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Remembering O’Grady, Because No One Else Can

by Kaitlin Reilly June 28, 2012 6:00 am
Remembering <i>O’Grady</i>, Because No One Else Can

Disney Channel's new animated series Gravity Falls introduces us to a bizarre town where instead of freaking out about pimples on date night, teens worry about their dates suddenly turning into cats. Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines get shipped off to live with their Uncle Stan for the summer in (wonderfully named) Gravity Falls, Oregon, where zombies, ghosts, and chainsaw-wielding beavers run amuck.

Seeing the new trailers Gravity Falls makes me miss The N's mid-'00s animated series O'Grady, my generation's answer to Eerie, Indiana. Like those shows, O'Grady takes place in the titular town where, in the simplest terms, weird things happen. In the world of O'Grady, these things can be summed up in one term: "The Weirdness."

Rather than deal with zombies and ghouls, the teens on O'Grady had to put up with the more annoying side of the weird spectrum -- think being teleported to a random location every time you yawned, or gaining a clone of yourself every time you got angry -- and, of course, they had to battle it all while going through the standard motions of high school society.

While the whole town is affected by The Weirdness, O'Grady focused on four friends at O'Grady High School. There was Harold, the too-sweet-to-be-cool Eatsa Pizza employee whose future aspirations included owning his own pizzeria and finally getting a girlfriend; Beth, the fast-talking hippie vegetarian who, due to The Weirdness, found out that her cat actually despised her; Abby, the overachiever who full-out stalked her crush Pete Klesko (despite the fact that when he did notice her existence, he never failed to call her "Ali"); and Kevin, the class troublemaker whose schemes often let him use The Weirdness to his advantage.

I started watching O'Grady when it first premiered on The N, a network built around Degrassi: The Next Generation (which was and still is my favorite show in the entire world). What probably made me want to watch O'Grady in the first place was my newfound fondness for the animated series Daria. I was about 12 when reruns premiered on The N, and up until that point I was still suspicious of "not-for-kids" cartoons. While I still had nostalgic love for my "old-school" animated favorites like Hey Arnold, shows like King of the Hill and South Park were too paradoxical for me to handle. At that time, cartoons meant kid friendly, and those shows were anything but.

But though Daria is certainly not for children (not that it's necessarily inappropriate, just that the content would definitely go over their heads), reruns of the show sucked me in and I soon became so fond of Daria's loyalty to non-conformity and combat boots that I completely forgot that I had originally poised such a distaste for animation. So, when The N started advertising a new series -- complete with snippets of episodes that left me laughing out loud -- I knew that I had to tune in.

Perhaps this sounds cliché, but O'Grady was literally like no other television show I had ever seen (though I'm told that it's similar to Home Movies in terms of animation, as it was created by the same crew). While Daria's humor was dry, slightly dark, and incredibly sarcastic, O'Grady was fast-paced and witty. It never ventured into moody or biting, which was probably what I liked about it. The humor was also totally clean -- a rarity, I've found, in many animated series not based for little kids -- and all of the characters were ridiculously relatable.

The most disappointing thing about O'Grady was that, even when it was on television, few people recognized it as worthwhile. I was able to talk about O'Grady with only a handful of my closest friends (perhaps because we shared similar taste, or perhaps because I would IM them on AIM and tell them to "GO WATCH O'GRADY!!!!!" before putting a quote from the show as my Away Message), but it wasn't exactly what everyone in school was talking about the next day at lunch. The four main characters on the series had a bond so similar to my good friends at the time that I couldn't help but feel like it was really just a cartoon version of our lives. In particular, I felt a special connection with Beth, who, as a fellow vegetarian, seemed like a great cartoon counterpart.

After only 19 episodes and two excellent seasons (which featured guest stars like Amy Poehler and Conan O'Brien), O'Grady was over and I had to accept the fact that I would never really know if Kevin and Abby ever acknowledged their feelings for one another or if Harold ever opened his own pizzeria. Yet, in a way, maybe that's better. Like the characters on O'Grady, I went to high school and then eventually college. While even my beloved Degrassi went through a couple of rough patches (mostly the few episodes of Emma and Manny's college adventures, and that whole "Manny Goes to Hollywood" thing), O'Grady has remained the one show that I can confidently say was, in my humble opinion, basically perfect... partly thanks to its stinted run.

While I'm fully aware that nostalgia often clouds the mind, even know as a college student I still watch O'Grady every so often -- as in, once every two weeks. O'Grady feels like revisiting my middle school and early high school years, minus all of the suckiness that come with actually being a pre-teen. This past year, on one of my "now-that-I-wrote-this-paper-I'm-going-to-watch-hours-of-online-television-and-eat-Haagen-Daz" days at the end of the semester, I sat down to watch a few episodes of O'Grady. Suddenly, my papers and finals seemed very far away (probably not a great thing, but whatever) and I realized that you actually can go home again, even if that means settling into the comforts of a television show that no one else remembers, and that you'll never forget.

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