I suppose this was inevitable. I dodged the bullet during the Afterschool Specials, mostly because Martin Tahse was too busy warning us about the army of alcoholic moms ready to flood the San Fernando Valley with booze and awkward family board game nights. His single-minded focus robbed us of some potential classic lessons. If there’s one thing that everyone knows needs to be dealt with by television that isn’t child molestation, it’s menstruation. Fortunately, Blossom is there to pick up the slack. That’s right, in this week’s Very Special Blossom, our girl becomes a woman.
I have never become a woman. This probably isn’t much of a revelation, unless you thought I was some kind of werewoman, ready to go to Magic Mike every full moon. I’m not. Therefore, I don’t know what it’s like to become a woman. I’ve listened to Mrs. Supermarket’s descriptions (although she never uses that particular turn of phrase; her favorites include “falling to the communists” and “walking on the beach in soft focus”), but that doesn’t give me a clear understanding what it actually means, any more than telling a woman that a penis has a mind of its own and expecting her to truly understand that the fucker seriously has his own social calendar that has nothing at all to do with us. My point is that any speculation on authenticity will necessarily ring false. But then, if I had a problem talking out of my ass, I wouldn’t be writing a blog to begin with.
“Blossom’s Blossoms” aired on January 3, 1991 and was the first episode of the very first season. It is also a gritty reboot of the pilot. That’s right, Blossom the series is a gritty reboot of its own pilot. And you thought those were a new phenomenon. A decent chunk of the running time is spent to reestablish the premise of the series, with emphasis on what’s different, though to the writers’ credit, the exposition is fairly organic. Blossom’s siblings are the same, although Donnie has inexplicably been renamed Joey, which had the unfortunate side effect of ingraining the typecasting of Joey Lawrence as Joey Russo. Not that I think Lawrence is the type of guy to regale dinner party guests with a humorous critique of Virgil’s lesser works, but I don’t think he is mentally challenged.
Blossom’s parents have entirely changed. Her father is now a musician and was apparently never an accountant, while her mother has abandoned the family to pursue a dream of being a singer. Despite this decrease in income (accompanied by several jokes alluding to the family’s money troubles), they still live in the same palatial Valley home. The dad was also recast from Richard Masur (The Thing, License to Drive) to television stalwart Ted Wass. Lastly, the theme song, formerly Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative” has been changed to something called “My Opinionation,” which sounds like a hip hop version of the Mr. Belvedere theme. This change turns Blossom’s already spastic dancing into something altogether more tragic as she is no longer on the beat. I can’t blame her for the dancing itself. Anyone who danced in the ‘90s looked like they were trying to remove anal beads without using their hands.
The plot of the episode mostly deals with drama created by the gritty reboot. See, Blossom is becoming a woman in a house full of guys, and just like me, none of them understand the delicate emotions involved with the uterine wall sloughing off its nurturing endometrium. Hey, don’t blame them. Joey can barely understand English, so we should cut him some slack. Anthony spends most of his time not drinking, so he gets a pass too. She is crippled with shame about the whole process, having a panic attack when she attempts to buy some tampons from the cute boy who works at the pharmacy (Giovanni Ribisi, credited here as “Vonni Ribisi” and before he exclusively played twitchy weirdos). The point is that Blossom wants to talk to the one person who could possibly understand.
No, seriously, Blossom has a dream sequence in which Phylicia Rashad appears as her mom. I actually really liked this part, although probably not entirely for the reasons the creators intended. Mrs. Rashad is really the perfect choice, as Claire Huxtable was the TV mom for this generation, with only Meredith Baxter giving her a run for her money. The show is clearly having fun with the idea that — can you believe it? — a white girl might look to a black woman as a mother figure! Someone call the vicar! I always enjoy little moments of regressive racism in old television, especially when it is as well-intentioned as this is. That element is there, but it is clearly secondary. Blossom looks up to Claire Huxtable because she is in the right generation, grounding the character and show in the zeitgeist. And it was a great opportunity for some stuntcasting, borrowing a little of Rashad’s credibility on a fledgling show.
The real brilliance of the scene is that it turns into a health class lecture on what precisely happens during menstruation, only instead of your weird health teacher, it’s Claire Huxtable, and she’s illustrating her talk by drawing a diagram of the uterus in frosting. Some of the humor there is intentional, but I was far more amused by the idea that someone thought that this was entertainment. “We’re going to help a whole generation of girls with their periods.” “But how?” “Four words. Claire Huxtable frosting diagram.”
It’s a bit of sweet natured insanity, the earnestness of the ‘80s somehow combining with the nascent pop culture obsession of the ‘90s to make a moment. The one disappointing part was we never got to see a uterus done up in frosting, little roses at the corners. Of course, then we’d be treading in the terror awakened by that Tom Petty video that traumatized all of us back then.