Season One: Exploring BROADWAY MAGIC
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
There is an overwhelmingly silly element to this episode - I admit that it's one of those where you're required to accept some things without questioning them too closely, else they fall apart. But for a first season episode it's not overly bad - Jem and the Holograms and the Misfits are involved in a Broadway musical - at least, Jem and co are the main players and the Misfits are the understudies. Never a good start to any episode...you just KNOW trouble is around the corner!
STORMER and ROMANCE
I am not a huge fan of this episode, I have to confess, but it does hold a wonderful little bit of character action that provides the first hint that Stormer isn't just a Misfit with a conscience - she's one with a sense of love. There are a few moments through the series where Stormer's romantic instincts are pulled into view and this episode gives us perhaps the earliest indication of them. Stormer's commitment to the Misfit/Hologram rivalry can occasionally be a grey area as it is - at the start of the episode she concedes that "Jem's good!" and during the rendition of Can't Get My Love Together, she is brought to tears (see screen capture above) rather than anger by Jem's performance. The fact that Jem's song makes Stormer so visibly emotional suggests to me that she identifies with what Jem is singing about (something which is further strengthened in later episodes) and that she has experienced a difficult romantic situation in the past. What this might be we can only speculate, but Broadway Magic does give us that first glimpse of Stormer the romantic.
WHO IS SHE, ANYWAY?
Possibly the key theme of the episode surrounds Jem's identity. It's Stormer's careless remarks that spark things off, though for some reason noone seems to question Eric Raymond's rights or reasons for putting up a huge stake of money as a reward for anyone who can find out Jem's real identity. Perhaps most startling of all is that the Misfits do not try to find out who Jem is very often, suggesting that as a rule they don't care who she is, only that she's there and is interfering in what they see as their music scene. But the interest Eric's reward generates does highlight a few interesting things. Firstly - that people in Jem's world are easily manipulated by money, even turning on their friends and colleagues in order to obtain the truth and consequently the dollars. Secondly, though, it gives us a much more vivid picture of Jerrica's confusion where Jem is concerned, particuarly over Rio. I find it odd that at the beginning, when Rio sees the story in the paper about the musical he yells to JERRICA and not Jem that "you're gonna be broadway stars!" Later in the episode he sneaks into her room to see if he can find out something about Jem, and eventually in Central Park he confronts her and asks her if she and Jem are the same person. These three acts all link up together for me to suggest that Rio suspects his girlfriend and the singer are one and the same person, but that he requires some proof to settle it.
Jerrica's outright deception in Central Park is probably the only time in the whole series where Rio comes close to finding out who she is, and where she actively lies to put him off the right track, making a hologram of Jem appear to distract him. Jerrica's loyalty to Synergy - and consequently to her dead father's memory - is stronger than her loyalty to Rio, which indicates that their relationship is not all it maybe should be. Since in a later episode Jerrica discusses with Synergy the idea of telling Rio the truth, I think it's important that here she chooses not to tell him her secret. I don't believe it is out of fear of his reaction, but more that she does not want him to be party to something so significant in her life - that after she caught him going through her stuff, she is no longer sure if she can trust him. Perhaps this is one of those relationship-weakening moments which, later on in the series, come back to haunt them in outright rows.
Admittedly, Synergy's role in all of this is probably key. When Jerrica seeks Synergy's advice over her identity, it's almost like she wants to come out and admit the truth, forget the charade and get something of her real life back. But Synergy's focus is on protecting herself - and subsequently anyone who is involved with her - from harm, and she does not seem particularly willing to listen or advise on this occasion. It's not the only time that she acts this way - but it is unusual for her to be so firm with her views and it probably does Jerrica no good at all to have to balance her responsibilities as Synergy's guardian with her love for Rio.
Ironically, after all of the Misfits' singing and preoccupation with Jem's identity, Roxy probably has one of the closest shaves with the truth that any of the Misfits ever have. While the Holograms prepare to perform, Jerrica slips backstage to change to Jem and Roxy is watching her from a lighting gantry. Of course, she turns away before she sees the change, declaring that she doesn't care about "That beanpole"...but it's a close moment for Jem and she doesn't even know it!
ROXY and GADGETRY
Now seems an opportune moment to mention once again Roxy's penchant for all things technological. It's her inspiration to go up on the gantry and meddle with the sound so that the producer, Bob Merritt cannot hear the Holograms play. She's not interested even in spying on Jerrica at this point - she's more focused on messing with the switches and upsetting Jem. Granted, she exclaims that she's hit the wrong dials - but I wonder if that's actually the case. Roxy faced with a big row of switches and buttons to press and play with...my instinct tells me that she wants to play just a tad too much, and the result is an over the top screech. An accident? Maybe ;) But just another moment where Roxy is drawn to messing with something technical ;)
ON WITH THE SHOW!
Broadway Magic is one of those great episodes where the supporting characters in the story go all out to try and cause as much trouble between the Misfits and the Holograms as possible, without really knowing that that's what they are doing. The prime suspect in this episode is Marrett himself, who not only praises both the Misfits and the Holograms on their auditions (could you get more different than their two songs?), but decides to announce in a public place which group is to be the stars of the show. Now, unless you're a very stupid Jem fan, you know that the gig is going to go to the Holograms. But the fact Marrett drags the decision onto live TV in the end is the pivotal moment that sparks all of the trouble. Not only does he, by publically rejecting the Misfits, offend and outrage their pride, but he is also forced to give them the positions of understudies, showing that he has no idea at all what he is dealing with. Again, you'd have to be a very stupid fan indeed not to see that the Misfits would try to sabotage Jem's chances of starring in the show.
Perhaps that is one of the sad things about Broadway Magic as an episode - that two such events seem so manipulated by the writer and so predictable in their outcome. But formulaic plots is a failing littered throughout the first season, so I suppose we should not be too harsh on this one in particular.
The lengths that the Misfits are willing to go to to keep Jem out of the show - and the lengths that Jem goes to to make sure she makes the final curtain give us a glimpse of something else, and that is the depth of this rivalry by this point. At no point in the episode do the Misfits intend Jem physical harm - just to get her out of the way so that they can perform in the show. That such a small stage event should attract the attention of a rock group who, in the normal sequence of things probably wouldn't care overly does highlight the rivalry even more. If Jem has it, the Misfits want it, and if the Misfits are trying to take it, Jem will even risk her life to get it back. (Come on, let's face it - it takes a lot of determination to swipe a hang-glider and jump off the top of a building just to make sure you're there in time to play some stage show.)
Broadway Magic is probably too formulaic to really be a pivotal jem episode in many ways. However, it does contain important sequences, particularly the scene in Central Park between Rio and Jerrica. For the future deterioration of their relationship, this episode does have to be seen as key. It is made very clear here what Jerrica holds dearest to her - and that thing is not, surprisingly enough, her love for Rio.
Episode rating: 5/10.
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley