In 1982, the debut of Square Pegs made high-school outcasts of all stripes feel a little less lonely. But 25-plus years later (and after My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks), creator Anne Beatts’s short-lived sitcom is now little more than a compilation of Reagan-era stereotypes. If Pegs hadn’t costarred Sarah Jessica Parker (17 at the time), it could now easily be mistaken for retroactive nostalgia à la That ’70s Show.
Parker and Amy Linker (who wore a fat suit in every episode, as Beatts reveals in one of the supplements) play Patty and Lauren, a pair of awkward freshmen whose attempts to fit in lead to chaos on a fairly regular basis. Parker’s timing and professionalism make her easy to peg (so to speak) as the cast member most likely to succeed, but the most interesting performance comes from Merritt Butrick (who played Captain Kirk’s son in Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan and died of AIDS in 1989) as spaced-out new-waver Johnny Slash. There are a few priceless period guest appearances—one episode has Bill Murray as a substitute teacher; in another, Devo performs at the bat mitzvah of Muffy Tepperman (Jami Gertz)—but the series suffers badly from artistic compromises such as a weirdly muted laugh track. Folks who didn’t hit high school before the first Gulf War will have a blast with the Square Pegs DVDs, but many of those who remember the original broadcasts may watch with clenched teeth.