It’s taken me a while to write a review of Mary Anne and the Brunettes, simply because any time I sit down to do it, there’s only one word that comes to mind: “Wow”. Then the irritating music from the episode loops through my head YET AGAIN, and I have to stop and beat my head against the wall a few times to dislodge it.
The Baby Sitters Club TV series (circa 1990) is just…wow. There’s actually no way I can do it justice here. So I’m not even going to try review it – instead, this’ll just be an action-packed, ever-so-slightly cynical episode recap full of slightly-blurry screencaps. Because this is a show you really need to see for yourself to believe.
The episode stars with a chapter two, where Kristy explains in a voiceover who each member is, briefly, via their baby-sitting job antics.
There’s Claudia, finger-painting with Jenny (Prezzioso?), Mary Anne reading a bedtime story to Jamie (Newton, I guess) and his new bike, and Dawn being stuck in the bathroom with the soul-less Rodowsky boys;
Then, Stacey baking a cake for Karen and Andrew (Brewer), Jessie ballerina-ing with two unnamed kids, Mallory walking a kid called Christopher (…who?) to the park with all his books in a wagon;
And finally, Kristy herself, bottle-feeding a piglet.
The opening credits follow – with our super-best-friends having a bodacious 80’s photo shoot in the park, including polaroid snapshot sounds and fluro sunglasses (attached to Claudia’s earring, naturally – and I should mention Claudia’s sporting a mighty-fine side ponytail in this sequence, too). The credits continue with the girls gushing over the photos they just took and eating junk.
With the credits done and the careers of all the names we’ve just seen flashed up on screen secured (in a manner of speaking), what better place to start the first episode than at a Baby-Sitters Club meeting? Dawn proudly shows off a necklace that Charlotte Johannsen made her for her birthday (uh…did the writers get Dawn and Stacey confused for a moment?), Kristy calls the meeting to order, and Stacey (who looks like a thirty-year-old with her braid and bright pink shoulder-padded power-suit) informs the girls there’s a surplus in the treasury in true accountant style to match her outfit.
Mallory (pauses too long as though she’s forgotten her line): What’s a surplus?
Dawn: Extra cash!
So, how’s that writing going for ya, Mal?
Jessi wants to have a pizza party with the surplus, and Kristy shoots her down, claiming she’s “sick of pizza” (aww, no! I want to see a real-live pizza toast!); Mary Anne then suggests new supplies for the Kid Kits.
A few calls come in; the Rodowsky’s – Dawn groans loudly – Mary Anne takes the job – then the Brunos call. Logan to be precise.
Mary Anne: Oh, hi Logan.
Mary Anne asks Logan if he wants to sit with her at the Rodowsky’s and Stacey tries to make Mary Anne feel less awkward about it by saying they’re all just jealous about not having boyfriends. Kristy chimes in that the boys at Stoneybrook Middle School are, and I quote, “the nerdiest, creepiest, mookiest in the State”.
What’s a mookie?
HEY LOOK! It’s Logan!
The BSC plus Logan are at the mall, where Kristy gets Logan to go with her to check out baseball mitts while Mary Anne tries on earrings (for un-pierced ears) with the other girls, who are pretending that the camera lens is a mirror.
But wait! Plot progression! Enter the bitchy pink-clad antagonists! They’re trying on makeup, talking about the costume party after the fair (“You, me and Patty are going as hippies, and that’s that.”), and then the ringleader, Marcie, spots Logan, because it makes sense for baseball mitts to be close to the makeup department…
Marcie fangirls over Logan’s “great personality” and her groupies point out that he’s going out with Mary Anne. Marcie bets Patty two weeks allowance that she can convince Logan to go to the costume party with her instead.
Marcie executes her cunning plan while Logan’s innocently checking out mitts (Kristy’s left him so she can check out the bats), casually grabbing his elbow and asking for his help/opinion on some new skates.
Cut to Kristy, swinging bats, then overhearing Marcie:
Marcie: Oh nuts. I can’t do it. Would you mind, Logan? You can get ’em really tight.
Kristy sneaks around sports equipment, spying on the pair, while Logan laces up the black and fluro-yellow rollerblades for Marcie. Marcie promptly asks Logan to go to the costume party with her, and Logan politely, drawlingly declines saying he needs to baby-sit, and it was real nice of her to ask, but he’d let her know.
To the skate park! The whole BSC is there, as are Marcie and her friends. Kristy tells Mary Anne what she saw, and Mary Anne brushes it off.
Mary Anne: Everybody knows Marcie’s a flirt.
I think the word you meant is ‘home-wrecker’, Mary Anne. Kristy persists, telling her about how close they were at the store, and Mary Anne tells her she’s making something out of nothing, skating off with the rest of the BSC. But then Marcie approaches her and bitchily asks if she knows where Logan is because he said he’d meet her there at two.
Stacey, Claud and Dawn spot Marcie and her friends giggling and pointing at Mary Anne –
Stacey: (scathing) Well, if it isn’t the Logan Bruno fan club.
Claudia: That’s perfect, the Brunettes! They drool all over Logan like he’s some kind of rock star, and they’re his backup group.
Stacey: Too bad they can’t sing.
Such quality script writing here. Oh, HAI LOGAN!
And BOOM, Marcie rushes toward Logan and spins him around, leaving Mary Anne all sad and broken-hearted.
For gods sake, Logan, you just saw what you think you saw. Grow a pair!
Meanwhile, Kristy and Dawn seem to have given up on skating, and are now looking after some random children in the playground. Kristy must have told Dawn her concerns over Logan and Mary Anne’s relationship, because Dawn’s telling her she’s jumping to conclusions, “as usual”. Kristy wants to come up with a plan – what else are friends for, apart from sticking their noses in someone else’s business? After a lot of BFF talk Dawn agrees, but says they have to find out the truth about Logan and Marcie, first.
Kristy suggests they all take turn spying on Logan, “never letting him out of our sight”. Dawn hates the idea, but because this was never a democracy, Operation Stalk Logan commences.
After two semi-incriminating moments the BSC confronts Mary Anne and asks her why she doesn’t just tell Logan how she really feels.
After a bit of pestering, she agrees, but says she’s going to do it in her own time/way.
Which basically means practising snooty speeches in front of the mirror at home with some quality acting.
Is it worth noting at this point that the actress playing Mary Anne, Meghan Lahey, did this and then quit acting to became a high school counsellor?
Dawn comes in for a step-sisterly chat; if he likes Marcie, he’s not worth bothering about, if you don’t want to talk to him, forget it – if Logan can’t see how special you are, he’s a big jerk.
TO THE FAIR! Logan’s outside inflating helium balloons (okie dokie!) and stops Mary Anne as she’s about to run inside with an enormous jar of pickles (yah huh, okay); what’s up, you’ve been really weird and oh, are we still baby-sitting this afternoon?
Mary Anne yells that he doesn’t have to help her – there’s a party, so just go have a nice time okay? Then she storms off. Logan frustratingly contemplates leaving his post as balloon inflater to go after her, but like the good boy he is, doesn’t.
Inside, Claudia’s face-painting Jackie Rodowsky to look like the Joker, with some sort of permanent paint, because the kid is wearing shadows of this makeup for the rest of the episode (my condolences to the continuity folk, if they didn’t shoot this thing in a single day).
Claudia: Get beautiful, get smart, let me make you into a work of art!
Time for a montage! This is where the music starts to drive you to the point of insanity. It’s stuck on a repeat of the same 4 bars, over and over again, on one of those 80’s keyboards with rhythmic assistance buttons up the top, and they’ve put it on this tinny electric drum-beat one while a first-grade piano student picks out a tune with a single finger.
I digress; back to the (apparently) fun fair. A bunch of randoms are walking around having enforced fun (you poor extras are getting paid, right?), and oh – Marcie seems to be lurking around Logan again. Gosh, a lot of girls stalk Logan, don’t they; I bet he has some idea how his look-alike Cam Geary feels!
Tug of war ensues, and the writers manage to find a way to shove another “teamwork/friendship!” message into the show:
But then comes the three-legged race, where Marcie knocks over Mary Anne and Jackie Rodowsky, to claim victory with Logan.
LOGAN BRUNO, WHAT THE HELL? You guys just knocked over not only your girlfriend, but also a little kid! Who you frequently sit for! ARGH!
There’s also this weird-ass apple-passing game. Really, what the hell is this?
Next it’s time for another round of “Everybody Hates Mallory”. Let’s throw pies at her!
I think she’s just happy to have her third line of the episode to be honest. The junior officers really could have just phoned this one in.
The moment Mary Anne is armed with a pie Marcie decides to be a bitch again.
Marcie: Hey Mary Anne – you never told me Logan was such a good kisser.
Funny moment; a member of the crew clearly grabs Patty’s shirt to move her to the side of the shot; Marcie winces, preparing for the next frame, and THEN:
Director: BOOM, we nailed that one. Cut!
Crew member: I think they saw me move Patty out of the way.
Crew member: Plus, Marcie reacted before the pie hit her.
Crew member: Also they’re all really terrible actors.
Director: I said cut!
Mary Anne’s at the Rodowsky’s sitting when Logan turns up, and Mary Anne tells him off for barging in. He tries (again) to ask what’s up – Mary Anne yet again says “nothing” (but in that girl way that means something’s clearly up but she wants you to draw it out of her), and if he doesn’t like the way she’s acting, he should go to the party.
I wouldn’t make a threat like that, sweetie. Nobody likes the way you’re acting.
Logan storms out of the Rodowsky’s leaving a sad-faced Mary Anne and a confused Jackie:
Mary Anne and Jackie Rodowsky have a minor d&m then, where Jackie concludes that Mary Anne’s not a jerk, just a little bit silly.
See, not even a seven-year-old likes your acting. EVERYONE TO THE COSTUME PARTY!
Wait – what’s that sound?
…OH GODS the FAIR MUSIC IS BACK *stabs ears*
The BSC are in a scrum plotting and the hippies arrive, Logan-less.
Cat fight ensues with a lot of shaking fringes, scathing overacting and cutting remarks like “so immature”, “so phony” – settle down girls. Kristy finally asks Marcie where Logan is – and Marcie stalls.
Marcie: He’s meeting me later – he don’t want to come to a silly little party. He wanted to be with me alone.
Kristy: Because he’s embarrassed to be with you in public.
The cat-fight ends when Kristy pulls a hose on the Brunettes, and the rest of the BSC laugh and think this means they’ve won something. Go team!
Logan turns up at the Rodowsky’s again, but Jackie tells him Mary Anne’s already left. The BSC then charge over to the Rodowsky’s to tell Mary Anne that Logan’s meeting up with Marcie somewhere. Because distressing Mary Anne while she’s baby-sitting three children sounds like a really responsible thing to do.
Nobody can find her – because Mary Anne has gone to the party, to look for Logan! Oh, bless their little cotton socks.
Finding nobody she knows to talk to, she asks a random person drying their hair if they’ve seen her beau.
Marcie: Logan!? That jerk. He backed out. Stood me up at the last minute. Your stupid little friends, wait til I get my hands on them.
Er, Marcie? Your next job*‘s Scooby Doo. This is Baby-Sitters Club still.
Logan and Mary Anne do bump into each other eventually and they walk (and talk) home together; Mary Anne apologising then saying she was jealous of Marcie.
Logan: [laughs] we’re doing a science project together, that’s all.
Is that what the kids are calling it now?
Logan confesses that he never said he’d go to the party with Marcie – but just kinda liked all the attention (ARGH, YOU DICK, LOGAN).
Mary Anne and Logan promise that if anything ever bothers them again they’ll talk about it (retch), right when the BSC storm over, still in their football team outfits, ready to lynch Logan Bruno.
Kristy: Mary Anne, we’ve got to talk to you!
Stacey: Logan’s a rat, he-
[they realise Logan’s sitting with Mary Anne]
Claudia: We thought you were with Marcie!
Logan: No way! You guys may be great baby-sitters, but you sure are rotten detectives.
[laughter all around]
Logan cuts the chatter announcing he’s starving, and Mary Anne suggests they have their own special Baby-Sitters Club party right then and there.
Great idea, Mary Anne!
The football team thunder into the house past a smiling Logan and Mary Anne, who stand awkwardly holding hands on the stairs together for a moment while the camera zooms in.
Freeze frame, END EPISODE!
I don’t know what drugs the cast and crew were on, but I sure could have used some of them while I was watching this. I’m also gathering that they had a single-take rule on set (and if not, I would give my right kidney to watch what didn’t make the cut). Perhaps they could only hire the camera equipment for a single day? Perhaps they forgot to hire an editor? Who knows. Anyway, watching this was quite the conflicting experience – on the one hand I was laughing so hard I actually spit tea at my computer screen (thanks again, BSC. Thanks) and on the other I was cringing so hard it was difficult to take that sip of tea to begin with.
Next I’ll be back to reading the book series, and I’m currently up to book 11; Kristy and the Snobs. But if you’ve got 30 minutes to kill and want to relive the insanity of the above rollercoaster-ride for yourself, you can watch Mary Anne and the Brunettes here on YouTube:
This is the only place I could find it, and just try to ignore the guy talking over bits of it. You still get the full effect of the episode, I swear, including the endlessly looping keyboard music that’ll be spinning around your head for hours after you’ve finished watching. Thank me later.
* Lol, next acting job? What am I saying? You’ll never act again.