Sunday, December 18, 2011

Watch This: Ready or Not

 If any of you grew up in Canada and were a preteen somewhere within the years 1993 and 2010, you might also have grown up watching a certain Canadian kids television program called Ready or Not. If you are American, you might have seen it on the Disney Channel between 1996-1997. I stumbled upon the show in maybe 2005 - I had come home from school and was flipping channels and it was playing as a rerun on YTV. I think it was the episode when Amanda decides she wants to live in a mall. That sounds really cheesy, but I loved that episode. In fact, I decided right then and there that I loved the whole show.

Over the years, I have attempted to track down the various stations it was playing on, at the various weird hours, so I could collect all these episodes on VHS tape and then later, on that magical invention that is the PVR. Over the last six years I have seen it go from being a show in the YTV lineup to a Sunday morning only show on Showcase, to a daily after school show on BBC Kids to a weekly show on The Accessible Channel, where it was in described video for the visually impaired, but I watched it anyway. Now, it seems that it is nowhere to be found on Canadian television. But, you can still watch every episode on youtube, and I highly recommend that you do.

Maybe I should backtrack a little and talk about what exactly the show is, before I get into why I (and I'm sure so many other people) love Ready or Not. The show is about two best friends Amanda and Busy and there lives in a Toronto suburb, and all the problems that go along with being twelve and learning 'the ways of the world'. Amanda was a shy, nerdy and very dramatic Jewish girl with long blonde hair and straight bangs I would die for and Busy was a practical tomboy and drummer with curly black hair and a large Italian family.

One of the best parts of the show is how they captured the different family dynamics in the girls' homes. Busy's brothers were loud and obnoxious, but they weren't reduced to one-dimensional characters for a cheep laugh like in so many sitcoms and in Amanda's home, the arguments her parents had were very realistic and their eventual separation never came as a surprise. There were no bumbling fathers or impeccably wise mothers ala Lizzie McGuire or The Weekenders (although these are shows of which I have fond memories) - nobody was there just to get a cheap laugh or be that token sassy friend. If the show was funny, it was funny much in the way life is funny; by accident or in hindsight.

The absolute best part of the show, however, was how they portrayed friendship. Busy and Amanda are two very different people, but they share that unbreakable bond that only seems to come from growing up together (or maybe sharing a near-death experiencs or a summer together at camp). The two girls aren't always surrounded by people - in fact they don't even have that many friends except each other. I never really understood all those other tv shows that have characters with four or five best friends and a million acquaintances who invite them out all the time. I think tv likes to trick us into thinking having only a few friends is abnormal, when really you're lucky to ever find a few really great friends. I think I heard a news program about that on CBC radio once. Either way, I loved loved loved the fact that they didn't have a ton of friends or a lot of popularity. They were just normal girls.

Anyways, I always loved the girls' friendship, They would drag each other to swim meets, karate classes, modeling auditions at the mall or the store to buy tampons for the first time, in that way only a best friend can force you to do something.

The show also dealt with a lot of issues that other childrens' shows would never touch, except maybe Degrassi Junior High. The first episode was about Amanda wanting a bra, even though she didn't need it, in another one Amanda and Busy walk in on Amanda's parents having sex on a Sunday morning. In He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not, Busy and Amanda find out their karate teacher is gay and they start to wonder if that means they're gay too. In another, they go to a grade seven party (uninvited) where there is drinking. In one, Busy even starts smoking because her older brother does (this is one of the season one episodes, too). They even talked about female masturbation (a topic rarely discussed on any show, except maybe Sex and the City, let alone a kids tv drama) and how it was PERFECTLY NORMAL. I'd like to see Sex and the City even try to be as cool.

Maybe it all makes it seem like the show is trying too hard and trying to teach too many lessons, but I don't think so. The show never ended in a lecture about how smoking is bad or sex is for married adults or other such 'force the message down your throat'-type crap, it just showed how a kid might handle the many situations that arise in life. And many, if not all of these situations were things that actually do happen in everyday life.

I also LOVE looking at the sometimes awful, sometimes too good to be true fashion choices the girls made. Neither one was ever particularly fashion-obsessed (except maybe Amanda in "Poor Little Rich Girl") or stylistically-gifted, but they sure dressed a lot more interestingly than I did in grade six. My grade six wardrobe consisted of grey sweatpants an a matching size extra large men's grey hoodie and running shoes. Some days I switched it up with Adidas track pants and an over-sized mens t-shirt to hid my nervous sweat stains. Did I ever mention that I was incredibly popular in grade six?
Amanda and Busy. Amanda in a velveteen blossom hat and Busy in her usual baseball cap.

Oh the plaid and bergundy and the Canadian tuxedo. And the awful sweaters!

Vests vests vests

This is probably one of my favourites of Amanda's shirts. Elephant vest, more denim and a madras vest over a plaid shirt (how very bold of you, Busy).

Chrissy, the popular, bitchy grade 7 girl. I love how she wasn't tall and stick thin. She could be popular and be curvy and have a round face. Her hair is an object of fascination.

Scrunchies... enough said.

Amanda gets a makeover.
Amanda's bedroom - one of my favourite parts of the show. Purple vest, orange blouse.

More Chrissy. Temporary tattoos and Chrissy's minion. I'm pretty sure my physics teacher has the same shirt as the photographer on the left.

Terrible sweatshirts that I want. More of Amanda's bedroom.

Needless to say, I recommend that you watch Ready or Not. Go start the series now!
The first two seasons are soo good. It starts going downhill in the third and the fourth and fifth are really not so good. Like many teens, the girls become snotty, self-centred and boy crazy. The sincerity of earlier seasons is lost and the girls lose their complexity and become one-dimensional, as do the plots. Strangely enough, the series loses its 'edge' - they dealt with drinking and smoking and sex when the girls were twelve, and yet when they are fourteen and fifteen, all they talk about is animal rights activism and the rivalry between Busy's father's butcher shop and another one. Needless to say, things get dull. But, I urge you to watch any way. The first two seasons make up for the lameness of its final seasons.


  1. Looks like a great series! Thanks for commenting on my post. X

  2. wow.. I used to love watching that show as a kid!!!
    I'm suddenly feeling super nostalgic... thanks for reminding me of this...I'm gonna start watching it again and feel super younger... thanks for sharing..I swear you just put a smile on my face.. and that's not an easy thing to accomplish.. take care!