Back to School Part II #36: Dead Man On Campus (dir by Alan Cohn)


dead_man_on_campus_poster

Oh my God, it’s Zack Morris smoking pot and getting laid!

That, in a sentence, is the main appeal of the 1998 comedy Dead Man On Campus.  This is the film that features Mark-Paul Gosselaar playing a character who does everything that most Saved By The Bell fans have always assumed that Zack Morris was doing whenever he wasn’t on-screen, fooling Belding, tormenting Screech, and gazing at Kelly.

(By the way, if you’re interested in the further college adventures of Zack Morris, check out Primetime Preppie, where Derek Morris and I are reviewing every single episode of Saved By The Bell: The College Years!)

In Dead Man On Campus, Gosselaar plays Cooper Frederickson.  Cooper is a college student.  He spends most of his time partying and consistently fails his classes but since he’s going to a college that apparently doesn’t believe in academic suspension, it doesn’t matter.  Cooper’s father continues to pay for him to go to school.  To be honest, Cooper is kind of a jerk but he’s also really hot.  He wears glasses and there’s just something about a bad boy with bad eyesight.

(Seriously…)

Anyway, Cooper has two roommates.  Kyle (Jason Segel) is … well, he’s Jason Segel, giving another one of the somewhat odd performances that typified his film career before he co-starred with The Muppets and played David Foster Wallace.  His other roommate is Josh (Tom Everett Scott).  Josh starts out as a responsible and hard-working student but then he falls under Cooper’s bad influence.  He also gets a girlfriend (Poppy Montgomery) and ends up having so much fun that he blows off all of his classes.

Suddenly, Josh realizes that he’s about to lose his scholarship.  At the same time, Cooper’s father comes to visit and announces that he will no longer be paying for his son’s lifestyle.  If Cooper flunks out of school, he’s going to end up cleaning toilets for his father’s janitorial service.

Oh no!  Zack Morris cleaning a toilet!?  How the mighty have fallen!  I guess they’re screwed, right!?

Nope!  It turns out that there’s a clause in the university charter.  If a student’s roommate commits suicide during the school year, that student gets perfect grades for the semester!  (I was told the same thing during my first semester at the University of North Texas.)  Unfortunately, Kyle has recently moved out of the dorm and neither Cooper nor Josh are willing to die for the other.

So, they decide to get a new roommate.  After breaking into the school’s student files, they identify the three students who are most likely to commit suicide.  One is an aspiring singer who Cooper and Josh come to suspect might be faking his depression as a way to hit on girls.  (Okay, that’s kind of clever because I know that I’ve gone out with people who I thought were dark and profound, just to discover that they were actually rather boring and bourgeois.)  Another is a nerdy computer guy who has paranoid delusions about Bill Gates.

And then there’s Cliff.  Cliff is actually the first potential roommate that they investigate but he also makes the biggest impression.  In fact, he makes such a big impression that he ends up overshadowing everyone else in the film.  Cliff is played by Lochlyn Munro, who has subsequently become one of the patron saints of the Lifetime network.  (Seriously, it seems like Munro shows up on Lifetime on a daily basis.)  Ripping through the film like a cyclone, Munro is definitely the highlight of Dead Man On Campus.  It turns out that Cliff isn’t so much suicidal as he’s just absolutely insane and Munro goes so wonderfully over the top in the film that he briefly brings some much-needed life to this comedy about death.

Anyway, Dead Man On Campus is a pretty forgettable movie and it’s never as clever as it thinks that it is.  But it does feature Mark-Paul Gosselaar taking hits off a bong and that’ll definitely make it worth seeing for some viewers.

What Lisa and Megan Watched Last Night #96: Saved By The Bell 2.9 “Jessie’s Song” (dir by Don Barnhart)


Last night, my sister Megan and I watched the classic 1990 Saved By The Bell caffeine pill episode, Jessie’s Song.

Why Were We Watching It?

I was visiting Megan and her family for the holidays, she has every episode of Saved By The Bell on DVD — seriously, how could we not end up watching it?

What Was It About?

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times and things at Bayside High were pretty messed up.  Self-declared genius Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) was failing Geometry so she started taking caffeine pills.  Then, her sociopathic friend Zack (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) decided that Jessie should also launch a musical career as a member of the disturbingly generic girl group Hot Sundae.  And who can blame him with all of this talent of display?

 And so, Jessie started taking more and more pills.  And then, this happened…

Fear not!  Jessie recovered from her drug addiction in time to be featured in Johnny Dakota’s No Hope With Dope ad campaign.

What Worked?

Jessie’s Song is like The Room of Saved By The Bell episodes, 22 minutes of television that is just so wrong and oddly executed that it becomes oddly fascinating.  For that reason, it’s impossible to judge this episode by standard definitions of quality.

The idea that Kelly, Lisa, and Jessie (a.k.a. Hot Sundae) could get a recording contract, the fact that Jessie ends up getting hooked on the equivalent of can of Red Bull, the fantasy sequence where Jessie imagines having to go to Surf U. because she failed Geometry, the fact that a few pills transform Jessie overnight, and the overly optimistic ending; none of it works.  And, for that reason, the entire episode works.

Consider this — before I had even seen this episode, I knew that Jessie Spano ended up getting hooked on caffeine pills and singing, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so …. SCARED!”  For better or worse, this episode is a part of our culture.

On a personal note, I loved the extremely earnest way Mario Lopez delivered the line, “Hold on, Jessie — it says right here that these may be habit-forming…”

What Did Not Work?

As Megan pointed out to me, there’s a huge continuity error in this episode.  Back in the glee club episode, it had been established that Kelly couldn’t sing.  Now, suddenly, she’s on the verge of getting a recording contract.  Was there no such thing as a consistency at Bayside?  No wonder Jessie ended up addicted to drugs.

“Oh my God!  Just like me!” Moments

Much like Jessie Spano, I have a tendency to push myself.  Whereas Jessie pushed herself to attend an Ivy League college and to try to destroy the patriarchy, I push myself to post a certain amount of film reviews each month.

For instance, earlier this year, I decided that I would post at least 120 reviews in October.  And so, much like Jessie, I pushed myself and pushed myself and, when I felt like I couldn’t go on, I took every pill that I had in the medicine cabinet and then I danced around my bedroom going, “I’m so excited!  I’m so excited!  I’m so … scared!”

And some people though that was silly on my part but you know what?  This October, the TSL posted 137 new reviews so, obviously, I was doing something right.  And I’ve already decided that next year, we’re going to break all previous records.  That’s right — 200 posts in October of 2014!  You read it here first.

And, to think, I owe it all to caffeine.

Lessons Learned

There’s no hope with dope!  Wait … no, actually, that was a different episode.  In this one, I guess I learned not to abuse caffeine but I really didn’t learn that because I’ve seen this episode a few dozen times and I’m still addicted to caffeine and, for that matter, I’m still pushing myself and having trouble accepting that I can’t always be the best at everything so maybe I didn’t learn anything from this episode…

Oh wait!  I did learn something.  Geometry leads to drug addiction and causes you to let all of your friends down.

Seriously, geometry sucks.

(For another look at drug abuse in the 1990s, please be sure to check out my review of the California Dreams steroid episode, Tiffani’s Gold.)

My 2012 Emmy Nominations


So, for the past few days, I’ve been happily hopping around my section of the Shattered Lens Bunker and do you know why? 

Because it’s awards season, that’s why!  With the conclusion of the 2011-2012 TV season, Emmy ballots have been mailed and votes are being cast and, come July, we’ll know which shows and performers have been nominated for the 2012 Emmys. 

Before that happens, however, I would like to play a little game called “What if Lisa Was Solely Responsible For Picking the Nominees.”  Here’s how it works — I looked over and studied the complete list of the shows and performances that have been submitted this year for Emmy consideration.  And then, from that list, I picked my personal nominees.

(A complete list of every show and performer that’s been submitted for Emmy consideration can be found here.)

Below are my personal nominations in the major Emmy categories.  Again, note that these are not necessarily the shows and performers that I believe will be nominated.  Instead, these are the shows and performers that I would nominate if I was solely responsible for picking the nominees.

A complete list of my nominations in every single Emmy category can be found here.  (And yes, there’s a lot of Lifetime on the list.  There’s also a lot of Community.)

Best Comedy Series

Bored to Death (HBO)

Community (NBC)

Girls (HBO)

It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Raising Hope (Fox)

Veep (HBO)

Best Drama Series

Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Breaking Bad (AMC)

The Client List (Lifetime)

Downton Abbey (PBS)

Game of Thrones (HBO)

Homeland (Showtime)

Pan Am (ABC)

Ringer (The CW)

True Blood (HBO)

The Walking Dead (AMC)

Outstanding Miniseries or Movie

Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Five (Lifetime)

Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Hatfields & McCoys (History Channel)

The Hour (BBC America)

Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Outstanding Variety Series

Conan (TBS)

Fashion Police (E)

Key and Peele (Comedy Central)

The Soup (E)

Tosh .O (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Variety Special

Betty White’s 90th Birthday Party (NBC)

Celtic Women: Believe (PBS)

The Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen (Comedy Central)

TV Land Awards (TV Land)

Wendy Liebman: Taller on TV (Showtime)

Outstanding Nonfiction Special

Bobby Fischer Against The World (HBO)

Catholicism: Amazed and Afraid (PBS)

Crime After Crime (OWN)

God Is The Bigger Elvis (HBO)

6 Days To Air: The Making of South Park (Comedy Central)

Outstanding Nonfiction Series

America in Primetime (PBS)

American Masters (PBS)

America’s Most Wanted (Lifetime)

Beyond Scared Straight (A&E)

Inside Story (Biography)

Outstanding Reality Program

Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

Dance Moms (Lifetime)

Kitchen Nightmares (Fox)

Scouted (E)

Storage Wars (A&E)

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Amazing Race (CBS)

The Bachelor (ABC)

Big Brother (CBS)

The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC)

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox)

Project Runway (Lifetime)

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

Survivor (CBS)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO)

Johnny Galecki in The Big Bang Theory (CBS)

Danny McBride in Eastbound and Down (HBO)

Joel McHale in Community (NBC)

Lucas Neff in Raising Hope (Fox)

Jason Schwartzman in Bored To Death (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama

Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Jeffrey Donavon in Burn Notice (USA)

Damian Lewis in Homeland (Showtime)

Andrew Lincoln in The Walking Dead (AMC)

Timothy Olyphant in Justified (FX)

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Idris Elba in Luther (BBC America)

Rob Lowe in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Steven Weber in Duke (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Dominic West in The Hour (BBC America)

Ben Whishaw in The Hour (BBC America)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy

Zooey Deschanel in New Girl (Fox)

Lena Dunham in Girls (HBO)

Tina Fey in 30 Rock  (NBC)

Julia Louis Dreyfuss in Veep (HBO)

Mary-Louis Parker in Weeds (Showtime)

Martha Plimpton in Raising Hope (Fox)

Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama

Claire Danes in Homeland (Showtime)

Sarah Michelle Gellar in Ringer (The CW)

Jennifer Love Hewitt in The Client List (Lifetime)

Julianna Margulies in The Good Wife (CBS)

Elizabeth McGovern in Downton Abbey (PBS)

Anna Paquin in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Kristin Davis in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Anne Heche in Girl Fight (Lifetime)

Rose McGowan in The Pastor’s Wife (Lifetime)

Emily Osment in Cyberbully (ABC Family)

Sara Paxton in Blue Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Charlie Day in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia (FX)

Danny DeVito in It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia (FX)

Donald Glover in Community (NBC)

Nick Offerman in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Danny Pudi in Community (NBC)

Matt Walsh in Veep (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama

Bruce Campbell in Burn Notice (USA)

Peter Dinklage in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Giancarlo Espositto in Breaking Bad (AMC)

Michael Pitt in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Michael Shannon in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Alexander Skarsgard in True Blood (HBO)

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Miniseries or Movie

Powers Boothe in Hatfields and McCoys (History Channel)

Justin Bruening in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Mark-Paul Gosselaar in Hide (TNT)

Sir Roger Moore in A Princess For Christmas (Hallmark Movie Channel)

Tony Shalhoub in Five (Lifetime)

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy

Alison Brie in Community (NBC)

Kristen Chenoweth in GCB (ABC)

Anna Chlumsky in Veep (HBO)

Gillian Jacobs in Community (NBC)

Cloris Leachman in Raising Hope (Fox)

Aubrey Plaza in Parks and Recreation (NBC)

Outstanding Supporting Actress in Drama

Christine Baranski in The Good Wife (CBS)

Kristen Bauer Von Straten in True Blood (HBO)

Kelly MacDonald in Boardwalk Empire (HBO)

Christina Ricci in Pan Am (ABC)

Sophia Turner in Game of Thrones (HBO)

Deborah Ann Woll in True Blood (HBO)

Supporting Actress In A Miniseries or Movie

Tammy Blanchard in Of Two Minds (Lifetime)

Kaley Cuoco in Drew Peterson: Untouchable (Lifetime)

Lisa Edelstein in Blue-Eyed Butcher (Lifetime)

Jessica Lange in American Horror Story (FX)

Jena Malone in Hatfields and McCoy (History Channel)