The Best of Times (1981) Review

“… run of the mill 80’s sitcom [that] also does a great job of tackling some of the harder parts of growing up.”

Last night I decided to take a trip down memory lane (though technically not my memory) and watch The Best of Times. For those unaware The Best of Times is a television pilot that originally aired in 1981, and the reason it is so special is because it is the first time the world was blessed with Nicolas Coppola (now Nicolas Cage) as well as Crispin Glover. The story follows 8 teenage friends as they go about their normal teenage lives. The pilot, or short film since there were no other episodes, doesn’t necessarily have an overarching plot but it could be argued that the story culminates to the school dance with all of the friends in attendance.

The Best of Times really is a product of the 80’s. I’m a huge fan of practically all of the television shows that came out during that period, and because of that I liked The Best of Times. Like I said, there wasn’t really a goal for the characters so what we saw was essentially a slice of their lives. The show is structured almost like a clip show, only cutting to different scenes to include a joke, which does get a little taxing toward the end. It makes it hard to follow exactly what is going on in the lives of these characters when we only see them long enough to deliver a punchline. The jokes are exactly what you would expect form the time, extremely corny. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t laugh, but there was also a fair amount of eye-rolling. What was very strange to me was the fact that The Best of Times relied on several musical acts throughout its 48 minute runtime. This only cemented the feeling that I was watching something more akin to Saturday Night Live than Family Ties. Almost as weird as the musical numbers, there were parts of the show that get real. Again, when you watch a show like The Best of Times you expect to laugh at some really dumb jokes and then get on with your life. The Best of Times, however, had separate plans for you, taking a few opportunities to really delve into some dark topics. These are usually monologues delivered by individual characters, but there are some instances where things get slipped into a conversation. Truth be told these made me respect The Best of Times a lot more than I would have if it were just a sitcom. These are pulled off by the actors in the show, all of which doing a pretty good job. Of course, everything still had that 80’s “cheese” about it, so you aren’t going to see any Oscar worthy performances here. I felt that the cast played well off of each other and that made their friendship more believable in the show. Crispin Glover is essentially our guide through the lives of these teenagers, and the show ends with a weird plea to adults to not forget that they were once teenagers too. This, much like other dark moments, felt out of place but at the same time felt real. Of course, this tone was promptly ruined by Crispin Glover dancing in his bedroom while listening to his walkman (something he had done countless times before). Really the only problem I have with The Best of Times is the theme song. Seriously, it is almost ‘nails on a chalkboard’ level.

Ultimately The Best of Times is your run of the mill 80’s sitcom with corny jokes and musical numbers, but it also does a great job of tackling some of the harder parts of growing up.

I give The Best of Times a B

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