Schoolhouse Rock!

JESS: I just can’t wait for that learning to begin. Hey, are we gonna do some of those Schoolhouse Rock! songs?

Schoolhouse Rock! is a series of short animated educational musical films that aired during Saturday morning children’s programs on the ABC network from 1973 to 1984, with a revival between 1993 and 1996 (when Rory and Jess were aged 9 to 12). Themes covered grammar, science, economics, history, mathematics, and civics. Soundtrack albums and songbooks were released as tie-ins.

Jess consistently equates formal education with something dated and childish, but I think he actually would learn better if the facts were presented as rock songs!


JESS: Can we talk about this later?

LUKE: Why, you got a big Frisbee heist going down at six?

A Frisbee is a gliding toy made from moulded plastic that can be used in catching and throwing games. They were invented by Walter Morrison, who got the idea in 1937 when he and his future wife were tossing cake pan back and forth to each other on a beach, when someone offered it to buy it for five times its value.

The first aerodynamically improved plastic discs were manufactured in 1948 by Morrison and his business partner, Warren Francioni and sold as the Whirlo-Way (named after a famous racehorse), then the Flying Saucer, then the Pluto Platter.

In 1957, Morrison sold the rights to Wham-O, whose co-founders Richard Knerr and Arthur Melin called the disc a Frisbee, after the Frisbie Pie Company in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Frisbie supplied pies to Yale University, and students would throw empty pie tins to each other in a game they called Frisby.

The Frisbee’s real success came in 1964, when Wham-O’s vice president of marketing, Ed Headricks, redesigned the Frisbee to make it more accurate, and promoted it as an organised sport. When Headrick died, he was cremated and his ashes moulded into memorial discs. The Frisbee was inducted into the National Toy Hall of Fame in 1998.

Trade School

LUKE: Me? Oh, no, I’m not the one you want helping him. I went to this school – I’m sure there’s still a note stuffed in there about me with the words ‘trade school’ stamped in really big letters.

Trade school is a term in the US for a vocational college, technical school, or technical college, offering training in skills for specific job or career. In the US, they are government owned or supported, and require two years of study to fulfil requirements; they can sometimes replace the final two years of schooling. The number of such trade schools is declining significantly, but even so Luke would have had the choice of more than a dozen trade schools in Connecticut if he had wanted to attend one.

Reasons Jess is Going to Fail Junior Year

His grades are poor

He doesn’t do homework

He doesn’t participate in class

His attendance record is erratic

His attitude to teachers ranges from indifference to hostility

He shows no interest in school activities or fellow students

He stole all the baseballs

Principal Merton only tells Luke about all these issues one month before the end of semester! I don’t think it’s just Jess who’s been indifferent to his teachers – they sound like they’ve been indifferent to him as well. It’s almost as if the school has just been waiting for Jess to fail, rather than intervening to help or trying to engage with him – or talking to Luke about all these problems a lot earlier.

Schools really are quite useless in Gilmore Girls. Even if Jess was a model student for the next month, surely that wouldn’t be enough for him to pass, considering he’s had an entire year of doing nothing?

By the way, notice that Principal Merton’s observation that Jess isn’t interested in social activities or making friends at school is very similar to the criticism Mrs Verdinas had of Rory not socialising at Chilton. One might be failing while the other is maintaining a straight A average, but Rory and Jess have more in common academically than people think.

New Bag Boy

LORELAI: Oh, hey, look, new bag boy.

RORY: Oh yeah, that’s Marty. He’s subbing for Dean while he’s out of town.

Dean is suddenly visiting his grandmother out of town in this episode – doesn’t he have to attend school? Considering how upset Dean was at the end of the last episode, it’s possible he has gone to stay with his grandmother to have a break from Stars Hollow and Rory, or to think things through.

Who’s the Boss?

RICHARD: I think thirty five years of experience will qualify me to teach a course or two at that local business college of yours.

LORELAI: Oh my God. It’s Who’s the Boss?, the later years.

Who’s the Boss?, an award-winning sitcom which aired from 1984 to 1992. The series starred Tony Danza as Tony Micelli, a former baseball player who relocates to Fairfield, Connecticut to work as a live-in housekeeper to divorced advertising executive Angela Bower, played by Judith Light, and her son Jonathan, played by Danny Pintauro.

Tony had a daughter named Samantha, played by Alyssa Milano, and in Season 4, Tony goes back to school, enrolling at the same college his daughter would subsequently attend. By the later seasons, they are studying at the same institution.

Although it received lukewarm reviews, Who’s the Boss? was one of the most popular sitcoms of the mid-to-late 1980s, consistently rating in the top 10. It is still in syndication worldwide.

No Parent Available to Mentor the Group

Their group has to find a parent with experience in business to act as an adviser and mentor for the business fair. Chip’s father has scheduling issues. Paris’ father is in Hong Kong for a month, but could possibly video conference – an idea Rory says no to. Madeline says her father is travelling; she doesn’t mention her stepfather, so I’m not sure if she still has one, or if she now refers to him as her dad? Her stepfather was in Japan last time he was mentioned.

Louise’s father is in court for the next six weeks on a mysterious charge. Oddly enough, when Paris’ dad was involved in some shady activity, it was a major, major scandal, she was a laughing stock at school, and her parents separated for a time. But now Louise’s father is in legal trouble, and nobody cares at all. Louise hasn’t even bothered finding out what he did!

Intra-school Business Fair

RORY: There’s going to be an intra-school business fair in three weeks. Each group has to come up with a consumer product that’s geared toward high school kids … So we pick our product and we make a prototype of it, then we use our imaginary million dollar budget to mass produce, market, and distribute it, and we’ll present all of this at the fair.

Rory quickly tells their group, and the viewer, what’s happening in this episode. Their Economics class has put them into groups to compete against the other Economics classes at Chilton at a business fair. They have to think of a product that high school students will buy, make a prototype that can be displayed, then use a fictional million dollar budget to manufacture, market, and distribute it, presenting it at the fair to be judged.

And the business fair is only three weeks away, so they need to get started immediately, yet somehow, they don’t seem to do that. A lot must happen behind the scenes.

Brad Returns to Chilton

RORY: So you’re back at Chilton now?

BRAD: Oh, yeah. My psychiatrist convinced my parents that I should face my fears instead of running away from them and my rabbi agreed, so here I am.

Brad is now back at Chilton, after transferring to Hillside Academy five months ago, due to being bullied by Paris. He told Rory that Hillside Academy was much more relaxed than Chilton, and he’d made tons of friends there.

If that’s true, what kind of sick psychiatrist would tell a teenager they should return to a stressful school environment where they were bullied, rather than one where they supposedly have friends, and are thriving enough to be on the debate team? And what kind of rabbi would back that decision up? And what kind of parents would agree to it, rather than sacking the psychiatrist at once and moving to another synagogue? Poor Brad. I don’t think Paris is his only problem in life.

“I thought it was, like, prayer time or something”

LOUISE: Oh, were we reading these now?

RORY: Yeah, that’s why we’ve all been kind of quiet for the past ten minutes.

LOUISE: I thought it was, like, prayer time or something.

Louise was originally the brighter of the two out of she and Madeline, and quite a good student. She seems to have been getting steadily dimmer, until she now doesn’t seem to understand that she’s meant to read educational materials when they’re handed to her. Chilton isn’t a religious school, so why she thought they’d be opening with a ten-minute private prayer session, I don’t know. Maybe she’s playing dumb so successfully it’s actually turned her brain.