In 1999, there was a short-lived, underestimated, ahead-of-its-time TV show on The WB called Popular. If you aren’t familiar with it, I’ll give you a quick run down: it took place in a fictional high school named after a president, there was a cool clique full of jocks and cheerleaders and an unpopular click full of outcasts, trying to find their foot hold. Stylistically, the show was notorious for its quirky, sometimes raunchy subplots, over-the-top characterizations (i.e. April Tuna or the science teacher), and a certain method of filming that could only be created by one man: Ryan Murphy. All make sense now? Yes, he is also the creator of the feel-good, harmonizing series Glee. And let me just say, as a former fan of Popular, the Ryan Murphy name can brand a solid piece of TV culture: equal parts startling, lively, tragic, and comically real.
In its first season, Popular aired their version of “A Christmas Carol.” Nicole (Tammy Lynn Michaels) is a bitch, and is the sidekick to the queen of the school, Brooke (Leslie Bibb). She’s demeaning, callous, blunt, and completely disillusioned. She refuses to get festive, and embodies the stationary role of Ebenezer Scrooge. In the night, she is visited by that infamous trio of ghosts, appearing from the foggy corners of her room to take her on a journey through her past, present and future.
The Ghost of Christmas Past shows us Nicole as a baby. Her mom is too busy drinking martinis to pick her up and care for her. Then, in elementary school, she is ridiculed for being fat, and the cool girls at the lunch table are busy discussing their future marriages to the New Kids On the Block. They trip her, she falls, face in mashed potatoes. Christmas Present shows her that her everyday taunting has taken a toll on Carmen (Sara Rue), who sits in the bathroom and tells herself she’s ugly for not getting the final spot on the cheerleading squad, aka the Glamazons (much like ‘Cheerios’ for you Glee fans.)
As in any version of “A Christmas Carol”, the Ghost of Christmas Future points his cold, menacing finger toward a bleak outcome. He shows that Carmen dies, and Nicole too. But, Carmen is the one who is missed, not Nicole. She died alone. So, when she wakes up the next morning — hugging the things she loves the most once she realizes she’s still alive, she makes a mad dash over to Brooke’s where the gang is celebrating over dinner, gifts in tote, and offers Carmen a spot on the Glamazons. Everyone is in millennium cashmere cardigans and turtlenecks, the Heathers-esque music swells, and even the most shallow people in the world turn their cold hearts warm, for just a day.