How I Spent the Rest of My Career, part 2
In 1997, CBS landed something of a coup. Not only did the network manage to steal TGIF mainstay Family Matters, it also snagged Step by Step and Bronson Pinchot from ABC.
I mean, if digging through ABC’s trash doesn’t count as a coup, does the word mean anything at all? If you ever wanted an example of Wikipedia’s bias through what makes it into articles, here’s one: it cites an LA Times article from 2000 for its claim that these moves to CBS caused an “audience fracture”, harming both itself and the TGIF programming block.
Honey, no. If a network’s whole night failed because they lost half their audience, they fucking did it to themselves by not giving their viewers anything better. All four of the shows that CBS offered for the first year of their Friday night “Block Party” programming didn’t make it past the 1997/1998 season. Meego didn’t make it two months. CBS didn’t steal ABC’s audience, it just caught their attention long enough to make them realize they either needed to buy a cable box or risk having to actually take their family out bowling.
If you’re one of the 7.52 billion people who has never heard of Meego, let me fill you in. Bronson plays Meego, an alien stranded on Earth, who winds up as the nanny for three kids (Michelle Trachtenberg, Jonathan Lipnicki, Will Estes) whose father (Ed Begley, Jr.) is perpetually on call as a heart surgeon. Meego has to hide being an alien… from a father who’s literally never there to see any evidence that the hairless Caucasian biped who wears clothes isn’t a human. The concept has defeated itself before the show even gets started.
Luring Family Matters away from ABC I can understand, but this…. CBS needs some way to beat out Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Boy Meets World, and cable channels, so they bring back the guy who couldn’t be responsible with the first show they gave him?
When Amy Heckerling cast Bronson as a cameo in the first episode of Clueless, ABC had the good sense to ask for proof that he wasn’t homeless. Either CBS administration had undergone a 60% turnover in 3 years, or you and I and Philip are the only people who even know The Trouble with Larry aired at all.
Meego was created by Bronson Pinchot and Ross Brown (I’ll be posting an interview with the latter soon to back up my claims here) as a vehicle for Bronson to show off his “talents”. Brown had worked with Bronson Pinchot on season 6 of Step by Step, and was familiar with his work on Perfect Strangers. There were discussions on what the best framing story for Bronson to play different “characters” would be, and I’ve no doubt that Forever Young (the proposed Rip van Winkle-type sitcom mentioned in last week’s post) morphed into this show. Everything else about Meego, in other words having a family there at all, was secondary to Bronson playing the misunderstander once more. Adding a family after the concept can work–cf. Full House–but only if those additions come into their own.
Meego filmed 13 episodes, which back then was fairly standard for new shows; if sitcoms end up doing well in those first weeks, a network may order a “back nine” to bring it to a full season. Meego’s run was all in the can before airing in September of 1997, and we know this because the show got cancelled after six episodes. The remaining seven were aired in Europe (Wikipedia mentions the UK; the other countries are too embarrassed to admit it). When Meego disappeared from US television, CBS didn’t even replace it with another sitcom. In fact, they appear to have given up on the Friday 8-9 slot entirely until January 1998.
Perhaps they didn’t have a backup show in line, banking entirely on the appeal of Bronson Pinchot and Jonathan Lipnicki.
The only time I had ever heard of Meego before starting this blog was as a footnote on “sitcom aliens” listicles. But certainly I’ll like it! After all, it’s made from 100% recycled parts of classic comedies like ALF, Perfect Strangers, My Favorite Martian, The Nanny, Mork and Mindy, and Mrs. Doubtfire. It can’t miss!
Meego is definitely deserving of analysis, but good grief we’ve still got 20 years of Bronson to go after this. My Perfect Strangers episode reviews have swelled to massive sizes lately, so I’ll do my best to keep these brief. My deepest condolences to anyone who feels they’re not getting enough screenshots of Bronson telling sex jokes and making the same face Bill Cosby did in every Jell-O commercial.
“Pilot” (19 September 1997)
If you’re wondering who in the world at CBS would give Bronson another chance after letting him ruin The Trouble with Larry, it’s obviously someone so out of the loop that they were also impressed by the five seconds a graphic designer spent using a distort tool on the logo.
Meego thankfully doesn’t start with Bronson, which is welcome. Dr. Edward Parker and his children, Trip, Maggie, and Alex, are interviewing Ms. Scrotenborer (IMDB lists her as Scrotenbuster), played by Marianne Muellerleile. What a fucking trooper, this woman, to keep taking roles where the other characters visibly hold back their vomit when they look at her.
Anyway, she’s German, so she thinks kids need discipline, and Dr. Parker agrees. The children, dressed like their favorite characters from the Sears catalog, sit patiently and quietly while their father makes important decisions. I wish the joke were that the dad doesn’t realize they don’t need any discipline, or that the children aren’t actively engaged in a decision that impacts them. But since Meego only understands that it needs children to react to Bronson, we’ve wasted valuable time that could have been spent on establishing their personalities.
An awkward scene transition has Trip and Alex wandering into the backyard, and here’s our first indication as to any personality. Alex (Jonathan Lipnicki) slurs out that he doesn’t want a nanny with a mustache. We’re about two minutes away from this kid getting rewarded for being an asshole by getting an alien nanny, when what he really needs is to be smacked. I’m sure Bronson figured he was the big draw for the show, but it has to have been Jonathan Lipnicki of Jerry Maguire fame (another steal from ABC). If Meego is laying the groundwork for this kid bonding with Bronson’s character, I guess they really couldn’t have picked a better way to do it than having him say how useless older, heavier single women were to society.
Trip–obviously old enough to handle the responsibility of cooking Hot Pockets for his siblings–uses a telescope to look at the neighbors’ nipples. He’s got the thing pointed high enough they must live next door to a high-rise. Alex shouts and points at a flaming UFO, but Trip is already navigating his y-fronts, so Alex and Barkley (a dog) go off in search of the charred alien corpse.
Are these people living next door to a skyscraper or is it woods for miles in any direction?
Meego emerges, wearing a hoodie and a motorcycle helmet. One of my long-standing beefs with any sort of sci-fi is why in the hell everyone can speak English. Props to Meego for giving the alien the dialogue acknowledging it (“You speak English?” he asks). It’s a joke, but it isn’t telling us why it’s supposed to be funny. Was he headed for a different continent? Is he from a planet called Englabia?
Meego introduces himself and says he’s from the planet Marmazon 4.0. He delivers only the name of the planet in a robot voice. Bronson has made some faulty intuitive leap from aliens to futuristic to computers to software. Other than that, he speaks stiltedly in what’s almost an accent. It’s the same way you’d expect an android to talk if it had only moments before had the entirety of written English downloaded to its brain and maybe a few basic phoneme/morpheme rules. But Meego isn’t a robot and just implied this was his native language.
While the credits run, let me ask you: does anything at all recommend this show to you? It hasn’t established a sense of humor yet, and the only feature it feels like it needs to promote is that Bronson and Lipnicki will be on screen together, and that each thinks the other is “cool”. So glad I’m past the age where I automatically believed it if someone told me something was cool OH WAIT no one was ever that age.
Just so you’re not confused later, Erik Von Detten is only in the pilot. Just think how much money Tim Heidecker spends on a look that this kid achieves naturally.
what the jesus shit have I gotten myself into
Meego and Alex return to the backyard, where Trip is seeing his very first midriff. This open window can’t be more than 10 yards away from this well-lit backyard, right? Will Meego teach Trip an important lesson about reducing glare on the focus lens, or about masturbating in your own room with the lights off?
This is now the opportunity to establish who Meego is. After delivering his backstory–he was vacationing and hit a meteor shower on the way back to Marmazon to 4.0–he wanders around the yard thinking every single inanimate object is alive.
Look, I don’t have the time or interest to find out how much control Bronson had over this show. There are 12 more of these episodes I have to get through. But whoever wrote this scene has no idea how to present a unified character. Balki’s original factory settings were to misunderstand any and everything; if he knew something, you were surprised, but not because it broke the character or was impossible. The surprise was that some piece of American pop culture made it all the way to sheepherders.
Meego tells us that he’s 9,250 years old, comes from Earth’s sister planet, that his people are intellectually advanced, and that he can shapeshift.
He demonstrates this by shapeshifting into various things humans would recognize.
But he can’t read sarcasm, he can’t distinguish stone or metal from flesh, he mistakes doghouses for people houses, and he chooses to walk around looking like Bronson Pinchot. Intellectually advanced my ass. Is the joke that alien knowledge of any other culture is incomplete? Is the joke that he’s boasting knowledge he doesn’t really have? Is he the stupidest person from his planet?
Whoever decided this was the way to introduce a character probably vamps on the first chorus of every song they sing at karaoke, because the joke is simply: “I’m X!”/He’s not X. It’s an attempt to create another Balki that doesn’t realize some things don’t scale, or that you shouldn’t start in on incongruity of character until a few episodes in.
Anyway I shouldn’t do more than 1,500 words per episode for my own sanity so let’s see what else this episode establishes.
Meego says he needs food, as he’s down to just one serving of “Antarean camel jerky”. Good to see that third Balki joke didn’t get lost in the move to another show. Trip tells him he’ll have to wait until morning, when their dad leaves for work. What kind of asshole can’t bring some Fig Newtons into the backyard? You’re hungry? That’s nice, how about you wait for 12 hours, this girl is about to take her top off. Good to see that the rich white family of shitwads was still going strong in 1997.
The next morning, we come dangerously close to finding out what kind of personality Maggie has when Meego runs in the backdoor and begins eating their flowers without asking. Trip tries to convince Ed that Meego was sent by the nanny agency, and Ed ignores his daughter’s demand that they interview this guy who still reeks of engine fuel. Fine, rape and murder my children, he says, I’m due in the operating room.
Evidently these kids have run off a dozen nannies. How? By dutifully being dressed and washed in time for breakfast every morning? By cleaning up after themselves? By watching PBS?
Meego says that he can only be their nanny for a couple of days because he has to leave for his aunt’s birthday party. Even if Ed believes his son’s story, shouldn’t it piss him off that an agency would send him someone who was completely useless? Ed leaves, desperate to deposit his paycheck before the show gets cancelled.
Soon, Alex gives Meego a pancake and says “Tyississyrup”–
I’m so glad Bronson finally got over his censure of child acting so he could finally find an audience that appreciated his unique brand of humor.
So all that’s just establishing the scenario: Meego is their nanny, and they have to hide this from dad and Maggie. We’ve got plenty of time left for some sort of conflict. Will Meego do a terrible job cleaning the *ahem* already immaculate *ahem* house? Will one of the kids get into serious trouble?
Meego dances to “She Works Hard for the Money” while rubber gloves and cleaning appliances fly around. Take that, Fantasia 2000!
Maggie comes in and announces that Alex got in trouble at school. Evidently he’s attached to Barkley because the neighbor’s dog got run over by a beer truck. I wouldn’t mention the beer truck part except for the fact that it’s the only “joke” in the whole episode not delivered by Bronson. Great, so let’s talk to Alex, and–
Oh, okay, no, you’re right, this out-of-nowhere plot about Trip not making captain of the basketball team is much more interesting. Meego takes them back into the past to watch the basketball practice, and determines that Trip wasn’t being a good team player.
Meego’s solution is to teach Trip a lesson by suspending him in midair in the backyard, at eye level with the neighbor girl’s window. I don’t expect greatness from any late-90s family sitcom, but this is a mess. This isn’t even an issue of the script needing another draft or two, because these writers don’t have the faintest notion of a family dynamic. Everyone’s issues happen completely separately from each other.
The lesson is supposed to be about Trip paying attention to what’s going on with other people, and this show has no idea how many opportunities there are for him to learn this. Alex wandered off to make friends with a space hobo because Trip was ogling the vague outline of a training bra; and now Alex is worried his dog will die, and his sister is insulting him for it, while Trip is hung up on not being recognized for his skill at basketball.
This family is at direct risk of an intergenerational pattern of being absent from each others’ lives. I’m grew up an only child, so I can’t speak to what roles oldest children should have to play for their siblings. Children shouldn’t be forced to act as parents to anybody before they’re ready, but Trip is 15 and can certainly be there for his kid brother. If these kids need anything in the face of having no parents, it’s being taught how to be compassionate to themselves and each other.
If Meego were as smart as this episode wants me to believe, and really wanted to leave for home soon, he’d play these two stories against each other. And if this show had anything to do with its own concept–hiding the alien from dad–his solutions would go haywire just enough to show that he had something to learn from Earthlings after all. But, as we’ll see in every episode, Meego fixes every problem either with his space wisdom, his space technology, his space magic, or his space ability to shapeshift into other characters Bronson can play.
Aww, isn’t it cute no one told Jonathan Lipnicki how to pet a dog or how to distinguish between looking sad and looking tired? Meego says that no one his planet cries, except for the one time he cried when a friend left town. He tells Alex to ask whether the dog likes suffocating in his backpack. Meego says he’ll talk to the dog and shapeshifts into…
…himself. Fuck it, okay, yeah. Then when he’s big again, he keeps talking to the dog in barks and growls. So… why did he…? Whatever, fuck, okay. The dog says it wants privacy. It’s maybe the only part of the episode that comes close to working because it feels like the kind of thing a very quick-on-their feet childcare professional would come up with, and also because someone decided to make it look like Bronson is improvising when Barkley keeps licking his ear.
Again, though, is this interesting to any of y’all? Spending every three minutes introducing and resolving a problem with no character conflict at all? Is sitting through 20 minutes of Meego saying fake names and standing still while CGI happens worth it for the two minutes of Jonathan Lipnicki playing with a dog?
Oh, the Trip storyline got resolved? Okay. Maggie sums up everything in the episode that she wasn’t there for and Alex spills the beans.
Alex: He’s nommagishn heesspaceman fmmarmrzonnn frrhpointoh!
Erik Van Detten thanks Bronson for letting him ride his coattails, even if it was just for the pilot episode. Meego says goodbye to Alex, but then is so moved by the Earthlings’ open shows of emotion that he decides to grift this rich family for at least a few months. If the mention earlier of Marmazonians (Marmazon 4.0nians?) not crying was meant to make me feel for Meego, they should have left out the sob story of him losing a childhood friend. I’m supposed to think this is Meego learning from Earthlings, but all I see is an adult using a kid’s innocent love to take care of himself emotionally because his own parents didn’t.
I guess he fits right in after all. Isn’t it magical?
In the final scene, Ed comes home and Meego says he’ll stay. Couldn’t he at least try to look like a normal person and pretend to go to Canada for a few days for his aunt’s birthday, instead of looking like an asshole? There’s a joke where Ed bonds with Meego over refusing to speak to one’s relatives for “centuries”. It’s not a bad joke, purpose-wise: it establishes that whatever Meego lets slip about being an alien is interpreted as hyperbole. But did every single 80s/90s network family sitcom not realize the irony of making parent characters complete jerks?
Seinfeld had broken ground almost a decade before this by making it very obvious that its leads are supposed to be the worst people on earth, and family sitcoms still hadn’t realized the joke was long dead and buried.
Remember how they’re trying to keep Meego being an alien from Maggie? Meego and Alex fly up to her window, which was Trip’s window ten minutes ago.
“Love and Money” (26 September 1997)
The episode opens with Meego cleaning and he makes a rag pick his nose. I was going to ask whether the studio audience wouldn’t have seen the person wearing the bright green suit, but then I remembered laughtracks don’t have eyes. It’s not even a good quality laughtrack: I can hear the same person layered a few times in places. By the way, can we get a round of applause for Bronson’s wig? It’s really giving its all.
Sitcoms are fragile early on, and have to establish their situation pretty quickly and clearly right away, every week. So how does this scene establish Meego is an alien and a nanny, and not some guy who wandered into a house? With magic, and then again with magic, and then he talks to a kid.
Man fuck this already. Alex mumbles and hands Meego something which turns out to be bubble gum. Meego makes a joke about dentist incomes, and seriously, how much about Earth is he supposed to know? Where does he sleep? I get that, on ALF, Willie Tanner had almost no choice but to let an alien live with his family and chance it walking in on his children when they were nude. But the implication here is that Ed Parker didn’t think twice about giving what appears to be an itinerant auto mechanic full access.
Whoever came up with the idea of using CGI to keep Bronson from lounging over all the furniture deserved a fucking Emmy. He dances “like Elvis”.
There’s a different kid playing Trip now, and honestly I didn’t even notice the first time I watched these.
He was dancing like Elvis, and now he’s pretending to be Jacques Cousteau. You know Jacques, the guy who was famous for cooking? If Bronson didn’t want to be Balki forever because Balki was too sweet, fine, whatever. If he had a low bar for what made two characters different from one another, it’s not my place to tell him otherwise. But if you’re going to be an alien who has to prepare a meal, joke that you can’t get a decent [insert alien word] on this planet, use the tools wrong, have the dish be glowing blue. Don’t just do the same Balki schtick of decades-old jokes about celebrities who were already dead by then. I almost want to say that Bronson sells himself short by thinking that this is the only thing he can do. He can’t possibly think that Trouble with Larry failed simply because people weren’t ready for his brand of prop comedy and insult humor, can he?
Meego starts doing a Julia Child voice while he dumps the yolks into the garbage and beats the shells.
*throws a stand mixer through the screen*
That is not what I meant! I only know it was a Julia Child voice because Dad Begley, Jr. tells me. You know the sound crows make? How it sounds like you’re actually hearing the gravel that they swallow to help them digest food? Bronson’s Julia Child impression is that sound if it were going through puberty.
I was so ready to praise how well Bronson had reined himself in in the pilot episode. But the second episode is already mostly ditching the premise of an alien solving a rudderless family’s problems, so why should he bother?
Ed Daddy, Jr. hands Meego a check for his first two weeks of work. Really? The first two weeks of children living with an alien were so entirely uneventful they weren’t worth showing? Wasn’t half this premise about hiding the truth from dad? How does the nanny agency get paid? What if dad were to praise Meego to the nanny agency?
Meego–the 9,250-year-old alien–does not understand what money is, having agreed to take on the job with only the promise of hugs from little boys as payment. I’d be more willing to believe that Balki had never encountered anything but a barter system before he came to the US. But a middle-aged alien who has his own spaceship? Who has watched enough 1997 television to know who Elvis is? Get the fuck out of here with that shit.
The first thing Meego says he wants to buy is love and happiness, but just last week he told Alex that his parents never let him experience any emotions. Do they have these concepts on Marmazon 4.0? Seriously, please collect the shit and leave the premises with it in tow.
Meego is the result of someone wanting to give Bronson a show, going down the list of scenarios where a main character could misunderstand everything, settling on alien. Bronson thanks them by forgetting that scenario entirely. Just having Meego in a T-shirt with I’M AN ALIEN on the front would convey the concept better than any single joke in these two episodes.
Bronson does one of those Trouble with Larry-style monologues where each sentence is its own punchline with very little relation to the previous one and Trip says he has to go not be in this scene anymore. I like this kid.
There’s three kids on this show and Bronson thinks it’s funnier to just talk to the dog.
I love how sitcom characters always try to study in the most trafficked part of a house. Meego chides Maggie for being rude to him about how important her math test is. I wonder what it was like for Michelle Trachtenberg to go from The Adventures of Pete and Pete, one of the most accurate takes on the complexities of the emotional landscape of children, to a show where the script tells her she has to have an orgasm the moment she sees a kid who looks like this.
Is this boy (Kyle) supposed to be cute? He looks like a girl on her way to a Peter Pan audition. A second ago Meego was scolding her for taking out her stress on him, but now her stress is gone because she’s discovered there’s more to life than school. What a dilemma! This looks like a job for–
Yeah, talking to the dog again, exactly what I was going to say. 50 scenes of this and they couldn’t trade out one for a line of dialogue about Meego’s planet not having money.
Now Meego and Trip are at the bank. So is Trip laying out of school or are the other two kids at home unsupervised? Meego makes fun of a black lady’s hair.
I’m afraid we may have reached the high point for Meego. This bank teller can speak clearly and has a personality well enough defined that we know how she’s reacting to a situation: she’s cranky because her employer is forcing a slogan-branded customer service campaign (“I’m your friend!”) onto interactions she’d been doing just fine for years, thank you. Adilah Barnes is the first character on this show to be able to convey a single emotion, and I doubt we’ll get anything this good again.
Here’s Meego’s last name: Zpl-yap-yap-δε-[circle with four lines through it]-[a triangle the size of a human head]. Sometimes I, too, forget what joke I’m making when it takes five minutes to get to the punchline. Adilah asks what kinds of assets Meego has, and–
Dear reader, I love you, I truly do; but if you have ever in your life giggled at the word “assets” all on its own, I don’t think we can be friends anymore.
Later, Maggie is still swooning over–
Oh, no, wait. She’s studying harder than she was in the previous scene. Or is she hoping some more androgynous kids will run through the house?
Alex: Thicekeymanisdondustee, cniffffycents?
Meego hands Alex a check to give to the producers so they can buy an ice cream truck sound effect. Trip turns on the television and Maggie turns it off and they fight, and then Trip’s friends show up.
The David Froud fairy asks if Maggie wants to watch them play hockey so she leaves to watch them play hockey. Well, that was a nice moment spent on the premise of the show, back to Meego spouting outdated pop culture references Alex knows he’s supposed to laugh at.
Now we’re back to chewing bubblegum. Were the writers that stumped for story beats that they had to fill up a whole minute with the sound of Meego chewing?
The same audience that clapped for Colonel Hogan claps when Jonathan Lipnicki blows a bubble.
Let’s talk about Maggie, here in the 30 seconds they let her stay on screen in this scene. She’s not the Sports One, and she’s not the Little One, which gives her double-duty as the Smart One and the Girl One. We’ve gotten two tiny windows into her personality: she told her dad last week that they don’t need a nanny, and she studies. She’s catastrophizing the B she got on her test. How would an alien who apparently was raised in an empty room think about this?
He might ask himself: does this test have special significance? What are the educational standards on this planet? How, and at what point, are a child’s vocational opportunities determined? Does math have special meaning to Maggie? Is being perfect an ambition of hers? Does her social status rest on a test’s outcome? Does she catastrophize everything? Does everyone catastrophize math test scores?
Oh well, here’s Meego watching a giant TV. He’s watching a talk show where a woman claims that aliens had sex with her and Meego says she’s too ugly to fuck. He also bought a mountain bike and a home gym and a car and a horse and now the repossessors are here.
The repossessor is overweight, so Meego makes a joke about this. (By the way, it’s Travis McKenna, whom we last saw in “Disorderly Orderlies”; I mention this solely in hopes of getting that rando commenter to come back and talk about McKenna farting.)
It’s not bad enough Bronson’s reproducing Balki, now the writers are lifting whole scenes from The Trouble with Larry.
Anyway who cares it’s Urkel.
It’s Urkel, everybody.
There’s Urkel, it’s him.
Two seconds after finding out that Maggie doesn’t want to talk to Kyle, Meego decides it’s a problem and starts telling her that if she doesn’t get some dick soon, all the good guys will be taken. It’s the kind of moment where we really should be questioning what the hell Meego knows about it. Meego is trying to split the two aspects of Balki’s personality across an A and a B story: he doesn’t know the weird details of how Earth works, but he knows how to have relationships.
And if the first episode had made any efforts to establish either of those aspects of his character, I could cut this one a little slack for assuming we knew it. But this constant Roger-Rabbiting* of Meego gives the overall impression that he’s either obfuscating or has only 4.0 brain cells.
But if Meego is supposed to be filling a Balki-type role, shouldn’t he be learning something, too? Maggie is saying that she wants to wait until she’s graduated and has a good stable job before she *ahem* spends her time on having fun with boys; Meego spent more than he had on having fun and–
OH WHAT THE FUCK
Haha look y’all it’s the Three Of Meegos.
If that wasn’t bad enough, it ruins the “lesson” Meego is trying to give. If the lesson is that you can have different aspects of your own personality in harmony with each other, why are Meego’s fighting?
The alien’s 1980s US surfer persona asks if he can bum four bucks and didn’t I just watch a scene five years ago where this alien doesn’t know what money is?
I hope Jonathan Lipnicki’s parents sued CBS.
“The Truth About Cars and Dogs” (October 3, 1997)
Meego reads Alex a story about knights and dragons without having to once ask what either one is.
Oh fuck me. It’s not enough he magics a knight’s armor onto him, he has to do a gameshow host voice on top of it
If, through gross child neglect, there was a kid who actually watched Meego for three weeks straight, they would understand instantly that Maggie now knows Meego is an alien. And, after three minutes of Jonathan Lipsticki shouting at empty air, the show finally acknowledges that this is the plot of the episode.
Maggie runs off to call dad and trips over the stairs because the show can’t afford reshoots, having spent all its money on animation that makes The Langoliers look realistic. Meego says that maybe they should have read Cat in the Hat instead, and… really? Of all the children’s books in the world you could have picked for that punchline, you say that the safer choice would have been a story about a maniacal cat who makes a total mess of a house? Is this confused meta-commentary?
I’d really like to know if Bronson even remembered any details of this premise from moment to moment. We’re told that Ed “Big Daddy” Parker is gone for days at a time, so Meego lives there. Meego cleans and cooks. At this point, God only knows how long after his arrival, he knows every square inch of the house. So why in the honking fuck does Meego act surprised that there is a ceramic duck on the table?
Why does he think it’s alive?
Alex: Meego, dimagguhtooda thayrralienet?
So… Maggie didn’t call her dad? We’re just told she fell asleep before he got home. Meego wonders why it’s such a big deal that he’s an alien, and Trip explains that the government murders every single person who claims to be an alien. I was going to say that it’s more likely that Ed would believe Meego just has some mental problems, but then he is fine letting a man dressed like Michael Myers watch his kids.
Maggie tells Ed that Meego is an alien, and Ed says she’s just adjusting to the new nanny. You know, the one who’s been there for a month now. (N.b. episodes 2 and 3 were aired out of order. No one at CBS was willing to watch this show either.) Maggie says she’ll prove Meego is an alien.
That’s really the least of her concerns.
Later, Maggie tries to kill Meego.
It doesn’t work. She takes a hair sample to send to NASA.
*does a quick Google search*
Yeah, you know, Weekly World News still existed in 1997. Who picks the slowest possible way to blow an alien’s cover? Anyway, back to the real plot of the episode: Meego talking to this duck.
Alex: Meego! Muwoochuchoossavva pinewood derby!
After all that fucking around with plots that went nowhere, this is the story?
Alex asks Meego to help him, but then Mr. Ed runs in and he somehow found out about the derby separately from his sons.
It’s obvious that Alex prefers Meego to his dad, but hey, how about this duck, y’all. Isn’t this funny?
By the way, I feel like I should point out the shiny patch that’s on the left arm of anything Meego wears. No one ever brings it up, so we have no idea if it means anything, but visually it signifies some kind of rank.
Someone realized that nothing about the character’s appearance indicated that he was an alien and thought sewing a doctor’s head mirror onto a shirt worked. But I lived through late 90s fashions, so the thing barely looks out of place on a windbreaker. Maybe it was there so wardrobe would know which things to burn after the show ended?
Here’s Connie, the next-door neighbor who we will never, ever see again. She runs a dating service and Ed hates her because she’s constantly trying to get him to fuck her ugly friends. Connie is played by Andrea Martin. You’re more likely to recognize her voice than her face, I think: she was Queen Slug-for-a-butt on Earthworm Jim.
I know I’m down on Bronson’s acting abilities a lot, but there are moments where his physical acting conveys a lot of information. For instance, I can tell that Connie is meant to be unattractive because Meego isn’t humping her leg.
She interviews Meego about his dating preferences, and because she uses the phrase “there goes” a single time, Meego looks around like she meant something was somewhere, going. So how does the entire English language develop independently on another planet and have no idiom or metaphor?
Connie says they’ll go on a practice date that Friday and we never see her again. Remember, this show is being filmed in front of a live studio security guard, so it’s not as though some audience didn’t like Connie. If CBS did show Meego to focus groups, the fact that it actually aired the show is proof enough they didn’t get any intelligent feedback. Any audience that’s willing to watch three Bronsons stand around and talk to each other isn’t going to ditch this show because a story or an actor isn’t up to their standards. All these years of Bronson trying to find another actor to keep pace with him, and he finds it. Ed Begley, Jr. plays Ed Parker as eternally distracted, and he deadpans his joking acceptance of anything weird Meego says. Connie busts out laughing at everything Meego says and even enjoys the jokey pushing that Balki Meego does.
So far, the entirety of Meego’s backstory is that he is from another planet, and that one time he wasn’t on his planet, which resulted in him crashing on Earth. We only know what he didn’t have on his planet, like love or money. There have been a few jokes about Meego having dated other alien species, so why introduce a plotline that would show what he knows about something, just to throw it away?
If someone told Andrea Martin to hit the bricks, it was Bronson. It’s either that or she just didn’t show up for her second scene; I’m sure they both realized she was the more capable and funny of the two of them. Connie either thinks Meego is funny, or she’s trying desperately to be likeable. Either way, she’s an actual positive character who could add something to the show.
Well, now that I’ve put it that way, it makes sense. Who the fuck would want a character like that? Who cares about an alien’s experience when we’ve got this 1950s-era pinewood derby story?
I’m delighted by Ed’s nonsensical “X+Y=Z …NOT!” shirt. A character previously having had a love of both Wayne’s World and math is more personality or backstory than any of these characters has gotten so far.
Alex mussitates a request that Meego add rockets to the car, and Meego says this would be cheating. Trip comes in to deliver the exposition that another child is cheating.
In the next scene, Meego decides to use magic to help Alex win the race, and Maggie gets her proof that Meego is an alien.
Nah, I’m just messing with you, Meego talks to the dog. They discuss the date that will never happen. Meego has previously made about five jokes about sex, but as soon as he finds out that people have sex, he calls Connie to cancel the date. Someone decided that a dog yapping was better than a second scene with Andrea Martin. Fuck’s sake Bronson.
Meego comes to Alex’s messy room and cleans it up with magic. What a great way to demonstrate the value of not cheating!
Maggie catches him doing it and is convinced now that he’s from outer space. Meego apologizes for not being honest to her, and he appeals to Earth values of letting a grown-ass man enjoy the pure love of someone else’s son. Seriously, that’s the only reason: let me stay because I get to have a friend.
Meego has been so thoroughly a carbon copy of every other early 90s family sitcom that I’m honestly shocked there hasn’t been a single effort to hide something from any character, especially since THAT’S THE FUCKING PREMISE YA KNOBS
Just a whole world of unsupervised children here in Chicago in 1997.
Does this guy just always wear this hat? This guy could just be sitting in a waiting room staring reading People and he’d be more intriguing than anything else in this show.
The cheating dad mocks the Parkers… and then Ed just walks away from his son!
Meego gives another speech about cheating.
This man is Urkel.
Urkel is here.
Do the Urkel dance.
It’s so not fucking Urkel, by the way. CBS realized it needed something other than the 10,000th pinewood derby story to hold people’s attention, and Jaleel White was willing to show up on the condition that he not have to talk to Bronson. For now, my edits to Wikipedia and IMDB are holding, but for how long?
Cheatdad wins. Meego uses his wristwatch to freeze time, and some fucker painted frost on everybody because this was a brand new concept and needed all the help it could get to be clear. Meego shoots a beam into the guy’s head, and when he unfreezes he tells the truth about cheating.
Cheating dad even admits to stealing toilet paper from work. His son won’t return his high five because now everyone knows they’re poor.
What a great way to teach Alex how to be resilient in the face of other people not getting what they deserve. I finally realize that I turned out to be such a terrible adult because I didn’t have someone like Meego in my life.
…why is it still going?
“It’s Good to Be King” (10 October 1997)
Meego and the kids have cleaned out the garage. My family never once did this in my entire life, so evidently cleaning out the garage means just throwing all your shit onto the lawn.
Meego thinks that Ed fucks the bowling ball and asks if there is a second bowling ball he can fuck. All this setup of a plot we won’t explore just for this one joke? I’d honestly prefer a full episode of Meego asking whether every single item in the house is alive to having this same joke every five minutes.
Ed leaves for some sort of “medical conference”. I assume it’s like a library conference but with top shelf drugs.
Was this guy their dad or something? I forget.
Later, or earlier, perhaps even concurrently with the previous scene, Trip and Maggie both have history and science tests to study for and try to bolt from the kitchen before Meego can start a comedy routine with the light fixtures. For all I know Alex said he had a test too.
The past few episodes, we’ve seen Trip smoothly hide Meego’s origins from dad, explain to Meego how banks and checks work, and explain to Meego that the US government is more scared than friendly when it comes to aliens. This week, he’s the dumb one because he wants to watch 30 minutes of television before he sits down to study. Trip assumes he won’t flunk because the history teacher is also his basketball coach.
I feel like most sitcoms would play out this scene by having the nanny character quiz the youngster on US history, but since Meego doesn’t know–
Psychology sidebar: aside from whatever relationship he had with Amy Heckerling’s daughter Mollie (b. 1985), I doubt Bronson has much experience talking to kids. Meego’s not mean, exactly. But if this guy were on Full House and talked to a child with this tone of voice, he’d have to eat his words by the end of the episode. You’d think I’d be qualified to psychoanalyze about how Bronson’s father was violent and absent, based on the grand total of six psychology courses I took 15 years ago, but I can only point out what signifies to me. Whenever he’s delivering a moral message to Jonathan Dropkicki, he holds him by the arms; and whenever he talks to Trip or Maggie, he’s just short of being authoritarian. The first year I worked with kids at a summer camp, we were given information on how to be an “un-authority” with kids. I’ve forgotten a lot of it, but it’s essentially that you take the kid’s perspective before trying to influence their behavior. It’s about drawing out of them who they are and aspire to be. Meego’s role is to offer his beautiful space wisdom to the Parker children, and he does that, but it’s always coming after him very sternly telling them about how wrong they are and how little they meet his standards.
Meego, how can you act high and mighty when someone doesn’t want to know more about the world? You haven’t actively sought out information for four weeks running now. If I were Trip, I’d just draw a pair of eyes on the coffee pot and run away while Meego tries to seduce it.
There we go, the nanny is physically assaulting the kids, I knew it was just a matter of time.
The next day Meego just walks right into Coach Morgan’s office and–oh no!–he’s lying to someone on the phone! We’ve seen Meego interact with both checks and pastries and he thinks that the bagel Coach Morgan is holding is a check. I don’t think I’m asking for much to say an alien should be able to pick up on context clues.
This is the same coach that was ensuring his players understood that values like teamwork were more important than scoring points, but this week Meego needs to lecture at him about motivating kids, so he’s wrong. Nothing is said about whether Meego’s opinions are based on the ideals (or failures) on Marmazon 4.0. He didn’t give a shit about education until this very moment because no one–least of all Bronson–wasted their precious time on deciding who any of these people are. Meego’s just a busybody.
I used to be like Meego when I was a teenager. The moment I decided that something other people do constituted some social ill, I let them know about it. Certainly they would instantly see the error of their ways and thank me. Any other response meant they were beyond hope. It took more years than I wish for me to learn that, as soon as you start accusing others of doing wrong with “you” statements, they throw up instant mental barriers.
Who thinks trophies weigh 80 pounds? (And, no, this isn’t related to the bowling ball joke.)
Obviously Americans would be better off if we all followed the example of this man who barges into buildings, insults people, and steals their belongings. I guess we just weren’t ready for this radical message of love and peace in 1997.
Alex is fishing in a swimming pool in the backyard. Meego offers him a cookie: he takes it and then immediately puts it down and forgets it. This is exactly how I’d respond if Bronson handed me food.
I think Alex is telling Meego how to fish?
Meego casts over the fence and hooks Mrs. Murphy’s eyeball.
Dr. Parker comes home and they all urgently ask him to help the injured neigh–
Ed plans to spend the next day fishing with Alex.
Alex: Hemagge meannadr goafsshimorrow!
But then Ed gets a phone call from the hospital, because they remembered he’s the only surgeon in the whole city.
How will Meego solve these two problems that are out of anyone’s control?
In the previous episode, Meego thought he killed the ceramic duck; so now there’s a ceramic turkey. The only actual bit continuity in the entirety of the season, and it’s for this shit.
Meego comes back to Coach Morgan’s office. Why? Absolutely nothing has changed since the last time! In fact, what is the timeline for this episode? When Trip was supposed to be studying, the test was the very next day. The same day, I assume, when Meego came to the school. So that test is already failed and gone. The trophy gag was so great they split this scene into two parts?
Meego demands to teach Trip’s class and fuck you, you asshole. How is this not a show about an alien getting shot because he refuses to learn Earth customs? How does this episode not realize the irony of Meego not even trying to learn before you claim expertise?
Meego: You could see that, if properly motivated, kids actually enjoy learning.
Meego then shrinks Coach Morgan, ensuring that he will never actually see whatever the hell “proper motivation” is. Wasn’t there a whole plotline about how Alex couldn’t even make it into the school with a concealed dog?
There are 9 more episodes of this.
While Barkley is currently shaking Coach Morgan around to ensure he’s dead, a bunch of teenagers are confused as to why the janitor’s here in the middle of the day.
Gotta spend five minutes convincing Maggie to not let the government pickle your body parts, but no problem telling a room full of strangers your alien name.
Meego doesn’t even bother to ask these kids’ names before he starts quizzing them.
Perry Pubescent: The answer is “fuck you”.
Teena Bopper: I’m obviously 25.
Meego steps out of the room briefly and–
Just when you think Meego doesn’t care about anything at all, it reminds you just how much it hates you.
King George wanders around the room shouting at the students. I guess they really do need to know about the American Revolution if they’re this willing to comply with the demands of any escaped mental patient they just met. Meego is trying to convey how important the Constitution was by demonstrating how ridiculous and selfish a king’s demands could be. I’m glad to see he’s using the “terrorize first, teach second” style of pedagogy endorsed by John Dewey, Howard Gardner, and Marva Collins.
Was there a chapter in that history book about Tiger Beat magazine? Because Meego sure knows all about it and nothing about fishing.
In the hands of the right teacher, a radical departure from lecture could work; but that teacher would at least wink to know she has a purpose in mind. And the right actor–say, one who had ever once spoken to a teenager–would know this.
But as bad as this is, and as long as this takes, it’s still the best Bronson showcase scene we’ve gotten because it’s actually trying to advance the plot. Also him not rubbing his crotch on anybody’s feet helps. It’s really too bad that other channels existed that night, because that makes me the only person who knows this.
Meego steals a kid’s shoe. Bronson had to hand in his 90-day chip, but I think we can all agree the gag was worth it.
This bit goes on forever. This is why there’s no time for Dad to take Alex fishing. Trip finally demands his rights and Meego starts talking gibberish.
Jesus, how long does this scene need to go on before all the kids realize how rad and hip and slammin’ jammin’ the Constitution really is?
80 years, evidently.
Meego: I see your tedious little Bill of Rights is going to ruin all the King’s fun, so I hope you’ve all learned why it is still frightfully important today.
You know, I do remember news articles from back then about how the Queen was just waiting for Americans to drop their guard.
Later, Maggie has made herself breakfast. Isn’t this like a third of Meego’s job?
Niplicky stumbles down the stairs, guilt-tripping his dad hard about how many important rites of passage he’s missing out on.
Alex: Assayooshave and I thought we cusstardoonigether.
You didn’t think to ask when you saw him shaving? Dad tells Alex that’s cute, and to go away.
I can’t believe it. Maggie just delivered the lesson about spending time with your kids in the B-plot. And dad finally mentions their dead mom! Four episodes in and the dad finally spends more than 30 seconds with one of his kids. Someone had the good sense to realize that if you give one character five minutes to themselves, you should balance it out with the others. This is still one of the shoddiest sitcoms I’ve ever seen, but for a brief moment, we get to see the show Meego never got a chance to be. Enjoy it while it lasts, none of these things is likely to happen again.
Anyway, fuck you, the Trip and Maggie don’t watch Meego play Twister. There’s two sentences about a magazine article on Coach Morgan claiming to have been attacked by aliens. Trip’s delivered the exposition for like 30 things he wouldn’t know so far and we have to hear about one of his teachers getting institutionalized through a magazine that was printed like a month after the previous scene?
“Fatal Attraction” (17 October 1997)
Alex pours out an entire box of DiP cereal so he can find the toy whistle.
Meego ate it. It wasn’t bothering him or making any noise until right after he says that he ate it. Since this show’s scripts were written by playing reruns of Family Ties into a contemporary speech-to-text program, the real draw was the actors. Viewers were promised in the credits that they’d get to see something cute: Bronson Pinchot would make a funny face or say “Burt Reynolds” and Jonathan Lipnicki would laugh. In this scene the mask is ripped away as Alex laughs at Meego doing nothing because the whistle effect had to be added in post.
Dr. Parker must be having an unheard-of number of days off, and he asks Meego if he’d like to join in a poker game that weekend. Hey, yeah, there’s a great question. What happens when Dr. Parker’s actually home? What happens when Meego has a day off and can’t lounge on the couch using telekinesis to make a candlestick scratch his balls?
Anyway, nevermind, Trip has bought cologne for his very first attempt at getting a girl to let him touch her breast. Meego is confused. 9,000 years old, has met beings of every shape and size, and he’s never once encountered the concept of any animal trying to game mating practices.
Alex says Trip is in love and makes a kissy face. I don’t know which is weirder: that Jonathan Lipsmacki has never seen another person pretend to kiss, or that the script obviously calls for Barkley to start wildly humping Trip’s leg but just stands there. If you can’t make the joke, don’t make the joke.
Later, Trip and Maggie are sitting on the couch, reading. The poker game is supposed to happen on the weekend, so this must be Saturday or Sunday, right? These kids–who I seem to remember hated the idea of discipline–aren’t actively acting out because their dad is absent and their mom is dead, aren’t experimenting with anything not listed in the index of Emily Post’s Etiquette, don’t go outside, and have literally no reason to quarrel with each other because they were added as an afterthought. If you want to know who’s an alien in this sitcom, it’s not the guy spewing punchlines: it’s this old married couple in kids’ bodies.
Isn’t it the job of the director to make sure that these characters look like more than just actors waiting for Bronson to deliver his next monologue? Even the staunchest textual purist would have a fit over this.
Anyway Meego made a cologne out of trash. Didn’t Meego fire a secondary character just because he was so upset by the idea of having sex?
Judith the postal worker comes in and stands right up next to Bronson. Is the joke that she can’t smell the awful cologne we just spent the last minute hearing about? Have any of you ever in your life had a postal worker come into your house, McFeely-style?
Maybe it’s the writers who are aliens because they assume that postal workers just hand-deliver loose, unmarked “free sample” bottles of hygiene products. I don’t…
just why is this joke
Judith hands Meego a carton of SMOOTH cigarettes and demands Meego not give them back no matter how she begs. Maggie explains the dangers of smoking to Meego and then Judith runs back in demanding her cigarettes.
She picks up Meego and shakes him and this is the best development this show’s come up with so far.
Meego hypnotizes her into not wanting cigarettes (biopsychology sidebar: wouldn’t that just be a total mindfuck for your brain and body to want something and your mind not be able to translate that into thought?) and also to shave her legs because incompletely-feminine women are reviled throughout the universe. Sex with humans grosses Meego out, we learned in the second episode; why would cosmetic differences in human bodies even register to him as existing on a spectrum of preference? See, this is why you can’t have the unswervingly upright and *AHEM* sexless main character deliver every joke. Perfect Strangers and Family Matters at least had some sense when it came to Balki and Urkel in this regard. Isn’t this guy these kids’ nanny or something? Do I have that right?
Trip steals Meego’s watch because it’s cheaper than roofies (how did he steal it? fuck you is how) and uses it to freeze Brooke, who doesn’t want to date him. (What the hell is the timeline on this show?) Trip tells her that she wants him, that she needs him, and that she’ll start wearing skimpy outfits. That’s the most anticlimactic rule of three I’ve ever heard. Almost as if this sitcom wanted to make a sex joke and then had to pretend that Trip meant “wanting and needing” in only an emotional sense.
Is it true that the jokes we tell the most are the ones we like the most? If so, Bronson’s #1 joke is grabbing a woman from behind so he can feel her ass. But since there’s absolutely no sex on this show, we learn that talking to objects that by definition can’t get lines of dialogue is his second favorite.
Meego has programmed the microwave to loudly orgasm when he presses the buttons. Just a few more episodes and we won’t need any other characters, will we?
Meego just programmed a machine to love him, and now Brooke is calling Trip a love god because he hypnotized her. This show has been so poorly put together up to this point that I figured it must be the problems (borked timeline, no room for characterization to happen) inherent in having one character be the lead in both the A and B plots. With the exception of the King George scene, and Andrea Martin getting written off the show before she even got to the craft services table, Meego hasn’t felt like Bronson was actively taking time away from other things the writers came up with.
But it would be impossible to not see the two layers of irony this story has and to guess that Meego is going to realize he’s an awful role model. This show is only about an alien when Bronson needs to be the funniest person in the room; it’s about a nanny when Bronson needs to be the smartest person in the room.
I really hadn’t planned on writing this much about these episodes, the number and type of problems Meego has is fascinating. Every bad sitcom family is bad in its own way.
Instead of calling Trip on stealing the watch, Meego asks him if he knows anything about it; I’ve never met a single child in my life and even I know that this is telling the kid that lying is an option. Who sets a trap for a person they love? Sorry, this is the busybody in me, but… still, right?
This show is working so hard to not want anything to do with the fact that it’s dealing with alien technology. Something that should be absolutely mind-blowing to this kid is turned into something with cartoon powers–suddenly it can overheat when Meego claps, simply because Trip has it in his pocket. But then… well, I guess that’s a very human thing to do, isn’t it? Sorry for the second high horse in a row here, but I think we (in general) approach technology in by asking first what it can do for us, and only fourth or fifth what it means for our souls/psyches.
Technology happens within specific cultural and moral milieux, and Meego’s is supposed to be tens of thousands of years ahead of ours. Marmazonians trust themselves to only use this type of terrible power when absolutely necessary. Meego should at the very least be telling us when it’s proper to use it, or to only use it for good.
Instead, he claps his hands while Trip jumps around and sprays water on his own crotch instead of taking the damn thing out of his pocket. Meego shames him with a schoolyard taunt because Trip is a liar and took something that wasn’t his. Meego wants me to think that there are shades of grey in taking away someone’s free will, but ultimately Meego’s morality is no different in essence from Trip’s. He might as well just be an out-of-touch inventor for as much as his planet’s culture comes into play.
Meego flicks off the microwave until it orgasms and the scene ends. I hate this show.
The next day? at school, Brooke fawns all over Trip and their classmates start hooting at them to start rutting.
The teacher separates them and tells them to be quiet, but Brooke keeps talking. Is this scene supposed to establish that Trip’s decision has gotten out of control? How embarrassing! This kid’s life is ruined because 12 of his classmates–and a teacher!–know that a girl likes him. He’ll never live this down!
Trip runs into the kitchen asking for help fixing his problem, and Meego asks if he’s learned his lesson.
Trip: Yes! I will never use your mind-control device again, because the people I use it on might inconvenience me.
But Trip isn’t moral enough yet so Meego yells at him and walks away. I guess I had a good mother after all.
Meanwhile, in the timeline where it’s the weekend, Meego lets in all the poker doctors (all two of them) and jesus this episode is two hours long.
In an earlier scene, Maggie agreed to get Meego some books on poker from the local library. In this scene, Meego says that he’s read 57 books on poker. Now, I’ve never cheated on a partner, but the way I understand it, what you do is you go out and find the poorest, ugliest and most vengeful person you can to have a weekend fling with in the sewer. You’re welcome to disagree, but it’s sound logic, just like a show cheating by throwing away its own continuity for something that’s neither a joke (unless the joke is the library had that many books on poker?) nor does it impact how the scene plays out.
The Poker Brothers tell Meego they have to play poorly and laugh at Pokerparker’s jokes to stay in his good graces since he’s their boss.
Does this tie into Meego’s concept? Meego doesn’t say he knows any alien games, he doesn’t have an alien approach to competition, he doesn’t have an alien approach to interacting with superiors, and we don’t even find out whether having a pokerface would be a novel to this character who has only ever interacted with alien species that look like chairs. So no.
Does this tie into Meego’s purpose as a showcase for Bronson’s talents? He’s neither utilizing CGI to explore his new inflation fetish, he’s not doing a character, he’s not doing a voice, he’s not telling dirty jokes to the dog, and he’s not even saying any punchlines.
Either Les Moonves demanded every sitcom contract require a poker episode, or Meego got tired of its concept at the exact same time its viewers did.
Dad finds out they’re all kissing his ass and tells his assistant surgeons that they won’t lose their job if they play poker well. Thank GOD the show didn’t leave me hanging with these guys’ story.
Meego comes to Trip’s room to say absolutely nothing of import and then Brooke climbs in Trip’s window. Brooke has to tell Trip she’s wearing the tube top he asked her to wear, since they couldn’t show it. Trip calls for help from Meego. Dude, don’t do that! Meego’s just going to kill your sex ed teacher and fill in wearing a penis suit.
Meego pauses her and then he explains what Trip did because honesty is the best policy brainwashes her again. He also gets in a dig about how she looks like Alicia Silverstone, and since we know Bronson’s improvising all his jokes, that’s definitely a dig at Amy Heckerling. Certainly she was watching, right?
Ed makes the microwave orgasm. Meego blames it on Trip, calls the microwave a slut and threatens to fuck the spice rack as revenge.
What the fuck was going on at CBS in 1997 that Bronson only had to pretend to espouse family values for four episodes before falling back on his “signature” brand of humor?
N.b. Maggie Lawson, who played Brooke, was also on an episode of Step by Step season 6, also playing a girl who was smitten with one of the son characters. I find it a little unsettling to think that someone working on Meego remembered how convincingly horny this 16-year-old was and brought her in for this episode.
“Halloween” (24 October 1997)
“Halloween” was the last episode of Meego to air in the United States. Going off the production order, it looks like it was meant to air on Halloween, after “Saturday Night Fever”. But someone at CBS had the good sense to realize that Meego might not make it that long. The show needed a shot in the arm, and Halloween episodes have a slightly lower bar to clear. Just put your characters in costumes that are either obvious extensions of, or at odds with, their… um… personalities.
yeah nevermind this show was fucked
Meego wants to hand out orthopedic insoles and mushrooms to trick-or-treaters and they forgot to tell Jonathan Lipnicki that this was a joke he was supposed to laugh at.
Alex opens the front door.
Did no one explain Halloween to this kid at any point in the past 6 years?
Meego: Trip, how dare you celebrate this holiday in the agreed-upon way?
Since scaring people is such a bad thing, Meego scares Trip by turning the couch into a monster.
You know, I actually recognize this script; I had the exact same edition of Mad Libs in third grade.
The next– wait.
Are we already done with Halloween?
The dog wants Cajun food but Meego doesn’t want to clean up its shit. Here I was saying nothing could save this show, but yeah, I’d watch that.
Maggie got a letter from a secret admirer praising her beauty. After she reads it out loud, Meego tells her–straight-faced–she’s not pretty enough to receive love letters. I wish like hell I was kidding. Three years interacting with Amy Heckerling’s daughter and he still has no clue that little girls are people too.
Meego uses his watch so he can find out who the boy is… and then makes a joke about Woody Allen lusting after prepubescent girls. I just want to clarify: anytime I say that these shows make me want to kill myself, I’m expressing a desire to not have to exist on the same plane as someone who makes a joke about statutory rape to a child. I’d prefer a whole hour of jokes about bedwetting over any line Bronson writes on his own.
Last week, Trip’s room was spotless because a girl needed to walk around it. This week it’s a mess because, just like real humans, these kids can only exhibit half a personality trait at a time.
Meego tells Trip he’s lower than dirt for not cleaning his room. Maybe if you didn’t show off every day how it takes you two seconds to clean the entire house, Trip would pitch in? But more than that: maybe if Meego were a decent nanny he’d see the root problem is a family one: Dad hires a nanny instead of asking his 20-year-old son to take any responsibility. All Meego knows that he told Trip to do something, and Trip didn’t do it. To Meego, every interaction exists in a vacuum (because he’s from outer space 🙂 ) and this means he gets to berate a child.
Trip opens his closet to find Jonathan Littlenicky.
Trip says Meego will have to work harder to scare him. Maybe Meego should say Will Estes wouldn’t get another part for two years, that might do it.
There’s absolutely no distinction anymore between Meego not knowing things because he’s an alien and Meego making pop culture jokes because Meego is the funny character. He makes a joke about a skeleton prop being as thin as Kate Moss and calls it “bubby”, which is a thing Jewish mothers are known for saying.
Maggie enters in a Poison Ivy costume. It’s too bad viewers didn’t stick around long enough to find out that Maggie saw a movie once. She setups a punchline: her secret admirer is coming to the party they’re throwing dressed as a Man in Black, from the movie Men in Black, which is a movie about aliens, so Meego says a thing about the movie.
Meego: I had some problems with that movie…
Which is a line you’d only come up with if you had only watched the first twenty seconds of its trailer. Or maybe Meego was planning to destroy Earth?
And now he says he’s been to New York City! When? Why is he still trying to fuck the drapes then? CBS must have told him on day one that titling this show “Genius Makes Tired References to Willing Listeners” wouldn’t bring in viewers. Bronson decided to just trick people by putting a weird name on it and sticking a spaceship in the opening credits.
Meego opens the door and six kids dressed as Men in Black come in. This is far and away the cleverest, smartest joke in these whole six episodes. It’s funny enough to excuse the fact that they all just keep walking off the other side of the stage without saying hello to their hosts.
Alex comes in from the kitchen asking for help with his fake vampire fangs, and when they go to the kitchen, Dad enters wearing the same vampire costume. I assume that Dad helped Alex… you know what fuck it the observation isn’t worth the time I’d spend on it.
Somebody actually put a little bit of effort into this episode! Even I think that’s cute, and I hate everything.
Dad and Alex leave to go trick-or-treating. Well, that’s stupid of them. How is Meego going to save the day in their C-plot if they’re not there? Oh well, I guess that gives us more time to find out what an alien thinks of Halloween. He’ll (ha) he’ll probably think that some (haha) some of these (ohhoho) these kids are aliens because (HA) because of their costumes!
Maggie tells Meego to find out which of the six boys in the living room wants to rail her. After five minutes of anticking, Meego finally leaves the kitchen to do just that.
Bronson talks to a kid who turns out to be an idiot. He’s been trying to count his teeth with his tongue for a week and… I’m sorry, but that’s hilarious.
You’ve all watched sitcoms, right? We’re at the halfway point. The problem is clarified, and the main characters have figured out a way to tackle it. But something has to complicate this plot so it’s not just a series of Meego and Maggie talking to kids individually. So what’s the second twist Meego has up its sleeve?
It’s the exact same twist!
Or… is this the twist? Is Maggie going to accidentally tongue-kiss her brother?
Meego tries to scare Trip by having a monster pull him into a garbage can. And then, after trip leaves, Meego gets pulled in the can. A house full of children is minutes away from finding Dad’s liquor stash, but at least Meego’s having a great time pantomiming for absolutely no one.
(That sentence works on two levels, you see, because no one was watching Meego. Thanks.)
Meego comes in the living room and dances and sings.
Ed and Alex come back. This show can’t make up its mind about which characters it wants to tell a story with, what might happen with characters absent, what that might mean to one character that another is absent, or whether it wants to tell a story at all. Aside from the two inspired jokes so far, it feels like they handed script-writing duties over to Jonathan Lipnicki this week. First Trip scares me on Halloween and then Meego scares Trip and the couch is a MONSTER and then Maggie gets a letter and she can’t find out who it is and I’m a vampire and the dog is a vampire and there were FIFTY mans in black and I try to scare Trip and Meego makes the trash move and I got CANDY.
Gordon, the kid who’s obviously the secret admirer comes up and talks to Maggie but she’s too busy staring at all the mesomorph boys she was on record as disliking in another episode.
Meego was all about Trip learning that it’s better for people to like you for your own qualities, but this week he tells this kid how to talk completely differently from his own style when trying to pick up girls. Even in this scene where Meego is trying to honestly buck up a kid and help him step out of his comfort zone, the tone of voice Bronson uses still makes him sound like he’s one of those adults that has a trap waiting for you.
Meego physically foists Maggie onto Gordon. When the sparks don’t fly between them, Meego tries plan B: asking the props if they want to screw.
After the party, Meego tries one last time to get Maggie to talk to Gordon, and for Christ’s sake! Shouldn’t this nanny be on the side of the kids he cares about so much? Why is he trying to push Maggie into a relationship she doesn’t want? If one kid doesn’t feel sparks and the other can’t muster the nerve to ask her out, guess what, spaceman: one of the greatest human thinkers realized 2,500 years ago that the most prominent truth about life is that it’s wall-to-wall suffering.
Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, Meego is suffering.
Meego spends about five minutes not telling Maggie it was Gordon, and then he reveals he magically stole his Gordon’s wallet.
Oh fuck you.
You were just lambasting Trip for stealing something to force a girl to talk to him! Neither of them wants to talk to the other, so Meego hypnotizes them and tells Maggie she likes Gordon.
OH FUCK YOU
Moral double standards are pretty scary, so good job on your Halloween episode, Meego.
Bronson has never had to hold two thoughts in his mind at once, has he? All he knows is that Meego has a convenient deus ex machina to use when people won’t do what he says. I guess I should be thankful he didn’t use CGI to turn into a half-naked Cupid.
yeah you know what we’re gonna skip this scene
In the final scene, Meego has a sugar rush and runs around. He knocks over some trash cans.
P.S. How did they manage to not title this episode “Trip or Treat”?
For American viewers, that was it. Meego, literally and metaphorically, ran itself right into the garbage.
We’ll never know all the causes of Meego getting yanked. That it cobbled together a few character elements to put around Bronson, and then ceased having much real interest in them, betrays the sitcom’s mercenary nature; so the clearest answer is that a mere 5-share of the audience wasn’t enough for CBS to please its advertisers.
I’m sure Meego being advertised by an obviously-distracted Bronson during the end credits of Family Matters didn’t help keep viewers around. There were commercials for Meego, of course, but the initial advertising campaign for the Block Party leaves me wondering what the hell they’re trying to tell me the show is about. Urkel we know, Gregory Hines is himself, and Bronson eats a hotdog.
If that’s enough to sell you on watching Meego… I was about to insult you, but now I’m honestly worried that you’re in an undiagnosed coma.
I’m so glad there’s just one interview I have to watch this time around, because they’re so exhausting. For all that this appears to have been Bronson’s big comeback, he can’t get out of his own way to advertise it. He went on the Regis & Kathie Lee show the morning of October 24, 1997 (the date of the final aired episode, “Halloween”), and based on all of his past behavior, I don’t think Bronson knew the show would be cancelled. When he’s successful, he’s playing around; and when things fail he’s self-critical.
He comes out with his own set of cue cards that he honestly thought they were going to let him make a 5-minute bit out of. He gets through two of them, which have nonsensical (that’s my nice way of saying “unfunny”) questions for the hosts. He takes up 70% of his interview with bringing attention to a meta-aspect of live morning talkshows, and it’s clear that Bronson thinks it’s one of the most annoying things he has to put up with. He talks as though it’s these demonic cue-card holders who keep him from telling his stories, when he’s now consistently showing up for interviews and making sure he won’t get started on one until a minute before the thing’s over.
It’s a strange tactic to place the blame on someone else for your own distractibility, I imagine even moreso for the immediate audience who figured out how to not let the cards distract them five minutes into the show’s taping.
The other 30% is making a woman in the audience self-conscious about her glasses and grabbing at Kathie Lee’s belt, which she takes off as it’s now permanently fouled.
If Bronson’s best moments are where he’s throwing someone off, congratulations, because even Regis Philbin has no idea what to do with jokes that have no basis on a shared understanding of the running-joke world of Regis & Kathie Lee, or even on a shared understanding of celebrating the crucial people who work their asses off to make the hosts look good. I have never seen Regis check out like this before.
Before the commercial, you can catch a quick exchange between Regis and Kathie Lee where she asks if they’re going to come back with Bronson after the commercial, and Regis’s hand-shrug makes him my casting choice for Pontius Pilate.
They don’t even talk about Meego; they barely even mention Jonathan Lipnicki. Sorry for getting so caught up in Bronson’s interview behavior. Train wreck, can’t look away, etc.
If I believed in karma or cosmic forces, I’d say they decided that, if Bronson’s new show wasn’t that important to him, it was fine to remove it from existence.
I’ll never know the exact points in the above episodes that might have lost Meego viewers. It’s tempting to say that Boy Meets World drew viewers away, the whole “audience fracture” thing, but Meego’s ratings (the percentage of total households that tuned in) went up the night of the former’s season premiere (two weeks after Meego’s premiere), and held roughly steady until the end. Whoever was into Meego stayed into Meego, but we’re still talking a full percentage point down from 1996 audiences and Everybody Loves Raymond.
But maybe–just maybe–it wasn’t a good show?
I feel utterly betrayed by this review from Tom Shales (last seen on this blog ripping into season 1 Perfect Strangers), who refers to Meego as “utterly irresistible”. I guess I can forgive him on the basis that he wrote his glowing review on the basis of just one episode. And maybe I can find solace in the fact that even somebody from Utah thought Bronson’s “mugging and overacting are weird beyond belief.” I’m cracking up over Total TV magazine referring to Meego as a “frothy comedy”. If you’re not sure what that’s supposed to mean, ask yourself how you’d feel if someone referred to what you thought your best work was as “frothy”.
You know me, though, I like to go the more cerebral route for explanations. Just as Bronson seems to have been trying to catch lightning once again with the same general type of character as Balki, CBS’s Block Party feels like a last-ditch effort to try one more time with the 80s/90s brand of sitcom. CBS wanted to recapture former glories, to seize control of a sinking ship (a viewership lol) with exactly the same things they’d been peddling for a decade by then.
I suspect that the mid-90s (say, 1995-1997) represent some grander shifts in American pop culture that I’m not at all qualified to speak to. Every time I see a list of “90s” things, I’m always surprised at some of the things that rate, like Pokemon, Tamagotchi, AOL, ‘N Sync, Britney Spears, The Matrix, Scream, cell phones; and I wonder how many other people roughly my age feel this same disconnect. I saw so much media from 1990-1992 make explicit the fact that “it’s the 90s now” that only those things are tied to the decade. Everything after 1995 or so still feels new because I (I was 10) felt like I’d finally gotten a handle on what to expect from media, and then everything started changing.
The groundbreaking TV shows of the 80s/90s (Roseanne, Married… With Children, Seinfeld, The Simpsons, Weinerville) had done their work of changing the landscape and were either ending or becoming shadows of their former selves by 1997. New shows were just beginning that would leave their own mark on TV for decades to come: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, South Park, The View, Survivor, and Cartoon Cartoons. The shift was definitely in the direction of cable programming by then. Who cared about one more teenager learning to drive, one more dad struggling to balance work and family, one more mom entering the workplace?
The major networks weren’t without their hits, but evidently–according to this very insightful November 1997 Los Angeles Times story–the sitcom development world was high-stakes and high-stress. For a writer to sell their sitcom pitch, they either had to have the next great Seinfeld-quality premise, or they had to attach themselves to a celebrity who wanted a sitcom; and they had to do this all on their own, outside of the writers’ room situation where good ideas happen. I’m reading between the lines here, but it sounds like network sitcom writers had less of a steady job by 1997; they could either develop their own show or end up risking just getting spot work as “consultants”, polishing up existing scripts.
Maybe, had cable and the Internet not taken off around this time, Meego might have gotten to air all 13 of its episodes. But I still think that’s all it would have gotten. It serially ignored its own premise and characters, and it let Bronson improvise shit like King George shouting at kids. There was maybe a 5% chance you’d land on CBS at the exact moment Meego was advancing a plot.
In a minute here, you’ll see that Meego was barely even interested in the possibility of getting other sitcom stars to help out.
“Mommy ‘n’ Meego” (unaired in the US)
Meego delivers the news that Ed’s mother is coming to visit. The family scrambles to haul out all the shit she’s given them over the years, such as “Regis & Kathie Lee placemats”.
I too remember when I was five and a page in an activity book let me think I was making a joke by picking nouns from Column A and Column B. (Look at those placemats, by the way. Is that Bronson and Amy Heckerling?)
Also Nana commissioned a portrait of herself and gifted to them.
What an absolute terror, this woman. Every other joke has been Meego hitting on any object with a face or holes, how does a painting not confuse him?
Okay, that sweater vest is a good gag, but aside from that, every line of dialogue is the kids asking why people are allowed to live after they get old and ugly. Dad warns Meego that Nana will hate him.
Nana is played by Peggy Rea, and I’m so glad for her sake no one she knew personally ever got to see this episode.
Meego hugs her and even though we just established she talked to him on the phone, she doesn’t know who he is. Meego introduces himself and tells her the name means “He who can smell cat food on a passing comet”. Is this something unique to his culture? Is this an aspirational name?
Haha just messing with you “cat food” is from Column B. Nana tells Maggie that, thanks to the “Parker genes”, she’s going to sprout giant tits any minute now. Well, knowing that this family has a history of inbreeding sure explains a lot.
There’s some bit that goes on too long where Meego keeps bringing Nana different kinds of tea and she rejects every one. Meego gets upset and dumps a cup of tea right on the floor in front of them. This is a joke you’d make in a story about a waiter serving the world’s worst diner, not a show about a nanny who has to prove his likeability.
We’re six minutes in now and the only thing that’s been established is that nobody likes this old woman they have to be in the same room as. The whole premise of this show is that Ed is so overworked that he can’t be there for his kids, right? So is Ed going to be a part of this episode? Will Meego learn about families and honesty?
This scene isn’t interested in telling us anything, but even so I’m glad… well, it’s good to–no… it’s interesting to see… shoot, how can I put this?
It doesn’t give me any new ulcers that this scene lets Meego know directly from Ed that Nana is impossible to please. Ed could have just run out the door wishing Meego luck, but this scene prevents the alternative, which would have been Meego insulting her all on his own.
Barkley and Meego enter the kitchen and they talk about how they just fought other dogs.
It goes on for a while. Nana walks in on them, and seriously? This is how she finds out he’s an alien?
Well, yeah, I guess so, it is all he does all day. No need to cook for the kids while they’re in a vegetative state on the couch. Somehow Meego thinks that simply barking at a dog has given away his whole secret, and that’s a huge damn leap for this character.
Meego really has no interest in exploring the dynamics it sets up between its characters. In the first episode, Meego’s identity had to be kept a secret from Maggie; a week later he wasn’t even trying to hide it from her; two weeks after that he walked into a school and attacked a teacher with alien technology.
It’s not that there have been any stories yet about hiding things from the dad, but even I’m willing to give this show the benefit of the doubt since dad’s not there very often. That doesn’t bother me: I can take that as just part of the premise if it’s willing to explore other interesting things. But we spent six minutes establishing that the kids don’t like Nana, and Nana doesn’t like Meego. Couldn’t they at least be here to complicate the dynamic past a series of questions about Meego’s past?
Bronson thinks that having Meego say “Marmazon 4.0” in a completely different voice from anything else he says is the funniest shit ever:
So, to him, that’s worth Meego giving away his biggest secret two seconds into a scene like this. Their dialogue, by the way, is just an interminable series of Balki jokes. Bronson gives us a selection of his own greatest hits, name-dropping Goobers and stealing a Balki joke about a “police record”. By the end of it, Bronson has found a way to just dance and sing a Village People song.
We’re again seeing Bronson as a textbook example of the Dunning-Kruger effect, which is what happens when incompetence is compounded by the person having no idea how incompetent they are. He understands that an alien needs to hide, that another character does not like Meego, and that Meego hilariously misunderstands things people say because they are references to things he doesn’t know yet. Unfortunately he forgets every single one of these things the moment he sits down to start writing jokes. My sperm count drops by half every time I transcribe one of these, but I’m doing in the hopes that you’ll understand.
Nana: How do you feel about corporal punishment?
Meego: Corporal punishment?
Nana: You know, spanking.
Meego: I suppose if he’s been a very naughty corporal… (makes spanking motions)
Nana: I suspect you’re hiding something. You don’t have a police record, do you?
Meego: No! I do not have a Police record. However I do have a really groovy CD by the Village People. Macho, macho, macho man…
Balki equating record with music and not “criminal history” makes sense; Perfect Strangers gave us a good enough idea of Mypos’s connection to the world so we’d know he would have heard of American bands. But Meego, if anything, should misunderstand the specific, not the general. Perfect Strangers finally had to retroactively say Balki had attention span problems. Meego forgets the age and galactic knowledge of its lead any time Meego isn’t talking about it.
I guess Meego did move in with them. So glad they clarified that seven weeks in. Maggie comes in, asking for help with something, and then sees the giant radio prop and realizes Meego’s getting both A- and B-plots all to himself this week.
Meego tells Maggie what utter filth her grandmother is. What a wholesome role model!
It’s really just as well that they switched the order of this episode and “Halloween”, because the latter at least had the kids on-screen with the adult long enough that distracted parents could tell themselves this show probably had a moral. Every fifty lines or so, the episode remembers to tell me that Meego needs to keep his identity hidden from Nana.
The very first thing he does after finding out she’s onto him is build a radio that lets him contact his home planet. He tries to call his mom.
Oh. Oh no.
There are no words. I’m so sorry. I’m sorry everybody. Please, have any children leave the room. These images are violent and disturbing.
I think it’s hilarious that no prominent celebrities were willing to actually talk to Bronson directly. Some of the cast of Gilligan’s Island were willing to appear on screen with ALF in 1987. It looks like they learned their lesson.
Mary Ann: If you’re gonna rescue us can you please bring along some moisturizer? I’ve been wearing this top since the mid-60s and my midriff is turning into shoe leather.
Okay, everybody, we found the single nugget of humor in this whole sitcom. Go ahead and delete the masters.
There’s a brief scene with Ed and Nana. They–
Oh, okay, nevermind, here’s Meego talking to truckers about anal sex. Trip runs in to warn Meego that one of the script writers is actually trying to follow through on a plot downstairs.
They watch as Nana calls up Canada. (By the way, Meego keeps referring to butts as “tater craters”. Seriously, destroy those masters.)
Do the scales fall from Meego’s eyes as he realizes he’s done this to himself? Does he vow to actually look at a map of Canada and pick a town he could pretend to be from?
No: he magics into some winter clothes so he can say “take off”, “hosehead”, and “ahoy” (“ahoy”??????) over the phone through his headset. The headset he magicked into existence. Right after we saw him putting together a radio.
Is Ed Begley, Jr. addicted to really cheap drugs or something? He’s been in damn near everything for the past 45 years. I just had the home video of my first birthday party digitized and fucker was there eating my cake! It’s not like this was heavy lifting for him**, but then that seems to be true of most of what I’ve seen him in. I have to hand it to him, though: Ed’s one of the few sitcom dads I’ve ever seen deliver a put-down line to another character that feels like he’s just cracking a joke to show that he loves them.
Anyway, after the writers got through 16 pages of script, they finally hit on a good way for Nana to organically discover that Meego is an alien. Her presence alone made Meego miss his mom and want to call her (can’t he call from his spaceship?), and now she overhears him trying to reach another planet.
Nana comes downstairs and reveals she’s going to tell Ed about Meego’s secret when he gets home. The children discuss what to they should do. Now, don’t get me wrong: if the statute of limitations hadn’t long run out, Meego would be susceptible to a class action suit from anyone who watched it. But I do think it’s slightly unfortunate for viewers that Jonathan Dipsticki only learned to enunciate halfway through this batch of episodes.
Maggie comes up with the idea of gaslighting Nana and the other kids agree. You know, I came *this* close to writing a joke about how making Gilligan (and the rest) appear on this show constituted elder abuse, and decided I wouldn’t be able to sleep well for a week if I did. But now that I see that everything’s fair game. Meego gives a microwave a handjob, he dresses up as Ed and jizzes on the kids, and next week I’m sure he’ll club a baby seal to death with The Club.
The kids gaslight Nana by walking through the room multiple times and saying the exact same things. It’s really nice to see when sitcom writers find a story that they’re particularly suited for.
Meego rushes in and freezes Nana. How the hell did he know anything was going on?
He scolds the kids for making her think she’s crazy and FUCK YOUR DOUBLE-STANDARD ASS.
You did the same fucking thing to her over the phone! You told the kids they were right to hate old people! You rudely dumped out the tea she wanted right in front of her!
What the hell is this show? Michelle Tanner may have been nothing put a pouting ego***, but at least she had a few cute catchphrases!
After the kids apologize for trying to get Nana to check herself into a rest home, Ed comes home. He rushed home from a heart surgery because she left him 18 messages. I guess Meego was right to talk about “Every Breath You Take”, because cops must not exist in this world at all.
There’s a sliver of possibility that this episode will get a half-decent resolution because Ed’s angry and tells his mother that she can’t meddle in his life anymore, for god’s sake they’re both in their seventies.
But then Meego hypnotizes her and makes her forget he’s an alien. If I tell you how I feel I’ll hit my swear word quota for this post. They obviously made all these episodes before airing them. How hard would it have been to go back and add these same animated effects in the previous episodes? Or even “Halloween” which was filmed later ARRRRGGGHHH
Under the credits, Meego calls his mom again because it’s his last chance for another 70 years. Dude should be thanking Nana that she made him think about it at exactly the right time.
“Magic Parker” (unaired in the US)
Ed pours some milk into a glass and calls everyone downstairs to watch’s Alex magic show. What (ha) what’s he gonna (haha) gonna do, make (hoho) make half his (HA) consonants disappear?
Meego tells Trip and Maggie that they outlawed magic on Marmazon 4.0. Are you seriously telling me that every single thing you’ve done in this house–in front of children–would get you arrested on your home planet?
Meego answers the door for a little kid named Marcus.
The Amazing Wavesticki pours milk into his top hat and makes Trip wear it. The milk disappears until the moment after Trip puts on the hat. The timing makes it read like that’s supposed to be the actual trick, but maybe the hat is defective?
Anyway, “thing in hat” is all that the writers could come up with for a magic trick to not work, and Alex is now sad that he’s bad at magic. The only trash can in the whole house is in the kitchen, which means Meego sees him throwing away all three pieces of his whole show.
Meego tells Alex to get back to practicing. This week’s celebrity (Column A) reference: John Tesh (already a repeat reference from a prior episode).
Maggie has been scanning the personal ads for potential dating partners for dad. Meego asks her how in the hell this premise is supposed to survive if they add a mom character.
Ed has already missed out on his kids’ first attempted rape, first time being demoralized by a teacher, first brainwashing, and first time wandering off into the woods to meet strange men in jumpsuits. Evidently Chicago has the highest per capita rate people waiting for heart transplants (and, we can assume, of patients experiencing brain death), so there’s no way he’d be able to spend time with a woman.
Meego and Maggie try to write an ad about Ed and all they can come up with to say about him is his impressive height his high income his commitment to family a mother-in-law they’ve brainwashed nothing.
Ed comes in stoked about his subscription to the Mustard of the Month club. That’s supposed to sound boring but I’d be into that. Meego suggests they hire a prostitute to play with dad’s begleys.
Anyway, I’m so glad they got rid of that dating service woman from next door, though. Her honest laughter at Meego’s jokes was just so grating.
Now we’re at Alex’s karate class. What? I would have written Meego having to convince Alex to not give up karate, but once these writers get to the end of the script, they do not go back to change a thing.
Meego tries to recruit the other nannies to be fondled by Ed. One of the nannies says she’s an illegal alien, and Meego takes her aside to let her know they’re only allowed to be aliens at the 18-minute mark to resolve the plots. Then he finds out both women are aliens and instead of a plot Meego starts in on his tight five of Seinfeldian jokes about being space travel.
That this part of the episode establishes two things at once for both plots is, by Meego standards, impressive. Meego meets women, and Alex and Marcus get to interact. I would hate to be in the position of having to tell a little kid to speak really, really black.
Marcus gets his yellow belt, Alex doesn’t, Marcus rubs it in.
Alex: So? Mbednyuuvverstuff!
Marcus says the magic show sucked ass too and Alex starts boasting that he’s so great he can even beat Marcus at a black sport like basketball.
Meego tells Alex he’ll get his yellow belt soon. I don’t know a lot about Karate but I’m pretty sure they don’t hand out belts for kicking people in the nuts when they neither deserve it nor expect it.
Later, Alex is practicing free throws or whatever when Marcus pops up behind the fence to talk some more shit. So it was Marcus’s mom who got a face full of fishhook?
Alex says he’ll go get his “dunking shoes” to prove to man I really don’t care about this plot.
Nice try, Bronson. We know it’s a wig
Alex asks if Meego can help him demoralize a black kid. Meego says he doesn’t approve of lying, and then in the time it takes to hit the return key, that’s forgotten and Meego turns Jonathan Slapsticki into one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever seen.
What this show considers humor is so awful that I’m having trouble recalibrating my assessments of it. What I thought was just the simple, honest mistake of never writing a second draft turns out to be a pun embedded in the episode title. Alex was doing magic, and now he’s Magic… er… Jordan? Meego thinks it’s being clever by putting together two things that use the word “magic” (magic and Magic Johnson), and really, it is the cleverest the show has ever tried to be.
Did any of y’all try to make jokes like this as a kid? I remember I would, constantly. I understood the structure of jokes, that you could play with double meanings, that you could make fun of celebrities… but I was flailing, trying over and over again to crack the code. (Maybe related: rather than try to figure out the right equation you’d need to use to solve algebra word problems, I would just plug in number after number until I got it right.) It’s a very solipsistic way of making jokes, because it relied entirely on what I–or Bronson–knew. There’s no effort to try to map someone else’s mind, to understand what knowledge is widely held. Meego doesn’t even have a procedure in place to have a second person take a look at details like “Magic Jordan”, or even whether video is flipped for a mirror.
Anyway, Meego’s probably going to murder this kid for asking for help when he finds out it was for showing off.
They go outside and Meego magics Alex up to the net. Marcus, who was hiding in the doghouse and heard them talking about magic, is somehow impressed with Alex’s skills.
(Something that’s really not worth mentioning, but when has that ever stopped me: Alex has adopted using the Marmazonian 4.0nian word for “shit”, graznok. I was waiting to see if the show really thought that’s what it meant, since it went through a couple of meanings early in the show. Isn’t it great that Meego was able to outdo Mork and Mindy by putting the swearword in a kid’s mouth? Also, christ, Bronson could even come up with a word that sounded at all different from Mork’s “shazbot”.)
(P.S. Not saying “shazbot” was something Tom Shales mentioned about Meego‘s efforts to differentiate itself from Mork & Mindy.)
The living room is full of women, but instead of interacting with them, Meego eats a sponge. If anyone can get a job as night watchman at the Warner Bros. archives, that would really help me get the masters so I can cut them up into confetti and have a little parade.
Another thing I’ll pause to mention: I think a lot of why we haven’t gotten more scenes like the King George one is because Joel Zwick directed a lot of these. (Rich Correll, a Miller-Boyett regular, directed the rest, including both this one and “It’s Good to Be King”.) We heard from Marianne Mullerleile that Bronson would try to take on the role of director and tell someone where their mark was, much to absolutely no one’s delight. Rich Correll had worked with him before, and probably knew him well enough to yell “Cut!” any time Bronson reached for anyone’s shoelaces.
But right here, there’s an instance of Bronson passive-aggressively directing Michelle Trachtenberg to her mark. She enters, moves to stage left, and when Bronson follows her he gets in her personal space to make her back up a few paces. But even if she undershot her mark, unless CBS only gave them precisely enough filmstock for 13 episodes, there was absolutely no reason for Bronson to not just stop where she had stopped and reshoot if they had to.
Bronson seems to enjoy doing his scenes with the dog, and with Jonathan Lipnicki; but then one can’t disagree and the other genuinely liked him. But so much about his interactions with the older children make Bronson look like a bully.
The oldest woman there impatiently asks when they’re going to meet Dr. Parker because she’s going to die any moment. Meego tells her this won’t affect her chances because she already looks like a corpse.
Is this how women react if you have money? Even Married… with Children wasn’t this serious when it trotted out these retrograde tropes.
Ed, begleying through the door, asks Meego what the hell’s going on and Meego blames it on Maggie. Is this the first time a sitcom has ever had an adult push the blame onto a kid without that meaning the adult is subhuman? Ed absolves Meego of any possible role that an adult could have in positively directing the behavior of a child whose behavior he’s being paid to monitor, and then chews out Maggie.
Maggie explains that she really needs a role model for when her vagina starts coming in. Credit where credit’s due: the dialogue in this scene is very close to what you’d get if you reversed the roles when the parent is trying to awkwardly broach the topic of puberty. But since the sound guy didn’t press the button on his laugh soundboard, I don’t think the show realizes this.
More credit to this episode: Meego doesn’t run in and shapeshift into the dead mom.
Later, Marcus has sold tickets to kids to come watch Alex play basketball. Certainly Meego will–
Oh, wait, no, Trip comes into the living room and asks about the personal ad Meego put in the newspaper. Why is this 15-year-old reading personal ads?
Meego has received 50 marriage proposals through the mail, and fuck me, I appreciated the joke that they’re all from Bellevue. This really should have been shoved under the credits since it has fuckall to do with anything else, but it’s not as terrible as everything else.
Alex asks for help and brings Meego out to the backyard. Meego discovers the other children because one of them is three years past when he should have been able to understand how hiding works.
(The episode misses a great potential joke in that all these kids could have been unsupervised because every one of their nannies was in the living room.)
Meego and Alex go back inside and Meego tells him to put on a magic show for the kids instead. There’s a cute exchange between them, something that we should have been getting at least twice a week: Meego tells Alex to call himself “Alex the Magnificent”, and Lipnicki can’t manage to say the word. It’s cute as hell and Lipnicki seems like a great sport about it. I’m surprised I’m enjoying so much of this one; it feels like the laziest episode of the show Meego thinks it is. It’s certainly the only one so far that felt like it was following regular sitcom beats.
But–if the idea is that Alex has learned that it’s more meaningful to work hard at something and still not be great, than to be great by cheating–shouldn’t we have been any indication that this trick paid off because of effort and not because the hat cost $2.50?
Alakazam! Marcus has disappeared from the Meego universe!
(Look how hopeful Warner Bros. were, putting ©1998 on these episodes.)
“Liar, Liar” (unaired in the US)
You know, if this show had bothered to give any of these kids a personality trait, they wouldn’t have to rely on this mess for the pre-credits scenes.
Earth and Marmazon 4.0 are sister planets, Meego’s 9,250 years old, he’s been to New York, we’re led to believe he watches television all day, but he doesn’t know what snow is and thinks “the sky is falling”. How? How?
He yells at the children to leave the house (why would that be any safer…?), and they tell him it’s just snow. Meego makes a joke about how he wants to stick his penis in the turkey jar.
(Here’s something else that’s weird. Each opening sequence has two short clips from the same episode–but they’re never the same as the episode they precede. Since they aren’t randomized, it makes it look like a mistake. I’m only mentioning this because such details get lost in the larger fact that this whole show is a mistake.)
Meego and Trip go to a bookstore. Since Meego can read an entire book by shoving it through his head, what does he think of selling knowledge, or letting only a few individuals hoard it in their homes?
Meego…? Oh well. Trip pops a boner over a college girl and Meego wants to fuck an old lady’s walker. Then Meego ogles the college girl’s breasts.
Trip chats up Amanda and lies, saying he owns a software company. (Just in case I don’t get to use this later in the episode: the girl dumps Trip when she finds out he’s only the CEO of Meegosoft.) Amanda’s so dumb she believes every lie Trip lays on her, like that he’s 21 years old.
Maggie and Alex set up their plastic snowman and then they have a snowball fight. We should stop this episode right here and imagine that the rest of it was any good.
Ed: You know what else would be fun? Shopping for low-flow toilets!
Every now and then, freedom from characterization can lead to lines that are funny on their own. It’s a great way to write Zippy the Pinhead, but won’t get you very far in a sitcom. I’m overstating it a smidge: it’s made clear that dad wants to cut down on his water bill since, at any given moment, one of these five people is taking a shit somewhere in the house.
Jesus, give it up, Bronson!
Meego has made hot cocoa and cookies for Maggie and Alex and he must have no clue how heat works because he brings them outside. He wonders briefly where they are, and then ceases to care about his job duties. He brings the snowman inside (how? how?) and introduces it to some toys he stole from the Parker children. He turns on a heater and leaves the room. At least he’s consistent with how long he’s willing to stick around and monitor someone.
My favorite part of this snowman is how someone gave it a mouth, thought it didn’t read well, and then jammed some Skittles below the original mouth.
Trip comes downstairs to find that nobody else is home. This turns out to be lucky for him, since he wants to practice for when Amanda comes over for their date. Hi, yes, I’m a 21-year-old genius who owns his own software company, but could you please drive all the way across Chicago so we can neck and eat Bagel Bites? Is he hoping she’ll think all this grandma furniture is the way a rich playboy lives?
Maggie walks in (what is the fucking timeline on this show?) and oh no! Trip’s been found out! Maybe if he didn’t plan to have his date in one of the three places all the other characters use? If only Amanda knew how dumb he truly was, she’d fall in love with him honestly.
They take a break from talking about Trip hiding things to crack jokes about how bad an actress Alicia Silverstone is. Does Bronson think he’s really sticking it to Amy Heckerling by criticizing someone else on a show neither one of them would ever even know exists? Who goes out of their way like this to show off how pathetically jilted they are?
Trip’s idea of being a distinguished older gentleman is to hold a pipe and walk like he’s run out of Osteo Bi-Flex.
Any time he’s alone, Meego proves himself unqualified to comment on anything that takes place on planet Earth; but since Trip is in the living room experimenting with what it actually takes to “get” a woman to like him, it sets off his alarm bells and he runs in to ruin everything.
Trip says that Meego is his butler, and you can see Bronson very briefly imagine what it would be like to do something someone else came up with.
Meego drags Trip into the kitchen and drags the story out of him (hey, maybe I could be a Meego writer if I’m this good at double-entendres!). Trip agrees to set things right, but before he can, Shitbricki comes in asking for his dad.
Who was watching this kid? Why can’t he have just been taking a nap upstairs?
Who? Why? How?
Amanda asks Trip why he didn’t mention his son, and props to whoever wrote Trip’s response, “Well, I haven’t had him all that long.” He pays Alex $5 to go along with the story; Alex bends him over a barrel and asks for $20.
Meego walks in the kitchen to find Alex eating some pudding (he came home because there was not pudding in the front yard, I guess), and asks Alex where he got $20. Meego treats the revelation that it was from Trip as though Trip had showed Alex the safest way to inject heroin.
After learning that Trip is worse than Stalin himself, Meego, au pair extraordinaire (hire me now before your rival network does!) uses the universally-agreed upon tactic of making a kid smoke the whole carton. He dresses up as a butler. Add Wonder Woman to the list of shows Meego stole from.
You can probably play out how the rest of this type of scene should go, but I don’t expect a single other person to want to waste that much of their bandwidth on this show. So: Meego as a butler should be forcing Trip to agree to more and more outlandish lies about his wealth and status until alarm bells start going off in the splintered chunk of plywood Amanda calls a brain.
Amanda–who by the way is so dumb she’d try to drink pomade–points out that he looks and sounds nothing like he did five minutes ago. Look, man, if you have to make the idiot character ask the questions any normal person would, maybe don’t shove a one-man show into the scene.
Here’s another way that Meego differs from Trouble with Larry. In the latter, the entirety of the show was Bronson fucking around doing voices and saying punchlines and soaking his feet in a slow cooker or whatever the hell he thought was funny from one second to the next. No characters really got a chance for a story because Bronson was all there was. Meego gives its non-Bronson cast just enough time to get started on laying out the bare sketches of a sitcom plot template before deciding it’s time to lay waste to it. I’m not saying that Meego is worse than The Trouble with Larry. I’m saying that Meego wants to trick its viewers into missing enough of Boy Meets World that they won’t change channels.
Is Bronson playing the world’s most incompetent English butler worth breaking so many things? How (HOW?) does Meego not recognize snow, but he knows about English butlers well enough to subvert a century of stock character tropes? Who is the subversion for, exactly? Does Bronson get off on casting capable actresses just so he can steal scenes from them?
Is he completely unaware that he’s portraying his own comedy chops as tortuous to the very demographic he wants to watch this show? Seriously, if living the straight and narrow meant I never had to endure Meego again, the next time you saw me I’d be the Pope.
Nothing is worth this bit.
GOD THIS ONE IS SCOTTISH
why is this nanny beating up a child please stop
Amanda tells Trip they’re very different people (what? how) and Trip tells her the truth. She slaps him and leaves.
Meego comes out of the kitchen all smug like he didn’t just terrorize Trip, and starts in on his condescending tone.
Finally, Meego finds that the snowman has melted. Meego slips on the floor, cracking his skull. He dies.
He gives a eulogy. The kids fucking told him earlier snow was water. I hate Meego. I hate it. How.
“I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” (unaired in the US)
Four more of these and then I kidnap the CEO of Warner until they hand over the Meego masters.
Meego has abused me so thoroughly that I’m actually thankful he’s not talking to the damn cookie jar again. Meego is making cookies and misunderstands the directions.
When the directions say to “roll on flat surface” he hops up on the table. I’ve accused Meego of stealing from at least four different sitcoms, but I can at least give it credit for coming up with a way of making an alien misunderstand that even ALF and Perfect Strangers would have fired a writer for coming up with.
Here’s an example of the type of joke Bronson comes up with: after rolling around, he says “Now I know why Famous Amos is in such good shape.”
Have you ever once seen more of Famous Amos than his head and shoulders? Did I miss the 90s advertising campaign where Famous Amos bragged about his physique? How hard would it be to just say “Wow, Famous Amos must be in great shape”? But since Bronson is the genius, no one else dared bring up that Wally Amos hadn’t been in the public eye for most of the preceding decade.
Since this sitcom existed solely for Bronson Pinchot, everything else–characters, premise, a blackmailed cameraman–was added after the fact. His jokes really do come first, and reality has to contort itself around them no matter what. When the Parkers bring home a tree and say it’s for Christmas (they don’t specify it’s a holiday, mind you):
Meego: Is Christmas the holiday where we watch football games and stuff wet bread up a turkey’s butt?
Trip: No, that’s Thanksgiving.
Yeah, Thanksgiving, the holiday that you just lived through three weeks ago and had them explain to you. If you can explain to me any sort of context, mental or otherwise, where Meego’s question would be internally logical, I’d like to see what copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland you crawled out of.
Maggie explains that Christmas is meant to celebrate the birth of Earth’s most famous person and Meego doesn’t bother to ask any more about him. Putting a tree indoors he needs help understanding, but of course a global cult of ego makes perfect sense to him.
Have any of you ever driven a car any distance in the winter and not turned the heat on so it would defrost the windows? Sorry; I’m making the mistake of caring about things that aren’t jokes about prominent 90s celebrities like Telly Savalas.
Meego sends the car to the living room.
Is this episode finally going to acknowledge the premise that they have to hide his powers from dad?
I also made the mistake of hoping. Meego says it’s just like the Festival of Atlantis on Marmazon 4.0 and shoots some fish onto the tree. Kind of makes you wonder how he can live on a planet with oceans but absolutely no water cycle that could result in rain or snow. “Kind of” is generous, I guess.
Seriously, where the fuck is Ed? Did he just run in and go straight to his room to masturbate into his dead wife’s lingerie?
This show’s version of the “oh no” music sting plays over Lipnicki laughing.
Meego walks into a kitchen full of characters and starts talking to the only one who’s taken fewer acting classes.
Ed says it’s time for their annual trip to the mall and Trip hands him his wishlist. Trip wants a car and since Ed works as a lowly heart surgeon, it’s not something he can afford.
Maggie, who earlier criticized people turning Christmas into a grossly capitalist holiday, asks for money so she can “save the environment”. Dad tears up her envelope in this show’s only truly symbolic interplay. Meego asks Saintnicki what he wants for Christmas.
Alex: Cuzivonly wthigright are cat and hat and I don’t want those.
Alex wants a Survive-a-saur and Meego repeats the TV commercial.
Ed’s beeper goes off, meaning he’s needed at the hospital and they’ll have to put off their shopping trip. The kids are all upset that that might mean they won’t get to open their presents on Christmas morning. Didn’t he just tell you crotchfruit you weren’t getting anything? I get that he’s the best surgeon and all, but everyone else at the hospital sure knows a lot more about saying they’re too busy to come in.
Meego explains to the children that it’s better to give than to receive, that their dad is just as upset about not doing their traditional holiday activities, and that ultimately it’s more important to do things as a family than on a deadline like Christmas mor–
Oh, no, wait, now they’re all at the mall. What was the fucking worry then?
Maggie says “mistletoe” and Meego responds to this twelve-year old girl with “rocket crotch”.
Alex explains sitting on Santa’s lap to Meego, and Meego says to this six-year-old boy that he saw Santa sexually molest some little kids in the park and then get arrested for it. I can’t even muster the energy to make light of this. What kind of person thinks a family sitcom is the right context for shock humor?
Maggie–bulwark against capitalism–is able to work out tax in her head and concludes that buying gifts for her family members will only leave her four bucks to buy something for Gordon. I would say the lesson here is to come up with multiple possibilities of what to get a person, but that she’s able to come up with anything appropriate at all for these cardboard cutouts is astonishing.
Trip buys a cologne called “Booty Hound” and notices the copywriting attesting to its use by members of the Dallas Cowboys. Yeah, uh, Trip, something I should tell you about men who are into backdoor pursuits…
He tells Maggie not to buy him a present. Why bring up all of these potential plot avenues just to dismiss them? Ed Begley, Jr. reading a list of algebra problems would have been more welcome than this.
Dad asks about buying a Survive-a-saur.
Whoever these two guys are: That tired old plot?
Man I hate this show.
Alex sits on Santa’s lap. Santa brings up Survive-a-saur just so he can tell Alex he won’t get one. Meego writers can’t imagine any person doing their job any better than they do theirs. Santa actually gets a good joke about how Tickle Me Elmos are being “used for landfill” now. I’ve never once heard “landfill” used in a sentence that way, but the joke is clear.
(N.b. in many shots in the house, both Alex and Maggie have Keroppi and Badtz-Maru toys; and there’s a Keroppi and a Hello Kitty in the background of this scene. I don’t remember them being that big in the US in the 90s; were they?)
Meego sits on Santa’s lap and asks for an end to suffering all over the universe; Santa says Meego is sitting on his balls. Does Bronson understand how balls work?
Early the next morning, Ed and Meego are waiting in line for the toy store to open. Who’s watching the kids?! The store owner tells the crowd they have 9 Survive-a-Saurs and that he’ll start personally shooting people if they fight.
This episode is a whole bunch of non-starters so far, but actually having one story and following it through makes it feel more like a family sitcom than it usually does. None of that makes it unique–in fact, I’d be shocked if any of you have seen fewer than ten versions of this same plot–but it does make it feel like it’s actually tied to the world around it.
Again, stuff I don’t have the time and space to research to the extent I’m curious about, but I think the 90s were the tipping point for three things: nation-wide information dissemination, a boom in the collectibles market, and a 50-year history of finely-tuning commercials to appeal to children. There were ~2 generations at that point that had grown up with television characters and merchandising, and they knew that anything they had held onto from their childhoods could be worth a mint to the right collector. Advertisers knew how to tell both parent and child that the kid would be unfulfilled without getting to participate in a pop culture moment.
Fighting over some stupid toy whose appeal was impenetrable to adults was a common experience in 1997, and props to the episode for not giving the viewer any way to understand its appeal as anything other than a slick commercial that we don’t get to see. Meego repeated the commercial, and that was a good marriage of withholding from the viewer and Bronson (briefly) doing a voice. It seems to indicate that Meego is meant to be a child, or himself hooked into advertising; the first goes against everything else the show thinks it’s told us about Meego, and exploring the second would go against the way this show works.
At any rate, it was a common enough experience then that I’m willing to overlook that this is derivative of Jingle All the Way. You could take the “scarce toy” story in a number of interesting directions before it was completely worn out. Meego doesn’t do anything new, but it also doesn’t give us a five-minute improv scene.
When the doors are opened, Vangelis’s “Chariots of Fire” starts playing and the camera zooms in on this old woman. It may not sound like much, but that zoom the funniest joke in this whole episode.
The choreography of the sequence lets you know immediately that 80 people enter the store before Meego and Ed.
For those of you who have already thought ahead to wonder why, if Meego can transport a car in doors, he can’t transport a toy 20 yards, you might be fooled into thinking that the show realizes this when his “digital datamaster” gets trampled.
Meego had a perfect opportunity to add its own spin on a story we were already familiar with and flat-out refuses to try. All it does is shrug and tell you he’s not an alien this week.
Later, Maggie says she didn’t buy Gordon a gift because a magazine told her that doing so would signal sexual availability. Did she read this magazine in the mall before buying the present? Was the purpose of this whole mini-plot just to give Trip a line about how Maggie’s not old enough for her vagina to even produce lubricant?
Well, of course it was, this is a kids’ show. Maggie and Trip give each other gifts and bare-minimum hug each other because any more would trouble their antagonistic relationship.
Thank god this show got thirteen whole episodes! Any fewer and there would have been simply no room for establishing this kind of dynamic between characters.
On Christmas morning everyone storms the tree and opens their presents without Dad there. So what the hell was the worry earlier in the episode about? I guess I was right that you could go in literally any direction when it comes to standard sitcom Christmas plots. I just didn’t expect Meego to choose “away from them entirely”.
Meego actually reminds them that Ed’s not there (!) and lets them know what very bad people they are. Maybe if you were a good enough nanny you’d have gotten up before them.
Meego evidently learned off-screen through secret means what the meaning of Christmas was. What the fuck does this show think it’s about? Is it about an alien having to hide his powers from everyone? Does the alien tell them stories about his home planet? Does he have anything at all to learn about Earth?
No, it’s just about how children are stupid and heartless and wrong, wrong, wrong. Meego gets to experience all of his personal growth in-between scenes. If Maggie joined the Girl Scouts, he’d be lecturing her on what real female empowerment was the next day.
Wait, sorry, let me stop for a minute to get over this laughing fit. Meego just said Sally Jessy Raphael! That’s a name I know! Man, this show really speaks to me.
Anyway, Meego drags them to the hospital so they can gawk at the sick kid Ed is checking up on and learn “the true meaning of Christmas”. I’m pretty sure the original meaning of Christmas was to establish that Jesus enjoyed special protection by inventing some bullshit about a royal edict to massacre infants, but let’s see what Meego says it is.
Dr. Parker gives this presumably-recovering-from-surgery kid a helicopter. Ed’s family walk in and start talking about themselves instead of bothering to say hello to the kid.
They talk about the importance of doing Christmas together with your loved ones in front of this kid whose parents aren’t there, and then Ed gives Alex the hottest toy of the year.
It turns out the true meaning of Christmas is people guilting you until you care about others. Alex gives the Survive-a-Saur to Billy Bypass.
Later, we learn that the only reason Meego’s watch got stomped earlier was so he could get a new one from Santa. This episode has introduced 85 different plots it had no interest in following through on, resolves the only ones you’d think it would find interesting off-screen, and now it’s establishing that Santa does exist without all of the kids there.
“Saturday Night Fever” (unaired in the US)
Ed uses a tape recorder to make notes to himself about scheduling surgery on a kid with a genetically fucked-up heart.
You know who else walks around constantly with a small electronics device that possesses technological powers so advanced they’d be considered magic and which, were the devices to be mistaken one for another, could wreak humorous havoc in the children’s ward of a hospital and risk the discovery of its owner’s true nature?
Yeah, I’m not coming up with anyone either. Stupid question, I guess.
Maggie comes in catastrophizing about how her school newspaper (I’m pleasantly shocked that a sitcom actually doesn’t overexplain to you that it’s the school newspaper) has voted her “Citizen of the Month” for five months running. She says that it puts her at the bottom of the social totem pole, below the kid who eats chalk. So why not complain to the school about how they’re giving the student body a nerd scapegoat each month?
Meego has been so slipshod in establishing these people’s personalities that this almost reads as a metatextual joke. Maggie doesn’t think of herself as a nerd, or even really act like one, but the school–and Meego–announce once a month that that’s who she is.
Alex and Meego come in with the groceries and Meego has strapped a bunch of frozen food to his head. Ed asks why any nanny would force a child like Alex to endure the pitying stares of other shoppers by doing such a thing, isn’t it already bad enough he dresses like he works on a pit crew?
Meego pretends that Ed has commented on his new hairstyle, and then Ed tells us (reading a note from Alex’s school) that it’s chicken pox.
Meego straps a couple of gallons of ice cream to his head and Ed asks if he’s had all his childhood diseases. Meego tells Alex this means that Ed will discover his seven hearts, as well as the homunculus he shoved up his butt.
Are they…? Is this…?
Well move my bowels, they’re actually setting up two stories that actually involve premise and character this week! It matters that Ed’s a doctor! It matters that Meego’s an alien! And it matters because the former cannot seek help from the latter!
Kurt Vonnegut famously advised writers to “start as near the end as possible”. With something serialized, the mileage on that advice might vary quite a bit. I write and draw a webcomic, and because I was just throwing things up online over time, the really terrible early work ends up presented right next to the newer–and one would hope better–work. I didn’t know who my characters were or how they related to one another, so I simply pushed pieces around and make some jokes until I figured those things out. But when you’re trying to sell something, the advantage of improving in public is not guaranteed–in fact it can be punished very quickly.
I went to a comic shop once where the owner had his own serialized (as in, 24-page issues) superhero comic. I bought #1, and he told me that the story “gets really good in #3”. Great… so why not make that story #1?
I think by writing, so forgive me for thinking all this “out loud” so to speak, in front of you. I’m not saying that Meego was actively trying to figure out these relationships over time. As much as I’d like to forget the past 10 episodes, they’re still fresh in my mind. But since only 6 of these 13 episodes aired, it’s clear that they were all filmed before a home audience got a chance to comment on them. Even if they filmed these once per week, I think it likely that all these stories were plotted out by the writers, and script assignments made, around the same time. The previous episodes largely don’t feel like they understood to look for these potential dynamics–like doctor/alien response to Earth disease–between the characters. If the table drafts of the other scripts did and still came out that way, I’ve been giving the show far too much credit.
I think–for individual writers–there’s a lot to be said for being willing to trash the first few tries you make and maybe revisit a story idea later on when you’re more up for its challenges. Meego didn’t have this advantage, but it also didn’t have to bury this episode so far back in the order that no one but a few kids in Spain even saw it. Why not make this episode #2?
This one’s going to end with Meego breaking into the operating theatre and lecturing Ed on revascularization, isn’t it?
Dad thinks Meego set him up and snuck a gag stethoscope into his medical bag.
Meego and Alex show Trip how, instead of just giving the family pet food because they love it, they’ve made eating harder so that it can provide amusement.
Meego fries an egg on his hand. Is this because his body temperature is too high? Is Meego simply so free-spirited he would turn his own discomfort into merriment? If only the previous 10 episodes hadn’t already convinced us he could do this any time he wanted to.
Trip, eating pancakes, says “you should see him cook French toast on his back”. So… same questions. Who fucking knows.
Maggie comes in wearing leather and green hair.
Instead of, say, thinking that Maggie might have a disease he’s familiar with, he makes a Dennis Rodman joke. Let me qualify that: he speaks a sentence with the words “Dennis Rodman” in it. Were all Dennis Rodman jokes that bad?
Man I’m glad I’m not reviewing this as expansively as I am with Perfect Strangers. I’d be talking about personality-as-product, how obvious it would be to anyone at her school how much of a fucking poser she was for buying exactly what Hot Topic wanted to sell you. I’m on a word budget so this will have to suffice: how is this mishmash of styles any different from the mishmash of personality traits she is in any other episode? All we really know about her is that she got horny for a boy, and then there was another boy she didn’t get horny for.
Later, Trip’s calling up one of his buddies to tell him about a midnight party (“a rave”) none of the parents know about. What an absolutely rebellious teen this guy would have been in the 1920s!
Alex overhears him and Trip gets a good line: he says he was rehearsing lines from the play “Sneaking Out at Midnight” by Tennessee Ernie Williams. I like every part of that, even if it Tennessee Ernie Ford is so dated a reference that it makes Trip the real nerd.
Anyway here’s Meego with a tail.
If you need to rush off to rub one out, write some fanfic, draw some glistening-bodily-fluids fanart, this rest of this post will be here when you’re done.
Trip and Alex have to hide Meego since dad’s coming up the stairs (again, no irony so much as realized here that all three of these guys are hiding things from dad). Shouldn’t at least Meego know by now that Ed interprets everything as a joke? I would have said that Meego was trying to make lemonade out of lemons, based on the earlier frozen food/hairstyle joke he made to Ed, but I guess it was a joke that looked like story by accident.
Now they’re dancing.
Now Ed’s dancing.
The hell is this? Ed says he has to go perform heart surgery 3 hours away in Moline. When and why did he stop giving a shit about the health of the man who’s caring for his children?
This is one of those episodes that’s really difficult to critique on a scene-by-scene basis. I don’t have suggestions on how to fix this kind of problem other than to rip out half the story and try again. It’s fine that Ed has to leave for a surgery three minutes after he gets home from the last one, but it’s not okay that he leave the nanny potentially incapacitated. Sure, he must have thought that the frozen food was part of the earlier gag, but he points out Meego’s “sore throat” (Meego’s tail had just been smashed, don’t worry, you didn’t miss much) before leaving.
Let’s hope that little kid in Moline isn’t wearing a clown nose or Ed might just stand there and laugh while the kid goes into cardiac arrest.
Alex catches Trip sneaking out. Why the fuck is Alex up this late, walking around in the woods unsupervised again?
Trip asks Liplocki not to tell Meego, and Alex tries to extort him. That’s the second time this kind of thing has happened and I have to wonder when Trip is going to rat out Alex so Meego will yell at someone else for a change.
This might be my favorite joke in this whole show: the abandoned building where “the rave” is being held was previously a Bob Dole campaign headquarters.
Trip learns the dangers of sneaking out past his bedtime when he almost hits on his own sister.
Is every single one of the kids leaving the house unobserved because Meego is sick? Haha NO fuck you!
Trip can’t effectively tell Maggie to leave “the rave” because he’s enjoying it and she only found out about it from the flyer in his room. What a web of lies!
Oh god I forgot all about these hats. Looking forward to forgetting them again.
Seriously, it’s like 1AM! If Meego needs to learn a lesson about actually supervising the kids he’s nannying, it can’t be in the 11th episode unless he’s, OH I DON’T KNOW, BEDRIDDEN BECAUSE HE’S SICK?
Meego runs in and rubs his rectum on the kitchen counter for a full five minutes.
Looselippi refuses to tell Meego all about Trip sneaking out, so he gets the dog to talk. Of all the things I thought this show was capable of, surprising me with a decent Lassie joke (“gasp! They’re in the abandoned warehouse?” etc.) was not on the list.
It even manages to slip in a way for Meego to know that Maggie is at “the rave”, or as Meego calls it, an “illegal party”. Meego shrinks Alex and puts him in his pocket.
(Yes, fine, go write the fanfic about a giant Bronson putting you in his pocket and rubbing his ass on your doorknobs. I’ll be here.)
Oh God. A whole abandoned illegal warehouse full of illegal youths doing their illegal dances to no doubt illegal music. They’re even illegally running by him up the stairs!
Meego’s lecture will put the carnage in Hellraiser III’s nightclub scene to shame.
Now Meego is a cop. (You’re going to have quite the anthology by the time this episode is done.)
Meego: Aiiight this is the police everbudy freeze. Mah name is Officer Smith. I need to shout some celebrity names at Trip and Maggie so everybody get out.
Meego sends Trip to wait in the car, and Maggie repeats the lines from the beginning of the episode that Meego wasn’t there to hear. This reminds me of the Full House episode where DJ Tanner gets in trouble because some other kid wanted her to drink a beer. The difference here is that Meego forgets to show anything at all bad happening at this party. No one drinks, no one smokes, they were all dancing farther apart from each other than anyone at my junior prom. The only thing that happened to Maggie was that her brother accidentally hit on her, and then her brother’s friend hit on her too before Trip told him to stop. Visually, we’re even told that at some point since the beginning of the episode that Maggie decided that changing her hair color and wearing a studded necklace were too out of line with her personality. She’s figuring things out for herself.
So there’s literally no argument Meego can make except one of the “slippery slope” variety:
Yikes! She might become… someone who’s not… however uptight Maggie is supposed to be.
yeah, this episode’s got #2 written all over it
If Maggie’s supposed to be the smart one, why is she falling for the argument that smelling a beer from across a room will put her on a path to dating Tromeo?
No ways to safely experiment socially, or any sort of middle ground for being social and upright, are offered. Maggie concludes that the best thing she can do is lean even harder into being a model citizen.
I would ask why they didn’t resolve the chickenpox story but I wouldn’t want to give you the false impression that I want this episode to be a single second longer.
“Performance Art” (unaired in the US)
Meego is in the kitchen preparing chicken. The directions tell him to “pound breasts with a meat mallet until they are tender”, so he wails on his own chest for a minute.
Yes, a nanny would cook for the children he cares for. But so would a husband, so would a father, so would an uncle, so would a bachelor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m as glad as you are that someone on set hid the turkey cookie jar, but this is an alien who is the nanny for a family. If that’s such a winning concept, why is it so hard to come up with jokes for it? If this episode had even aired, and someone found it flipping through the channels, this scene would only tell them that whoever this man is must be an idiot. Worst case scenario (or best?) would be that they mistook this for an episode of Perfect Strangers.
So the question has to be asked at this point: what exactly was Perfect Strangers not giving Bronson in terms of what Balki could or could not do? Because, for all that he had said he was begging ABC to give him something different he could do, he sure kept agreeing to the exact same role over and over again.
- Perfect Strangers – stranger to American idiom, pop culture, excess, and values
- The Trouble with Larry – stranger to his family & ten years of American idiom, pop culture, etc.
- Forever Young (never made it out of development) – stranger to 20 years of American idiom &c.
- Step by Step – stranger to American idiom, business practices, families and cetera
- Meego – stranger to entirety of Earth
The main thrust of the scant few interviews around the premiere of The Trouble with Larry would indicate that Bronson doesn’t like playing a sweet character. Well, what’s “sweet”, exactly?
Was it how Balki was correcting someone’s morals? It can’t be that, because that’s what he’s doing on Meego.
Was it that Balki was always (“always”) nice to everyone? It can’t be that, because he was unfailingly nice to the characters on Step by Step, and his entire role is (supposed to be) being nice to children here.
Was it the innocence of not knowing how the world worked? Oh fuck off.
I seem to be left with two answers. One is that he wants to joke about sex. Constantly.
Even if you remove every reference to feet from The Trouble with Larry, there’s still an unbelievable amount of time spent on the main character (whom we’re supposed to like) coming onto–and touching–Courteney Cox. It’s the farthest end of the lecherous spectrum for a mid-90s network sitcom and made that show feel like a made-for-TV remake of an early John Waters film. Meego, at least once per episode, tells a child a joke about sex crimes or hits on an inanimate object. Now, the first season of Full House had a few blue jokes as well; but hey, that was three single guys living together. ABC was still figuring out how important clean humor was to its audiences in 1987.
You could make some argument that Meego “got away” with these jokes because it aired in-between two shows featuring mostly young adults. But the show’s creator, Ross Brown, had a decade of experience knowing what jokes were okay in the context of a show with children. If anyone “wrote” the joke about Santa molesting kids in the park, it was Bronson.
The other answer I have is that Bronson’s sense of himself is that he creates characters, and that he has a unique vision for the ironies in the world.
An interview with Michelle Erica Green of littlereview.com [I am told the article consists of two interviews from November 1997 and April 1998], we get quite a lot of insight into Bronson’s creative aspect.
He finds himself increasingly drawn to directing since he has ideas for other actors’ characters, “which is not so terribly normal for an actor – normally the actor’s credo is ‘Me, me, and more me.'” He says that it’s hard for him to explain why something will be funny, but he can tell a co-star, “‘Say your line, take a pause, don’t look at me, then turn around and see me, and you’ll get a big laugh,'” and it does. “That’s just pure directing, taking the words and saying, how do you shape them and move around so it’s funny.”
It can only have been on Meego, The Trouble with Larry, or late Perfect Strangers that Bronson would get to tell a co-star what to do without getting chewed out or fired. Bronson on having a comedic sense:
Comedy is not something Pinchot believes can really be taught. At Yale he studied serious acting, but he likens being funny with having perfect pitch for musicians: people either have it or they don’t. No comedian is ever always funny, he notes: “I pee myself watching Billy Crystal on the Oscars, but I couldn’t watch him in a movie if you paid me. There are times when I watch part of a Jim Carrey thing when I’m just in ecstasy and awe, and there are times when I feel I could be happily shot in the head before I could watch one more second. Nobody has a contract with Thalia, the muse of comedy, twenty-four hours a day.”
No, a sense of comedy, or creating it, perhaps can’t be taught in any comprehensive sense, but saying so misses out on the possibility that it could be learned, facilitated, or cultivated. Improv classes wouldn’t exist if the latter weren’t at least partially true. But Bronson believes that it can’t be taught because he never feels like he needed to learn anything:
He believes that Beverly Hills Cop made him bankable because it was clear that he was making it up as he went along, and could adapt to almost any kind of spontaneous material: “Not too often have I played a scripted role that set the world on fire – it’s mostly when I create it that good things happen, since my persona is specifically about being slightly outside the bounds of what’s allowable.”
What good things were those, exactly? The three sitcoms he got cancelled prematurely? I think he still considers them good because they were scratching an itch he had. People move toward what they think will give them what they want. I want people to think I’m funny too and, in person, I’ll select/create jokes based on which ones I think a particular person will respond to. We’re very susceptible to thinking that a hammer will solve all our problems because it solved one really well. Bronson made Eddie Murphy laugh by going off-script, and he thought that’s what the trick would be every time after that.
I suspect he never got an opportunity to practice improvisational, skit-based comedy at Yale, but it seems to be what he truly thinks his strength is. I poke a lot about how he’s trotting out tired tropes in most cases, but I think that’s a lot of what improvisational comedy is. I forget where, so forgive if I mangle the details, but I read once a story about how, early in his career, Robin Williams was accused of stealing another comic’s material. There’s no doubt in anyone’s mind that Williams had an intensely high-powered comic brain. But, as I said somewhere in all the footnotes for “The Gazebo”, to understand something means we have to create it in our mind and attach it to other things. Like the sole inhabitant of Pointland, it’s easy to confuse what we learn with what we came up with ourselves (how many times have you felt that some scientific study’s results were self-evident?). Williams’s act was about making connections among the thousands of funny pieces that were there, building one onto another to make some kind of whole; move as fast as he did and you’d make a mistake every now and again too.
One more quote from this interview and then I think I’ll be able to make my points.
In terms of fantasy projects where he acts, writes, directs, designs, and produces, Pinchot reveals that he wants to prove that busboys are out to torture the world. “You know how they wait – if you and I were in a restaurant and we were talking and all of a sudden we got to an unbelievably juicy topic, and my eyes filled with tears, that’s when they would come in and pour iced tea, and reach in and grab my plate with all the potatoes that I still wanted so I’d have to fight with them? Please, leave my iced tea alone, it has exactly the amount of Sweet ‘N Low I want! Thank you!”
The film he wants to make, called “Sex, Busboys, and Hell,” takes this problem to hilarious heights. “They want to take away everything as you finish with it, they’re just assuming everything has to be sequential, right? If part of your salad is still there when the main course comes, they’re like, ‘FINISHED WITH THIS?’ They couldn’t possibly imagine that you would still want a little salad with your meal! So my idea is, you’re making love, and you start by kissing the girl, and they come and go, ‘FINISHED WITH THAT?’ and then lift her head off. And you start kissing her chest, and they say, ‘FINISHED WITH THAT?’ and lift her thorax off. They just keep taking parts away, just making you go with their sequence.”
Cue card holders, and now busboys. I’d hate to be the gas station attendant asking Bronson if he wanted his oil changed.
Leaving aside the downright frightening notion that the height of comedy for Bronson resembles nothing so much as a shot-on-video body dismemberment horror movie, as well as the fact that that scene wouldn’t even be long enough for an anthology horror film, as well as the fact that it shows how little he thinks of the working class–leaving aside all that, let’s try to see it as just one of many ideas Bronson has had. But this film idea is in line with other things we’ve seen him do. Season 8 PS spotlights, his numerous characters in Jury Duty, playing bit roles in The Trouble with Larry, and now morphing into multiple characters every other episode of Meego. Bronson wants to both be able to dramatize the things that strike him as funny or strange, and he wants the freedom to just riff and improvise on whatever is going on. And if he’s playing all the characters, then that’s less work he has to do explaining to them why something is funny.
So, for the sake of argument, let’s say that coming up with characters and scenarios like this really is his strength, and ask ourselves: what would be the best container for this? The Saturday morning kids’ show he was originally in talks with CBS in 1993 now sounds like it would have let Bronson scratch this itch. He’d be teaching little kids tongue-twisters about bestiality, but at least his needs would be fulfilled, and that’s what’s most important.
I think we’ve more than established by now that the best format for Bronson is not a sitcom, even less so a family sitcom. Part of the issue here is that he wants to be the main character (in Meego twice over, because he must solve every plot) as well others. That kind of creative choice necessitates leaving no room for the other actors to breathe. I’m not saying you can’t have a good sitcom that focusses on just one actor: Get a Life is again the go-to comparison, but even there, Chris Peterson not being aware of his own annoying self-righteousness was one of the central jokes. The character of Meego, seen through this lens, is probably about as creative as you can get for one person who can be many people; and Meego feels in some ways like Bronson had learned to compromise, to let other actors have their stories so long as he was promised multiple characters.
I almost want to say that Bronson might have had a decent career doing stand-up. He could have slipped into any voice he wanted to, played out any scenario he had in mind, all on the cheap, without risk of his name being synonymous with cancellation. I think–after Beverly Hills Cop–he thought one of his best tactics was throwing other actors off, which he wouldn’t get in that arena; and half of his talkshow appearances tell us that he would have had sizeable problems dealing with an audience that didn’t like every joke he made. But maybe he would have gotten over those things as a stand-up comic, who knows.
I also almost want to say he might have worked in a sketch comedy group a la Kids in the Hall. Bronson appears to think of himself as the sole creative force, but I find that I can’t really guess whether he was in the habit of seeking out others to be creative with him. And whether that’s because no one shared his sensibilities, or because he told himself no one did, I can guess even less. We do have evidence of his two-man show with Roger Kabler, another Robin Williams wannabe… and now I really do wish I could see it, to know if that could have been a viable career path for Bronson.
I’m thinking out loud again, and I appreciate you sticking with me through it. I think what I’m trying to say, ultimately, is Bronson simply had some huge blindspots. He had the generativity, the energy and the confidence to keep throwing himself at these roles. As much as I’m sure he thought that being this kind (the Meego kind) of performer would bring him success, like it did with Beverly Hills Cop, I’m sure also that he must have thoroughly enjoyed doing it. But, for one, he’s just not as innovative as he thought he was. And this–and the fact that he can’t understand when audiences don’t love him–is because, going by the publicly-available evidence we’ve looked at on this blog, Bronson wasn’t mapping out (or wasn’t able to map out) his audience’s minds.
(At the risk of this being more Gazebo-style footnotes, I haven’t mapped yours either. Much of this blog is me talking to myself, amusing myself. Even now I’m just trying to pull strands of argument together from multiple points that I hope you’ve read and will remember from like 30 other posts. I’m thinking through this by writing it all out. It’s endlessly fascinating to me, but I have no idea if it’s entertaining to watch. I don’t think mine is the best review writing out there, and I realize the benefit to my work feedback or an editor would have.)
Bronson is on record numerous times mentioning–perhaps boasting–about how he wasn’t into pop culture growing up; had, in fact, not been allowed to listen to the Beatles, even. When he had to play Ed Norton or Stan Laurel, he appears not have had his own childhood to draw on. It’s hard to know what an audience will like, or has already seen before, without being a media consumer oneself.
So is that my grand argument? That Bronson, having grown up a little bit culture-isolated, and then shut out of social activities by his grade-school peers, became a person who was disinterested in being a team player and somewhat tone-deaf when it came to cracking jokes about celebrities or what was acceptably “edgy”? And that Beverly Hills Cop and Perfect Strangers were big enough successes that Bronson thought he’d figured out the deep truths of comedy and his best talents? Lives are nowhere near that clear-cut and cohesive, but it’s certainly the best argument I can make given the available evidence; but just keep in mind the map is not the territory. And I’ll admit to biases insofar as 1) I don’t find Bronson all that funny on his own and 2) I feel a lot of kinship with him, having grown up “intelligent” relative to my peers, and socially an outsider in school, and constantly trying to make jokes that it turns out not everyone got.
Well, shit, I made my closing statements and I still have to watch the rest of Meego.
So anyway, this one’s called “Performance Art” and here’s Meego cooking farces à la Balqui.
Alex and Maggie enter, home from school; when the camera pans, we see Trip has been sitting there the whole time, studying. Remind me which character is the smart one? It’s the one getting home long before his siblings so he can study, right?
One worthwhile thing about watching this much of Meego is that Jonathan Lipnicki’s diction has improved over the course of three months. Now that I can hear him say that the highlight of his day was watching a kid eat a booger.
The teacher has sent Alex home with a note for Meego (not Ed?) that he’s supposed to bring something for the bake sale. Can Meego bake something, Alex asks. Given that Meego is currently letting some chicken breasts reach room temperature and become bacteria factories, I wouldn’t trust him to.
Meego makes a cookie really big and says “got milk”. Kids, I’m ashamed to tell you, that used to be an actual joke that lots of us said, Bronson was actually keeping pace with trends on that one.
There’s like four of five shots from each camera after all the jokes are said before the scene actually ends and the credits start.
Michelle Trachtenberg is a good actress, by the way. I’m sure if you’ve seen her in anything, it was written much better than the lines she’s given here. I think anyone would stumble a little over something like this:
Maggie: Hey dad, check out what the Science Channel’s having on their Saturday Night Showcase.
Maggie and Ed get excited about a six-hour marathon on metals, and really, why couldn’t we see that in episode 3?
Trip comes in wearing a suit, prompting surprise from his family. We quickly find out his feint towards maturity is so he can cut school to see a band called The Meat Rockets, who are signing CDs at the mall. Why does no band in Sitcomland ever have a good enough manager to tell them that they’ll get more business if they schedule appearances when their fans are out of school? Ed tells Trip no.
This isn’t terribly exciting, but it’s closer to a regular sitcom scene that most of Meego, and I get to watch Ed Begley, Jr. Verdict: Watch only these two minutes of Meego.
Meanwhile, at John H. Redacted Elementary School, Meego and Alex try to hock their brownies. Meego gives an endless spiel about their restorative qualities, and then tells Alex to manipulate the crowd emotionally.
Since Meego has to take extra pains to make sure not to say or do something alien in public, he hands a guy a travel guide to Uranus.
Principal Lipstone (no relation) tells Meego that the children have raised enough for one field trip: the ice cream factory. Meego lays into him for not taking the kids on a field trip to an art museum.
Now, only when I was in high school marching band did I have to raise money to go on a trip to some competition. It’s pretty clear that this school is experiencing some dire budgetary situation, and if Meego needs to chew anybody out, it’s the school board or Chicago mayor Richard Daley. But Lipstone makes the case to Meego that six-year-olds are hard to corral and keep quiet and, on the whole, may not yet have the attention span for an art museum. Meego demands they make the children vote right then and there, and Lipstone says yeah, fuckhead, be an expert at my job after two seconds of thinking about it.
The children all want ice cream. Haha! Fuck you, Meego!
Trip–I guess in the middle of the day–tries to fake a fever, and Maggie catches him.
While I’m talking about these actors’ relative strengths, I should mention Will Estes at least once. Trip is supposed to be the “dumb” one, and I actually prefer this flavor of dumb to anything Balki or Meego have ever done. They’re too specific in their misunderstandings to be consistent, but Trip is standard sitcom-grade dumb. He sticks a blazing thermometer in his mouth. He doesn’t think ahead to the fact that he’s trying to pull a sick day on a doctor. He’s trying to game a system one tiny step at a time. The fact that Will Estes is just a blob of Silly Putty threatening to lose its shape at any moment actually enhances the character a little bit. No matter what personality Trip exhibits through his body or voice–be it the “mature” trip when talking to dad or a college girl, or the antagonistic Trip to his sister, or even his everyday “whoa, dude” voice–it all feels like something he’s deliberately putting on because he feels he has to. Estes lends Trip an aspect of being so out of the loop he doesn’t even know himself.
Ed walks in right at the moment Maggie starts beating up Trip. Whoa, hold up, he says, we can’t expose Trip’s lie just yet, we’re only a third of the way into this episode. Ed tells Maggie that families operate on trust and leaves–
–but uh-oh! Dad knows and says he’s going to use the opportunity to torture Trip. Okay, so turns out Meego’s right in line with this universe’s ethics and Ed hired a nanny who would handle his children exactly as he would. So glad to find this out in the penultimate episode.
Let me ask you–has anything this show has shown us given you any indication of what Meego’s interests are? If I had to answer, I’d say that he likes sex with anything that’s not human, and he dislikes when people don’t do what he wants. Past that, who fucking knows?
Out of nowhere, Meego is an art lover to such an extent that he thinks only he’s qualified to convey to a group of children its importance in their lives. We’re told that he doesn’t need to investigate what their teacher is already telling them about what art means, or which pieces of art she’s shown them, or how she encourages them to approach their own art. Now, you and I know that art is important to Bronson, and I bet he saw this episode as a way to reach a large number of children with his message of art appreciation. Maybe he really and truly believes no one should ever see a teenager smoke a cigarette, and that no one should ever be given space to hoist themselves on their own petard, but this at least comes from a clearly positive place.
But… why not let us know Meego likes that at any point in the past 11 episodes? When has he had time to seek out Earth’s greatest works of art?
And Meego has also told the teacher that he’s an art critic for the Marmazon 4.0 Times-Picayune. Is this a lie? The teacher leaves her class in the hands of a stranger to go hotbox her car.
Alex starts a chant about going to the ice cream factory. If Meego is so into art, why has he not shared this with Alex? Shouldn’t Alex be on his side for this one?
Meego shouts at the kids to shut up using a really loud voice thanks to his alien powers.
He encourages the children to paint something that tells a story and makes somebody feel something. He starts interpreting one kid’s artwork, making it about global unity, and the kid tells him he’s full of it. (This is funny; really Meego’s self-righteousness should be shown up all the time.)
Meego refuses to let this art museum field trip go. He keeps trying to trick the kids into saying they want to go, and they’re refusing. (This whole scene is so ripe with metaphors for Bronson’s career. I’ll leave them to you to think through.) He puts them all to sleep with his wristwatch.
Does this show realize it’s giving me absolutely zero reason to like Meego?
Then Meego uses his magic to… I’m not sure. There’s a total breakdown here between the CGI effects people and the script they’re reading from. Meego says he’ll “borrow a few art masterpieces”, pushes a button on his watch, and a frame and paintbrush show up to recreate the Mona Lisa. He says “I don’t think they’ll miss it”. So is the real thing at risk of a kid sneezing on it or what?
You know, as soon as I finished typing that I realized I don’t care.
Trip is in his room getting ready to sneak out… on the day he doesn’t realize his dad is home from work. Looks like Ed finally put a dent in the unprecedented heart failure outbreak of ‘97.
Ed dangles the scary possibility of making Trip listen to Barry Manilow with him, and discovers Trip’s dressed to go out.
Ed listens to Trip’s heart and looks at his tongue and tells him he’ll have to cut his gallbladder out then and there. Then he pretends to call the hospital to ask that a new gallbladder be sent over. This seems a little cruel, lying to your uneducated teenager about how the body functions. Trip finally caves at the sight of a saw. A note on Ed Begley, Jr.’s acting. He’s great, but does he always talk like he just got back from the dentist and his tongue’s a little numb?
That we’re getting to see a loving-but-disappointed father deal with disciplining his son instead of Meego in both storylines makes this episode far more palatable than most. Unfortunately, getting to see Ed Begley and Bronson Pinchot’s ways of being an adult to children side-by-side like this really makes it painfully obvious that Bronson doesn’t have as much experience dealing with children.
Meego tells the kids that, since they’re such stubborn little fuckers, he’s forcing an art museum trip on them whether they like it or not. He does voices for each painting. The first one–relating Munch’s marriage of personal and global anxiety to the children’s overwhelming fear of taking a test–is decent, and this whole sequence could have been worthwhile if Meego did something similar for each painting.
But then he says he wants to fuck Picasso’s “Seated woman with fish hat”.
Mona Lisa gets a fart joke.
For Matsys’s “The money changer and his wife”, Bronson plays both persons and does Jewish voices. Why, that’s not anti-Semitic at all! (Bronson even dates the painting incorrectly, citing the year of Matsys’s death.) In addition to being pretty racist, Meego’s jokes for this painting are that women are moody, are insatiable, clothes-buying-wise, and are fat. That’s what I call a well-rounded education.
God I hate this. If Meego has to use magic to make kids appreciate art, there’s no fucking hope for the rest of the children of America. And why does this alien share the Western world’s self-important view of what makes art important? How is this any different now from showing the kids a Barney video?
Haha, though, she has a big butt! If only I had learned when I was six that art appreciation meant making the same crass jokes I was already into, I’d be a famous painter by now.
Meego gets the kids to agree to go to the art museum. Imagine the stress their actual teacher will have to go through when these kids ask her all day long to make the paintings talk and fart.
Then the people in the painting keep talking for a whole minute! God! Stop!
You won, Meego! Stop already!
Under the credits, Meego paints the dog and makes a dick joke.
Okay, y’all, one more episode, then I drive to California, steal the Meego masters, chain them up in a lead box and dump them into the Mariana Trench.
“Car and Driver” (unaired in the US)
As I begin the final episode of Meego, seen only once, by a bored nightwatchman at a parking garage in France, I’m struggling to come up with some analogy for this show. How can you sum up a sitcom that can’t manage to get any of its parts right? What do you call a sitcom where the lead actor assumes he’s finally found the right audience for his unique blend of moral superiority and rape jokes, where the writers obviously didn’t realize alien meant “from another planet”, where technology is confused with magic, and where the characters only have personalities when the scenario stolen from Valerie’s Family demands it?
Yeah, “All-Surface Suckmaster” works just fine, thank you, Meego.
Meego reads the instructions: “insert hose to body”. This is all the same problems the previous episode’s opening scene had, with one additional: we’ve already seen Meego vacuuming.
And you know what? None of that bothers me. At this point I’m more upset that there’s not a close-up shot of it, honestly.
Trip comes downstairs happy that he’s getting his driver’s license soon. This means he’ll finally get to take a number for Samantha Tyler, who will let any guy with a car fingerbang her.
This is horse is dead, but beating is just so much fun: Bronson forgets what joke he’s making halfway through. Meego talks about his “intergalactic” driver’s license and says that the photo on it has him wearing a handlebar mustache. He holds the vacuum hose up to his face… and starts making loud, wet breathing sounds because now he’s depicting a hose monster I guess. Fifteen minutes from now I’m sure Meego will turn into a drunken Irishman berating his Meego-faced wife for not caring for their twenty Meego-faced children, but he can’t morph a mustache onto his face for two seconds and do a cowboy voice?
Jesus, I’m arguing for Bronson to do characters. The vacuum gags are that bad.
Meego calls Alex in to watch his home movies on the television. (Someone finally realized that on real shows the audience cheers when their favorite actor–in this case Jonathan Lipnicki–comes on stage. Can you imagine being told to add applause to make it look like anyone cared that this was a series finale?) This is supposed to be “Meego’s” favorite part, but you can hear squishing and slurping noises from the television, and Alex is obviously grossed out. Well, I asked for analogies for how to describe this show, didn’t I?
Callie, a Sunshine Girl, comes by selling cookies and Stiffsticki pops his first boner when he sees her.
Meego makes a joke about crotches and assholes to this young girl, and she gives him this look:
This poor girl. She knows her job is to smile and wait for her next cue, and it’s excruciating. Like Bronson said in the interview above, his “persona is specifically about being slightly outside the bounds of what’s allowable”; but he has no idea that might not get you laughs if the person you’re telling the joke to doesn’t understand it because they’re six years old.
Meego buys all the boxes and Callie flirts with Alex on her way out.
Meego then tells Alex that, on Marmazon 4.0, they believe that it’s far more effective to look in her window than out your own when trying to court a girl.
Later, Alex and Callie are playing Chutes and Ladders, and Callie keeps batting her eyelashes at him.
Meego comes in, hands them a bunch of props, and makes some jokes tenuously related to the concept of “playing house”. Sorry, I accidentally typed “jokes”. What I meant to type was “I can’t give a shit what Meego does in this scene”.
Ed comes in and the acoustics-less audience misses their applause cue by a couple of seconds. When he hears the kids are playing house, he says he’ll be the wacky neighbor and does a Kramer impression.
It’s precisely as good as anything Meego has ever done, but the show has to tell me that the children don’t like it.
Callie wants to kiss and–
–what the hell emotion is this supposed to be? Did he poop his pants?
Now that we’re at the DMV, Meego has stolen Trip’s story and he’s getting a license instead.
(Look, I’m sorry, but I can’t get over the fact that someone else entirely was handling the laughtrack soundboard on this episode. Whoever it was had a better sense of where it was supposed to go, but makes it even more obvious through their own mistakes, like starting one round before the last one had faded out, or turning it so high it distorts.)
Remember the late 90s, before September 11, 2001, when everything was free and easy, and any immigrant could just get a driver’s license with no ID or proof of residence at all?
While talking to this civil servant, Meego tells us that his birthday is on the–you know, I stopped caring about this show an episode ago, and the whole point of this scene is letting Bronson shake his ass in an old woman’s face.
Back at home, everyone’s ready to congratulate Trip on getting his license.
Trip: Sorry, guys, it’s Meego’s B-plot now.
Nah, j/k, Trip failed his test, so now he has to call this girl that we’ve all been dying to see ever since we forgot what her name was five minutes ago.
He calls her to cancel their date, and she seduces him into driving anyway by telling him that she has actual human skin under her clothes.
No one has ever held keys like this. Maybe Trip does actually take Osteo Bi-Flex.
Alex enters, wearing a suit for his date with Callie, and Ed lets him just go walk into traffic or whatever.
Alex got cockblocked by the sick kid he gave the Survive-a-Saur to!
There’s Lifetime Channel original-movie music and everything. This is the most I’ve laughed at Meego, y’all should watch this.
When we get back home, Ed Begley pretends to play a guitar.
What the hell is going on? I’m not complaining, but seriously, what.
Kidcucki walks in, so heartbroken he can barely speak.
Alex: Ajuswanasaygubymrunway joina Army.
He’s going to join the Army because he figures it’s the easiest way to suicide.
Ed sits Alex down and tells him that he’s had his heart broken numerous times, and that one of the best ways to get over it is with some giant tits shaking in your face at Hooters. Then, in another rarity for this show, Ed Begley, Jr. gets another good punchline: they’ll go to the mall and “buy lots of tools that we’ll never, ever use!”
You know, this could turn out to be a g–
Oh. Meego’s back. Oh well.
Meego and Maggie find the station wagon missing. Wouldn’t Ed have noticed when he and Alex went to the mall?
Meego turns into a STATE POLICE and starts doing what’s only recognizable as a Sergeant Joe Friday voice because the Dragnet music plays. Then the two of them look around because they can hear the music.
Man, now that the end is here, they’ve just really given up on any sort of consistency, haven’t they?
Meego turns Chopsticki’s bike into a motorcycle, and…
…and god damn I’m tired of this. Fine, Meego can break numerous state and federal laws by impersonating an officer, he can lie to whoever he catches Trip with, he was driving a car without a license before, and now he’ll go without a motorcycle license too. Where were Maggie and Meego even going? Is Ed there? Shouldn’t he be told? If this show can’t give a shit on its way out, I can’t either.
The Dragnet music plays again and they look around. God dammit, Meego! Just let me move on to the next 40 Bronson roles!
Trip has parked the car with actress #11 who gets two lines before Bronson banishes her from the show. Meego finds them instantly because Chicago is a very small town.
Part of this cop’s “character” is that he shuffles around like he’s crapped his pants and is trying to keep it all balanced so it won’t fall down his legs. What the hell is the joke supposed to be?
The Mee-1000 demands…
No, you know what? I’m so done with this.
I don’t care.
I don’t care!
Good, yes, lock up everyone involved.
So, there you go. 13 episodes of a show that even ALF himself wouldn’t waste his breath name-dropping as a punchline. Either none of the writers of this show knew about how Bronson killed The Trouble with Larry, or they didn’t care; at any rate they were happy to be their and did their best to play to his strengths, and we even got a couple (literally) good ideas along the way. And Bronson, to his credit, compromised. He let other characters gets stories and good lines. But Meego tried to do both too much and too little in terms of the stories it thought it had a unique spin on. Very rarely did the stories gel with the premise, and even more rarely did we get to find out anything about these people other than that they were going through the same motions of scenario as the family two channels over.
Meego was a show that thought it had two leads so bankable that it could get away with a total disregard for character and premise, an utter mismatch of tone to subject matter, and Grand Theft Sitcom Plot.
Would you care to know the final joke Meego made before it winked out of existence? It’s really the perfect final joke for this bastion of family values.
Over mugshots of the characters, Bronson narrates what happened to them next. He tells us that Callie, the Sunshine Girl, is now being molested by Charlie Sheen.
Verdict: the absolute best thing I can say about Meego is that there were no fantasy episodes.
Next week: Laurel & Hardy Go to Camp
*Since it’s been three years since I first made that joke, I should reclarify that I’m referring to the scene where Roger Rabbit could escape the handcuffs “only when it was funny”.
**His character’s name is Ed Parker, Jr. (making “Trip” a nickname); I often wondered as a kid if some actors played characters with the same name because they had trouble responding if someone called them by something else.