Tragically Hip WB Panders for Popularity

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From TV Guide:

Tragically Hip WB Panders for Popularity

By Matt Roush

For someone who’s looking back at high school from almost a
quarter-century’s perspective, I watch a lot of WB’s adolescent-aimed guilty
pleasures: Buffy, Angel, Felicity, Roswell. But there is a limit. And its
name is Popular (Thursdays, 8 pm/ET). Granted, I’m far from the target
audience — fashion-obsessed 7th-grade girls with a “Gwyneth” fetish — but a
more tiresome piece of presumed teen satire is hard to imagine. If Roswell is
the teen X-Files, then Popular is the teen Ally McBeal. This is no
compliment. The fact that Popular has its own version of Ally’s “unisex”
bathroom — a lavish girls’ room dubbed “the Novak” in homage to screen queen
Kim Novak — merely underscores the lack of true originality here.

Garishly campy and mean-spirited in its stylized look and snotty attitude,
this show is even worse when it heavy-handedly tries to locate a heart under
its cartoon surface. It’s the flip side of NBC’s superior and now canceled
Freaks and Geeks. Whereas Freaks opened each week with real-looking kids
anxiously posing for class pictures, Popular’s glossy credit sequence finds
its gorgeous stars preening for a professional fashion shoot. Popular is like
a weekly version of those lousy teen movies that disappear after two weeks at
the multiplex. Built around the rivalry between a golden girl (Leslie Bibb)
and a rebel chick (Carly Pope) whose single parents move in together, Popular
thinks it’s saying something about the culture war between haves and
have-nots, condemning petty prejudices and gossip. Actually, despite trendy
subplots on homophobia and body image, it trafficks in cruelty.

The series marginalizes its real “geeks,” grotesque losers with last names
like “Tuna” (a girl) and “Dick” (a boy). And while the school’s nastiest
viper, Nicole (Tammy Lynn Michaels), often gets punished, the audience is
encouraged to admire her witchy ways, which include such taunts as, “Jealous
much, fast-food Hag-atha?” When a member of the “unpopular” set said, “I’m
beginning to understand why this school stocks plastic knives,” I figured it
was because there were so many plastic characters. To borrow one of the
show’s favorite words, Popular is “heinous.”


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