My So-Called Life: 1.04 “Father Figures”

Season 1 Episode 4
Original Airdate: September 15, 1994

Time to get back to my MSCL reviews. I started this project in 2010 and only did three episodes before abandoning it because I don’t really like this show. Here is episode 4.

We begin with a flashback to when Ginger was a little girl and blonde and excited when her dad came home from work. Now she is a teenager and ginger and hides away when he comes home. That’s weird. I get that this show is trying to the capture the zeitgeist of the American teen in the early ‘90s, but I don’t think it was a normal teenage response to hide away and stare at your dad, unless he’s been abusing you.

Ginger’s dad has tickets to the Greatful Dead, which excites Ginger’s Hippie Friend. That would not be a normal teenage response either. I feel like the writer of this episode was a Baby Boomer who is a big Dead Head and wanted to spread the idea that cool kids in 1994 liked the Greatful Dead. A normal teen girl wouldn’t even know who the Dead is. I, on the other hand, know who the Greatful Dead are but don’t understand how they deserve a fanbase.

The IRS is auditing the print shop Ginger’s parents own. Or the mom owns and the dad works for. Ginger’s mother’s father handed it off to his daughter, and this is grandpa’s tax screw-up.

Ginger’s grandpa comes by, and is familiar to me. He’s played by a character actor who has been on quite a few ‘90s shows. I like that when he enters the home he complains about why they have so many lights on. I’m glad someone else noticed!

At school, Ginger’s two friends tell her that they both find her dad attractive.  After school, Ginger’s dad gives her and Hippie Friend the Dead tickets. Ginger doesn’t care but Hippie Friend is loving it. Hippie Friends’s mother is already going because she is Jerry Garcia’s wife.

But Ginger gives the tickets to Jared Leto, as payment for the fake ID. Jared Leto is overjoyed—or as joyful as Jared Leto can be, which is not very. Stop pretending so many high schoolers like the Greatful Dead, old ass TV writer. The writing credit this episode is listed as Winnie Holzman, the show’s creator, and Wikipedia says she was born in 1954. That explains it.

That night, Ginger snoops through her dad’s briefcase. For no real reason, but as she says for “something that would make it make sense for me to hate him.” Now that’s normal teen girl behavior! Petty and irrational.

Ginger’s parents and grandpa meet the IRS agent in their home, and the agent plays the grandpa like a fiddle, totally getting him to spill the beans about using the company car to go to Six Flags with his girlfriend or something. Ginger’s mom agrees to bite the bullet and pay the tax fine.

Also, Ginger’s dad tells Ginger he can’t allow her and Hippie Friend to go to the Dead show because Ginger’s mom won’t allow it. Ginger’s mom gets to overrule Ginger’s dad as she is also his boss at work. The man gets no respite. Ginger can’t say tell him she gave the tickets away, so tries to distract him by being all teen girl whiny.

Blonde fro boy find Ginger hiding in his family car. They are neighbors. “I can’t go home right now,” Ginger cries.  This I can believe, that a 15-year-old counts hiding out across the street at a neighbor’s as running away.

The next morning at breakfast, Ginger dumps some orange juice down the drain just because her dad likes it. “Orange juice doesn’t grow on tree,” her mom lectures her. “durr.. .Yes it does,” snaps Ginger. You Goddamn bitch don’t waste OJ!!!

The some other stuff happens at school. Ginger’s gay friend tells her his dad beat him. Also Hippie Friend’s dad doesn’t exist. So Ginger learns she has it pretty good with her dad. “He’s still the type of dad who would lay two Dead tickets on you,” says Hippie friend. “That’s what matters.”

AAGGHH! Stop it with the Greatful Dead. It’s not realistic! It should have been Neil Young tickets. All generations love Neil Young. He has the Conan O’Brien Stamp of Approval ®.

Blah blah, there is some stuff at the print shop with mom and grandpa. But at this point, I’m getting bored. This episode runs 47:36 minutes long. Do you know how long an hour long show is today when you subtract commercial breaks? 40 minutes. For every hour of TV, we get 20 minutes of advertising! We’ve had seven more minutes of commercials creep up on us since the early ‘90s. The point is, I’ve been trained for TV to be done at this point, so my attention span is fried. Let’s finish this.

The episode ends with Ginger’s dad cleaning some gutters and then yells at Blonde fro “Give me a hand!!!” because a teenage boy will totally respond to a middle-aged man on a ladder yelling at him to do yard work. Ginger ends up helping him, which she is probably used to, what with there being no sons in this family.

Grade: B

Except for the part about people liking the Greatful Dead, this was a pretty good episode. It really captured how moody and selfish 15-year-old girls are.