Sunday, September 7, 2008

TSLOTAT: Episode 9: "Slice of Life"

Hello, extensive fanbase, my old friend. I've come to talk with you again. In this installment of the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue, we'll be discussing The Secret Life of the American Teenager episode 9: "Slice of Life," written by the triumvirate of Brenda Hampton and Jeff Olsen and Chris Olsen (the other, lesser known Olsen twins), and directed by celebrity guest director Jason Priestley, whom you may remember from a little show called Beverly Hills, 90210. Without further ado, let's start chompin' on "Slice of Life!"

Molly Ringwald is pacing back and forth a lot. Because she won't allow Amy's dad in the house, Ashley and Amy have been invited to hang out at his place, but since he doesn't actually have a place, he's made a deal with Adrian to use her apartment for the night and pretend it's his. This plan cannot possibly fail.

Amy's dad shows them into Adrian's apartment in silence and they wander around poking at things. The awkwardness of this scene brought to mind the scene in American Psycho when Patrick Bateman hires the two prostitutes. Amy seems to fall for the ruse and wanders off to call Ben, but Ashley sees through it immediately, so her dad tries to buy her off with pizza.

Which brings us to the leitmotif of this episode: pizza! For whatever reason, nearly every scene in this episode depicts or mentions pizza in some way (it's even referenced in the title). So I'm introducing a new feature to this revue: the Pizza Count. Every time pizza appears or is mentioned in a scene, I'll increase the Pizza Count (note: different shots of the same pizza within a scene or repeated mentions of a pizza within the same conversation will not count as discrete instances). As of this scene, the Pizza Count is 1.

Ben invites himself over to visit Amy in the middle of her father-daughter bonding time, and man, he just will not take no for an answer. He even puts in a pizza request and then heads over there before she can tell him no again. On his way out, he bumps into Henry, so he invites him along too. Ben is kind of a jerk.
Pizza Count: 2.

Adrian and Grace are stalking Adrian's dad, having staked out his house. Adrian gets a booty call from Ricky, who is horny, but she and Grace are busy staring at this guy's house. Where will Ricky turn to get his rocks off? Stay tuned! Adrian also takes this opportunity to tell Grace to get off her Kool-Aid re: Ricky.
Pizza Count: 3.

Ricky calls Lauren, whom he flirted with last week as part of a cunning plot to try to get Amy's phone number, which was itself only a MacGuffin to give Madison and Lauren a B-plot. Even though he had no genuine interest in her, I guess he figures there's no sense letting the headway he made with her go to waste, and she'll probably be good for some quick and easy action. She tells him he's out of his mind, but then she gets jealous of Madison going out with her brother (we're getting into a whole weird area here), so she decides to go out with Ricky to prove that she's capable of getting a date.
Pizza Count: 4.

The Sausage King drops by with a pizza to visit Molly Ringwald, who is in the middle of drinking wine and eating generic raisin bran (cheaper than other raisin bran). He says he wants to talk, but really he wants to slip her the royal sausage. He points out how everything in her life sucks and makes her cry (the first step in his seduction routine).
Pizza Count: 5.

Amy, her dad, Ben, and Henry are eating pizza. Henry is having girlfriend problems, so Amy's dad tries to set him up with Ashley by having him bring her a slice of pizza. When Ashley tells him to put the pizza down and then back out of the room with his hands over his head, he refuses and flips out about how he's tired of being domineered by emasculating harpies. Unlike his anti-masturbation vendetta last episode, this is something I can really identify with.
Pizza Count: 7 (I summarized two different scenes there, and they both had pizza).

Ricky goes over to Grace's house looking for her, even though Adrian already told him that she was with her. He needs to work on being a better listener. Tom won't let him wait there for her because he's got a hooker coming over, so he tells him to try Adrian's house. Looks like Ricky and Amy are on a collision course to wackiness!

Adrian and Grace see Adrian's dad getting out of his car. He's bald. Grace asks, "What if the guy sees us just sitting outside his house?" In response, Adrian continues staring into space. Meanwhile, Tom gets a pizza.
Pizza Count: 8.

The Sausage King continues plying Molly Ringwald with pizza (sausage pizza, naturally) and wine. Molly Ringwald mentions that she spoke to the counselor at school, and the Sausage King says, "Mark Molina, yeah." I love how for some reason, Mark Molina is only ever referred to by his full name. It's as though it were in his contract, except that doesn't make any sense because he's a fictional character.
Pizza Count: 9.

Henry is sitting on Ashley's bed, staring at her. He tells her that if she were to get herself voluntarily sterilized, that would be a shame, because he wants her to have like 10,000 of his babies.

Amy and Ben are talking about jazz musicians because they're cool. Amy's dad isn't cool, so he only knows about Stephane Grappelli through Pink Floyd. He kicks Ben out, and then Ricky shows up with a pizza for Adrian. From this, Amy deduces... her dad is dating Adrian! Unfortunately her dad corrects her immediately. What a missed opportunity; there could have been so many hilarious misunderstandings.
Pizza Count: 10

What happens next? I don't know. When we come back from the commercial, Ricky is in his car somewhere, meeting/hooking up with Lauren. She gives him the whole "you're an uncaring heartless jerk" spiel and then makes out with him.
Pizza Count: 11

At Grace's house, the doorbell rings and Tom opens it to reveal a hooker, accompanied by an angelic choir. You may have thought I was being facetious when I mentioned the hooker earlier, but nope; she's the real deal.

Elsewhere, Adrian's dad tells her to go away because he made an agreement with her mother to never see her, and because has a family. Keep this in mind for a future episode.

Ashley tells Molly Ringwald that Amy's dad is having an affair with Adrian's mom, then Amy bitches at Ashley for making goo-goo eyes at Henry, to which she responds by spilling the beans that Alice dumped Henry. Ashley continues, "I'm no better than Madison and Lauren," and Molly Ringwald says she doesn't want them using that kind of language. Wow, I know those two are annoying, but that's pretty harsh!
Pizza Count: 12

Ashley also tells Molly Ringwald that the dad is living in the furniture store, then starts freaking out when she realizes that that means they're poor. Apparently that's "the ultimate humiliation." Really? Well, she begs Molly Ringwald to let the dad move back into the house so people won't see him sleeping in the furniture store and realize that they're poor, and Molly eventually caves.

Tom and the hooker are hanging out. Tom's motivation for hiring a hooker is unclear, and as far as I could tell there was never any attempt to explain it. He doesn't make any attempt to have sex with her, so why pay $200 for her? Don't tell me he just wanted companionship, because earlier in the episode he shooed Ricky away. Even if he needs a chick, Adrian has already said that she likes him. He's a pretty popular guy, all things considered. Whatever the case, when Grace comes home, the hooker takes the money and runs, so I guess the world may never know. At first Grace is curious about the hooker, but she forgets all about it and gets squishy as soon as Tom mentions that Ricky came over earlier.
Pizza Count: 13

Henry and Ben have a scene where Henry talks about how he wants to break up with Alice because he's trapped in a loveless husk of a relationship and too scared to get out of it, but it's all bullshit because we already know that Alice dumped him. Elsewhere, Adrian, Amy's dad, and Ashley all go "wah wah" at each other.

Ricky and Lauren are making out in Ricky's car while Madison and Jason peep at them (peep as in peeping tom, not the noise that chicks make (baby chickens, not girls)). When they notice each other, they all scatter like cockroaches exposed to light. Ricky phones Adrian, who is propping up her boobs on the countertop and despondently tells him to come on over. Ricky is overjoyed that his evening of trolling for chicks (girls, not baby chickens) won't end up being a total wash-out after all, but Adrian isn't feeling very well because she's eaten a little too much of this slice of life.

Final pizza count: Thirteen, ah, ah, ah! Over a 43-minute show, that gives us an average of approximately 0.3 pizzas per minute (ppm), or one pizza every 3.31 minutes. That may not seem like that much, but compare it to other shows: I don't have hard data on the average ppm, but it's been my experience that you're usually lucky to get even one pizza per hour, unless you're watching a cartoon about crime-fighting anthropomorphic animals of some sort, or maybe Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place. But those are anomalies, to be sure. I'd be willing to bet that this is the most pizza-dense episode of television you'll see this season.

Final thoughts: This felt very much like a low-budget "filler" episode. After the first couple of shows, someone must have looked at the budgets and realized they were blowing a bundle on all the extras, so they came up with episodes like this one and "Absent" to minimize the scenes that would take place in the school. That's my theory of the origin of this episode. There were a couple of plot developments, but for the most part it was just lots of people talkin' platitudes at each other -- plus Tom ordering a hooker, which sounds like a great idea on paper, but they really didn't explore the idea as thoroughly as I would have liked. Overall: enh.

Elaborate flowchart:
As I promised a couple of episodes ago, I have prepared a flowchart to keep track of the various ways that the characters on the show are related/have interacted. Here's the key to the lines:
  • Black: Sex.
  • Thick black: Sex resulting in impregnation.
  • Green: Dating.
  • Blue: Marriage.
  • Blue dashed: Engagement.
  • Purple: Making out.
  • Pink: Parent.
  • Pink dashed: Adoptive parent.
  • Red: Rape/molestation.
I pledge to update this chart with any changes that occur in future episodes.

On the next TSLOTAT: All hell breaks loose! Teen sex, violence, infidelity, Winston Zeddmore, the triumphant return of topless Adrian, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria! Be here for the penultimate episode of the season, when things finally starts to get interesting: "Back to School Special," right here on the Jawsome Olde Tyme Revue!

  • "If anybody looks at you or says anything to you, I'll stick a rocket in their pocket and send 'em to the moon!" -- Amy's dad
  • "No one cares." -- Ashley
  • "Oh, my parents have PLENTY of sex." -- Grace
  • "Ha ha! 'Thanks for the tip.' I get it. Funny." -- pizza delivery guy
  • "I want the snot to be happening." -- Molly Ringwald
  • "Why can't you both just be like normal parents and get addicted to internet porn or something?" -- Ashley
  • "I love my sausage pizza." -- the hooker

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