It comes from an era in which cleverness is puns, so of course it begins with that title.
It's like it wants to be saying Expert Beginners, but it can't quite wrap that phrasing around the Caste system.
Anyway, it opens on a shot of a quiet suburban home and that's where the title card comes in. A moment later, the soundtrack starts.
We see clips of the cast-members going about their lives. Becky is skateboarding. Of course. And Tom is fixing up his car. And Benny the reptilian exchange student is eating a whole live rat.
He turns to the camera and grins, tail slithering between his teeth.
The writers always liked to pick on Benny, but this was good cultural exposure for the Reptilians so I guess it worked out in the end.
After Benny there's Margrite, pulling a half-formed necroplas from a whirling portal. Mags has her laboratory goggles on and her white coat-sleeves rolled back, but somehow her episodes always manage to be about the moral choice of what she's doing - like she ought to just wait until she reaches the age of Consecration before sticking her hands into the Demonrift.
Kids these days are conjuring much younger, so if the writers were trying to scare us away, I guess they failed.
We see a few more faces during the credits. Some are back-of-your-mind familiar like Tarantulos the janitor with his thick mustache and eight segmented limbs. Others are entirely forgettable. A flash of a grin, a quick-written name, and then they disappear into the parade of faces and music.
Eventually, the intro ends and we find ourselves in Tom's garage. Tom is rummaging around in a toolbox, looking for wrenches and thaumic calipers and whatever else the car usually demands when his brother – Eulthwaite, the Skinlord – walks in. Eulthwaite is bragging about this cool new passtime that he's discovered, and we know from the formula that new things are bad.
Tom asks what the Skinlord could be so interested in and we stifle a laugh when Eulthwaite leans in close to the camera and stage-whispers "dueling."
We know dueling is harmless fun, but these VHS-tape denizens of yester-year are so enthralled by its forbidden allure that Tom instantly gets involved in three duels in the next seven minutes. The writers make it clear to use that he has a problem – an addiction to this unlicensed use of magic – and they show this with special effects.
Tom, being an idiot, promptly gets caught. They haul him before the Sorcerer Police and interrogate him with measures that leave the air around the television set reeking of ozone. Tom eventually stops protecting his brother and that marks the end of the Skinlord in this show.
We see a corpse, but it's all cartoonish and fake – nothing like the real Sorcerer Police would air during their segment on the news.
A somber announcer comes on, talking over a shot of Tom's emaciated body about how vital it is that we obey the dictates of the Chancellarium and never meddle with magics we have not been authorized for. Then the program briskly cuts to the end credits.
It's corny, but as I said: we live in a different era.
I look away from the set, glancing out the window to the magically irradiated ruins outside.
The Rebellion hadn't made things any better, I think as a millipede the size of a schoolbus with a little girl's head instead of mouthparts trundles past - though God knows I had played my part in trying to fix the world. Sulphur and regicide just hadn't been the kind of cure we were looking for. We had changed one set of problems for another.
In the end, though, I think that's the kind of lesson that teenagers always have to learn for themselves; and that adults get to be nostalgic about. Popping in another tape, I rewind the VCR and hit 'Play'.