Season One: Exploring IN SEARCH OF THE STOLEN ALBUM
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
IN SEARCH OF THE STOLEN ALBUM
In Search Of The Stolen Album is one of the more formulaic of the first year of Jem episodes. To my mind there is nothing very imaginitive in it that is not in many kid's cartoons - that is not to say it is not an enjoyable episode, but there is no experimentation with character or depth or background given, just a storyline which dots around the music world and for once focuses on the very business of making music. Probably for this reason, it seems rarely to be counted among the favourite episodes of either Jem or Misfit fan!
WHAT HAPPENED AT MISFITS MUSIC?
The big question for me as a Misfit fan is what happened at Misfit Music? According, I believe, to the sequencing, this episode should have aired after the Rock Fashion Book, but most commonly airs after The Music Awards, a slightly more logical place for it to sit (being that it's about Misfit Music to some degree.) But at some point between the end of the Music Awards and the start of this episode, Pizzazz and her father seem to have had a falling out, leading to them being banished from Misfit Music. Perhaps the events at the end of Rock Fashion Book are responsible and it should air this way about after all - either way, Eric is hiring a delapidated, rat-infested office to, as Pizzazz puts it, "pretend he has a job", and the Misfits are out of a recording contract. Eric is still preoccupied with recouping Starlight Music rather than getting back in Harvey's good graces at Misfit Music, yet he cannot be on totally bad terms with the Gabor household, since he is able to visit the Gabor Mansion and presumably when he takes the Misfits out of town he's doing it at Harvey's expense. Judging by the office, he couldn't afford the plush hotel! Mind you, there is another way of looking at it. Eric is able to pay Zipper to steal Jem's master tape, so he does have some money available to him. He is also able - without the backing of a music company - to get the Misfits to record at Flash Recording Studio (which we discover Harvey has a vested interest in). Perhaps his cheap choice of office is more related to his being stingy than it is a reflection of how much money he actually has.
Of course, it is possible that Pizzazz has some financial clout of her own. It's never quite clear how much money Pizzazz does have at her disposal without resorting to calling Daddy, but her interest in the Misfits is sufficient to allow her to pump funds into this project regardless of the cost.
My big surprise is that they relinquish interest and hold on their music company so easily - especially remembering that this is a company for which the Misfits record for many, many later episodes!
I also have a slight concern about the motivation for the Misfits in this episode. They want to steal Jems master tape - but why? Because they cannot produce their own sound or because if they use the tape, Jem and company can't? I think the latter, even despite the potential legal ramifications should the Holograms prove ownership of the backing track. It surprises me that Stormer - whose musical ambition is often so obvious - should sit back and calmly play along, while her musical talents are effectively being sidetracked. Since the Misfits in studio are clearly serious about their music, it does create rather a strange situation. And who writes the Misfits' lyrics for Melody Playin'? Pizzazz? Who knows. It's just one of those things that really does not add up with what we're told in other episodes. Sadly this is not an uncommon situation for our Misfits!
THE SNOB FACTOR
I was re-watching this episode for the first time in a long while recently and something immediately jumped out at me that never did before. We always get the impression that Jerrica and her friends are born into a fairly well off, middle class family for whom money is occasionally tight because of the demands of the foster house, but whose family have capital enough to buy a recording company and run a foster foundation along the way. We're also told at several intervals in the series, forcibly, that Jem and co. go out of their way to help those who are in need, no matter who they are or where they come from.
So to that end, this episode entirely destroys their philanthopist image.
There are a number of moments during this episode where I would say the "snob" factor comes into play. Most strikingly is the attitude of the girls going to the Storehouse Club - it's "in a real bad part of town", they ask if it's "for real", and the general tone of their attitude is that this place is beneath them. Yes it is scary, rough and full of people who want to kick their asses, but even so they go into it with the kind of attitude that not only makes them targets for the robbers, but also the sort of "I wouldn't be seen dead here" mentality.
The second time when this theme resurfaces is the incident at the Mirage Garage. The Holograms' behaviour towards Bubba, the slightly slow owner is uncharacteristically disgusting, it has to be said. They lie to him, telling him that they came out to get the car fixed because he was 'highly recommended', search his premises, destroy his tower of tires then leave without letting him fix the car (his livelihood) or without even bothering to listen to the end of his story! So Bubba isn't the smartest tool in the box - but does that really give the Holograms the right to use him in such an offhand way?
There is also a general assumption through the series that the Misfits feel they are "too good" for the ordinary folk. But then, we know that Roxy is from the rough side of the coin already, and significantly in this episode, the Storehouse is a Misfit club date (so they don't consider themselves too good to play a rough joint if the job comes up.) The Mirage Garage is near a resort owned by Harvey Gabor (so most likely Pizzazz has used it to get her car fixed, else she probably would not have known about it.) These things interest me. Jerrica and the Holograms' rather superior attitude does gall just a tad in this episode.
A LITTLE "TOO" CLEVER
Ahh, and now we come to the crux of it. The episode ends with Pizzazz's agonised remonstrations at Eric, that he's "ruined everything." But the actual, blunt truth of the matter is that the plot was ruined by Pizzazz and her little treasure hunt. The motivation for the treasure hunt is clear - even though she has possession of Jem's master tape, she cannot resist taking a dig at her rivals (which proves that the rivalry is beyond just music even by this stage.) Her choice of taunt is interesting to me - a treasure hunt is a very childish thing to pick for someone who always plays so sophisticated! And it's Roxy, Miss Tough Girl who jumps on the idea with enthusiasm, suggesting it should have 'cryptic clues'. Perhaps I'm reading too much into this (when has that stopped me before?) but I wonder if the reason for this lies in the fact that neither Roxy or Pizzazz really had proper childhoods as such, in that they didn't get to 'play' maybe as much as they should have. That something so childish should appeal to them merely indicates a lack of something somewhere along the line. Stormer, interestingly, says little about it except to go along with what her bandmates are doing. So, for her, this obviously does not apply.
Of course, the treasure hunt brings to the attention of the Holograms that not only does someone have their master tape still most likely intact, but also it provides them with clues with which to relocate it in time for their album release. Pizzazz's clues are, as Synergy says, 'a bit too clever', since they tie her into the plot and make it obvious not only who is behind the trick but where the tapes might be. Mind you, it takes the combined efforts of the Holograms and a powerful computer to crack them, so maybe they weren't so off the mark after all!
THE MELODY PLAYIN' PARODY
This episode - so banal in other ways - actually includes one of the cleverest music video sequences of all of the episodes and it would be a travesty not to discuss it here. Presumably because There's A Melody Playin' and There Ain't Nobody Better are sung over the same backing track, the Misfit video (which comes second, of course) parodies what happens in the Jem and the Hologram one quite closely. When the Holograms are flying around Jem as she's singing, the Misfits do their own version, Stormer and Roxy flying around Pizzazz. Whilst Jem and co sing about love, Pizzazz declares that nobody is as "good for you as me." Whilst we see Jem and company in the studio, we also see the Misfits in the studio and the conflicting ways of recording songs. Most clever of all, where Jem is driving her car with her tape in the machine, Pizzazz in the Misfit video jumps behind the wheel of a car that looks suspiciously like Clash's from Starbright, and ejects Jem's tape from the cassette deck, tossing it out of the window. I have always been very impressed with the way the animators handled the two videos, making one a parody of the other in fine Jem style.
There are a lot of episodes during the Jem series where a questionmark is raised over Jem and the Holograms and their right to carry out revenge. On the one hand, as many a Jem fan has told me, they are often provoked to distraction by the antics of the Misfits. But on the other hand, as heroes of the series, revenge should be something that is beneath them. Whilst I can wholeheartedly understand that they want to get their tape back, and also that they don't want the Misfits to try and pass off Hologram work as their own, there is a malicious sense of enjoyment on the part of the Holograms in that they have a chance to humiliate their rivals in public, possibly destroying any chance of them regaining a music contract. Though this is one of those episodes where justification is stronger than in some of the others, I still think it unpleasant that the Holograms are laughing at the Misfits' misfortune at the end of the episode. It's not necessary, girls. You made your point without it.
Not the best Jem episode by a long shot. It's one of those which you either sit back and watch without too much thought, or you start looking at in depth and finding all kinds of negatives about characters rather than positives, which is a shame. I don't dislike the episode, but I feel that it is overshadowed by certain others from the same season, such as Island of Deception.
Episode rating: 6/10.
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley