Last summer I took it upon myself to watch the entire series of Ready or Not. I discovered some kind soul had uploaded all 65 episodes of the 1993 – 1996 Canadian youth show to YouTube, and what other option was there?
I have many a fond memory of watching the show back when it aired in the 90s on Saturdays and after school on Global. It was entertaining, and surprisingly socially acceptable. Even some of the guys in my class watched this female-centric show!
What I discovered when I rewatched the series from start to finish was everything that made it appealing back then stands true today. The story of an unlikely best friendship between tomboy Busy and girly girl Amanda is still awkward, unflinching, funny and endearing. They talk about Busy’s new armpit hair in the first scene of the series; Amanda’s bra size and Busy’s period take centre stage in separate episodes within the first season. And from there things run deep (like Busy’s mom miscarrying, Amanda’s parents separating) to more typical teen fare (trying to fit in, boys, party crashing).
There’s a naturalness to how these stories unfold, owing to the conversational writing and the chemistry between leads Lani Billard and Laura Bertram. (Without making too much of a leap, I’ll point out it’s the conversational nature of HBO’s Girls and Looking I also love). In fact, the dialogue at perhaps its most ‘real’ feels a bit jarring today. It reminds us (for better or worse) Busy wouldn’t be able to call Amanda “retarded” on kids’ TV today, and the word “faggot” might not fly out of her brother Manny’s mouth quite so freely.
The stories themselves aren’t trying too hard to be attention-grabbing or controversial in the way current shows like Degrassi have veered. They’re simple and straight forward, yet still deeper than anything TGIF or TNBC offered. They’re not melancholy or melodramatic, but also aren’t overly concerned with finite resolution: while Amanda’s one-episode eating disorder is remedied with a pizza by the half hour’s close, Busy kind of just has to accept her dad’s full racist.
That’s not to say this show is perfect. Storylines in later seasons get increasingly frivolous not to mention repetitive. (Season one Amanda starves herself when she wants to be a model, while season four Amanda considers a nose job when she wants to be a model). Still, we’d be hard-pressed to find a youth show today that relies so heavily on conversation and familial relationships, sans gimmicks.
If you were a preteen in a Canadian suburb in the 90s, Ready or Not is definitely worth a rewatch. You’ll probably still relate to some of the adolescent awkwardness. And if you weren’t a preteen in a Canadian suburb in the 90s, just take a look at what you were missing…