Season One: Exploring TRULY OUTRAGEOUS
Britrock website copyright EA Woolley
(A.K.A The First Five Episodes)
The most important thing to say about Truly Outrageous is that this is the beginning - as Jerrica says herself, "how it all began". This is the pilot - five short episodes combined into one feature length programme. But it must also be mentioned here that TO exists in multiple forms. There are those original ten minute slots, there is the feature length "Truly Outrageous!" and then, finally, there are the extended first five episodes, to which writer Christy Marx added scenes to pad out the original ten minute episodes and (in my opinion) give the whole episode(s) some more meaning. The split episodes go by the following titles: The Beginning, Disaster (also called Setbacks), Kimber's Rebellion, Frame Up and Battle of The Bands. But because they are so often thought of as one unit, and since they tell one story within a story, I have decided to cover them all here on the same page in as much detail as possible :) Please note however that some of the examples that I refer back to do NOT appear in the feature length Truly Outrageous, only in the extended episodes. Occasionally scenes within the film have been changed, too - for example in Truly Outrageous the private detective goes to get his film processed, but in the extended episode he goes to check out ownership records for the Starlight Drive in. This is the episode where the later "icons" for the bands are introduced, too - I don't know how often it's noticed, but stars (like the earrings) and hearts tend to be associated with Jem and the Holograms, whilst the Misfits prefer lightning bolts. There are exceptions, but the video to Click/Clash emphasises these things most strongly. For the Misfits especially, lightning is a recurring graphical theme in music videos, clothing, earrings and even Stormer's make up. (Perhaps thats why it's so weird one of the Holograms' second year outfits is called Lightnin' Strikes!)
But for the record, this is the only - yes, repeat, ONLY - time that I am glad Jem and the Holograms won in the end. Why? Because otherwise there would have been no plot for the next sixty episodes!!
JEM, JERRICA and THE DOMINANT PERSONALITY
One of the things which becomes very apparent throughout the Jem cartoon series is Jerrica's many struggles with her Jem side. It's hard to know when Jem becomes an equal in Jerrica's mind to her own personality, but here, right at the beginning it is very obvious that Jerrica does not consider Jem anything other than a tool. Jem is invented to help get Starlight Music back from Eric Raymond, and, also, as a shield for Jerrica herself. It's blatantly obvious that Jerrica feels confident in terms of administration - at the end she says that she will make Starlight Music into something special, and all the time she seems perfectly at home with the organisational side of things. But somehow the wilder aspects of Jem's bouncy personality are concepts which do not slip so easily into Jerrica's normal attitude. In order to let go and do daring things, she has to relinquish her real identity and "be someone else". Maybe this is because she knows that the Starlight Girls are her responsibility, as the eldest Benton child, and that she can not quite escape the shackles her father's death has put on her. In any case, by inventing Jem she has a means to just let loose and have fun.
The trouble with this is that Jerrica's personality is still dominant whilst she is disguised as Jem. This creates multiple problems where Rio is concerned. At many points during the episodes Jerrica seems hurt by Rio's behaviour towards her as Jem - "Rio...do you like me?" "I hardly know you! And you won't even tell me who you are!" This is indication that she is still thinking like Jerrica (why is my boyfriend cold-shouldering me) when she is looking like Jem. There are other examples too. When Jem is in danger after the LinZ Pearce show fiasco, she immediately looks to Rio for comfort, not realising how much she is confusing him by coming onto him as "another woman".
There are other indications that Jerrica is dominant and Jem is a "tool" throughout the show. When Kimber runs off, Jerrica and the others head to KMAX in order to get on the air, Jerrica knowing that the DJ will listen to Jem, even if he won't listen to Jerrica. And when the Starlight House burns down, Jerrica uses Jem to put on a concert in order to elicit Howard Sands' sympathy for the plight of her Starlight waifs. This is probably the best use of Jem throughout the whole of the series, because it proves that Jerrica's consciousness is still in control and that she is not confused by who she really is - something which will change as the series progresses. Jerrica's concerns in the episode are to get her father's company back and to raise money for the Starlight girls - both very "Jerrica" aims. As I've said at other times, it is Jerrica who cares about the Starlight girls and not Jem.
That is not to say that there are not examples of Jem/Jerrica's hypocrisy in Truly Outrageous. Her attitude towards the Starlight girls is contradictory at times, probably added to by her changing between Jem and Jerrica and her preoccupation with the Misfits and with regaining her father's music company. She tackles Ashley about stealing from the honour jar "There's no place in Starlight House for girls who steal and lie", yet at the same time she is deceiving the man she loves by not telling him that Jem is really her. And most telling of all, the first example of Jem and the Holograms pulling Jerrica's mind away from her responsibilities - when Jerrica takes Ashley on about where she's been sneaking off to, their talk is cut short by the fact that the man from the Las Vegas Casino is there to discuss a concert. She puts the concert negotiations first, and as a result Ashley is able to escape her questioning - "You can talk to the wall, Jerrica, but little Ashley won't be here!".
STORMER and ASHLEY
I've decided that the easiest way to tackle the Misfits is to tackle them and their roles as seperate entities. Stormer's role is linked with Ashley's so strongly that I'm going to discuss them together - but starting with Stormer and her seemingly strange role within the Misfits. At this stage there is no indication of who writes the Misfits' songs. Stormer is clearly third out of three - she's made to pay Ashley to open the gates, she's generally told to do this or that (like taking the Holograms' stuff) rather than doing it off her own bat, and she even sheds a tear at Howard Sands' house for the plight of the Starlight Girls (please note that in Truly Outrageous it is Roxy who sheds the tear - which thankfully was re-edited in the individual episodes to something more logical!). Yet Stormer is not "soft". When the Holograms appear on LinZ's show it is her who exclaims "Let's go!" in a dominant, almost giving-orders type of way.
Stormer's battle with her conscience and her loyalty to the band which she feels she can't be anything without is one of the themes that runs through Truly Outrageous, and it's also one of the reasons so many people cite her as a favourite character. This really begins with Ashley, for from the first time Ashley comes to the Misfits for help, Stormer is interested in her welfare - "what's your name?" and "We take care of our own!". It is Stormer who seems to be keeping an eye on Ashley while she is with the Misfits - and Ashley is not always happy about doing Misfit things unless Stormer says so "It';s just a joke, Ashley!". When Ashley is unable to keep Aja away from the casino, it's Stormer who finds her, and despite Ashley's fear that it will mean retribution, Stormer assures her that she'd never hurt her. Ashley confides in Stormer that she's afraid of Pizzazz and Roxy, and Stormer admits that "they scare me too, sometimes." This is fairly key for two reasons - Stormer is well aware that she is living a charade almost as much as Jem is and that she is constantly keeping up with the other Misfits. But they only scare her 'sometimes', so at least some of her time she is happy enough in their company, and perhaps aspires to be a bit more like them. We don't know how she came to be involved in the Misfits, but obviously somewhere along the line something happened to pledge her allegiance to them. Yet Stormer has a conscience. When the money is planted on Jem, she appears in disguise to tell the police what she and Ashley overheard, even though it can't possibly help the Misfits (the fact she does it incognito proves that this is one of those things that she dare not speak out publically about in front of her bandmates, yet she feels strongly enough about it to intervene.) And when Ashley is trapped in the box, at first she leaves her there under the pressure of the other Misfits, but it's clear that she hasn't forgotten the kid, because when Ashley is in danger it is Stormer who screams out that she's in the box, even though it more or less gives away what the Misfits did with her, and more, it's done in front of her bandmates. It's obvious to me that Stormer and Ashley develop a bond during Truly Outrageous which is never touched upon again, and it's quite sad in a way. But then the Ashley of Truly Outrageous is not the Ashley we see in later episodes.
SHANA, ANTHONY and JEM's SECRET
For some time I've considered Shana to be the most mature of the Holograms, and Truly Outrageous bears this out. Firstly let's look at Anthony Julian, LinZ's friend in the film business who ends up doing the Holograms' videos. It's Jem who pushes Shana and Anthony together, claiming Shana has ideas for the new video, and the fact that it should be SHANA with Anthony suggests that level of "politically correct same-race relationships" that does seem to happen quite a lot throughout the Jem show. Yet Shana and Anthony really do hit it off, and by the time the band go to Paris you imagine that they are at the beginning of a relationship which, even so late on in the series as Mardi Gras is still strong and unwavering. (It is probably the only relationship in the whole cartoon series which is actually stable.) Getting to know Anthony is useful for the Holograms, because his help is invaluable when producing a video, but then again Shana is so genuine that you can't possibly suspect her of playing him just to get the Holograms ahead. It's simply not in her nature and the longevity of their relationship also bears that out.
Shana's strong relationship is in contrast to Jerrica's wavering and unstable one, and Shana is the one character who really sees it. While Aja is cracking jokes about how Rio will be surprised when he finds out Jerrica is Jem, Shana realises that it's a "sticky situation" that her friend has. Backstage at the casino, she asks Jem if she's thought about what she should do, but when Jem gives a negative response she says "You don't know what he'll do if he knows the truth" in a somewhat disappointed tone, and walks out on her (prompting the song, Deception). Shana is Jem's conscience in some part through Truly Outrageous - her absolute forthrightness obviously makes her disapproving of the fact that Rio does not know the secret. And yet, when Kimber tries to tell Rio the secret in Paris, Shana tells her that, maybe Rio should know the truth, but that it's Jerrica's job to tell him, and not theirs.
JEM and RIO
I have to say something here in slight defence of Rio - this isn't something that I do often, but it strikes me that Rio does his level best up to a point to resist Jem's charms and keep loyal to Jerrica. He attempts to extricate himself from the mess by trying to quit as Jem's road manager, but Jerrica will not let him, despite him telling her that he "doesn't want to hurt her." He pulls away from Jem's embrace saying that "this is wrong" and that he "doesn't want to hurt Jerrica." Whether he is attracted to Jem because she is Jerrica's funloving side, or whether it is based on her appearance or voice is always open to speculation. Whether it's just that he's known Jerrica his whole life and Jem is something new with a hint of mystery about her - that's possible too. But when he drops Jerrica's photo in the I've Got My Eye On You video, you sense that the battle is lost and that he is in love with both girls, not knowing that they're both his girlfriend. Rio's fondness for Jem becomes ever more apparent after he saves her life twice - on the yacht when she falls overboard, and after the fiasco on LinZ Pearce's set (Jem seems incapable of doing anything to save herself but screaming). He tells Pizzazz that she's "not fit to breathe the same air as Jem" - which spells the beginnings of a major crush, and when Jem takes off at the airport to return as Jerrica, Rio also takes off, not wanting to meet his girlfriend after spending so much time in Paris with Jem. Some of his later series behaviour is fairly unforgiveable, but right at the start you can see the turmoil and confusion in his mind over the two girls in his life, and how it all spiralled out of his (and Jerrica's!) control.
THE STARLIGHT PROBLEM
The Starlight Girls are a major part of the Truly Outrageous storyline. They and their house are the catalyst for Jerrica's first confrontation with Eric Raymond, they are the reason that Jerrica decides to go to Howard Sands' house in order to elicit his sympathy, and, most of all, they are the cause and the effect of the Ashley situation. Early on it becomes clear that the Starlight House doesn't have very much money, and that the girls are collecting for a new fridge. You get the impression that it's eleven girls versus one (ashley) at this point. Ashley is the "misfit" Starlight girl, badly behaved and unhappy among the others. And the others do not give her much reason to expect their friendship, either. After the situation with the honour jar, Ashley is turned over to the other girls for punishment, and, led by Lela and Becky, they tell her that she has to earn thirty dollars for the honour jar, sparking Ashley to get the Misfits to pay her to let them into the Mansion. Even though Ashley tried to redeem herself to the other girls by risking her life to rescue the honour jar from the Starlight blaze, they still press on her the task of earning the other thirty dollars regardless, and then, when she actually appears with the money, they won't accept it until she tells them how she earned it, because "how you earned the money is as important as the money itself!" This is the last straw for Ashley and the catalyst to send her off to the Misfits in search of people who better understand her and who don't question her no matter how hard she tries to do something right. I think that, though the Starlights were right to be annoyed with Ashley for ripping them off, they push it too far with their demands and Jerrica should not have turned Ashley over to them to deal with, because in some lights you could see it as peer pressure and it's pressure that Ashley cannot handle. She is clearly an unhappy child and yet none of the Starlight girls try and do anything to help her.
KIMBER, THE REBEL
Even as early as Truly Outrageous, it's very obvious that Kimber does not always see the world the same way as big sister does. Kimber is the real musical talent - Eric talks about her writing the songs - and she resents the fact that Jem gets all the attention (quite rightfully so, in my opinion, since LinZ tries to interview "just jem", and Danielle Du Voisin talks about a line of Jem clothing, rather than Jem and the Holograms. Kimber is also fed up with the way Rio is acting and tries to tell him in Paris who Jem really is. In honesty I feel that Kimber is threatened by Jem. Jerrica is a very different type of character -responsible, probably a good student, administratively capable. Kimber, on the other hand, is the bouncy, flirty, fun loving Benton, and Jem's developing personality threatens to eclipse her own in that department. You might also say that Kimber is grieving over Emmet's death in her own way, because in later episodes it becomes apparent how close they were, though it's hard to be really sure.
There is also an element of "being needed" about Kimber, (just as we later see with Stormer, which is what makes these two characters so great together). When the Holograms crash a radio station to beg her to return, she goes back, realising that she isn't being pushed aside and that they really do need and want her as part of the group. And despite all of this, Kimber confronts Eric about the Misfits' unfair behaviour, in defence of her group and her musical interests. You get the feeling though that Kimber has always intended to go into the music business somehow, and that she's with the Holograms because it's a chance for her to live that dream, but that a small part of her always intended to be the one in the spotlight, and Jem's being centre stage is something she resents.
Ah, Pizzazz. What to say about Pizzazz?
The oddest thing about this character is that, given all of her bragging later on in the series, there is no mention made of her links to Harvey Gabor or her fortune. Not even the other Misfits know till the beginning of Starbright, and yet there are clues in these episodes that suggest she is used to finer living. She demands a music video on a huge budget, and doesn't seem to accept Eric's explanation that it's not possible because the money isn't there. And, most telling of all, is her treatment of Rio - "if you get bored of working for Jem, you can always come and work for me." This seems an innocent enough line, but if you think about it, Pizzazz is talking like someone who is used to having people running around after her. She says working for "me" and not for Eric or for the Misfits or the music company as a whole - she is thinking like the billionaire's daughter and probably her next move would be a bribe. And then there are the music videos - the prizes of money, the servants and the chauffeurs that appear - perhaps because it's the dreamed of success, but perhaps also because it's a veiled hint of what Pizzazz really is - the only daughter of someone with clout. Which brings me to the obvious question -why not mention her father? Of course, it's possible that at this stage the writers had not decided on this background for her, but I think it unlikely. And my plot-related explanation would be that maybe she'd gotten involved in the Misfits without her father's agreement or knowledge, and that it's only when things fall apart at the end of the Battle of the Bands that she actually goes to him for his support.
The Pizzazz and Rio thing is a strange plotline as well throughout the episodes. Two or three times Pizzazz tries to get Rio to come over to her side, she flirts and is rejected, causing her to shriek with rage. In Takin' It All's music video, there is money with his face printed on it and at the end she is in the back of the car with her arm around him. In the Winnin' Is Everything video she is also taking him away from Jem, all of which suggests romantic competition between Pizzazz and Jem for Rio for the remainder of the series. But it really doesn't pan out that way, because as time goes on Pizzazz's use of Rio seems more to manipulate and cause trouble than it does out of any romantic interest, leading me to believe that was probably her motivation all along. In fact, as time progresses, Pizzazz's main romantic rival is Kimber, and not Jem. Pizzazz's focus is being the best whatever it takes, and if nothing else, Truly Outrageous proves she can take and hold a grudge for a long time. Failure is not an option - "We're still the Misfits! And whatever it takes, we're gonna get even!". (This too is a hint that she has power and money behind her, because whilst Roxy and Stormer seem distressed that Jem won and maybe are worried about the future of their band, Pizzazz acts like that side of it is not problematic, she's just angry that Jem pipped her.)
One other thing that has to be mentioned here is Pizzazz's touch of death when it comes to machinery of any kind. It's Pizzazz who almost drives the yacht into the oil ship, and Pizzazz who causes the set of Linz's show to come crashing down. And anyone who's seen her drive will know that not many vehicles would last long in her hands!!
SYNERGY and THE MAGIC OF ILLUSIONS
When you think about all the bonuses, positives and advantages Jem has on her side, it makes you really wonder how good an act the Holograms really are, and whether they would have survived at all in the six months against the Misfits without all of the big budget help that they received. Free flights to Paris, their music video paid for by Howard Sands, promotion from LinZ Pearce and, of course, Synergy. Synergy in herself is a huge advantage, and one that must not be underestimated. It is Synergy who kicks off Jerrica's comeback against Eric by appearing to her in her bedroom. It's still a mystery how a holographic computer could have had the earrings delivered to Jerrica, so all that I can think of is that Emmet must have entrusted them to someone to deliver to her after his death. But Synergy takes it upon herself to summon Jerrica, and proves throughout that she is capable of independant thought. The music video to She's Got The Power probably exhibits best Synergy's unique talents, but also her sense of personality and mischief, too. She is very much a part of the Holograms' fight and remains their most loyal ally for the entirety of the Jem series.
There isn't a lot to say about Roxy in Truly Outrageous, except for her curious character alignment with Pizzazz. Though they are often a team later on, in Truly Outrageous they are double trouble, leaving Stormer out on a limb fairly often. This is strange to me because of Stormer and Roxy's later bonds, but yet there are still hints of it here. It's Roxy who observes that Stormer has "gone soft" where Ashley is concerned, for example.
Roxy is fairly neglected in favour of the dominant Pizzazz and the sweet Stormer, which is a shame because in later episodes we see what a complex and cool character she can really be. But one thing does stand out - her interest in gadgets. She's fascinated by the JCB at the Sands estate, even to the point of joyriding it!
ERIC RAYMOND and STARLIGHT MUSIC
It's been argued time and time again about how ruthless Eric Raymond is, and whether or not his intentions towards Jerrica are evil or not. Personally, I don't think evil is the right word. He is a businessman, and he has a strong affinity with Starlight Music, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. I think that the company perhaps means more to him than he ever lets on, because his attitude towards Jem and the others changes as the show goes on. He begins with Zipper just "making them nervous" - obviously not meaning them any harm. But then he sends Zipper to Paris to stop the video "any way he can" (Which Zipper interprets as trying to squash them with a gargoyle, nice!) and finally he takes Ashley hostage in order to get Jem away from the Music Bowl. This is significant because he actually says to Jem that "The Misfits will win by default and Starlight Music will be mine." Not that the Misfits will be great, or the next big thing. His concern is with the music company. He tries to lure Kimber away with the promise of a music contract (an act he later repeats in Starbright, so he is serious about her talent), proving his loyalties are not entirely with the Misfits but with what the Misfits' actions can do to further his cause where Starlight Music is concerned. This might also explain the controversial and out of character slap he gives Jerrica at the end of the extended Battle of the Bands episode.
However, it must also be said that he does have some fondness for the Misfits and for their safety. When Zipper plants a bomb at the Mansion and Eric realises that the Misfits are there he screams to them to get out because there is a bomb, throwing all caution to the wind. I'd like to think that at that point he was more concerned with saving their skins than destroying the opposition :)
It wouldn't be a Jem episode analysis without discussing the various rivalries that this pilot throws up. There is Roxy and Aja - Aja is the one who stops the JCB after Roxy abandons it to tear up Howard Sand's estate. There is also an interesting hint of Zipper vs Kimber, as Zipper tries to grab Kimber in Paris and it's Kimber who he shoves out of the way at the Starlight House, causing her to drop the flame lantern. This is interesting because of the events of Hot Time In Hawaii, when they clash again. Pizzazz and Jerrica/Jem's rivalry is blatant and does not need me to explain it here, but Eric and Jerrica's and Eric and Rio's rivalries are also begun in these few episodes. Rio gets to land his first fist on Eric's jaw, saying "there's something to remember me by", and Eric glowers at him, saying "I'll remember."
Something else I must mention is that even as early as Truly Outrageous, the Holograms are as preoccupied with being one up against the Misfits as they are to save Starlight Music. Shana comments that "being our warmup act will really drive the Misfits wild!" and Kimber, before the battle of the bands exclaims how they "have to look better than the Misfits!". It is no coincidence (yet beautifully Freudian) that "Outta My Way" is the instrumental music playing in the opening scene, as Jem steps from her limo to greet her adoring fans!
THE RIGGED CONTESTS
Oh yes. The initial battle of the bands. This always puzzles me, because somewhere along the line we get told that this is a rigged contest, because "Eric made sure the other bands are so lousy that we [The Misfits] will sound terrific." but it's a battle of the bands. And Eric has invited three other local acts to take part - the Leatherettes, Space Cadets and Limp Lizards (who go on to become repeat Jem extras as the show continues!). And maybe their music is not up to scratch, but it's not a rigged contest because it's not paying someone to judge the Misfits the winner, or preventing the public from choosing their own winner. Because of this, the Misfits should have won fair and square. However, Jem's intrusion cannot be seen as winning the battle of the bands, even if she wins the popularity vote, because she was not officially invited to take part by Starlight Music's administration. This leaves the whole of the Battle rather in confusion!
There is no doubt that Eric tried to rig the second Battle of the Bands, however, by kidnapping Ashley and luring Jem and co. away from the Music Bowl. And yet before Jem starts to play, Howard Sands announces the Misfits as the winners...
So shouldn't that void Jem's performance? (grins). No, probably not. At the end of the day, the Holograms had so much to lose that it was imperative for them to win the contest. The Misfits in some ways were stronger, because they had the untapped resources of Pizzazz's father and the canny, experienced brain of Eric Raymond to see them through. If they had won the contest, then they would have gone onwards and upwards with little trouble. But if the Holograms had lost, the Starlight House would have closed, the girls would have been sent elsewhere and Jem and the Holograms would likely have been no more. When you're playing for those kinds of stakes, you have to concede that ol' Pink Hair needed to win that contest - and therefore the right band won on the day :)
The animation of Truly Outrageous/The First Five Episodes is some of the poorer animation used for the series. There are some weird errors - at one point Roxy gets Pizzazz's hair, and Jerrica's dress is perpetually shown in the wrong colours, whilst her hair is all over the place. Yet despite that it's a neat encapsulated five part episode which tells a story within a series and sets the scene for the rest of the episodes.
Some things, however, are explained too simply, likeJerrica's father leaving them all that stuff, and why everyone seems willing to jump on the Jem bandwagon in a distinctly unrealistic manner. There is also the question of why Jerrica gets everything and not Kimber. But overall a good introduction to the show, with a very special Misfit performance from Stormer :)
Episode rating: 7/10
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