Most people who grew up in the 90s remember at least a little bit about the sitcom 2 Cool For School. They can probably hum the theme song, maybe they know the main character’s catchphrase and they may even remember an episode or two. Me? I remember everything. The characters, their backgrounds, how they changed over the seasons, the storylines – everything. Much to my chagrin, the show doesn’t get a lot of respect these days. I see the logo on hipster’s ironic t-shirts across the city, but I know better than to try to start up a converstaion. The show’s become a joke, and that’s too bad. Because it was AWESOME.
First, there was the premise. This dorky kid named Dewey Hancock has to tutor a good looking jock named Marco Simpson so he can keep up his grades enough to play football and the two become unlikely friends. That’s a pretty great message for kids. Cliques can be so destructive in school, and this show went a long way towards making it okay for jocks and mathletes to mingle. I’m not saying it tore down the borders, but it started the conversation. It was a particularly important message for me and I can point to several people who I became friends with as a result of this show, and that ‘s saying something (especially since one of them was a cheerleader).
2 Cool For School didn’t stop with its premise though. Some of the storylines were surprisingly cutting edge. Of course, there were the episodes about sneaking into the girl’s locker room, or pulling a prank on the rival school or snagging a date to the homecoming dance, but there were some deep and moving episodes as well. In one, Marco takes speed to help him balance the pressures of school and football, and the fallout is very real and it sends an important message to kids. In another a student brings a gun to school and in another a friend of theirs has a pregnancy scare. These are real issues that kids unfortunately have to face, and this show did what it could to raise awareness. It braced us for the real world, and if a show can do that, what more can you ask for?
Of course, I understand why people laugh at it. When I say I remember everything, that includes the time one of their set walls almost fell over, the chili cook-off episode where everyone has to hold in their farts and the horrendous guest cast who could never remember their lines. It was not a perfect show. But it made a tremendous impact on my life, and I know I’m not the only one.
If 2 Cool For School came out now, and I watched it as an adult, I don’t think it would have the same effect on me. Sometimes a show, or a book or an album will come along at just the right time in your life to affect you at your core. That’s what 2 Cool For School was for me. It was exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it. It told me, not only that things would get better, but that with a little effort, I could improve things now. That meant a lot to me. Maybe next time I see one of those hipsters wearing a 2 Cool For School t-shirt, I’ll stop to tell him a little bit about the show he’s ironically supporting. Or maybe I’ll just ask him where I can pick one up.