Season Three: Exploring BEAUTY AND THE ROCK PROMOTER
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
BEAUTY and THE ROCK PROMOTER
Well, someone really thought the ideas in the Princess and the Singer and Broadway Magic in first season were SUCH good ones they decided to mesh them together and revamp them a little using a fairy tale instead. Turning the classic french story into a rock musical takes some stretch of the imagination at times, it has to be admitted. But if you like seeiing Jem lose all her marbles, this one has to be on your watchlist!
HOIST BY HER OWN PETARD...
This is without a doubt the biggest irony of the whole episode. For season after season we've watched Jem dupe Rio into believing she and Jerrica are in fact different people, and not one and the same. Now Jem gets a taste of her own medicine, for Red Johnny Mack, the producer of the rock musical is also "The Beast" in the stageshow, mysterious and an enigmatic performer who attracts Jem's attention and interest from the first time they meet. But the more she tries to find out who The Beast really is behind his mask, the more elusive he seems to be for her, and the more obsessive she becomes. This is such a neat mirror image of her own behaviour towards Rio and his reaction to it. Rio never knows more about Jem than just her assumed name, and its all part of her mystique and her attraction.
Of course, Rio too is in this show, and he has absolutely no patience with Jem's new interest in stage performance. For once, though, you can understand why. Though it's just a stage show, she always seems to be asking where the beast is, working herself so hard that she winds up collapsing with exhaustion. Of course, this means that the way is clear for the Misfits to take over - and Jem has literally been defeated by her own deception techniques! At last, maybe, we have the firm proof of something that's been suggested ever since the beginning - that Jem herself is Jerrica's worst enemy.
THE MISFITS: STAGE SHY?
The Misfits are very much bit players in this episode, but significant all the same. You can see the way they are being phased out of the spotlight by the writing team at this point, but we do get a few classic and worthwhile moments from them. The most significant is probably the first scene, in Eric's office, where Eric is telling them about Jem's casting in the rock musical in London. Pizzazz seems somewhat disinterested with the whole business, and anyone who's familiar with the first season of episodes will find this a spooky echo back to the opening Misfit scene in Broadway Magic. There again Pizzazz has no interest in taking part in a stage production, and there again Eric has to work his manipulative charms on her and the other Misfits to get them to take up the fight to wreck Jem's day. But why is this? Are the Misfits really stage-shy? Is it because - as is later suggested - they aren't born actresses, and they don't like being made to look fools? Or is the way they perform the script merely a form of rebellion against having to do it at all? It's hard to know. Considering the way they conceal their sensitivities from each other, I'd say that acting was definitely among their list of abilities. Particularly, perhaps, remembering that Roxy has managed to overcome a fear of heights and an illiteracy secret to maintain herself as the tough Misfit, Jetta's charade in Britrock, and not to mention Stormer's classic role as the "mystery lady" in the first five episodes.
But then, of course, the question has to be asked - WHY do the Misfits hate performing in shows like this one, when the stage is their home from home and the place we most often see them lapping up the crowd's attention?
My own assertion would be that when they perform on stage as the Misfits, they are playing to their own rules. Acting requires them to adopt someone else's instructions and script, and we've seen in other episodes (Starbright namely) that Pizzazz does not like following other people's lines. Even in this episode she decides the script is a waste of time and tosses it away, determined to make up her own speeches instead. So maybe it's not a case of stagefright, nor a case of bad acting. Just a case of the Misfits making the point that what they do, they do their way, or not at all.
There is another small Misfit thing to take note of, too. When Pizzazz asks Jetta how she'd like to take a trip 'home to merry old England', Jetta produces a wicked smile. Yet this episode is not so very far removed from the events of Britrock. Is it really all forgotten and smoothed over so soon? Or is this simply bravado?
THE POWER PLANT BEAST
A few words must be said briefly about the concept of this play. It's not surprising Jem loses her marbles, considering we're expected to believe that the Beast lives inside (and I quote), "A power plant castle with a giant turbine engine in the living room." Of course, it can be argued that Jem is already nuts before the show begins, since she seems to find this idea "crazy, but beautiful." And though the story of Beauty and the Beast is a classic, it doesn't quite work as a rock remake. I can accept the idea that Beauty's father picked a rose and took it away with him, but who finds an electric guitar abandoned in the grounds of a power plant and assumes it doesn't belong to anyone?
HOLOGRAMS: OSCAR MATERIAL?
Taking a moment out from the plot for a moment, it's fun to look at the Holograms and their portrayal of the 'ugly sisters'. I don't think it'd be unfair to say that Kimber's performance is largely herself behaving as she has done on occasion when jealous of Jerrica/Jem (do we assume she's drawing on real life experience here?). Aja and Shana seem to think that all they need to do is spout a few bitchy lines and fold their arms to be winning actresses. But the stage - and the show - is actually stolen by Raya. That's something we don't get to say very often! Not only does she have the badass bitchiness down to a tee, she has entirely changed her voice, dropping her accent and getting into role. We have hints in other episodes (Trick or Techrat for example) that Raya might make an actress. She's a good drummer, but I think she missed her calling!
JEM vs THE MISFITS: THE REAL RIVAL
The final thing to say about this episode goes right back to the real core of the Jem series - the rivalry between the Holograms and the Misfits. Or so we think, at first glance - Misfits heading to England to cause chaos, Misfits sabotaging the set. Typical stuff, huh?
No. Not exactly. What's interesting to me is that after Jem collapses and is no longer in a position to call the shots, Kimber takes the decision that they should go and speak to the Misfits...and get them to replace the Holograms in the stage show. Kimber and the others have their concerns in exactly the right place - the health of one of their number - and oddly enough, the reception when they arrive at the place the Misfits are staying is not hostile. Instead, Pizzazz invites them in - "tea is on!". What's this about? Did the Misfits expect to see them? Had they heard of Jem's collapse? Or is there just less hostility when Jem isn't there? It's another interesting fact to note that the MOMENT Jem is feeling better, she charges down to the theatre - against ALL advice - to kick the Misfits out of 'her' play and return to centre stage. For the audience, it's probably something of a relief. But it's another moment where Jem goes in all guns blazing against the Misfits - with very little due provocation for doing so. The Misfits have actually helped the Holograms out by taking their roles - even though Jem wants to perform, the manner of ingratitude is quite disgraceful, particularly since it's always being raised on mailing lists how ungrateful the MISFITS always are ;)
Going back briefly to the stage performance of the Holograms as the ugly sisters, I was struck by how much this is a parody of the Jem/Misfit relationships. The 'sisters' are rude, uncouth and selfish. But they're also resentful of their father bestowing all his attention very obviously on Beauty. This is so blatantly a microcosm of how the Misfits feel - and react - to the way the world bestows it's attention and favours on Jem (and also the Holograms). Nice irony, isn't it, that the Holograms seem so completely oblivious to it??
Any episode which uses insanity as it's main theme has to be one worth watching, though it's not one of the best Jem episodes. It suffers a little from the awful final song "Our Love Makes You Beautiful" - which always to me sounds distinctly offkey somehow. And the Misfits do get airtime but not a song - like I said, beginning of the end in so many ways. But, surprisingly enough, Rio is actually in one of his better representations in this episode. Occasionally he's even FUNNY - quipping that he's surprised Red Johnny Mack didn't want to kiss HIS hand too when they meet. I have some minor issues with the fact every time England is shown on this show there are sinister men behind the scene plotting unpleasantness (usually relating to money or power), but I guess otherwise it wouldn't be much of a story, would it?? ;)
Episode rating: 6/10.
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley