StoryThe world of high school gets a treatment both glamorous and terrifying in the TV series Popular. The show spins around two characters: Blonde cheerleader Brooke (Leslie Bibb) and brunette alterna-girl Sam (Carly Pope), each the center of their social groups. To their mutual horror, Brooke's divorced father and Sam's widowed mother fall in love, turning these cultural opposites into stepsisters. The large supporting cast includes overweight but determined Carmen (Sara Rue), conniving Lady-Macbeth-with-pom-poms Nicole (Tammy Lynn Michaels), earnest jock Josh (Bryce Johnson), all-encompassing activist Lily (Tamara Mello), frustrated sensitive boy Harrison (Christopher Gorham), and many others. The key to Popular is how it merges melodramatic soap-opera stories with wrenchingly blunt and honest portrayals of the cruelties of adolescence.
While some viewers may find it galling to listen to a gorgeous young actress who's been on magazine covers moan about how she can't be as perfect as a model, the series tackles everything from anorexia to peer manipulation to teen sex with directness and an eye for moral and emotional complexity. An episode about a Sadie Hawkins dance becomes a satirical farce about body image (female and male); a slumber party turns into brutal humiliation; a teacher decides to get a sex-change operation, prompting anxiety throughout the school. Almost every character gets a moment of heartfelt grandstanding, yet the actors pull them off with commitment and guts (Rue routinely turns speeches that could have been cheesy schlock into genuine pathos). Sure, some fantasy sequences are silly, but the show skillfully creates characters and situations that defy easy definition. Repeatedly, Brooke and Sam each set out with good intentions, only to end up hurting their friends and fueling their antagonistic relationship. Popular cunningly subverts expectations; it's a smart show for both teenagers and adults.
- Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround)
- Commentary by: cast & crew on three episodes
- All 22 episodes from the 1999-2000 season