The bottle episode is a grand old tradition in the business of television. Every show has a budget, and while individual episodes might go over, that money has to be saved in other places. So if one episode of, say, Alf features the titular puppet going to Vegas, interacting with scads of guest stars, and employing his never-before-seen psychofrakulator which requires an expensive effects shot, then later in the season you’re going to be treated to an episode where Alf hangs out at home and interacts exclusively with the Tanners. Back in 1991, Alf was an expensive get, which means the creators of Blossom needed a bottle episode. They gave us “Such a Night” (s1 e10).
From the title, I figured this episode would be about sex, drinking, or sex drinking. I was kind of right, though to be perfectly honest, I figured Six would be taken advantage of at the Zeta Beta Theta house. Instead, we get a low key Friday or Saturday night in the Russo household, where the core cast pairs off and deals with hypothetical sex, hypothetical drinking, and hypothetical sex drinking.
Six is sleeping over at Blossom’s house, which for some reason involves her and Blossom spastically dancing to some canned music, although it’s also possible they’re possessed. It’s tough to tell with early ‘90s dancing. I think it’s supposed to be a reference to the credits sequence, though I might be finding meaning where there is none, like the time I thought my M&M’s were humming at me. Soon, their conversation turns to boys, specifically Johnny Depp, and what Six would like to do with his Scissorhands. It’s supposed to be funny, but I found it a tad disturbing, mostly because I’ve seen Saw.
Their plot is entirely focused around Blossom getting a date to The Dance, which seems to be her chief concern in the series. This is the second episode where a date to The Dance sets her plot in motion, making this 1/5 of her concerns on the DVD I own. Was The Dance really so important to girls that age? I would ask my wife, but as I mentioned previously, her school outlawed dance until Kevin Bacon showed up to teach them the secret of angry gymnastics. Blossom reasons that, being a feminist, she need not wait for Robert, the president of the chess club, to ask her. She can just call and ask him! In “The Geek,” I discussed the differences between the male and female dating experience, and this is Blossom’s first experience with the other side. (And not for nothing, but wasn’t she upset about dating a geek? Robert is the president of the chess club. Maybe this is a nod to slight character growth?) She calls the boy, and terrified, hangs up on him. The next time goes about the same. By the time she manages to ask him out, O. Henry has shown up and made another girl call Robert up five minutes ago (long after Blossom’s first hang up) and ask him. So if she only had the brass ovaries, she’d have a date with the geek of her dreams. The plot gets a conclusion with a light bit of homoeroticism in which Blossom and Six decide to go to the dance together.
Meanwhile, Nick and Joey are downstairs in the kitchen paying bills. Joey freaks out when they get to the phone bill and flees the room. Turns out he has been calling 900 numbers to the tune of $568. On the off chance that I’ve somehow acquired younger readers, I have to explain what’s going on here. See, before the invention of the internet, masturbation was a much more difficult and involved task. Some men resorted to calling strangers on the phone, who for a price, would describe sex acts to them. It was like sexting minus the auto-complete jokes and accidentally sending pictures of your junk to grandma. (Sorry, Nana!) Nick explains that while Joey was taken advantage of, he still has to pay the charges. Hilariously, this means going back to work at the video store, where Joey will have ample access to all the porn he wants. Not that this is mentioned.
As silly as this scene was, I’m glad they didn’t trot out the old cliche that Joey was “curious about sex.” This is one of those terms that’s like nails on the chalkboard, and really only said because adults are too squeamish to use the actual word: horny. Yes, your kid is horny. Deal with it. And kids, your parents fucked to make you. It was gross and horrible, but it happened. That’s what life is, people. A bunch of really gross stuff that keeps you occupied until the sweet release of death.
Tony’s plot is predictably about alcohol. He begins the episode innocently sitting on the couch and watching a Laker game when there’s a knock at the door. Tony answers it to find his old friend Jeff. It’s Jeff’s alcoholic birthday, which is like a regular birthday, but with more crippling guilt and mystery rashes. He’s been sober for a full year. Tony is thrilled until Jeff invites him out for beers. Apparently, Jeff is unclear on the whole alcoholic thing as he is convinced that it’s been long enough and he can now magically handle liquor. While the plot is deadly serious, the writers desperately try to wring laughs from oblique references to how wacky the two of them used to be in their drinking days. Even the studio audience isn’t having it, offering more disgusted groans than actual guffaws. Jeff succumbs to the temptation of drink, and both Nick and Tony discuss a fear they share: that one day Tony will lose the battle as well.
My standards for comedy in Blossom are much lower than they would be for pretty much everything else. If I crack a smile, or incredibly even chuckle once, I declare the episode a winner. Not so much here. This was a slog of an episode, more interested in making Very Special points on dating, phone sex, and alcoholism. In many cases, the limitations imposed in bottle episodes often create the best examples of a show. “Duet” a first season bottle episode of Deep Space Nine is one of the best hours in the show’s entire run. “Such a Night” doesn’t come close. And not just because it doesn’t feature any war criminals.