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Friday, April 27, 2007

Idiots, Incorporated

Zack walks into a classroom and informs us that for economics class, they were supposed to come up with an idea for a business. What kind of high school has an economics class? Anyway, apparently the gang failed to come up with an idea for their business, and now they're merely awaiting their eminent failure. Wow, Jessie seems surprisingly calm. Maybe she knows Zack is going to pull an idea out of his ass in the 11th hour. Which is exactly what he does, but first we get to see the ideas the other teams have come up with. After the surfer dudes present their foldable cardboard surfboard, Slater points out the flaws inherent in their prototype. But Mr. Tuttle tells them that if they believe in it, that's all that counts. Um, shouldn't your project actually being able to work count for something, too? The nerds are next with a pocket protector protector, designed to keep your pocket protector from getting messy with the ink it's protecting your pockets from. Yeah, but what's going to protect the pocket protector protector? I suspect they haven't entirely thought their idea through, either.

Unlike Zack, who has been thinking about his idea for all of 12 seconds before he presents on behalf of the gang, cutting Jessie off just as she's about to fess up to their failure. He grabs Kelly's arm, festooned with a friendship bracelet given to her earlier by Lisa, and proclaims that they'll be selling the bracelets. The rest of the classroom gasps in awe, I guess because it's the only marginally viable idea to emerge from this excercise. But seriously, everyone's acting like they've never seen a friendship bracelet before, even though those things were multiplying like rabbits in the early '90s. I alone must've made at least a hundred between the years of 1990 and 1993.

Based on the room's unusually excited reaction, Zack is already plotting the millions he's going to make off the friendship bracelets. I say "he" because apparently Zack has no intention to share the profits with his fellow business partners, instead casting them in a variety of demeaning roles in his life. (Well, except for Screech, who has re-donned his Geraldo Screech plastic wig to play Robin Screech, host of Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless.) In Zack's made-up world, Slater is his factory foreman, Jessie is his secretary, Lisa's his sweatshop laborer, Kelly is his trophy wife, and Belding's his chauffeur.

Back in the real world, Zack continues to treat his friends like second-class citizens, refusing to pay the Fashion Club for their labor (have we learned nothing from Kathie Lee Gifford, people?) and unceremoniously ousting Jessie from her position as president of the business, saying he doesn't want her to screw it up. Too bad Zack couldn't use some of his rampant jackassery to veto the super lame name Slater comes up with for their business: Friendship Forever. They couldn't at least slap an "Inc." on there to make it halfway legitimate? Anyway, Slater, Jessie and Kelly recognize a power-hungry asshole boss when they see one, so they break off to form their own company. Considering that this is a school project, and that Mr. Tuttle gave each of the teams $100 in seed money, can they really make such an autonomous decision?

Apparently so--the next day in class, Mr. Tuttle seems fine with the splintering of Friendship Forever and allows Kelly, Jessie and Slater to introduce their product via a commercial. Said product turns out to be Buddy Bands: Even Lamer Than Friendship Bracelets! OK, so that's not the slogan they've gone with, but theirs ("Hey, they work!") isn't a whole lot better. What is pretty freaking awesome, however, is their commercial, which features Slater standing alone in a warehouse-like space, lamenting that he doesn't have any friends and can't get girls to go out with him. But once he slips a Buddy Band over his head, Kelly and Jessie suddenly emerge in sequined bras and dance all over him. Upon seeing the commercial, Zack knows he's doomed and pleads to Mr. Tuttle that the product is too similar to their friendship bracelets. Jessie informs him that his product is a "stupid bracelet" while theirs is a "clever headband." Oh, I only wish Jessie would tell us how, exactly, a dumb-ass piece of fabric wrapped around your head can be classified as "clever." But instead, Mr. Tuttle just points out that competition is essential to a free-market economy and sends them on their way.

Zack, Lisa and Screech are having an emergency business meeting at the Max to try to revive the friendship-bracelet market. Via one of his dumb magic tricks, Max suggests that they offer their customers some sort of premium. "What are we going to offer?" Screech jokes. "A free friend with every purchase?" But Lisa and Zack are getting the dollar signs behind their eyes, and the next thing you know, Screech has a sign that says "Friend" strapped around his neck and is being lent out to anyone who buys a friendship bracelet, including an amazon named Peggy, who apparently purchased an entire armful of bracelets just so she could dance around the Max with Screech for hours on end.

Back at Zack's house, an exhausted Screech can do little more than flop into Zack's beanbag chair and pant, so Zack informs Lisa that she'll be taking over the role of "Friend" the next day. Apparently, though, Lisa's finally had enough of being pimped out by Zack, and she and Screech defect to Buddy Bands, where they're pleased to learn that Jessie intends to pay her laborers a fair wage and treat her employees with respect. That is, until she sees that they've put Friendship Forever out of business and immediately assumes Zack's power-hungry ways, ordering Lisa to get her 300, nay 500! Buddy Bands immediately. Kelly points out the riskiness of investing their entire profit margin, but Jessie Trump is off and running and doesn't want to hear it.

Clearly, Jessie is too blinded by greed to remember that it's Zack she's dealing with here. He sets his retaliation plan in motion by visiting Belding in the locker room, where he's pumping weights. It just now occurs to me as strange that people (well, Slater and occasionally Belding) are always lifting weights in the locker room. Don't they have a weight room for that? Anyway, Zack gives Belding a Buddy Band, spreading on the bullshit pretty thick. Apparently Belding is new to the ways of Zack, too, and he gets all emotional, bumbling on about how they're no longer student and principal, detentioner and detentionee; they're Richie and Zack! More like pawn and...uh, chessmaster? No, wait, that's Screech. Anyway, when word hits the halls (facilitated by Zack, of course) that Belding's sporting a Buddy Band, everyone immediately demands their money back...just as Slater walks up with 500 more bands. The irony does not appear to be lost on Kelly and Jessie.

Later at the Max, the gang, minus Zack, is sulking in their usual booth. When Zack walks in, he gives them a brief glance before choosing a table across the room. Luckily for the estranged gang, Max is here to fix everything with another one of his dumb magic tricks. He produces five friendship bracelets out of thin air, claiming they're from Zack, and suddenly all is right with the world again. Oh, except the gang is totally going to fail their econ project tomorrow because they vindictively drove each other out of business. However, Zack thinks there's still time for them to come up with a new idea, even though thinking of ideas for econ projects has historically not been this group's strong suit.

The next day in class, after we learn that the nerds bought out the surfers' cardboard surfboards and turned them into window visors, Zack introduces his team's brand-new product: Love Cuffs, Even Lamer Than Friendship Bracelets and Buddy Bands Combined! Hey, they didn't come up with a slogan, so they're going to have to live with that one. Love Cuffs, for those who have never been to an adult entertainment emporium, are basically handcuffs made out of fabric. Kinky! Yet the gang seems to be marketing them as a way to hold hands without any of that silly hand-holding business. Lame! Zack explains that they sold enough Love Cuffs to break even (uh...when?) and gave the rest of their inventory to the nerds, who are now using the Buddy Bands to hold their books together. Man, how many dumb-ass ideas can these nerds save in one episode?! Mr. Tuttle isn't too happy to hear about the inventory donation, but Zack claims they'd rather be friends than run a successful business. Because, as anyone who's ever watched The Apprentice knows, it's not possible to be both. Anyway, despite the fact that they failed to complete the one and only requirement of the assignment, Mr. Tuttle gives them all A's anyway, along with a motivational speech about how it's better to be a nice person than good at business, which for some reason the class accompanies by humming "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Man, that's dumb. And yet it still doesn't come anywhere near the threshold of stupidity reached by the Love Cuffs.


Quote of the episode
"President Bush called; he wants a friendship bracelet for Gorbachev. And Vice President Quayle broke his when he tried to put it over his head." --Jessie, as Zack's dream-sequence secretary

Clare: C+. I loved friendship bracelets as much as the next person, but Buddy Bands? Love Cuffs? I can't support that kind of nonsense. This episode gets a "plus" only on the merit of the awesome Buddy Bands commercial, which rivals the "Get Down and Go For It" video in its production values.

8:10 AM

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