How ridiculous TV shows like Seventh Heaven
flourish and amazingly frank and important shows such as Once
and Again meet untimely ends is simply beyond me. If
alternative family drama is your bag and you don't quite click
with the forced hipness and tongue-twisting speed that sometimes trips up Gilmore
staying up late to catch re-runs of Once and Again
might be just your thing.
Essentially the show is about divorce and the way families deal
with moving on, how to reconcile new families with old and how
to grow up knowing your parents love you but can't love each other
anymore. Sounds like a Hallmark movie? Perhaps, but strong writing
lifts this show well above what might at first seem like a melodramatic
Once and Again features an excellent cast, especially
Evan Rachel Wood.
If you need proof of her talent, watch the film Thirteen
to see her more than admirably hold her own against the great
Holly Hunter. This girl is a future Oscar winner. It's only a
matter of time.
I first noticed Evan Rachel Wood in the film Practical
Magic as Sandra Bullock's daughter Kylie, and then again
in Profiler as Ally Walker's daughter Chloe.
She popped up in an excellent cameo on The West Wing
as CJ Cregg's niece before landing the role in Once and
Again as Jessie Sammler, the troubled daughter.
During the course of the show Jessie struggles to deal with her
parents' divorce, goes through a battle with anorexia and falls
in love with her best friend, Katie Singer, played by the talented
Mischa Barton (who went on to waste her talents in the miserably
bad The O.C).
This isn't Mischa Barton's first brush with lesbian storylines
by any means. Other than the ratings-grabbing, lesbian storylines in The O.C, she co-starred with Piper Perabo in the interesting
Canadian drama Lost and
Delirious and also played Lily Taylor's daughter
in Julie Johnson
in which Lily Taylor has a love affair with Courtney Love. Playing
Katie Singer though was the first time Mischa herself got to kiss
the girl, and Katie seems the more confident and secure of the
two girls with her newfound sexuality.
The actual kiss scene is the stuff of TV legend. After finally
baring her soul about her love for Jessie in a letter, Katie waits
for Jessie's reaction, which is panicked to say the least. Jessie
just wants to be friends and doesn't understand her own intense
feelings towards Katie. They argue and then reconcile with Katie
mumbling uncertainly that Jessie should just throw the letter
away so they can be as they were before.
But Jessie realises, suddenly, that she doesn't want to throw
away the letter. In fact, Katie means more to her than anything
in the world. They kiss briefly and you can see the recognition
in Jessie's eyes, that feeling of having found something she hadn't
even known she was looking for. They kiss again with more certainty
and the moment is both beautiful and incredibly moving.
Unfortunately Once and Again was cancelled too
soon to see all that much develop between Jessie and Katie. But
the existence of the relationship at all, however briefly, was
so important. It was also handled extremely well, without fanfare
and with all the emotion and fear of teenagers busting out of
the norm and into lives of their own. I choose not to read too
much into the fact that Once and Again was cancelled
not long after this storyline aired, but as of the final episode
the young couple were still very much together.
Outside of Jessie and Katie, Once and Again
also has another lesbian connection. Susanna Thompson, who plays
Jessie's mother Karen, is best known to Deep Space Nine
fans as Doctor Lenara Khan, the woman that Jadzia Dax falls in
love with. The passion-filled
kiss shared by the two women was a landmark moment in Science
Fiction television and certainly a first for the often conservative
Star Trek franchise.
In Once and Again we do have to wait until the third season for the
lesbian storyline to heat up, but all through its relatively brief
run the show refreshingly faces family issues head on that other
shows simply tiptoe around. Once and Again had
the forthrightness of Judging Amy, the relationship
dynamics of Gilmore Girls, the familial devotion
of Seventh Heaven and treated teenage life and
issues with the same amount of respect as My So-Called
Life. The interview style nature of the show gets us
inside the character's heads and was an interesting creative decision
that set the show apart. Too often magazine covers featured interviews
with cast members that described the show with headings like "The
best show you never watched".
We can't bring the show back, but luckily for us re-runs and
the release of DVD box sets allow many of us to somewhat correct
the mistake of not watching in the first place.
Important lesbian episode: Season 3, "The
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