As this site concludes its tenth (!!!) year, we’re going to do a true Throwback Thursday, revisiting the very first title we reviewed, Francine Pascal’s time-traveling mother-daughter epic (and start of the Victoria Martin trilogy) Hangin’ Out With Cici.
A number of ABC’s Afterschool Specials (and CBS’s School Break Specials and NBC’s Special Treat) have been made available on YouTube; while usually associated with heavy-handed renderings of TEEN ISSUES (DRUGS! DRINKING! SHOPLIFTING! CULTS! ALL THE GREATEST HITS!) a number of these specials adapted contemporary YA literature, and not necessarily ones dealing with ISSUES.
Francine Pascal had a pretty impressive writing resume before entering the YA market, including a partnership with her husband in daytimes soaps and the long-running, Tony-winning Broadway musical George M!
Cici, her YA debut, introduced bratty, semi-delinquent 14-year-old Victoria Martin, whose mother threatens to send her off to boarding school after she pulls one prank too many on a school field trip, and then gets caught “smoking a pot” at her cousin’s birthday party in Philadelphia. Summoned home after the latter incident, her train mysteriously pulls into the Penn Station of 1944, and Victoria runs smack into her own mother at age 14… who turns out to be an even bigger delinquent than her future-daughter.
ABC’s 30-minute adaptation of Pascal’s story tones down the delinquency and cuts down the plot to almost nothing: in this version Victoria quarrels with her mother (we do get a cameo from her younger sister Nina, AKA El Creepo) after some extremely juvenile antics (putting a frog in her teacher’s desk). Defiantly running away to her BFF Steffi’s house, she gets bonked out on the subway and wakes up in a surprisingly clean subway car, full of well-dressed people and advertisements for liniments and fighting Hitler. Getting off at the Myrtle Avenue station (which would put her right in my neighborhood!) she meets the extravagantly extroverted and helpful teenaged Cici, who invites her to come home with her.
While some of these 30- or 60-minute adaptations can be little gems, this is not one of them. As I said, the plot is cut down to almost nothing, but the bigger problem is the uninspired direction (from TV veteran Robert Fuest); the first act consists almost entirely of cutting between close-ups of Victoria and her mother yelling at each other, and he leans heavily on Victoria’s voiceover, as she exclaims WHAT IS HAPPENING??? over and over again to herself.
Unlike some of these specials, there is not much star power in the cast (veteran actress Holland Taylor as Mrs. Martin is the exception); however there are some small pleasures to be had in the performances, such as Victoria’s throwback of a regional accent (“I godda get oudda hehhh” “Grandma is unnerstehnding!”).
The young actor playing Ted, the 5th year senior that Cici is bargaining with for a copy of an upcoming science exam, also makes some interesting acting choices, coming off as slimy and lecherous, but also fussy and mincing.
And true to Pascal’s original description, all of the teens at the make-out party that Cici takes Victoria to seem to be suffering from serious bone-density issues (although there is more awkward jitterbugging than making-out happening).
As in the original, during an air raid drill Victoria gets bonked out again, reawakening in the present day with a better attitude and new appreciation for her mother. Was it all a dream? When she checks the secret compartment in her mother’s old desk she does find her stash of Luckies and the purloined test!
(Sadly, the blackmailing of Principal Ted is left out of this version)
Odds & Ends Department: Hangin’ Out With Cici was reissued (along with the other two Victoria Martin novels) under the TV title with a young Amanda Seyfried as the cover model.
Availability: Checking free streaming sites like YouTube, Daily Motion and Vimeo for your favorite episodes is the most accessible option, however select episodes were released on DVD in 2004-05 (now out of print).