Season Three: Exploring THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED
"There won't be a story today. Jem's gone. Jerrica's gone. And Jem and the Holograms will...never play again!"
Kimber's words as this episode opens. Who she's talking to is anyone's guess, and why she's mentioning a story is equally odd.
The irony about this particular episode is that, despite the fact NONE of it makes much coherent sense when thought about, most all the Jem fans I know really like it as an episode. With a title neatly swiped from Don McLean's American Pie, we're thrust into a weird world with so many holes it could be swiss cheese. But since this is the only real Misfit outing between the Stingers Hit Town and the end (if you look at these in terms of a logical show chronology rather than air dates), I suppose that's probably why it's generated so much affectionate support. It also tries something new - surprising so late on - in that we get the first hand view of several of the characters, telling their side of the story to link the scenes. And, quite ironically, one of those isn't Jem.
Plus, one might also say it's something of a relief when Kimber yells "STOP!" and the Jem Girl Theme is cut off midflow...if you get my drift ;)
THE JEM SITUATION
In all fairness to Jerrica, the opening scene of this episode is really, really ugly - and it's not her making it that way. Between Shana storming out in a frustrated huff, Rio calling her a tightwad because she can't afford new lights, her fuse is understandably short. We get a lot of glimpses into the mind of the chronically underappreciated Jerrica as her responsibilities at Starlight Music mount up alongside her engagements as Jem. Though it's fair to say it's a quagmire she jumped into of her own choice, there is some excuse for her initial behaviour. Kimber's usual melodramatic response to Jerrica's impatience kinda tips the scale, setting the ball in motion.
It's fairly common with later episodes for Jerrica to act/be one way as Jerrica, and then be totally different and carefree as Jem. This is one of those episodes where Jerrica's problems seep on through her holographic disguise and into Jem's body too. She's tense and edgy at the concert, and it honestly surprises me that the Holograms are not more sympathetic to her.
Riot is a major factor in the whole Jem situation here. From the moment he steps on stage he's manipulating her - through his music, telling her that he can give her the freedom and relaxation she's looking for. The song "Under My Spell" is uncannily well chosen, and you can only imagine that this is another of Riot's extremely sophisticated plots - that he knows full well that Jem is on edge and means to take full advantage of it.
After the show, he convinces her to run off with him. And yet, even on a boat headed into unknown waters, Jerrica once more pushes through Jem's exterior, as she exclaims that she has to go back.
Of course, once stranded on the island, a whole slew of questions start to pop up. Surely in the shipwreck, Jem must have been underwater for some time - yet apparently her projection remained intact, because Riot never noticed anything the matter. For someone stranded away from home with no way of getting back, Jem seems overly keen to sunbathe and not so very sure about building a new boat or even trying some desperate means to return to her friends and family - not even to get a message to them that she is really okay (it takes Riot to do that, though there is question number three. How do you send a postcard from a deserted island - was this all done in advance?) Then, of course, there is Synergy. Why do the Holograms not do what they have done before (The Fan, for example) and use Synergy to discover Jem's whereabouts? Perhaps they accept the postcard from her as a sign she doesn't want to be disturbed, but in the circumstances, I think it's a bit weak that they sit back and just accept that their lives are falling apart because she's decided to take off with Riot. It's like the Stingers (see below).
And there is Rio. Rio, who is obsessively worried about Jem, yet doesn't seem at all bothered that Jerrica - his girlfriend - is also missing. And nobody seems to find this even a bit odd. Jem has no legal ownership over the Starlight Girls or the Foundation, or Starlight Music. All of that is Jerrica. Yet Pizzazz is able to pull away control of all these things because Jem is missing, without even stopping to guess at the reasons for Jerrica's absence. Remember that swiss cheese I mentioned? We just hit it head on :S
It seems important to have a brief paragraph on the Stingers at this juncture. We know from watching Riot's Hope that the bond the Stingers have was forged through long years of hard work and adversity, and that their loyalty to each other is generally pretty much intact. And yet it still amazes me how the three of them act in this episode. Firstly, Riot. He's known for his egoism and self-interest, but in other episodes (Midsummer Night's Madness being a good example) he has come to the rescue of his "girls", getting them out of a tight spot. Yet in this episode, he abandons any care for what happens to them at all, in his mad pursuit of Jem. And even despite the fact that his taking off with Jem to some forbidden spot leaves Rapture and Minx to fend for themselves, both girls are apparently so bewitched by Riot (or so loyal to him) that they bite their tongues, knuckle down to playing as part of Pizzazz's "new" Misfits. This is one heck of a come down and a humiliation for them. Pizzazz says that they are "nothing" without Riot - and you have to wonder if really, any part of them ever believes that's the case.
The episode would have us believe that Rapture and Minx simply can't function without their wonderful leader in town. This is contrary, however, to other episodes - significantly Rapture's independant swindling in Midsummer Night's Madness and Minx and Rapture's houdini trick at the end of That Ol' Houdini Magic. Both are proud girls with ideas of their own. It's especially strange because, at a later point in the episode, we learn that both Minx and Rapture are well aware that Jem's disappearance is Riot's manipulation and that the postcard sent to them was written by him, not her.
To cap it all off, when Riot sees Minx on the island, he wants rid of her and then makes her and Rapture paddle the boat back to shore after the engine is "sabotaged" (another of those 'hero' moments for Rio). I honestly dislike the Stingers' chemistry in this episode. It's disjointed and sits at odds with everything we've already learnt about them. Not their best episode by a long shot.
PIZZAZZ and POWER
We see this in One Jem Too Many, but on a small scale. Here, it couldn't be a bigger one. Pizzazz, far from being lovesick and moony over the absent Riot, takes matters into her own hands, subjugates the competition - both Stingers AND Holograms - takes over Starlight Music (since Eric now runs Stinger Sound, maybe she missed having a music company? Or perhaps it was a case of showing Eric that she hasn't lost any of her edge, that she can succeed where he's so often failed.) And the most significant thing about all of this is that she does it all on the level.- "I knew Starlight Music was in trouble...and the best part was the Holograms were all under contract at Starlight Music and since I now own Starlight Music, they now work for me!" Although the legalities of this episode are hazy to the extreme, we do see Harvey Gabor being awarded ownership of the Starlight assets in a court of law, by Kimber's own words.
So how strong is Riot's power over her, anyhow? This episode would suggest that it only affects her when he's nearby to manipulate her emotion. Without him there, feeding ideas into her brain, she's able to shake off her "crush" and get back down to business. She doesn't even seem overly bothered that he's gone. She does say that Jem has run off with "Riot. MY Riot.", but in her glee over the consequences, losing him seems a small price to pay. I find it interesting. In The Stingers Hit Town, Pizzazz chooses Riot over the Misfits. Here, she clearly prefers success and stardom with them to anything that he can offer her. Is it the case that the Misfits have talked in between these episodes, to right the things that were wrong? I often wonder what happened between the make-up scene of The Stingers Hit Town and the Now video, to change Pizzazz;s attitude towards Stormer. But we see the Misfits so little between then and the end, this is really the only episode we have that we can base Pizzazz's romantic state of affairs on. Perhaps it's simply that she's bored with Riot's elusiveness and senses her chance to be in the spotlight. Pizzazz is never a patient character, and watching him swarm all over Jem is bound to try her patience sooner or later.
But then, of course, Pizzazz has her shortcomings too. We've seen her evolution as a canny manipulator and opportunist from a demanding spoilt brat. But she doesn't have all the answers, and once in the office chair of Starlight Music I think she realises it. There are some interesting points here. She does nothing to try and prevent the money going from Starlight Music to the Foundation, simply complains about the amount that its costing and the fact the touring isn't covering the amount. (Another sign of her doing things legally?). She calls in the other Misfits to help her (who else?) - showing that even though she's the one with all the power, she still considers it a team project. And it really seems like Starlight Music is important to her. It's more than just having something that was Jem's and taking control over the Holograms. It's more than just being top banana for once. It's almost like there's a genuine desire somewhere inside of her to follow in Harvey's footsteps enough to make him proud and to prove he's not the only Gabor capable of being a bigshot in the business world. Unfortunately, she lacks many of Harvey's business skills, but her unconscious imitation of her father shows us once again that Pizzazz's Dad means a lot to her, and that this is, in essence, a project which they take on together.
TOP OF THE CHARTS?
A moment must be spared to discuss this song. I find it fairly significant on a lot of levels. As a Misfit fan, the first thing I want to address is the subliminal message that Pizzazz is unable to be top of the charts without the input of musicians from other bands. The lyrics to the song constantly come back to that fact - "I'm finally here at the top of the charts". Yet this is something of a misnoma. We know they've been top of the charts before (Glitter and Gold) and that they've won awards (Music Awards). So maybe it's more a case of her feeling she's finally eliminated and outlived the competition...that top of the charts is a euphemism for the only one left standing after the dust settles.
Perhaps there's no accident in the fact that the dress Pizzazz wears throughout the song performance was named "Designing Woman" by Hasbro. Certainly, that's what this episode proves her to be. And yet there is more to this than just her gloating over her success. She's answering her critics, yes - but it's a very personal song, too. "Always in the running, but never got the vote" - this line is animated to hint back at the many, many times that Pizzazz has been second bested by Kimber, generally with men. It's probably no accident that Kimber is chivvied by Pizzazz for being 'late for the session' earlier in the episode, either. Jem is Pizzazz's nemesis in the music world, but Kimber has always been it on a more personal level. Pizzazz is a lonely individual who seeks attention and adoration but is unable to understand why men flock to Kimber and not to her. It suggests that the subjugation of the Holograms was more than simply a business move - but a marked and deliberate revenge for every time they've made her feel some kind of failure.
And of course, in the final evaluation, Pizzazz is a born performer. To step out on stage in front of adoring fans as she does in this video is, as she rightly says, "the dream of a lifelong career." The lifelong career isn't her foray into the music industry. It's being in the spotlight and getting the world to notice her.
Yeah, I'm honest. The real stars of the piece are, in some ways, Ashley and her fellow Starlight girls. It's not the Holograms who manage to stick up for themselves and their home, but the covert mischief of the Starlights that finally drives Eric and Pizzazz out of the foundation and back to their own particular domains. In a climate where their remaining guardians have given up very easily and succumbed to Misfit overlordship (even to the point of creating Top of the Charts), at least SOME of the good guy characters have enough spunk to fight back for what's theirs.
But what are the Starlight Girls really getting back? An Aja who for the first time has lost her backbone? A Shana and Raya who are powerless to do anything to stop events? A Kimber who has to climb out of a window rather than face the music? And, most of all, a guardian so confused with her own identity and so horrendously overworked and taken for granted that she drops everything to run away to an island with Riot? Admittedly Jem did not leave intending to be stranded. But to drop your responsibilities on a whim is not responsible parenting technique. No wonder the social worker in Alone Again was so disapproving of her methods!
Well, yes. So it's an odd one. I think we all knew that, though, from the moment Regine's name was mentioned in the scene in Jerrica's office - any knowledgeable Jem fan will immediately point out that The Day The Music Died aired before they even *met* Regine Cesaire, and so this reference to her is just the first in a long line of things that make you go...hey, hang on a minute! It has been discussed that maybe the plot was rushed to fit a short time span and would have worked far better as a multi-parter...I tend to agree with this theory. There are a lot of good ideas in it, and Roger Slifer has proven his skill with Father's Day, among others...this one was just too much for a twenty minute episode slot.
All that being said, though, I have a certain fondness for this episode. As I've said before, why let the plot ruin your enjoyment of a decent show?
Episode rating: 7.5/10.
Original site concept c. 2001
This version c.2014
Please ask before using the images on this site.
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley