Jerri is a prodigy again.
It’s been nearly a year again since my last Strangers With Candy episode chatter, and I think we’re all due a break from the normal Marvel garbage and Tubi trash. Strangers With Candy is a show that I can always go back to when I want a simple comedy to laugh at, it remains one of my favorite shows of all times and while it has aged like fine mayonnaise, the humor still lands for me. Also it’s on Paramount+ now.
As we are still in season one, Strangers With Candy is pushing the overt parody of afterschool specials. In fact if you showed someone the opening thirty seconds or so from this episode, they probably would never know it was one of the filthiest shows on cable TV at the time. We kick off with Jerri playing drums in an orchestra only to get kicked out due to her being easily bored and playing out of line. Only a couple minutes in and already yet another classy “god damnit” scream from Jellineck, and the plot kicks into action. Noblet comes in to find Jellineck and is impressed when Jerri can seemingly play the violin, or the stringy paddle as she calls it, like a master with no prior training.
This of course introduces Noblet’s plot where he takes Jerri under his wing and wants to train her to win the tri-county music championship, because Noblet comes from a long family of prodigious violin players and as we find out in the end he doesn’t know how to play. It’s notably implied that while Jerri has natural talent as a musician, Noblet’s family probably doesn’t. His father and grandfather and probably before then had to practice endlessly to get where they were, and as we see in the flashbacks, Noblet ignores practicing to go out and play ball. For some reason he does this dressed as a cowboy. Jerri’s father meanwhile has banned violin playing because his dead wife used to play violin. Don’t question the details.
And part of what makes Strangers With Candy so endearing is that the show is infinitely quotable even when the characters aren’t specifically cracking jokes. Jellineck usually has some brainworm rhyme here and there, like “watch the baton it’s like a sheep it jumps the fence and goes to sleep,” or “if wishes and butts were clusters of nuts we’d all have a bowl of granola.” Naturally there’s a few random acts of slurs thrown in like when Jerri and Orlando are planning to throw things off the overpass and Jerri casually references that she can get cinderblocks from “a Jew.”
To Be Young, Gifted, and Blank does an impressive job reminding us of the show creatively plays off of odd moments. Jerri’s doomed pet is a woodpecker that we get to see maul Noblet who calmly explains that it is sleeping in his glovebox with his face covered in wounds. Jerri wishes she could be outside playing with her classmates for the camera to cut to a group of schoolkids destroying Jellineck’s car. Jerri has a heart to heart with her dad while the whole scene Noblet is laying on his horn in the background. Jellineck shows up at Noblet’s house unannounced and, exhaustively, says “it’s late Chuck, what do you want?”
And the most memorable moment of this episode is definitely when Noblet declares Jerri will live at his house so she can practice without the distraction of chores. Jerri packs her stuff and gets into Noblet’s car only for him to back out of the driveway and in one continuous shot pulls into his own, revealing that he’s lived across the street this whole time. It’s so stupid that it’s hilarious. This joke is played again in season two during the cult episodes where the teachers pack into a truck only to have it drive across the street.
In true fashion to the show, the Tri-County Music Championship is all the school is interested in for this 20 minute block, with everyone enthusiastically demanding to see Jerri play the violin. Jerri’s popularity is extremely fluid in this show, if you haven’t picked up by now. She shows up and gives her lesson, that music is evil and nobody should learn to play an instrument lest they tear apart their family and disappoint their father. Immediately contradicting her, her dad starts playing a violin and the two hit it off with a violin version of dueling banjos from Deliverance. Isn’t this show great?
To Be Young, Gifted, and Blank feels like they really went hard on trying to play the whole thing as straight as possible. It’s oddly tame even for a season one episode, and was probably part of the reason Sedaris and Dinello were told to dial it up to eleven in season 2 so random channel surfers would stop thinking the show was an actual after school special.