Sister, Sister – “First Dates”

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Sister, Sister was a squeaky-clean family sitcom that I haven’t seen in, oh, 20 years or so; however, I’m nearing the end of this little distraction of a project and am trying to put off watching and recapping an episode of Full House as hard as I can, so let’s dive right in.

For the uninitiated, Sister, Sister was a Parent Trap-type of setup; for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember that reference, allow me to explain: The Parent Trap is a movie from the early 1960s about two identical twins that were separated at birth by their parents who divorced and keep their identical twins a secret from each other until by happenstance they meet and begin life anew; meanwhile, the long-estranged parents start to make inroads to getting back together. It’s a fairly solid plot for farce, and in the early 90’s it was resuscitated to make a sitcom for TGIF.

However, unlike the original movie starring Haley Mills–and the later remake starring Lindsay Lohan before she became a sentient trashcan on fire–the identical sisters on the TV show were played by actual identical sisters. Oh, and they don’t have the same parents: I mean, they did at one point, but they were separated by birth and adopted by separate people and by happenstance meet each other one day. And still those two adults end up together, I guess, at some point. I don’t know or remember it very well: what am I: a professional about this kind of stuff? Because my site views beg to differ, you stingy freeloaders.

I remember the timing between the sisters on the show being good, and this show being relatively solid in general, but then again vegetables had more brainpower than me when I was younger (well, cauliflower at least), so it may have just been the mixture of soda and staying up late on a Friday night that enhanced my enjoyment of the show.

We’re going to find out right now whether or not that was true as I recap the first episode of the series, which aired on April 1, 1994, just one day before my 12th birthday and just six days before Kurt Cobain was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound in his greenhouse. Well, putting it in that perspective kind of puts a damper on this recap, and it also makes me realize that I was maybe a little too old to be watching this show at the time.

But no matter: it only ran for a season and a half on TGIF before being shoveled off to The WB, where I’m sure it ran for a while longer, but by then I had already discovered girls and grunge music so I was nowhere to be found watching this kind of crap anymore, instead listening to Smashing Pumpkins albums and Nirvana bootlegs way too loudly in my room and being the kind of embarrassing 1990s stereotypical teenager that we all look back on and laugh at/cringe thinking about today. Here’s the first episode of the series, “First Dates.”

Season 1 Episode 1 – “First Dates”

The twins are doing their homework together and Jackée(!) from 227 is the mom in this show, and she’s pretty stellar in general, having becoming a big 227 fan in the past few years during a recent disastrous period of my life of which my memories will hopefully soon shrivel and die in my mind forever. God willing, this atrophy will occur sooner than later (but let’s leave crushing personal life disasters out of this for now, shall we?). Anyway, both of the girls (Tia and Tamara) aren’t thrilled about doing homework (who ever was?) and their day at school alsoo sucked. The dad or whatever he is to at least one of the girls sees that Jackée is returning some yarn in an antique basket and he says wait a goddamn minute, lady. I guess he’s the snooty and uptight dude and Jackée’s the laid-back one. The punchline is that the basket was originally used to carry yarn. Wop wop!

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“I can see why you’re alone. Just keep the yarn. Really.”

And then DAMN! The rather awesome theme song starts up and it’s good times. It’s very 90’s in every single possible way, and the guy playing the dad is Tim Reid and his character’s name is Ray, so that’s helpful. Anyway, this is a fun song, like most TGIF theme songs were.

I guess they live in Ray’s mansion and the twins are getting ready for school and immediately they break the fourth wall and address us, the audience, directly. Was this is a rip-off of Clarissa Explains It All? Probably: even the opening graphics and style were very similar to Clarissa’s opening. So they’re bitching about how much school sucks to us, their captive viewing audience, and both are wearing Blossom hats. They both also bitch about not having dates.

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Did these hats have a name besides Blossom hats? Write in and win a Blossom hat!

CUT TO school, where an announcer over the loudspeaker lets us know that there’s a dance that Friday. Tamera talks to some dude and they just kind of have a bland exchange and their friends say yeah fuck the dance, and then one of them is immediately asked because FACE!

Back at the house, Jackée’s singing to herself while walking down the hallway (her character’s name is Lisa, so let’s just call her Lisa), and WHOOPS she walks in on Ray in the shower and she runs away. In his bathrobe, he chastises her for not knocking and then asks well what do you think about my penis, eh? She says well I didn’t see much, and the single entendres are just flying all over the place. Ray gives us some exposition about how they’ve combined households and rules need to be established and he gets pissed again because she’s eating some of his food. AND THAT’S THAT SCENE!

The two sisters now sit at home doing homework and stare at their phone waiting for someone to call for them to go to the dance. Tamera explains that she’s never had a date, and neither has Tia, and Tamera asks if they’re mutants or something, but being identical twins they are kind of mutants so I thought they’d avoid that joke, but it was 1994 so I guess people weren’t thinking like that then.

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They’re just sad that they’re not normies. I can say that because I’m a twin: well, not an identical twin, because I’m not an abomination.

Lisa comes in and the twins freak out about not having dates, and then some neighborhood kid just barges in and asks if one of them will go to the dance with him, and they laugh in his face because the kid (his name is Roger) is like 10 so, but then he says he’s only a year younger than them, but he looks about 6 years younger than them. I don’t know. Not a lot of meat on this sitcom’s bones to pick on.

CUT TO late that night where Lisa’s eating in the dark in the kitchen. Ray comes into the kitchen and gathers up a bunch of food to also eat and she scares him but you know, whatever. She bitches him out about using her milk so she says he can have some but it’s against his house rules, so that’s also a running gag we’re going to have to endure for a while in this. He’s about to have his cereal with water but Lisa says well whatever, have some damn milk. They talk about the girls waiting to have a guy call them, and while Ray says being a teenager is hard, Lisa lets him know that she got all sorts of action back in the day. Ray talks about what a loser he was when he was a teenager and how he fucked all sorts of stuff up and Lisa gets a good burn on him, and before you know it, we’re back at the school where the omniscient announcer continues to announce that people better find dates and soon, losers.

Anyway, they both try to make each other feel better about how they don’t have dates, and then fret further about how if one of them has a date and the other doesn’t, that’d be problematic, so instead they make a pact not to go to the dance if they both don’t have dates. JUST THEN Tia gets a date but Tamera doesn’t and now she’s all pissed about breaking the pact they literally just made moments before and it’s like, give me a fucking break, lady.

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“Wait, which one am I again?”

LATER, there’s Lisa doing some seamstress work and her kid (Tia? Tamera? Anyway) comes in all bummed because Tamera got the date (not Tia…I mean, they’re identical twins, come on, I’m going to get confused along the way in this recap). Tia says that her personality sucks and that’s why she doesn’t have a date and Lisa does a callback to the conversation she had with Ray, but that doesn’t make much sense because Tia wasn’t there to get the reference, but whatever, we did, and we’re the ones they’re making the show for…but this sentence is getting too meta for its own good.

The next day at school, there’s Tia moping around and she stops some guy in the hallway to give him the 3rd degree about asking her to the dance, and they have an awkward conversation that leads nowhere, and that’s where that goes. Meanwhile, that neighbor Roger bumps into her and says hey, I’ll go to the dance if you still want to. But nope! Roger already has a date! Burn, Tia! Man, Tia’s getting shit all over in this episode.

Back at the house, Tamera and Ray come in and they bought a dress for her and wow, this show sure is moving at an exciting, breakneck pace. Tia comes in and throws some shade at Tamera and they both storm off in a huff. Ray asks what the hell Lisa thinks about this boring plot, and Lisa says I used to be Jackee on 227 and now I’m doing this, so how do you think I feel? They both sit on the couch and reminisce about how great it was when their kids were younger and the scene just kind of peters out.

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“So…is this scene over yet?”

Later still, Tamera’s in her dress and is ready to go and says sorry I broke the pact that we made literally moments before I was asked out but Tia got over her hissy fit and that’s that. And then Tamera’s date is there to pick her up. Ray gives Phil a bit of shit like sitcom dads do to their daughters’ date and not-so-subtly threatens to kill him. Meanwhile, Phil calls her hot in front of her dad because Phil’s a bit of a dope. Anyway, before they go, Ray takes a nice moment to tell his daughter to have a great time and that he loves her and also hands her a beeper. Ray says goodbye and slams the door and says how much he hates dating.

In the kitchen, Lisa is having an episode of some sort while she talks about killing the insects in her house plant. Tia comes in and just gets all pissy all over the place and Lisa does her fast-talking schtick like how Jackee used to and I think back on how much I enjoyed 227.

LATER STILL Roger pops by to show him her suit and says don’t worry: I’ll be thinking about you when I’m with my date because I have some serious issues as a young boy. Another knock at the door, and it’s that guy she was awkwardly talking to in the hallway. He’s the pizza delivery boy and hands over the pizza and there was more awkward, dreamy conversation with each other. The schtick about this kid is that he has poor vocabulary skills. She asks if he wants to stay and have a slice of pizza and he says it’s my last delivery so I can hang out now (but that’s not how pizza delivery works; he’d have to bring the money back to the store and cash out for the night. Source: I used to deliver pizzas). But since this show was aimed at kids that wouldn’t be able to deliver pizzas for another few years, I guess they thought they could get that factual inaccuracy past the audience. WELL YOU DIDN’T GET IT PAST ME! Nope, a grown man in his mid-30s finally outsmarted a 23-year-old show aimed at preteens. This is how I’ve decided to spend my free time, folks. Weep for me.

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Oh, you think pizza delivery is your ally. But you merely adopted the gig; I was born in it, moulded by it. Paid for a semester of college with it.

Lisa walks through the living room smiling because hey, Tia got a date after all! She goes up to Ray’s room and knocks quietly and says Ray, you have to come see this, and she bursts in and starts shouting because–and stick with me here because we’re all adults–I’m guessing he was jacking it in his bedroom, what being a single guy all alone on a Friday night. The kids downstairs think that the scream was a stereo effect from the horror movie they’re watching and the kid puts his arm around Tia. AND THAT’S THE WHOLE EPISODE, FOLKS!

Conclusions

Yet another bland show from the blandscape that was TGIF. I realize it’s unfair for a grown man to look back at these shows and remark upon how dopey they were, but then again it’s a free country and besides, this site doesn’t generate that much traffic anyway.

I think what most surprised me about this show was how plodding and little of a plot there was in general: at least with other TGIF sitcoms, there’s a lot of plot and action that keeps it moving. In this one, there was one “A” story (the girls worry about getting dates; one does and conflict arises because the other doesn’t), a slight “B” story (Lisa and Ray are having difficulty negotiating privacy and shared properties in the house), and a slight resolution (although Tia doesn’t get to go to the dance, a deux ex pizza arrives to be her at-home date for the night). The “B” story doesn’t resolve because the last thing that happens is Lisa walking in on Ray doing….something…in his bedroom that causes her to scream. Was he in a gimp suit? I’m going to say he was in a gimp suit.

The interactions between Ray and Lisa were pretty funny, as they got the more adult jokes and setups–the double entendres and the rather suggestive idea of Lisa walking in on Ray naked at least twice were pretty risque for a show on TGIF. Tia and Tamera were also good actresses who (naturally) played very well off each other. It’s just that their high school drama bullshit story was really thin soup that (again, as a grown-ass man) I couldn’t care less about.

But those are the pitfalls of watching these shows years later: of course I won’t find them interesting anymore–I’ve far passed any stage of my life where any of this would be interesting or even entertaining in the slightest. That I relate more to the parents of these girls than the central characters speaks volumes to the ephemeral nature of these types of shows. 

But that might not even be true. I’ve evoked The Wonder Years before in comparison to these shows, but there are actually a lot of other shows aimed towards a younger audience, or at least feature young actors dealing with adolescent problems that I still enjoy: The Adventures of Pete and Pete; Daria; Swan’s Crossing; Freaks and Geeks; heck, even the narm-tastic Saved by the Bell can hold my attention as an adult. Even a recent entry in this project that I’d never seen before, Camp Wilder, was surprisingly good and featured a mostly adolescent cast and story line.

But a lot of TGIF shows–particularly ones that focused on adolescents–weren’t of the caliber of those shows: they were cheaply made sitcoms produced at a rapid pace to satisfy an audience comprised of young kids and their parents on a Friday night. They weren’t masterpieces for the ages, but something to fill a half-hour and have enough jokes and plot to keep the kids awake long enough to watch the cereal commercials in-between scenes.

Would I watch Sister, Sister again? No, no I will not. But I can see why it would have appealed to kids–little kids–back in the 1990s. But by the time this aired, I was becoming the moody, cynical teenager that scoffed at sitcoms that tried to cheerfully portray my age group. They just didn’t get it, man! Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to listen to some Pearl Jam and watch some Liquid Television while dying my hair red with Manic Panic. Man.

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Categories: humor, recap, television

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