My favorite shows from childhood where Real Ghostbusters, Jonny Quest, and Batman TAS, among others. Sometimes I go back and binge something that was on the air when I was a kid just to see if it holds up or not.
Know which show I expected to be a total cringefest, and ended up enjoying the hell out of? Jem and the Holograms.
Jem and the Fucking Holograms.
It surprised the hell out of me that I actually kind of love this show. Totally expected it to be unwatchable girly tripe about love triangles and eighties feelgood music. Didn’t expect the complex plotlines, the car chases, the ten-times-per-episode brushes with death the girls have with collapsing bridges, runaway cars, burning buildings, BOMBS PLANTED BY MOBSTERS. Didn’t expect the father’s day episode to rip my goddamn heart out. Didn’t expect to laugh like an idiot when the Misfits fucked up several dozen vacations at a ski resort, or went on a joyride in Jem’s car indoors during a lavish party. Didn’t expect the dialogue or visuals to occasionally crack me up.
Least of all did I expect the music to, on some occasions, be awesome (and this coming from a guy who hates musicals). Each episode has three musical numbers accompanied by mini-music videos, which are the highlight of the show (I imagine this goes double for any little girls who had the cassette tapes the dolls came with, ‘cos all those songs got featured on an episode or two). I’m a fan of eighties music and I’ve been bingeing the show and saving the best songs to a personal playlist on youtube.
Jem and the Holograms, our heroines, average two songs per episode, and occasionally have a decent one. I’m guessing with them as the protagonists, they would have to perform the largest number of songs, and therefore they were the most difficult to make consistent quality-wise. They often resemble Debbie Gibson and range from cringey to okay most of the time, mostly since they provide the sort of feelgood tripe one expects from eighties music. While the main theme of the show is undoubtedly sexy, I think there are a couple more stand out examples.
“Who is He Kissing?” has a nice beat and doesn’t get cringey like a lot of Holograms songs. It also has a well-made music video accompaniment, one of my favorites in the series.
“It Depends on the Mood I’m In” is a very cute track that’s easy to dance to, and watching Jem play pretend in the closet is kind of adorable.
The Misfits, Jem’s rivals and series antagonists, have a rougher, punkier Toni Basil sound to counter Jem’s Debbie Gibson flavor. They have maybe one song for every two Holograms songs, and usually perform one every episode. Every other track is decent or good, though their punky style can make them grating at times. They have quite a few listenable songs that are stylistically unusual compared to the Holograms. Between their music, videos, and entertaining personalities, I consider them the best band in the series. Jem is always bubblegum pop, the Stingers are always funk & soul, but every time the Misfits cue up a song, you have NO idea what to expect.
I love the video for this track. Like all Misfits tracks, it’s got a demented edge to it, but it really suits the subject of the song, and the visuals couldn’t be more perfect: Pizzazz being utterly tormented and humiliated while her bandmates helplessly watch. The ending gives me chills every time.
“You Gotta Be Fast” has a great eighties synth beat, and the video showcasing the Misfits wreaking havoc on helpless ski resort clients is a treat to watch.
This video is really fun in a spooky way, and makes me wonder if Jem isn’t using her hologram powers to enhance the performance. The song itself has a lot of oomph and would feel right at home on an eighties rock collection. I love how the Holograms are clearly enjoying the Misfits in action: they’re clearly better sports than the Misfits themselves.
This track is just awesome, and perfectly captures the essence of the Misfits.
This one, a hula beat about how the Misfits had a shitty time in Hawaii, just cracks me up. The tune itself is really cute.
Two bands who wouldn’t be caught dead sharing a stage together, do a joint performance to selfishly split up their runaway members, newfound friends Kimber and Stormer. This is as close to perfect as a song by either band ever got: music, tempo, lyrics, everything is just right.
The Stingers, another rival band, have the least number of songs in the series, but pretty much all of them are AMAZING. Every song this group performs has a professional sound that the other two lack. I absolutely love these guys and their distinctively funky sound, though they also belt out some of the best ballads in the show. “Are You Feeling Alright?” stands out as impossible to dislike.
This is easily my favorite track by the band, despite a weak start that’s borderline acapella. I rate the video up there with Love Sick for awesome visuals that reinforce the lyrics and tell a story as well. Centering it around the most gorgeous member of the band helps a lot, too: Minx is really easy to look at.
“Perfect Match” is extremely easy to dance to, and Riot’s vocals are a real treat and hilariously narcissistic. It’s one of a handful of tunes that are great with or without the accompanying video, although this one has some great visuals referencing famous romances.