Before Glee and The New Normal, Ryan Murphy was breaking television ground with Popular and it was magical. Ryan Murphy’s first show was sarcastic, occasionally dark and always poignant.
Though I choose to reminisce about this show and its hilarity in my private life just about every day, I’m finally sharing my love with the world to promote a good cause: the wonderful cast of Popular is reuniting for AIDS Walk Los Angeles. Before I go any further into adoration mode, here is a link where you can donate to their team: http://bit.ly/QHOgyK. Share it with your friends!
Popular was a show about two high school groups — the popular and the not-so-popular. Brooke, played by Leslie Bibb, ruled the Glamazons aka the cheerleaders. Sam, played by Carly Pope, was in charge of a ragtag group of outsiders. When Brooke’s dad and Sam’s mom met on a cruise and decided to get married and move in together, it caused upheaval in the girls’ lives. The show has an incredibly ’90s vibe, from the clothes to the hair to the music choices. It’s like a perfect, clever, silly time capsule and I highly recommend it to everyone.
I could explain for days what it’s about and the intricacies of all the characters and their relationships but I guarantee that once you start watching, you’ll still find things that surprise you. So I’m going with showing over telling. I’ve scrounged up a few of my absolute favorite Popular moments – the funny, the sweet, and the downright ridiculous.
The theme for the show sets the tone perfectly. I don’t think there is a single clip in recorded history that better captures the ’90s.
The Pop Culture
The show has Britney Spears references aplenty but has also recreated classic scenes from Silence of the Lambs and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? There really is something for everyone.
Some of the girls have an obsession with Gwyneth Paltrow that is bordering on unhealthy. Okay, it’s not bordering on unhealthy, it is unhealthy. In one episode, Mary Cherry and Nicole, Brooke’s fellow Glamazons, kidnap Gwyneth’s personal shopper and keep him chained in the basement. I would have loved to see Gwyneth guest star on an episode and interact with her biggest fans. Clearly Mr. Murphy is truly a fan of hers as well since he got her on Glee.
At the end of the show, SPOILER ALERT, we learn that Mary Cherry’s father is RuPaul… yes. Yeah. Let that sink in. Then watch Mary Cherry do her best Little Orphan Annie impersonation.
You would think the references would make it harder to watch the show now, but because they cover such a wide spectrum they make rewatching all the better. This show is funny in any era.
The Musical Numbers
Ryan Murphy was treading some old ground when he created Glee. Popular has had two homages to Madonna, a sultry musical number about STDs, and a performance of Rock Me Amadeus as part of the Teen Tartz competition.
It also had a whole musical story segment in the finale of season one that is… well, it has to be watched. I have this on my iPod to watch when I’m having a bad day. It’s magnificent, basically.
Also, what has been dubbed on YouTube as “The Dirty Ho Song.” It was stuck in my head before I even rewatched the clip.
Everyone’s hair is pretty typical of the ’90s. I mean, Brooke sometimes sports a zig-zag part down the center. That’s about as ’90s as you can get.
There is a whole episode about mullets.
“The Mullet Club didn’t get this money through strong-arm hooligan mullet tactics, did they?” – Lily Esposito.
In another episode, the blondes compete against the brunettes in bowling and whoever loses has to get mohawks. They also dye their hair the color of the other group in a quest from the brunettes to prove that being blonde makes things easier and the blondes to prove that their hair has nothing to do with their success. Skip in to 4:34 for the big blonde reveal followed by an uncanny Barbra Streisand impersonation.
The losers really do get mohawks but I’ll spare everyone that visual. I also don’t want to spoil who wins, as this is one of my favorite episodes!
The Mary Cherry
Perhaps the most ridiculous character in all of television, there is not a single thing that comes out of Mary Cherry’s mouth that isn’t pure gold.
Someone has compiled some of her best moments into a series of YouTube videos I highly recommend.
This list is nowhere near all the amazing things that happened on this show. If you like any of the moments or clips seen here, I swear there are a million more for you to enjoy. Go watch.
If this has amused you at all, please please consider donating to Team Popular and sharing with your friends. Every little bit helps.
If you’ve never seen Popular before or want to relive the magic, I’d love to hear your thoughts on it! Comment here or tweet me @emhig.
PS: It is ridiculously difficult to find clips of a show called Popular. Do you know what Googling “Popular” + any variety of keywords gets me? A WHOLE LOT OF STUFF.