A couple of years ago, I somehow ended up watching an episode of “As Told by Ginger” on YouTube. I am so glad I did, because I immediately fell in love with it and watched every episode available. I recall not being too interested in the show when it was airing on Nickelodeon 10 years ago. Now, I recommend it to everyone as an example of a well-written, clever, and realistic portrayal of adolescent girls.
The show was created by Emily Kapnek, who went on to become a writer and producer on various shows including, “Parks and Recreation.” Currently, she is the creator and executive producer of the ABC comedy “Suburgatory.” Kapnek created “As Told by Ginger” at the age of 25 after winning a screenwriting competition sponsored by Nickelodeon. It premiered in 2000 and 60 episodes were produced.
Part of Ginger’s appeal was that she was a regular girl with regular friends who had regular problems. Unlike Helga, she didn’t build shrines to her crushes in her closet. She wasn’t a sarcastic intellectual like Daria. Ginger was an aspiring writer, so she was a bit more thoughtful and articulate than the average 13-year-old, but she wasn’t unlike a girl you may have gone to school with.
The series followed Ginger from her middle school years to her first year of high school. Earlier episodes dealt with things many 13-year-old girls experience: applying makeup (terribly) for the first time, the pursuit of fitting in with the popular kids, and having your first crush. Just about every one of the 60 episodes is great, but the most memorable ones to me are the episodes that focused on Ginger’s relationship with her estranged father and on the unbreakable bond she has with her mother. In the episode “Hello Stranger,” Ginger writes a poem about her father and invites him to see her recite it at a school fair. Her best friend Darren is against the idea of inviting him, knowing how often he has let her down in the past. But her mother, the amazing Lois, supports Ginger’s efforts to forge a bond with her dad. Of course, the night of the fair, her dad doesn’t show, but a bouquet of flowers is delivered to Ginger. She seems relieved when she reads the card and sees that they were sent by her father. In the last scene, while Ginger and Lois discuss her performance at the fair, Ginger abruptly says “Thanks for the flowers.” Emotionally devastating, right?
There are so many episodes of “As Told by Ginger” that pack an emotional punch. There are episodes about the deaths of loved ones, getting dumped by your first love, and being betrayed by your best friends. Of course, being a Nickelodeon cartoon, there are just as many great, lighthearted episodes about sleepovers, mean teachers, and summer camp. I am so happy to have stumbled upon this show and I can’t recommend it enough. I must not be the only one who likes it, because the show received three Emmy nominations for “Outstanding Animated Program,” including one for the episode “Hello Stranger.” I find that quite impressive since it was only on for four seasons.