Season Two: Exploring KJEM
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
Well, this episode has a lot going on. We have a black bad guy (how unusual is that, for starters?) We have a pirate radio broadcast. We have a seriously cheesy Jem song. And we have...Kimber underneath a parachute?
There's a little radio station called KMEL going out of business, because it's owner Elmer Marcus can't pay the bills. KBST has been trying to knock him off the air for the longest time, hoping to buy out the station and dominate the airwaves. But that's before Jem gets on the scene...and whenever Jem's on the scene, you know that the Misfits are gonna be there too!
THE MISSING MISFIT SCENES
In the cartoon, the Misfits seem to suddenly - and randomly - get very annoyed at the Holograms and their radio station venture. In fact, the scene we see is simply Pizzazz in Eric's office screaming his name, and then Eric (speaking to her as if she is a five year old), introducing her to Mr Kite and explaining that they have a plan to push Jem off the air.
Now, we all know that Pizzazz is good at random screaming fits. But this one seems just a mite *too* random. And the reason is simple. There is a scene in the original scripting which is entirely missed out from the episode proper. In fact, with this episode, there seem to be a few Misfit moments cut for more Hologram air time. Not that I'm bitter (gnash, gnash) or anything!
But, to clear up the little mystery, the actual reason for Pizzazz's screeching fit is this: Some of those pesky students have been doing a shot of KJEM P.R and have been running around the city giving out bumper stickers and fliers to anyone who will take them. And, inadvertently, they've managed to plaster the things all over the Misfits' car. Obviously, not a popular move. And obviously, just the thing to get an already ticked off Pizzazz in a rage! (This also solves another mystery - how it is that everyone knows about KJEM without any apparent in-cartoon publicity!)
ERIC BEING OUT-ERIC'ED
This does not happen very often, but Eric finds himself well out-manoeuvred in this episode. His plan is, of course, to get the Misfits a slot on the prestigious radio station KBST - and his desire to do so even involves getting the girls to perform a really, really tragic jingle in Lassiter's office. Of course, it all boils down to money in the end, and Eric is prepared to pay - but he has no idea of the wheels within wheels that are going on here. Like in Morvania, when Eric and the Misfits are pawns in a much bigger plan, Lassiter's focus is on KMEL (soon to be KJEM) and getting the nusiance radio station off the air. In a sense it's a Jem/Misfit rivalry in a different setting - the world of radio.
Eric, as we all know, has his limits -though what they are seems to change from episode to episode. In this particular case, though he is offering a bribe, he knows better than to book his girls onto a pirate broadcast. It's hard to know exactly whether it's Lassiter or Kyte who are the real brains behind the aeroplane Misfit performance, but either way, it's definitely not what Eric is expecting. In fact, it even drives Eric to join forces with Jerrica in an attempt to track down and stop what's going on. As Jerrica says, "Even you aren't dumb enough to do a pirate broadcast".
And despite it all, even when confronting Lassiter at KBST, he has managed to distance himself enough from Kyte and Kyte's activities to keep his station out of the mire and the scandal to follow. Even Eric himself could not hope for a better outcome for one of his plots!
LASSITER and the RACIAL QUESTION
I really like Lassiter as a villain. I like the fact that he is cunning, conniving and as sneaky as any bad guy the show would ever hope to meet. But his mere inclusion in the cartoon show was a bold and brave move in itself. He is - and is scripted to be - a black man, in his middle to late forties. Anyone who is familiar with the Jem series and the Jetta situation knows that a black Misfit was once pushed for, but there was too much fear of backlash and "racial issues" for Hasbro to want to go ahead and do it. There is a conscious lack of ethnicity in the Misfits, compared with the Holograms, and I've always felt that that was the ultimate proof that our world has no political correctness. Whilst nobody wants to upset any culture, colour or creed - and that is understandable - I've often wondered what kind of impact it had on children to see villains who were almost entirely white people, and heroes which covered every ethnic group imaginable. Jem too often falls into this trap (and the one where people of different ethnic backgrounds don't have relationships). But neither of those things represent the real world or the fact that bad people and good people are just people, and their colour has nothing to do with it.
In making Adrian Lassiter a powerful rich black guy who is the episode's ultimate villain, Christy managed to bring this out in a kid's cartoon setting. And I admire her for it all the way. After all, if a society is really politically correct and equal, it should not even matter what colour the good or bad guys are on the screen. After all, as people love to tell me - it's only a kid's show!
I have to say that I love Jetta in this episode. At every juncture she's questioning Kyte, and what's going on. She thinks there's something fishy about where they're going, about the fact they're playing in an aeroplane, and about the fact they can't hear Kyte broadcasting from where they are set up. Whilst Pizzazz tells Kyte, "You must know what you're doing!" And Roxy's comment is "Who cares, I'm having a great time!", Jetta is never quite happy with all that's going on. And, as well we know, she's right to be suspicious.
Though many of the writers do tackle Jetta, and some do it better than others, she's generally at her strongest in the episodes written by Christy Marx, and this is no exception. It's also worth noting that this is one of those "naughty" episodes where Jetta swears. She describes the idea of playing on KBST's radio station as "bloody beautiful!" - a fact which censors everywhere (even here in the UK!) do not seem to have picked up on!
The other main point to make about Jetta is her encounter with Lassiter. As is growing ever more common through the second season, Jetta tries to impress the radio boss by talking about her connections with royalty. Lassiter, completely unimpressed, removes her from the desk and tells her calmly that he's entertained the royal family and they never mentioned her once. Despite this, none of the other Misfits (not even Roxy!) make any kind of comment - even though on almost every other occasion when Jetta mentions her family connections, Roxy jumps in with some kind of jeering retort. It's almost as if Jetta's background (false or otherwise) is less important here than coercing the man behind the desk into giving them airtime. And that means, of course, that the ever-disbelieving Roxy puts her desire to jibe Jetta on hold while they're conducting business. Misfits before pleasure? Definitely!
JERRICA, RIO and DOUBLECROSSING
There are moments when I feel for Jerrica, and there are moments when I'd quite happily throttle her. We already know, because she's said so, that she believes Eric had nothing to do with the pirate broadcast. She knows that the Misfits were taken away in a limousine by Kyte and she knows that somehow they were set up. She even says as much at the end - "they are innocent!"
So why am I in a stinking fuss about it this time? Well, even though she knows all of that stuff, and even know she knows the broadcast and the "K-JAM" business were not Eric or the Misfits' fault, she stands by and lets them get arrested. Rio even jokes about helping Eric get them out - "tomorrow!".
Now why would a heroine behave that way? Had the Misfits plotted it deliberately, I could see the provocation to behave like a spiteful bitch, even if it's not a very heroic thing to do. But it's like the scene at the end of Britrock. The Misfits have nothing to do with the deeper workings going on, but it doesn't matter to Jerrica and co. They don't like the Misfits, so they'll see them humiliated and they'll let them suffer regardless. It's really ugly viewing considering this is a character that kids are meant to follow the lead from. And they say parents complained about the Misfits wearing fishnets. Honestly...
Well, honestly, the main theme of the episode holds no appeal for me. It's your average someone-in-crisis-Jem-must-help scenario, in which a collapsing radio station gets help from Starlight Music at the last minute and as a result Jem gets a radio station named after her. What's more interesting, maybe, is how strongly Lassiter feels about getting KMEL off the air in the first place. It's not about profits or airwaves, but about the fact that he was fired from KMEL himself some time earlier. So, even though the proposed KJEM has new call letters and is going to be a college radio station (as opposed to one directly in competition with KBST), Lassiter still wants it off the air (didn't I say it was like a Jem/Misfit rivalry?)
The radio station is being run by a group of college students as part of their university project. One of these students went to school with Kimber Benton, and it's through that connection (and a dodgy parachute jump) that Jem and co actually get alerted to the situation. This tells me a couple of things. Firstly, if these are college kids who went to school with Kimber, it's unlikely that Kimber is sixteen when the band started. I can't speak for American colleges, but I sure as heck know that trotting off to run full blown radio stations is not something we do at uni over here in the UK as a first year. It's my feeling that, if this is a full on project, it's a later year project. And if Kimber is the same age as one of the students involved, she must have been older when the group first kicked off. It makes sense for her to be anyway - but this has just been one of those times that (in my view) backs it up.
What else has to be said is that this episode gives us a clear example of Jem's music being ruined by the infomercial disease. While the Misfits have a punchy song that's catchy and fun in Listen Up, KJEM is a jingly piece of nonsense that bangs on about sport and weather, among other things. There is no way - even speaking as a Misfit fan - that anyone in the real world would choose to listen to the song KJEM over the Misfits' "Listen Up" track. So why we're meant to believe everyone is ticked off at hearing the Misfits over Jem here is anyone's guess. Honestly, wrong as the pirate broadcast is, I'd be glad if it meant I was spared another BAD second season Hologram song! (And again, we're meant to believe that everyone hates the Misfits and that noone wants to give them a break. But if that was the case, surely they wouldn't be any kind of competition for Jem and the Holograms? Sorry, it just doesn't wash!)
ONLY ME AND THE...MUSIC?
Though technically this episode only has the two ACTIVE songs KJEM and Listen Up, there is a third. Right at the beginning of the episode, while Danse is taking the Starlight girls through a work-out. This is Only Me And The Music, which has seemingly become Danse's signature theme and which she has been animated dancing to before. Again, this is it's basic purpose, and another example of a recycled song. It could even be called logical, considering the Danse connection.
But it ISN'T the song scripted to be played! The original idea was Broadway Magic to be re-aired to this scene...was it simply Danse herself that inspired this eleventh hour alteration?
Well, Jem's song is nauseating, as is Jerrica's behaviour at the end. But it's fun to see Eric outdone and Jetta is a star -despite the oddness of the cut scene.
Episode rating: 7/10.
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Britrock website copyright EA Woolley