They change the rules around, they've got a different sound on Radio Free Roscoe, an excellent Canadian dramedy.
Four students at Henry Roscoe High School, outsiders and non-conformists, set up their own pirate radio station called Radio Free Roscoe where they can speak their minds, debate issues related to fitting in, and challenge the overly-authoritarian Principal Waller's policies. To give themselves the freedom to speak freelyrepercussions, they go by secret identities. Robbie McGrath (Nathan Stephenson), the ringleader, goes by "Question Mark" because he always asks a lot of questions. Class clown Ray Brennan (Ali Mukaddam) is ironically "Pronto" because he always waits until the last minute to do everything. Travis Strong (Nathan Carter), Roscoe's introverted new student, is "Smog" after Ray calls him "Smirk dog" on one occasion. ("Best of both worlds," to quote Ray's catch-phrase.) Lily Randall (Kate Todd) gets her nickname "Shady Lane" from the Pavement song that inspired her to become a musician.
Radio Free Roscoe started out solid right from the get-go, mostly as situational comedy. Most of the episodes revolved around not only establishing our characters and getting RFR off the ground, but also their conflicts with Principal Waller and Kim Carlisle. Throughout the season, however, the unrequited romance between Ray and Lily began its cycle of blossoming and derailing for one reason or another. There were other relationships, such as Travis's romance with Lily's friend Audrey (Ashley Newbrough), a recurring character the writers utilized quite well. Still, the focus was more on humor and the antics of Radio Free Roscoe - smart humor, but less dramatic than what was to come in the next season.
"The Power of Radio" - First episodes always have to be on a standout list because they're the episodes that set the stage for what's to come, but it's still a good "origin" episode. Ray, Robbie, and Lily are lifelong friends starting high school together and trying to find their place without much success. When Robbie meets Travis, newly arrived from Hong Kong, they bond over a fondness for radio, and they decide to form their own underground radio station, with Robbie wanting Ray and Lily to be part of it. The episode does the job it's supposed to do, setting up the characters, their traits, and the overall premise.
"About a Girl" - Lily's tired of being the only girl in a group of guys, and spends more doing traditional girl stuff with Audrey, who develops a thing for Travis. While it loses points for Ray acting more obnoxious than usual, there's some great stuff about the double-standards guys hold girls to, and it's a key episode - not just for introducing Audrey, but establishing Ray's crush on Lily, which will dominate the series from here on out.
"I Am Question Mark" - Robbie crosses the line when he outs Principal Waller as Danger Man, Waller's woefully uncool DJ persona from his Radio Cougar days back in the 1970s. In retaliation, Waller is more determined than ever to reveal Question Mark's identity. Hamish McEwan probably gives his best performance in this episode, although Stephenson and Robinson shine in this one as well.
"Detention Redemption" - Our fearless foursome somehow manage to all get detention at the same time, which wouldn't be all that much of an issue if it didn't mean their secret identities were at risk. They have to devise one clever antic after another to slip out and make sure the show goes on while still in detention without arousing Waller's suspicions.
"Count on Me" - Robbie and Travis have to raise money to replace Lily's amp after they break it. Robbie gets a job at Mickey's, where Kim is working also, and they reluctantly start to bond. Travis, via RFR, hosts an on-the-air auction, but most of the bidders are the rest of the cast (which is pretty hilarious).
"More Than a Single" - Travis helps Lily record her song "Don't Tell Me What To Do," and as they continue working closely together, sparks fly, and the two of them share a kiss in one of the show's most iconic moments. To say the show would never be the same after this sound trite, but it was true (although not in a bad way).
Things got a bit more serious in the second season - not that there still wasn't fun to be had or laughs to be found. Lily eventually pursued her musical dreams by starting her own all-girl band called No Man's Land, while Ray put his comedic talents to work as an emcee for Mickey's open mic nights. However, the show really began putting the "tangled" in romantic entanglements, going far beyond those of the Ray-Lily-Travis triangle. I have to admit that this dragged on a bit too much, and it made certain episodes less distinct from each other in hindsight, which is a main reason why the standout episode list from this season isn't as long. (Still, it kept me coming back at the time I was watching it - as I've said before, I'm a sucker for a good love story, no matter how schmaltzy.) Not only that, but sparks began to fly between Robbie and Kim, and decoy love interests were introduced for both Travis and Ray.
"A Class, A Grade, A Lifetime" - As Lily and Audrey try to reconcile, Audrey's true colors are revealed when she makes fun of eccentric classmate Parker, who Lily befriends. Meanwhile, Ray and Travis set up ground rules for their rivalry over Lily, which naturally turns ridiculous. Eyebrows can justifiably be raised over treating Lily as a trophy, but I have this episode on here because it introduces Parker, who, like I've already said, was my favorite character on the show.
"Scheming and Dreaming" - the famed River Pierce who's been mentioned on the show previously, finally makes his debut on the show. Thanks to Kim, River ends up coaching Robbie as part of a for-credit mentoring program. However, River rubs Robbie the wrong way really quickly (try saying that five times fast!) when Robbie sees the A-lister for the phoney that he is. (Also, the opening with Ray and Travis bonding over pranking Lily is hilarious.)
"Lil' and Grace" - Ray gets a decoy love interest of his own, Grace (Julia Alexander), after he and Lily set each other up on dates. Alexander wasn't a bad actress, and Grace wasn't a bad character, but it was obvious from the get-go that the relationship wasn't going anywhere.
"The All-Nighter" - Travis and Parker wait in line together for tickets for a Trews concert and slowly but inevitably manage to bond. Meanwhile, RFR hosts an all-nighter of their own, and Lily brings along a memory box from a sleepover they put together back when they were little - with some stuff that Ray and Robbie might not want remembered. The younger RFR-ers are adorable as little kids, and the Parker/Travis scenes alone make this one of my favorite episodes.
"The Last Dance" - Everything gets wrapped up and resolved in the final episode of the series, mostly how you expect it to be, and the final few minutes alone make this episode one of the more emotionally satisfying series finales I've seen. Not only do we get to see all the familiar recurring faces in this one, but everyone brings their A-game to this episode. Expect to get misty-eyed.