the name Annie?  Curly ginger haired orphan?  Freaky pupil-less comic strip eyes?  Fashion icon?  Ovaltine?  Depression era feminist?  A secret decoder ring?  A somewhat bloated big-screen adaption of a Broadway hit?  All of the above? 
Little Orphan Social Climber!
Annie is a sweet, rough and tumble orphan living under the inebriated reign of Miss Hannigan.  All she dreams of is her parents returning with the other half of a locket she was left with.  After escaping the tyranny of Miss Hannigan, saving a dog from street urchins and then being returned to  the orphanage, Annie’s life is about to change.  Grace Farrell is there to temporarily bring an orphan to her employer’s mansion for the sake of his public image.  Annie jumps at the opportunity and is soon singing and dancing into the heart of business-minded Daddy Warbucks.  
Bald daddy Warbucks bellows as his assistant Grace looks on worriedly
Fire my hairstylist!
Adoption seems immanent, but Annie wants to find her parents, so Daddy Warbucks offers up big bucks to find them.  Meanwhile, back at the orphanage, Miss Hannigan, her brother Rooster and his girlfriend Lily are plotting to get Daddy’s big bucks.  Rooster and Lily are going to pretend to be Annie’s parents by using the other half of her locket that Miss Hannigan had the whole time.  What happen’s next?  You’re gonna have to watch to find out! 
Miss Hannigan stands in a doorway, wearing a purple dress.
Miss Hannigan knows how to make an entrance!
How in the name of John Waters and Andy Milligan can I love ANNIE?!?!  Is it the endearingly charming performance  of Aileen Quinn in the title role?  Is it Albert Finney as he transforms Daddy Warbucks from a hard-nosed businessman to a hard-nosed businessman with a heart?  Could it be Carol Burnett’s scene-stealing turn as the drunkenly hilarious Miss Hannigan?  What about the dynamic singing duo of Tim Curry and Bernadette Peters as Rooster and Lily?  Maybe it’s all of the above, and the other orphans, along with some seriously catchy tunes! 
Rooster and lily pose like a musical version of Bonnie and Clyde
Villain fashionistas!
I watched ANNIE a lot as a kid.  I think I enjoyed the idea of being swept away from the monotony of day to day life into a very different world.  I probably also enjoyed the adult humor sprinkled throughout.  My love of this film continues to baffle me, but perhaps i should be proud.  ANNIE stands as a testament to my eclectic cinematic taste.  Whether this taste is good or bad, I’ll leave it for you to decide. 
Bald Daddy Warbucks glances suspiciously to his right
Daddy Warbucks is judging me!
SIDE NOTE: As a kid, I didn’t know who John Huston was, but I now appreciate his direction of ANNIE and I believe he would’ve made a great Daddy Warbucks. 

In conclusion…
What’s in the name Annie?  A little song…a little dance…a little drama…a little comedy…a little suspense…and a whole lot of heart!  If that didn’t make you throw up a little in your mouth, then grab a glass of Ovaltine and enjoy ANNIE
The cast of Annie
You know you want to!
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  In S1E5 of HATERS BACK OFF, Miranda is excited to play “Annie” in a disturbingly funny backyard production!  Don’t know about HATERS BACK OFF Click the pic ⬇️ to learn more about my favorite Netflix series…
Miranda wearing an Annie wig prepares to kiss Patrick in Haters back off
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My books… viewAuthor.at/JohnLHarmon

Sunday, May 5, 2024

booking freakboy: LANDIS (The Story of a Real Man On 42nd Street) by Preston Fassel

Thanks to my love of John Waters and my Andy Milligan obsession, I’ve been circling around the name of Bill Landis and his underground ‘zine Sleazoid Express for some time.  Like a back alley neon-infused sign blinking off as I turned to glance, I kept missing the opportunity to learn more about this mysterious figure peripherally haunting my cinematic reading.  Finally, in my obsession to learn more about Milligan, I caught the neon sign flickering on and lunged for a taste of the phantasmagorical shadows within the 42nd Street netherworld of yesteryear.  
The book LANDIS (The Story of a Real Man On 42nd Street) by Preston Fassel shows identical  images of bill landis
I was quickly fascinated by Bill Landis and his love of obscure, underground cinema.  He not only seriously reviewed these rough gems in Sleazoid Express, he essentially lived his life like he was a character from a 42nd Street grindhouse flick.  Sex and drugs fused and fed his creative soul, especially when Landis fulfilled his dream of becoming a porn superstar!  There’s much more to the story of Bill Landis, but I will leave it to Preston Fassel to tell the rest with his engrossingly compact writing. 

However, I must say a little something about my obsession.  One of the reasons I purchased this book is for the Andy Milligan FANGORIA article reprinted at the end.  Bill Landis interviewed Milligan for the horror mag and it may not reveal anything new, but it seems to confirm everything ever written about the sex-gore filmic auteur.  One aspect of the interview I gleefully appreciated was how, even though the topic mainly focused on his gore films, Milligan managed to slip in  his masterpiece NIGHTBIRDS a couple of times.  

In conclusion…
If you love underground cinema and Andy Milligan, then you MUST drop whatever unimportant thing you’re doing and read LANDIS (The Story of a Real Man On 42nd Street) by Preston Fassel Fair warning though, just like the grindhouse films Landis loved and reviewed, don’t expect a happy ending.

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. I will have to further research Bill Landis to find out if he ever delved into the films of Walt Davis...
A scene from Oh you beautiful doll shows  big haired Gaye Ramon reading a newspaper
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My queer little books are available from Barnes & Noble and an Amazon near you! 📚 
3 books by john L. Harmon include Dark Excursions the complete set.  Vision bent half-blind poems and Sturgeons the complete serials

Sunday, April 28, 2024

A Short Story (a short story, of sorts)

    I stare, glare at the black screen through two pieces of plastic glass.  The white too bright to reflect, refract, magnify my muddled words.  Feeling the syllables crawling, scrawling beneath this growing older by the millisecond skin.  Verbal seeds screeching, reaching for the blinding sight of others to inhale, devour, clatter in their respective collective mindscape.  Fading away fingerprints scrolling through digital pages or tips bleeding from flipping sharp paper edges in a frenzy to discover meaning in nonsense and senselessness in moments.  Watering eyes, tears or sweat blurring lines of fictitious reality and really fiction until the happy or not end is reached, achieved.  My voice spent, digits numb from popping letters into place, trying to place the seen from my head onto the dark screen floating in depth, closer than appears but so far from the soul suffocating inside.  Circling the circles surrounding sighing eyes, unable to see what others claim to see inside out.  Inside me within the lines of a short story that may never come to be.
Black and white selfie of the writer wearing mad scientist glasses standing in sunbeams and shadows
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2024, John L. Harmon 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S.  Escape reality through my books available from an Amazon near you…
3 books by john L. Harmon include dark excursions the complete set, vision bent half-blind poems and sturgeons the complete serials

Sunday, April 14, 2024

freakboy on film: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE? (1962)

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The banner for The 2nd Annual ‘Favorite Stars in B Movies' Blogathon, hosted by  Films From Beyond shows a stern looking blonde woman.
click the pic to read more posts
This post is part of The 2nd Annual ‘Favorite Stars in B Movies' Blogathon, hosted by Brian of Films From Beyond! 
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I am not Baby Jane Hudson!  

Young, blond, curly haired Baby Jane poses with her look-a-like doll.
Not me!
I just want to make that clear, even though my sister has always said I would be like Baby Jane if she ended up in a wheelchair, after an intentional car accident, and I was her primary caregiver.  It’s not like I was a mega-brat vaudeville darling who sang sweet songs about writing to a dead daddy as our father peddled creepy doll versions of me.  Unlike Blanche Hudson, my sister and our mother never watched unimpressed from backstage or as I demanded ice cream right NOW!  
Young brunette Blanche looks unamused.
Not my sister!
I don’t know if our mother ever promised my sister that her time to shine would come, but now that I think about it, people in our small town know my sister more than they know me, despite my book-signing event last year.  Anyways, that’s beside the point, it’s not like I’m trying to feed her unspeakable meals, even though our cat Laszlo has killed a couple of mice and a baby snake recently.  Well, in any case, I definitely do not drunkenly dance around the house with creepy doll me while imagining I’m still a fresh, young thing full of talent.  Never mind that I’ve been re-listening to an audio soap opera parody I created many years ago and may or may not dance to the music I used, but that’s not the same as Baby Jane!   
Old Baby Jane poses with the young look-a-like doll.
Still not me!
Anyhoo, when I think about Bette Davis, I don’t have to think twice.  My mind first goes to the classic 80’s hit, “Bette Davis Eyes” by Kim Carnes.  Then I think of her all-in performance as Baby Jane Hudson.  Sure, I’ve seen some of Miss Davis’ earlier work, such as THREE ON A MATCH (1932), but she will always be the unhinged Baby Jane to me. 
Blanche screams as she removes the lid from her dinner.
Still not my sister!
Now, when I think of Joan Crawford, my mind immediately goes to Faye Dunaway as Crawford screaming, “No wire hangers ever!” in MOMMIE DEAREST Then I think about how a bartender once told me a Vodka-Pepsi is called a Joan Crawford.  Finally, I think of her sympathetic performance as Blanche Hudson.  Sure, I’ve seen some of Ms. Crawford’s earlier work, such as SUSAN AND GOD (1940), but she’ll always be Blanche in that chair to me.  
Elvira Stitt looks irritated as she carries a dinner tray downstairs.
Elvira is tired of my antics…I mean Baby Jane’s antics!
While Bette and Joan are the combined reason to watch, there are a few notable supporting actors who add to the story.  Maidie Norman gives a no-nonsense performance as Elvira Stitt, Blanche’s housekeeper and only source of kindness.  Victor Buono is the comic relief as Edwin Flagg, the sketchy con-artist pretending to help Baby Jane jump start her career.  I must also mention Anna Lee as Mrs. Bates, the nice neighbor with a slight edge, because she portrayed the sweetly feisty matriarch Lila Quartermaine for years on the American daytime soap opera General Hospital.  Last, and probably least, Bette Davis’ daughter, Barbara Merrill, gives a stiff performance as the daughter of Mrs. Bates.  Was Christina Crawford not interested in the role or was she just too busy writing the first draft of Mommie Dearest? 
Edwin Flagg sits politely with a cup of tea.
Coffee, tea or Edwin?
Watching WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE again for Brian’s blogathon made me wonder if it really is a ‘B’ movie.  I mean, I know the story treads into exploitation territory at times and some performances verge dangerously close to camp, but overall it is a legitimately entertaining film.  If you look beyond the lurid shocks and histrionics, there is a tragically sad tale of how fame can corrupt and destroy a person, especially a child.  There is also the emotional dichotomy of Blanche and Jane as they both deal with aging by either accepting the past is the past or clinging to what was, even though it will never be that way again.  Perhaps I’m trying to find a deeper meaning within the creepy-crazy spectacle through older and allegedly wiser eyes.   
The dvd of What ever happened to baby Jane rests on a dinner plate.
directed by Robert Aldrich/screenplay by Lukas Heller, from the novel by Henry Farrell 
In conclusion…
Maybe the bright stars of Bette Davis and Joan Crawford had faded when they signed up for this film, but they showed  they still had the ‘it’ factor with two gutsy performances that have been forever blazoned in the minds of film fans.  So, whether or not WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO BABY JANE is a ‘B’ movie, this black and white Hollywood gothic is worth experiencing!  Now, if you’ll excuse me, my sister and I simply must head to the beach because it’s the perfect weather for reliving memories, shocking revelations and ice cream. 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.  

Freak Out, 
JLH 

P.S. click a pic to experience tales from blogathons past… 

Banner for The 1st annual  'Favorite Stars in B movies' Blogathon, hosted by films from beyond shows robed figures

Banner for The Fourth So Bad It's Good Blogathon, Hosted by Taking Up Room shows a couple looking concerned

Banner for the third hammer amicus blogathon, hosted by realweemidget reviews and cinematic catharsis shows a woman in a low cut dress wearing sunglasses


Banner for nature’s fury blogathon, hosted by cinematic catharsis shows a dirty lifeless  hand being swallowed by plants

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My books are available from an Amazon near you…
Three books by John L. Harmon includes, Dark Excursions the complete set, vision bent half blind poems and sturgeons the complete serials.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

booking freakboy: VILLA OF QUEENS by Alan Fair

Similar to how my Andy Milligan obsession has shoved me down a rabbit hole to the fringes of the fringes of cinema, my interest in Ed Wood’s literary career has gotten me addicted to Vintage Gay Pulp Fiction.  These often shocking, wildly inappropriate novels with spectacular titles have been an antidote to the general boredom of the mainstream “bestsellers” I experience through a monthly lunchtime book club.  VILLA OF QUEENS was one of those titles that caught my semi-good eye a couple of years ago, but was it worth the wait? 
Front cover of The book Villa of Queens by Alan Fair shows a man in his underwear sitting next to a man in distress at the bottom of a pink staircase who is only wearing an orange shirt but is covering his privates with one hand.  Text reads, violence and dark desire haunted the villa of queens.  More text reads, a companion book, adult reading.
I felt weak and unprotected facing this giant of manliness.
Glen Andrews a young queer man in his 20’s, is staying at a villa in Cannes with his Uncle Martin.  The young man was kicked out of his brother’s house after being caught in the middle of sexy time with a boyfriend.  Now, away from his homophobic brother, Glen is enjoying the sun and sand and the possibility of a new love in the firm form of Jason Wilding.  

Despite having soft, gentle eyes, Jason is surrounded with dark, lurid rumors of sex and murder.  His last lover David, a wild, snobbish and conceited young man whom Glen resembles, drowned even though he was an excellent swimmer or was he murdered?  This tragedy happened while Jason’s brother Phillip was staying with him.  Phillip now lives in Paris, but what do the other inhabitants of Jason’s château know?  Is Jason’s cook Anna as innocent as she seems?  Does Jason’s facially disfigured companion Paul, who looks after him and takes care of things around the château, know what really happened. 

Glen ignores the rumors and falls in love with Jason anyway.  Never mind that Jason fired a few shots at Glen when he trespassed on the château’s private beach.  Never mind Jason nearly ran over Glen when pulling his car around to give him and Martin a ride home.  Never mind a boulder nearly crushed Glen and Martin as they walked along the beach.  Never mind Martin’s villa was set on fire and Jason just happened to be there as they escaped.  Glen is either deeply in love with Jason or the sex is really that phenomenal to put up with multiple near death experiences. 
Back cover of Villa of Queens by Alain Fair is green with text that reads, this is an original companion book.  A synopsis reads, Strange and ghastly things were happening at the villa, and Glen found himself fearing the one person he loved. Could Jason really be trying to murder him?
Our love poured out, both of us drinking the last dregs of romance that flowed through our trembling bodies.
Who is trying to kill Glen?  Does Glen’s resemblance to dead David have something to do with it?  Is his Uncle Martin also a target?  Does Martin know more than he is saying?  Is Jason behind it all or does he know who is?  What the hell is going on anyway?  

SPOILER ALERT!!!!!! 

Paul is really Jason’s brother Phillip and he is behind the ghastly things that have been happening!  When Jason first brought David home, the young man and Phillip started having an affair.  Jason discovered the affair and kicked his brother out.  Phillip stayed with Martin and they began a relationship, but he couldn’t stop obsessing over David.  Eventually Jason allowed his brother to move back in and was even going to let Phillip and David run off together.  David laughed at this because he didn’t want a mental case as a boyfriend.  Phillip and David had a fight over this and Jason saw his brother carrying the young man’s unconscious body into the ocean to commit murder-suicide, so he hopped in a speedboat to rescue them.  He couldn’t find David (his body would later wash up on the beach) but he found Phillip when he accidentally hit him with the boat, disfiguring his brother’s face.  Phillip survived and was committed to a sanitarium.  Upon release, Jason allowed him to come back, but Phillip used the name Paul so no one but Jason and Martin would know it was him.
Now Paul/Phillip believes Glen is David resurrected and he is furious!  He believes his dead lover would rather be with Jason and Martin than with him.  Completely out of his mind, Paul/Phillip brutally beats and rapes Glen.  Then he fights with Jason and ultimately falls to his death down a marble staircase.  Martin is there, distraught over his injured nephew and the death of his former lover, but in Paul/Phillip’s final breath, he tells Martin that he’s sorry.  So I guess that makes everything a-ok because in the end, Martin has a new young boyfriend he met while remodeling his fire-ravaged villa and Jason and Glen are flying off on their honeymoon.  

Author Alan Fair paints these characters with broad strokes and keeps emotions at surface level, but it makes sense with this novel.  I mean, VILLA OF QUEENS was obviously not meant to be profoundly thought-provoking.  The story is a roller coaster ride awash in convoluted twists and lurid shocks, which is pretty much what I anticipated.  

There is one aspect that rather impressed me.  The characters in VILLA OF QUEENS are unapologetically queer.  There is no struggle with or shame over sexuality.  They are here, they are queer and the reader can rejoice in it!  I think this is remarkable for a book published in 1968, especially since it ends on a happy note.  

In conclusion…
While not quite as emotionally engrossing as DEATH OF A TRANSVESTITE or DESIRE IN THE SHADOWS, this sometimes tawdry tale of love, sex and death was worth the wait.  The crazy plot and openness of its characters kept me engaged, even as I smirked knowingly and lovingly rolled my half-blind eyes as my tablet read the torrid pages to me.  So, if you’re looking for a shockingly entertaining read away from the current literary mainstream, then VILLA OF QUEENS may be the book for you!  

SIDE NOTE: Much like other Vintage Gay Pulp Fiction I’ve reviewed, VILLA OF QUEENS is not readily available.  However, there are some titles available as reasonably priced ebooks, a few of which may or may not be waiting for me on my Kindle app bookshelf. 😁

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

Freak Out, 
JLH

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A sanitarium…
A treacherous marble staircase… 
A convoluted plot with twists and turns…
Am I referring to VILLA OF QUEENS or DARK EXCURSIONS? 🤔 

You decide… 😉 
The book Dark excursions, the complete set, by John L. Harmon is being held on a boat, with the ocean, a cloudy sky and distant land behind it.

Sunday, March 31, 2024

channel freakboy: POPULAR (1999-2001)

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Poster for The Mismatched Couples Blogathon, hosted by Barry of Cinematic Catharsis & Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews, March 29th - 31st, 2024, Shows a scene from the odd couple.
This post is part of The Mismatched Couples. Blogathon, hosted by Barry of Cinematic Catharsis & Gill of Realweegiemidget Reviews! 
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Popular beginning credits shows Sam and Brooke looking at the camera.
created by Gina Matthew’s & Ryan Murphy 
With my apologies to Buffy and Dawson, out of all the WB series I watched back in the day, POPULAR was and still is my favorite!  This two season wonder was co-created by Ryan Murphy, the mind behind AMERICAN HORROR STORY and SCREAM QUEENS, and his twisted touch is present, especially in the first season.  The setting is Kennedy High School, where teen-angst is on display with a wildly satirical bite to its bullseye truth. 
The brunettes, Lily, Sam and Carmen
Team Brunette
It’s sophomore year for Sam McPherson, a brunette reporter for the school newspaper, and she is ready to make a fresh start.  She even encourages her widowed mom Jane to go on a singles cruise.  Meanwhile, Brooke McQueen, a blonde cheerleader captain, says farewell to her divorced dad Mike as he heads off on a business trip.  This lack of parental guidance provides the perfect opportunity to throw the first party of the year, thus securing and reinforcing the social hierarchy at Kennedy High.  
The blondes, Nicole, Brooke and Mary cherry
Team Blonde
Brooke is on top of this pecking order with her two main cohorts, cheerleader co-captain/manipulative witch Nicole Julian and ridiculously rich southern transfer/possible psycho Mary Cherry.  Also at Brooke’s disposal is her  jock boyfriend/aspiring musical thespian Josh Ford and his jock friend/aspiring white rapper Michael ‘Sugar Daddy’ Bernardino.  Sam rules the area between popular and unpopular with her hardcore activist friend Lily Esposito and her singing-dancing-wants to be a cheerleader friend Carmen Ferrara.  Also at Sam’s disposal is Harrison John, her supportive guy friend/golfer.  Meanwhile, butt bolo and forged doctor’s excuse seller Emory Dick unofficially heads the bottom of this Teen Beat cover model heap with chess aficionado Freddy Gong and the Tuna twins, inappropriately oversexed April and dirt eater May.  This unpopular quartet may be more entertaining than most of the main characters. 

Chaos erupts at Brooke’s party when Sam and her posse crash, but they aren’t the only uninvited guests.  Mike and Jane show up together with a bombshell.  These two available adults bumped into each other at an airport lounge, started talking and Mike decided to go on the cruise with Jane.  Now they are engaged!  If the parental units officially merge, Sam and Brooke will become sisters, a repugnant thought to both. 
Sam and Brooke, covered in food, glare at each other.
Teen war is hell
Brooke sees Sam as an intrusive wannabe who stirs up trouble with condemning editorials on the jock and cheerleader culture.  Sam sees Brooke as a stereotypical superficial teen who only cares about being popular.  How do these two smart young women handle impending sisterhood?  Well, not very well.  There’s an argument over the bathroom sink, a full-on school cafeteria food fight, a scheme to make it appear Mike is cheating on Jane and even a synchronized menstruation cycle smackdown in the girls luxurious lavatory named after actress Kim Novak.  After all of this, Brooke begins accepting the situation, but not Sam, who feels she is losing her mom to Brooke.  In a last ditch effort to stop the wedding, Sam runs away to find Brooke’s mother who left Mike when Brooke was just a kid.  This seems to help Sam understand Brooke a bit better. 

By the first season finale, Sam and Brooke have made peace with their merging families and maybe finally see that they are more similar than different.  Unfortunately, this détente may be short lived as they deal with an earthquake, a cheesy boy band, a terminally ill May Tuna, a double wedding, which includes Delta Burke and Erik Estrada as CHIPS star Erik Estrada, and the class possibly murdering their tough-as-nails biology teacher Bobbie Glass!  It’s a wildly hysterical episode that needs to be seen to be believed and ends with a life-altering wedding crasher! 
Brooke and Sam give each other a questioning look
Confused yet?
Season Two deals with most of the aftermath of that wild, wacky and wonderful fiasco, but overall isn’t quite as good as the first one.  The WB wanted more “real” teen drama and issues, which meant the satirical elements weren’t as fully blended in with the drama.  Brooke and Sam accept they are now family, of sorts, but continue having ups and downs with each other.  They even compete for the affection of Harrison John.  In my opinion, he plays them both, so they could do better.  The series ends with a cliffhanger over who Harrison chose and if Brooke survived being hit by a car driven by a drunk and vengeful Nicole Julian.  To keep with the blogathon theme, I should note the second season introduced Josh Ford and Lily Esposito as an extremely mismatched romantic couple, with overly serious results.  
Bobbie Glass looks serious
Satire is a serious business 
Since POPULAR mostly exists in a hyper-reality bubble and is a Ryan Murphy production, the acting ranges from sincere to over the top and women have the best roles.  Carly Pope (Sam) and Leslie Bibb (Brooke) give solid lead performances.  Sara Rue (Carmen) gives the series a relatable heart.  Tamara Mellow (Lily) is believable as a feisty activist.  Tammy Lynn Michaels (Nicole) and Diane Delano (Bobbie Glass) are incredible as they portray often brutally ruthless characters with vulnerability beneath the hard surface.  Props to Adria Dawn (April Tuna) for plunging full-throttle into awkward outcast geekdom!  Oh, and I must not forget the familiar faces who pop up as parents.  Peggy Lipton is aloof perfection as Brooke’s mother.  Alley Mills is sweet and understanding as Harrison’s mom.  Delta Burke is phenomenal as Cherry Cherry, the sharped-tongue beauty queen mother to Mary Cherry! 
Mary Cherry looks shocked and scared
Were  you scared I forgot Mary Cherry?
Speaking of Mary Cherry, i was obsessed with this southern fried psycho diva back in the day and I still am!  She carries around cyanide and vials of E. coli in her purse.  She longs to be a mismatched couple with Joe, her nickname for Harrison John.  She will do ANYTHING in her pursuit of fame, including lip-sync to “Rock Me Amadeus” by Falco.  She will even dye her golden tresses the color of dung, and get possessed by Barbra Streisand, just to prove popularity isn’t about hair color and to feast on a lobster.  Ok, fine!  I’ll just say it!  Forget about Sam and Brooke!  Watch POPULAR for Leslie Grossman as Mary Cherry and the tragically too few appearances by Delta Burke as Cherry Cherry!  You will NOT be disappointed! 
Mary Cherry and Cherry Cherry visit a plastic surgeon
Webbed fingers won’t fix themselves 
In conclusion…
I think POPULAR still holds up 20-some years later.  It’s funny, it’s daring and ultimately there is a heart beating underneath, even during its crazier moments.  So if you’re looking for a different kind of teen comedy-drama with mismatched couples, POPULAR may be the series for you! 

Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words. 

(SIDE NOTE: click the pic ⤵️ to read about a very POPULAR book…)

A book based on Popular

Freak Out, 

JLH 

P.S. click the pic ⤵️ for a different WB series from another blogathon… 🛸
Liz and Max from Roswell

P.P.S.  Obsessively maladjusted fans, like me, will notice how I mixed and matched POPULAR character and actor names to create Leslie Johns and Joe Grossman in STURGEONS! 🤓📗
The book Sturgeons, the complete serials, by John L. Harmon