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Totally Different Head: Devo on Square Pegs!

April 21st, 2007 · 3 Comments · Comedy, Culture, Music, New Wave, TV, Video

It’s been a tough week in the news, to put it mildly, so I feel like breaking out something special to brighten up the weekend. Like, how about the New Waviest episode of one of the New Waviest TV shows ever — the infamous Devo episode of Square Pegs!

DJ Kristine of Planet Earth Chicago has this in heavy rotation on the video monitors at Planet Claire, the weekly Friday night New Wave party at Holiday Club. But finding this show on YouTube is the first chance I’ve had to watch it with the sound turned up in more than twenty years, since I was roughly the same age as the show’s protagonists.

Despite its tragically short run, Square Pegs had so much going for it. A fresh visual style, sharp writing, likeable characters, and a talented cast that included Merritt Butrick a few years before his turn as Captain Kirk’s son in a couple of Star Trek movies. As Johnny Slash, forever peering over the tops of his shades and referring to Devo as his “ninth favorite band,” he was surely a role model to obsessive young New Wave record collectors everywhere. I know the show had only been on for about two episodes before people started yelling “Hey, Johnny Slash!” at me in the hallways of my high school. It was one of the few things they yelled at me I actually got a kick out of.

As for Sarah Jessica Parker, I think playing an outsider was good for her — she’s much more appealing as the geeky, vulnerable Patty Greene than the shallow, self-impressed, $400 shoe-loving Carrie Bradshaw.

Plus there was that fantabulous theme song by The Waitresses (available on their best-of compilation) — one of their two best numbers, a sassy outsiders’ anthem with a killer guitar riff punctuated by hyperactive sax squawks, and singer Patty Donahue pouting out snappy lines over the top of it all, like:

“I’d like it if they’d like us — but I don’t think they’d like us.”
“But they told me it was Senior Wig Day!”
“Suspended? Suspended from what?!”

… and of course the show’s thematic tag line:

“One size does not fit all.”

With all that, having Devo actually appear on the show was just the red plastic flowerpot on the cake.

Here’s part 1 of the episode:

And here are links to the other two parts:

Bonus: The Waitresses’ theme song I mentioned earlier isn’t heard in those clips, so here’s a separate clip from a different episode that uses a little of it in the opening credits. I seem to remember that more of it — including the funnier spoken lines — was usually heard in the end credits.

And here’s Johnny Slash’s band performing their song “I’m Tired.” (Although I think “Get Back to Me” from the end of the Devo episode beats this hands down.)


3 Comments so far ↓

  • Aaron

    I remember seeing that show just a few times when it was on (I never watched that many sitcoms back then), but “Square Pegs” was one of the more intelligent of the teen-target shows of its day.

    “The Waitresses” were awesome, too. Poor Patty–she died so young!

  • Ocelopotamus

    Yeah, I love The Waitresses. In addition to Patty’s wonderful deadpan delivery, Chris Butler’s witty lyrics and very entertaining titles (like “I Could Rule The World, If Only I Could Get the Parts”) really set them apart.

  • Todd Mecklem

    I remeber how pissed-off I was at the time, as a fan of DEVO. So Johnny Slash is probably the only student at the school who likes DEVO, and they’re his “ninth-favorite band”…what an insult! But I guess they wanted the exposure/paycheck.