The 1980s saw the regulations about children’s programming relaxed, allowing toylines to have shows. These shows, mostly cartoons, were meant as advertising for the toys. Hasbro took advantage of the situation and had several animated series based on their toylines, with Transformers airing in 1984 followed by G.I. Joe and Jem and the Holograms in 1985*. However, no one informed Marvel Productions and Sunbow Productions, the companies behind the series, that the shows were meant to be just advertising. Each series left an impact on its viewers.
With Jem, Hasbro entered a doll market dominated by Mattel. To try to gain an edge, The Jem dolls took their cues from MTV and singers like Cyndi Lauper. The first of the dolls, featuring Jem/Jerrica, her sister Kimber, her foster sisters Aja and Shana, the rival Misfits, and Jerrica’s love interest Rio. Most of the dolls came with audio cassettes featuring four songs, two by Jem and the Holograms, two by the Misfits. The Jem cartoon came out in 1985, leading the way for the dolls in 1986. Mattel, though, released the “Barbie and the Rockers” line the same year, also taking advantage of the popularity of MTV. Rocker Barbie also came with audio cassettes, though with far fewer songs.
For Jem, Marvel and Sunbow recruited Christy Marx, who was already working for them on the G.I. Joe cartoon. Marx took the ideas that the doll designer had – two rival all-girl bands, the boyfriend, and Synergy, the holographic avatar of a supercomputer – and brought the concepts together to create Jem, the Holograms, Rio, and the Misfits. The series begins with Jerrica Benton inheriting half of her father’s company, the Starlight Music label. The other half, though, went to Eric Raymond, a scheming corrupt businessman out to control all of Starlight. The music label also supports Starlight Foundation, a charity funding a foster home for girls. Naturally, Eric wants to shut down the Foundation. Jerrica’s father, though, knew what sort of person Eric was and built a supercomputer, Synergy, to help Jerrica. With Synergy’s help, through the “Jemstar” earrings and the phrase, “Showtime, Synergy,” Jerrica becomes Jem.
Eric has his own girl band to counter Jem and the Holograms. The Misfits consist of Pizazz, Roxy, and Stormer, who all work to beat out the Holograms, by hook or by crook. While the Misfits are the Holograms main antagonists, it is Eric who is the villain. That said, the views of Eric and Pizazz don’t necessarily reflect the view of the rest of the Misfits. Stormer and Kimber, in one episode, become friends, bonding over a feeling of neglect by their respective bandmates. The friendship continues beyond that episode. Eric also has a henchman, Zipper, to do the heavy lifting and dirty work that the businessman wouldn’t sully his hands with.
Naturally, there is a love interest, Rio. The stage manager for the Holograms, Jerrica and Rio have a complex relationship. The course of true love never did run smooth, and the course of the love between Jerrica and Rio takes an added twist when Rio develops a crush on Jem. Jerrica is hesitant to tell Rio the truth, that she is Jem, because Rio has an odd aversion to secrecy. While love triangles involving superheroes and secret IDs is known, Jem gender-flipped the concept. Adding to the love triangle is Pizazz, who has a crush on Rio.
Jem and the Holograms became the top rated syndicated cartoon in the US. Over 150 songs were written and performed on the show, a third making it on to the cassettes sold with the dolls. In comparison, Barbie and the Rockers had four songs, total. Jem aired for three seasons and ended only because the doll line was discontinued. The Jem dolls, while popular, couldn’t compete with the Barbie behemoth, and the line was discontinued in 1987. Twenty-seven dolls were released over the short run. As a doll, Jem couldn’t overcome the name recognition Barbie had. Thanks to the cartoon, though, the name Jem permeated pop culture, leading to a DVD release and a re-airing of the series in 2011. In 2012, Integrity Toys licensed Jem for a collector’s edition line of dolls, with over twenty-five dolls now released. IDW picked up the comic license in 2015 for a modern take on the characters.
With the resurgence of Jem as a property, Hasbro, through its fill studio, Allspark Productions, and Universal brought the doll to the big screen as a live-action movie. The movie remained in theatres for two weeks before being pulled from distribution, grossing just $2 million on a $5 million budget. Reviews were expecting a different movie than what was released. What happened?
The Jem and the Holograms film opens with Jerrica Benton (played by Aubrey Peeples) narrating into a vlog about the nature of secret identities and public personae and giving a few details about her background. After her father (Barnaby Carpenter) died, Jerrica and her sister Kimber (Stefanie Scott) were sent to live with their Aunt Bailey (Molly Ringwald), who had already taken in two other fosters, Aja (Hayley Kiyoko) and Shana (Aurora Perrineau). Jerrica was close to her father, helping him in the garage as he tinkered with various things and learning out to play guitar from him. Kimber is the more outgoing of the two, and is constantly vlogging to YouTube. Jerrica, though, is more reclusive. When she discovers that her aunt only has thirty days to to pay the mortgage on her house, Jerrica tries to record a song about her feelings, but finds that she has to use a persona and pseudonym, Jem, to do so. Even after recording the video, she tries to delete it but has problems. Jerrica hands the camera to Kimber, who, instead of deleting the video, listens to it then uploads it publically.
The video goes viral, becoming even more popular than the waterskiing squirrel. Considering the number of musicians who have careers thanks to viral videos, it’s not unbelievable. The video’s popularity gets the attention of Erica Raymond (Juliette Lewis), the owner and CEO of Starlight Productions. Erica sends an email to the mysterious Jem, offering a contract deal. Jerrica pushes to have her sisters included on the deal, and Erica relents. Erica arrives at home to pick up her new stars and whisk them to Los Angeles. Jerrica, in her packing, brings along the last items her father gave her, a pair of pink star earrings and a half-finished robot, 51N3RG-Y, or Synergy. As the girls arrive in LA, Synergy, which has never worked, begins to power up.
The girls go through a process to get them ready for stardom, including hair, make-up, and wardrobe. Erica takes the star earrings from Jerrica, calling them a holdover from the 80s. Jerrica finds a way to hide herself as Jem for performances. Erica starts her marketing campaign as the girls settle in at Starlight’s manor. Jerrica meets Rio, the band’s manager and chief cat wrangler, and some sparks fly as Rio lays down the rules. That night, Synergy is up to full power, glowing under a discard sheet. The girls, unsure what is happening, uncover the robot, which then displays a map with coordinates as a hologram. Despite their midnight curfew, the girls leave the house, “borrowing” Rio’s truck to go to the coordinates. Jerrica recognizes where they are; she and her father had gone to the pier many times before he passed away. She finds one of the pieces missing from Synergy, who then displays another map coordinate, one for a nightclub that showcases hot acts.
Before the girls can leave, a flashlight shines on them. A male voice starts telling them about the laws they have broken, including breaking and entering and being out after their midnight curfew. Rio steps forward so they can see him and explains just how he followed them and that they tripped a silent alarm. He helps the girls escape. Jerrica explains why they were on the pier and wonders how they’ll ever get to the nightclub. She also discovers that Rio is Erica’s son.
In the morning, Erica Raymond announces that the mysterious Jem will make an appearance at that nightclub for her the first live performance. Jerrica and her sisters prepare for the night. The concert goes well until a blackout hits the club mid-song. Thinking fast, Jerrica, as Jem, gets the club goers to light the stage using their smartphone flashlights. She spots a familiar guitar and, as Aja and Shana get the club goers to clap and stomp a beat, she continues the song acoustically. After the concert, Jerrica inspects the guitar and confirms it is her father’s. Inside, there is another part for Synergy.
The day after, Bailey gets in touch with Jerrica to tell her that the house will be going up for auction in several days. Jerrica goes to Erica to ask for an advance. Erica agrees, with one condition – Jem performs alone, not with a band. In a tough spot, Jerrica agrees. Her sisters overhear the last part and are understandably upset. Jerrica tries to explain but the girls won’t listen. Jem’s next appearance is as a solo artist, but Jerrica isn’t happy about what happened. Upset, she wanders through LA and winds up at her old home. Through a window, she sees a young family enjoying each other’s company, further accentuating Jerrica’s feeling of being alone. To her surprise, Kimber arrives, followed by Aja and Shana. They’re still upset about what Jerrica did, but understand why. Rio also arrives, since he had to drive the girls there, and helps Jerrica make the connection to what the last pieces of Synergy are, the earrings. The earrings that are locked up by Erica.
Jerrica and Rio head to Starlight after first getting his mother’s car from Brad the valet, who only provides the keys if Rio can get his mother to listen to his demo CD. Rio, using the darkness of the night and one of Erica’s hats, gets by security in the car with Jerrica in the trunk. Kimber, Aja, and Shana distract the guards by pretending to be Jem fangirls and getting the guards to take their photos so that Jerrica and Rio can get into the building. In Erica’s office, Rio tries guessing the code for her safe. When Jerrica suggests entering what is most important to her, Rio types in Erica’s full name. The safe opens. Jerrica retrieves her earrings and Rio retrieves a legal notice addressed to him.
Erica discovers that Jerrica is up to something when she tries to get her car from Brad. With some encouragement from Zipper, Brad confesses to what happened. Erica and Zipper rush back to Starlight and review the security footage. She orders security to seal the exits and detain Jerrica and Rio. Rio delays Erica by playing Brad’s demo CD**, piping it to a conference room. On the ground floor, Jerrica puts on her wig to become Jem. Security, unaware of her dual identity, happily let her leave.
Safe, Jerrica places the earrings together. They start glowing with a purple light before she adds them to Synergy. The robot reacts, leaning back to project a hologram of her father. He explains why he created Synergy and why he had her go on a scavenger hunt.
The big concert arrives. Jerrica is determined that she goes out on stage with her sisters. All of them are ready, and Bailey arrives to watch the show now that the house is safe. Erica arrives backstage. She demands that only Jem go out, not the others. Rio, though, exercises the clause in his father’s will that states that he takes over Starlight when he is ready, and he is ready. Zipper escorts Erica out of the building and the girls take the stage. During the concert, an editor from Rolling Stone (Christy Marx) asks Rio about the band’s name so she can feature them on the front cover. He calls them “Jem and the Holograms”.
As the credits roll, a sequel hook comes up. Erica, thoroughly disgraced and humiliated, has tracked down one of her former acts. The group, understandably, isn’t interested, having been used and tossed away by Erica once before. Erica, though, mentions that Rio is in love with Jem, perking the interest of the band’s leader. Pizazz (Kesha) comes out and declares, “Our music is better. We’re gonna get her,” then leads Erica into the Misfits’ trailer.
The Jem cartoon was a product of the Eighties, with all the sensibilities of the time. The Jem movie is a product of the Teens, and also reflects the era. The movie integrates social media into the narrative. The film’s website allowed fans to upload audition videos, some of which got into the movie. The film also delves into the impact a star can have on the lives of fans. Jem’s music calls out to people to be themselves, even if Jem is just Jerrica’s public persona.
The main problem the movie has is not being the cartoon. The expectations were badly handled. Older fans saw that it wasn’t going to be the cartoon and stayed away, and since the older fans are the ones to bring the target audience to the movie, the film just didn’t perform at the box office. There is too much in the movie that ties into what has been established for Jem for the film to be generic. Producer John M. Chu made the decision to go a different route than the cartoon, acknowledging its existance and not wanting comparisons. Problem there is that comparisons would still be made. Looking at just the dolls, ignoring for the moment the classic cartoon series, the movies does work as an adaptation. Audiences were expecting the cartoon, though. As Lost in Translation has seen before, an adapation became the definitive work. The animated Jem joins the Buffy the Vampire Slayer TV series and the 1978 Christopher Reeve Superman. In Jem‘s case, this was caused by the marketing of the dolls using the cartoon.
The Jem movie isn’t a bad one. It is far better than its budget would suggest. The girls have an onscreen chemistry that helps sell the characters as sisters. Juliette Lewis as Erica Raymond brings in a veneer of respectability over the character’s greed and sleeze. The lack of Misfits isn’t a problem; in the cartoon, Eric was the mastermind, using the band for his ends. The best way to view the film is as an alternate universe Jem.
* My Little Pony had specials in 1984 and 1985, but wasn’t a series until 1986.
** Brad’s music is essentially death metal on cello and is decent enough, though not something Erica would bother with.
May had a lot of news about upcoming adaptations and remakes.
Farscape movie in the works.
Rockne O’Bannon, creator of Farscape, has confirmed the rumours that a Farscape movie was in production, at least as far as the script. The confirmation was announced at WonderCon.
Prequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in pre-production.
The movie brings back Michelle Yeoh and fight coordinator Yuen Woo-ping to present what Yu Shu Lien did before the events of the original movie. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon came out in 2000; the delay was caused by a rights conflict between the studio and the estate of Wang Du Lu, whose novels were the base of the movie.
Six issue Avengers mini-series coming from Boom!
John Steed and Emma Peel will be back in a comics mini-series called Steed and Mrs. Peel. The cover art in the article really does suit the show.
Casting started for the Jem movie.
After seeing how crowdfunding worked with Veronica Mars, the director of the live-action Jem and the Holograms turned to YouTube and asked for fans to sumbit video auditions for online casting.
Twin Peaks returns in fan-made web sequel.
Fans of David Lynch’s TV series Twin Peaks have begun the 25th anniversary celebrations by having a third season done on Twitter. The central repository for the fan series is Enter the Lodge, where the tweets are collected.
Hector and the search for a distributor.
Hector and the Search for Happiness, based on the book of the same name by Francois Lelord, has been picked up by Relativity. The movie, starring Simon Pegg and Rosamund Pike, tells the story of a psychiatrist travelling the world in search of happiness.
JK Rowling novel to become TV series.
The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling’s first novel after finishing the Harry Potter series, has been picked up as a BBC and HBO co-production. The book will be turned into a mini-series, following the town of Pagford, England, after the local councilor dies.
More Jem casting news.
All the actresses have experience to some degree but aren’t major names. Hayley Kiyoko, playing Aja, has an EP, “A Belle to Remember“, on her resume. Aubrey Peeples, playing Jem, has performed as a singer, including on the TV series Nashville, but doesn’t have a release. The live action adaptation still has some hurdles, especially with the original creator Christy Marx not involved, but the casting of the core allows the movie to be about Jem and the Holograms and not furthering the singing careers of the leads.
SyFy getting in on the adaptation train.
Four new series on SyFy, all of them are adaptations. Letter 44, Pax Romana, and Ronin are all based on comics. The fourth, The Magicians, is based on the novels by Lev Grossman.
Dad’s Army to hit the silver screen.
The BBC sitcom Dad’s Army is being adapted as a film. Toby Jones will play Captain Mainwaring, portrayed by Arthur Lowe in the original. Bill Nighy will be Sergeant Wilson. The original TV series focused on a British Home Guard unit in World War II. The writer of the original show, Jimmy Perry, added a provision when he signed over the rights that he wouldn’t have to write anything in the adaptation.
Sailor Moon cast announced.
More on the Sailor Moon news from last month. The Sailor Senshi have been cast, with Kotono Mitsuishi is back as Usagi. The character designs for the new series are based on their appearances in the manga.
Toy and snack movies ahead!
First, Barbie. A live action Barbie comedy is in the works from Sony. It’s not too surprising a move; the animated /Barbie/ features have done well and the online series /Life in the Dreamhouse/ has gone four seasons. Mattel, like all toy companies except Hasbro, is also trying to recover from a drop in sales in the past year.
Next, Peeps. The pink and yellow marshmallow candies are following in the footsteps of The LEGO Movie. Adam Rifkin will helm the movie, basing it on the Peeps dioramas his niece and nephew made.
Another Disney ride gets tapped for a movie.
In celebration of the attraction’s 50th anniversary, It’s a Small World will be turned into a family movie. The earworm generating song will be part of the movie. Disney is batting .500 with rides turned into movies lately; while The Haunted Mansion stumbled a bit, Pirates of the Caribbean became a huge hit. It’s a matter of finding the right team. Or inserting a subliminal message into the song.
Minecraft, the movie.
The producers of The LEGO Movie will bring the digital version of playing with blocks to the big screen. Warner Bros, the studio involved, will also work on a live-action tie-in for the movie.
Scarface to be remade, too.
The remake will bring the story into the today’s world. The immigrant’s story will see Tony’s background change to Mexican from the original Italian as seen in the 1932 and 1983 versions. The filmmakers are looking to cast a Latino in the role.
Marvel’s Peggy Carter to get her own series.
Peggy Carter, who first appeared in Captain America, is getting her own spin-off series on ABC in the fall. The series will be set in 1946 following the events at the end of the movie. This comes in the wake of the renewal of Agents of SHIELD. Meanwhile, over at Warner, no news of a Wonder Woman movie.
Private Benjamin to be remade.
The Goldie Hawn movie about a spoiled rich girl who joins the Army is being remade, with Rebel Wilson in the title role. The update will see a redneck join with the rich girl.
Animated Flintstones movie to be produced by Will Farrell and Adam McKay.
The Stone Age family will return to the big screen animated instead of live-action. The movie will be the first animated film of the characters since the 1966 The Man Called Flintstone.
Go, go Power Rangers!
Lionsgate has licensed Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers from Saban for a reboot movie.
Didn’t see the Rosemary’s Baby remake? You’re not alone.
Maybe Mother’s Day wasn’t the best day for the airing. The remake was up against A Game of Thrones, the season finale of Once Upon a Time, and Cosmos.
Corner Gas movie being Kickstartered.
The Canadian sitcom about life in Dog River, Saskatchewan is being turned into a movie if the Kickstarter campaign is successful.
Blade Runner sequel may see Harrison Ford return as Deckard.
Ridley Scott may provide the answer to, “Is Deckard a replicant?” in the Blade Runner sequel. Ford himself showed interest during an AMA on Reddit.
Infamous Chick tract being adapted as movie.
Dark Dungeons, Jack Chick’s infamous anti-Dungeons & Dragons comic tract, is getting the movie treatment. Zombie Orpheus Entertainment will be treating the tract with the respect the company, staffed by gamers, think is due and will play it straight and accurate.
A change of plans this week. I’ve been holding on to some items too long and I realized that I hadn’t had a round up last month. On with the show!
A Game of Thrones, the Movie
With the TV series catching up to George R.R. Martin’s writing, something needs to be done. One potential fix, feature-length movies. The movies would be prequels, set 90 years prior to the start of the books. This should give Martin the time to finish or at least pad out the series long enough to prevent the TV series from overtaking.
Jem and the Holograms to get film treatment.
Truly outrageous! The movie has a webpage set up where fans can make suggestions on plot and casting and submit audition video. However, Christy Marx, the creator of the original series, is not involved. How this will affect the movie remains to be seen.
No more Inspector Morse adaptations?
Creator Colin Dexter has added a clause in his will that will prevent other actors from playing Inspector Morse. He feels that the performances of both John Thaw and Shaun Evans cannot be surpassed. The clause can be challenged, but it is likely that Dexter’s estate will agree with him.
Left Behind movie series to be rebooted.
Nicholas Cage will star in the remake of the adaptation of the first of the Left Behind books. Release date has been announced for October 3. The first adaptation was by Kirk Cameron in 2000, with the sequels released direct-to-video.
Fox to spin-off a Mystique movie while Sony does the same with the Sinister Six.
While Marvel Studios is busy with the Avengers, the licensees aren’t content to be left in the dust. Fox has plans for a Mystique movie to go along with the Wolverine series. Over at Sony, the Sinister Six, Spider-foes each and every one of them, has signed on director Drew Goddard. The movies mean that Marvel will have more characters on screen than rival DC Comics, despite the latter’s owner, Warner, having not licensed any character to another studio.
New Sailor Moon series to debut July, broadcast includes Internet streaming.
The Pretty Soldier-Sailor is returning and can be seen through Niconico Douga, a video streaming site similar to YouTube. An account will be needed to watch but the new Sailor Moon will be available internationally. The build up has been kept low, with very little hype to create expectations.
Cracked.com lists the five adaptations that are overdone.
Beyond just naming, Cracked looks at why the movies don’t work well. The key appears to be the creativity ends with the original idea and doesn’t continue through the actual production.
Mrs. Doubtfire sequel being written.
Chris Columbus, the director of the original, has been signed, as has Mrs. Doubtfire himself, Robin Williams. The original movie hit theatres in 1993, and a sequel was attempted in 2001 but never got past pre-production. Given the age of the original movie, it may be Williams’ name that proves to be the draw.
Princess Jellyfish to get live-action adaptation.
The manga Princess Jellyfish, aka Kuragame Hime, will be getting the live-action treatement. The official site is now up. Release date is December, 2014.