Blog by Sumana Harihareswara, Changeset founder

08 Mar 2011, 8:12 a.m.

"Square Pegs"

Hi, reader. I wrote this in 2011 and it's now more than five years old. So it may be very out of date; the world, and I, have changed a lot since I wrote it! I'm keeping this up for historical archive purposes, but the me of today may 100% disagree with what I said then. I rarely edit posts after publishing them, but if I do, I usually leave a note in italics to mark the edit and the reason. If this post is particularly offensive or breaches someone's privacy, please contact me.

Until the end of March, US residents can watch 1980s high school sitcom Square Pegs on Hulu. There was only one season, so you could, on either a steady, strenuous, or grueling pace, finish the batch off before Hulu takes it down.

Why would you wish to do this?

  • Square Pegs is funny. It's light, and even the few villains are comical. And it moves fast; a plot point that, on another sitcom, might take fifteen minutes to resolve, comes out here in three (see especially "Hardly Working").
  • The creator, Anne Beatts, worked on Saturday Night Live in the seventies. This shows in the writing, in the caricatures, and in the guest stars. Bill Murray shows up as a genuinely wacky, scary substitute teacher in "No Substitutions".
  • So eighties! One episode is called "Pac-Man Fever" and for good reason. One student's obsessed with New Wave (his passion borne out when Devo performs, live, in "Muffy's Bat Mitzvah"). One young teacher used to be a radical protestor; another teacher is obsessed with his Vietnam experience ("Square Pigskins"), and it's played for laughs. (All the teachers have strange obsessions. "A Cafeteria Line" is exemplary.)
  • Muffy Tepperman, obsessed with pep, is an easier-to-hate precursor of Reese Witherspoon's character from Election.
  • One of the two stars: a young Sarah Jessica Parker.
  • Some episodes portray Vinnie Pasetta as a wise, benevolent thug and it's great. (Example: "To Serve Weemawee All My Days".)
  • Square Pegs is not at all like high school. No arcs, no studying, about eight students of consequence, teachers who host sleepovers, just an utter fantasy.

Leonard suggests you start with "Hardly Working" or "A Cafeteria Line." Tell me if you've seen any, so we can wonder together where in the heck Weemawee is supposed to be. New Jersey? Southern California?

(A qualified endorsement: there's a lot of fatphobia in Square Pegs. As much sexism/racism/homophobia/etc. as you'd expect from a CBS sitcom from 1982, but way more sizeism than I was expecting.)


08 Mar 2011, 13:30 p.m.

I haven't watched these since they originally aired, but "Weemawee" is much more a Jersey vs. Southern California. See also Garden State Stomp. But I wouldn't rule out Westchester County NY or upstate NY either. It's a very east coast American Indian name.

10 Mar 2011, 20:47 p.m.

Wow. I liked this show a lot when it was actually on, probably saw every episode, but right now, the only things I can remember about it are (1) the theme song, (2) the phrase "Totally different head, totally", (3) that it starred Sarah Jessica Parker, and (4) that one of the male leads went on to play Captain Kirk's son in Star Trek 2.