Hello, Very Special Readers! I am delighted to share a very special guest post with you today from a very special blogger! This is a guest post from Ali at Sleepoverz, a blog that covers ’90s pop culture, teen angst, and 2AM thoughts.
Smart Guy existed for a short period of time on the WB in the late ‘90s and then re-aired for another few years on Disney in the 2000s. If you blinked you could have missed it, but it still managed to make an impression on me. The show centers around T.J. Henderson, played by Tahj Mowry, a child prodigy who enters high school at 12-years-old. He regularly gets into antics with his brother, Marcus, Marcus’s friend Mo, and his sister Yvette. All of them co-exist together at Piedmont High School. Rounding out the cast of characters is T.J.’s dad, Floyd Henderson.
Today’s very special episode is “Never Too Young” and it deals with T.J.’s drinking problem. There are two storylines going on in this episode, one involving cafeteria food and one about beer. At the start of the episode Marcus and Mo are ripping into the cafeteria food and blaming the hulking eastern European lunch lady for the sub-par food. To demonstrate the staleness of the Bread Pudding, Marcus throws a piece against the wall expecting it to bounce back. But just his luck, the pudding is intercepted by the vice principal and it lands directly on his shirt. The boys are sentenced to work in the cafeteria for the foreseeable future or “until they’ve learned what it’s like to live in someone else’s shoes,” to put it in TV trope terms.
Back at the Henderson home, T.J.’s dad tells him that one of the kids from his old school is having a birthday party and T.J. must attend. This is the middle school T.J. left because he was too smart and now he’s nervous the party is going to babyish. When he gets to the party he tries to interact with the other kids but he is so out of touch and intellectually advanced that he isolates himself. He devastates a girl named Kelly by telling her that Titanic was not actually filmed on a boat and bores her with the science behind blue screens.
At the end of his rope, T.J. wanders into a back room of the basement where he finally recognizes two kids. Unfortunately for T.J., the two kids are the class flunkies and future burnouts, Kevin and Rich. Things are going really well reminiscing about the old days until Rich pulls a beer from his coat and asks T.J. if he wants some. T.J. actually says no and makes a joke about ruining his six-pack but Kevin and Rich are not cool with sobriety. They mock T.J. about going back into the party to hang out with all the babies, which remember T.J. was afraid of to begin with so they have a point. T.J. relents and spends the next hour getting wasted off one beer split 3 ways. When he reenters the party he is trashed and tries to get Titanic Kelly to dance with him by calling her “Kel, Kel.” Then he knocks into her, spilling her red drink on her dress, and all the kids back away from him because he has committed every party foul ever.
The next morning, T.J. has a nasty hangover from his third of a beer. He has a headache and asks for Ginger Ale at breakfast to which Yvette, T.J.’s sister, responds with a knowing glance. She already knows T.J. is afflicted but it’s still early on in the episode and his incredibly naïve and defensive dad does not see it. When Yvette suggests maybe it wasn’t just the excess cake and ice cream making T.J. sick, Floyd refuses to listen and dramatically shuts her up with an “end of discussion” scene exit.
Back at the cafeteria, Marcus and Mo decide to really give it their all and bake their own food instead of the school sanctioned slop. Sadly, the students are not impressed and Marcus and Mo quickly turn into the grizzled eastern European lunch lady. They learn that kids are ungrateful and no amount of hard work will change that.
Meanwhile, T.J. is lying to his dad about drinking at the party and Yvette keeps throwing know-it-all glances Floyd’s way. Things hit a head when Kevin and Rich show up at T.J.’s garage and literally push peppermint Schnapps into his hand and tell him to drink it. T.J. refuses but not before Floyd walks in on the scene and shuts it down. He then has to admit to Yvette that she was right by embarrassingly asking where the “pamphlet on talking to your kids” is. Finally Floyd sits down with T.J. and has a really productive conversation about the dangers of underage drinking and the importance of building trust.
Very Special Lesson: The size of your brain is equal to the size of your hangover, regardless of how much actual beer you ingest.