The Baby-Sitters Club
Welcome to the first official meeting of the Baby-Sitters Club (TV series recaps). Kristy Thomas, BSC president, feminist icon in training, and bossy seventh-grader, would probably demand to know my credentials before we kick things off, so here they are: As a kid, I devoured The Baby-Sitters Club books, the Baby-Sitters Little Sister spinoff series, and the California Diaries spinoff series. I eagerly awaited the 1995 movie adaptation. I still have the theme song from the original HBO TV series stuck in my head because that was a jam, and honestly, guys, say hello to your friends, okay?
Suffice it to say, I was very excited to hear that I’d get to revisit The Baby-Sitters Club by way of a ten-episode series that gives the BSC a modern makeover fit for a new generation of kids. I was even more excited after watching the show because, agh, Netflix’s The Baby-Sitters Club is so ridiculously adorable and charming and full of great lessons for people of all ages. Sure, it’s perfectly tailored to a demo much (much!) younger than me and my fellow first-generation BSC fans, but it provides enough callbacks to the original that you can appreciate the smart, refreshing changes, while still letting a little nostalgia wash over you. And if ever there was a time to temporarily escape into a more hopeful, optimistic world, it’s now, isn’t it? We could all use a joyful detour to the fictional Stoneybrook, Connecticut. So, let’s take one.
Like the novels, each episode of this series will alternate narrator duties between our fearless club members. First up is, of course, founding member and president, Kristy Thomas. Let’s chat about Kristy, shall we? She’s a tomboy with three brothers, all being raised by her single mother Elizabeth (a great Alicia Silverstone) after Kristy’s dad took off not long after her youngest brother, David Michael, was born. It’s clear this abandonment has very much informed her as a person, not just because she’s still dealing with the grief and anger of it all, but also because it means she was raised by a fiercely independent woman. This is why when we first meet Kristy one sweltering day at the beginning of seventh grade, she’s regaling her best friend and next-door neighbor Mary Anne Spier with a tale of how she was punished for standing up to the patriarchy in class. When her teacher was going on and on about how Thomas Jefferson was a “genius” for writing that “all men are created equal,” Kristy stood up and rightly asked why he didn’t say “all people are created equal,” and she’s now tasked with writing an essay on decorum. As she smartly points out later, a boy would never be asked to write that kind of essay. Kristy is strong-willed, opinionated, and ambitious, and I cannot wait until she’s old enough to watch Mrs. America. We should all be more like Kristy.
That evening, her mom comes home with a problem: She can’t find a sitter for David Michael. She becomes increasingly frustrated with how difficult this seemingly simple task is. After a series of phone calls and voice-mails and overpriced sitter websites, Elizabeth is totally buggin’. (Yes, I read a lot of Baby-Sitters Club and watched a lot of Clueless, okay?) And then Kristy has her titular great idea. So great, in fact, she almost chokes on her pizza. What if parents could call one number at a scheduled time and reach a whole host of responsible sitters at once, ensuring they’d be able to book someone?
Mary Anne is easily onboard, mostly because it’s something even her Über-overprotective father will allow her to do. (Mary Anne’s mother died when M.A. was a baby, and her father is scared of … everything.) The girls decide to ask their onetime best friend and the coolest girl they know, Claudia Kishi, to join. The girls drifted apart once Claudia got interested in boys and fashion, which feels like a very real change to deal with for 12-year-olds. Still, Claud is in, as long as her best friend and new girl in town Stacey McGill can also join. This bugs Kristy for a myriad of reasons, including that it wasn’t her idea; she’s hesitant to welcome anyone new into her circle; and Mary Anne, lover of New York City and all things Broadway, is enamored with the girl who calls it “the city.” But not even Kristy can deny that it would be useful to have someone in the club who casually drops terms like “targeted social-media ads” and “the ratio of click-throughs to investment.” She still manages to talk some shit about Stacey while alone with Mary Anne, commenting on how Stacey refusing any candy offered to her must mean she has body-image issues, but thankfully, even shy Mary Anne tells her she’s being a dick. Okay, she doesn’t use that word because Mary Anne would never, but you get it.
So, the club is a go! Since Claudia has an ancient landline in her room and orders a phone “from olden times” off Etsy, the girls decide they’ll meet in her room Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for a half-hour. Kristy is president, Claudia is VP, Mary Anne asks to be secretary, and Stacey is treasurer. It’s then that things get a little too out of control for Kristy’s liking. Her biggest problem comes in the form of a man named Watson Brewer. Okay, actually, Watson, Elizabeth’s brand spanking new (and very wealthy) fiancé, is a delight, so Kristy’s problem is really that she refuses to give Watson a chance. When Elizabeth and Watson announce they’re getting married? Ooh, boy, Kristy goes off.
The situation is a shame because Watson is the most enthusiastic about Kristy’s new business — in fact, he’s the first call the girls get at their inaugural meeting. This annoys Kristy to no end. He’s looking for someone to watch his kids, Karen and Andrew, and when I say “someone” I obviously mean “Kristy.” She refuses and doesn’t want anyone to take the job, but the other girls are like, “We have a business to run!” When Mary Anne takes the gig, it feels like the ultimate betrayal to Kristy. She goes as far as spying on Mary Anne while she’s watching Watson’s kids, gets caught, and is humiliated. It takes a nice heart-to-heart with her mom to work out all of her feelings. Moms are the best, guys!
Kristy might be stubborn, but she’s learning to admit when she’s wrong. That is a huge deal for all 12-year-olds, but also specifically this one. At the next meeting, she shows up with some pizza, a salad for Stacey, and a big ol’ apology. And then the phone starts ringing with new clients, all thanks to recommendations from Watson Brewer. Maybe Kristy can start warming up to the guy by even, like, one degree. I mean, did she not see him take off in a full suit and helmet to ride his bike to work? Treasure him!
And, of course, the girls forgive her because this club is more than just a group of well-qualified, if a little young, babysitters — it’s a group of friends. See? Isn’t Stoneybrook so gosh darn nice?
• Twelve-year-old Claudia Kishi is more fashionable than I could ever hope to be, and I’m already taking notes. That white-collared shirt with sheer balloon sleeves? Yes, please.
• Obviously, I love that BSC is giving Gossip Girl’s Dorota a shout-out, but sorry, I just don’t believe our little Mary Anne Spier would be watching that show. Could you imagine if Richard found out?
• Claudia’s older sister Janine (a literal genius) is exactly as I imagined her. The remote-controlled bedroom door? Hilarious.
• Book fans will know that the boy Mary Anne spots reading to children at the library and then promptly and awkwardly runs away from is the one and only Logan Bruno, Mary Anne’s end-all, be-all crush.
• If you’re well versed in BSC lore, you already know what’s up with Stacey, but the show is only giving out clues at the moment: She’s hesitant to eat any food at club meetings, and she lies about being out of town for the weekend. It’s nice of Kristy to fight her impulses and keep the latter information to herself, since Stacey clearly doesn’t want to talk about it yet.
• “You are not perfect, neither are the people that love you. All you can do is keep showing up and try to do better next time.” MOMS!