Jem And The Holograms: The Complete First And Second Seasons
Children's entertainment is ephemeral in the sense that it's produced and discarded rapidly, but it's timeless in the sense that there'll always be someone who remembers that weird TV show or movie from childhood. Few shows are more likely to provoke an "Oh, man, I'd almost forgotten about that!" moment than Jem And The Holograms, the half-hour syndicated toy commercial that aired from 1985 to '87. A cartoon that combined femme-friendly doses of fashion, pop music, and sisterhood with cliffhanging adventure, Jem appealed just as much to the first adolescent MTV generation as it did to preteens. There was something sweet and even a little exciting in the series' simplified depiction of a music industry where two shallow girl groupsthe title characters and the faintly punkish Misfitsbattled for chart supremacy and for coveted slots at "The Music Awards" and "The World Hunger Shindig."
Rhino's four-DVD set Jem And The Holograms: The Complete First And Second Seasons collects 26 episodes, with commentary on selected episodes by head writer Christy Marx, plus interviews with Marx and Jem's speaking voice, Samantha Newark (but, sadly, not Jem's singing voice, Luna chanteuse Britta Phillips). Marx, an action-animation veteran, admits that she initially resisted Jem's girlishness, but came to enjoy writing what was in effect a superhero soap opera, featuring an ambitious young businesswoman and her light-show-producing megacomputer. And, though Jem's animation is shoddy and its plotting ridiculous (why doesn't anyone just arrest The Misfits for their sabotaging ways?), the steady accumulation of impossible crises remains addictive. The music isn't bad, either: It's catchy and synthetic, like early-'80s Todd Rundgren.
For even better music and more charming art, the cult favorite 1971 animated feature The Point, conceived and scored by Harry Nilsson, is now available on DVD. Emerging from an era when nearly all children's entertainment was self-empowering and psychedelic, The Point uses trippy, sketchy Fred Wolf drawings to tell the story of a round-headed kid in a kingdom of the pointy-headed; the child, Oblio, is ultimately banished to The Pointless Forest and discovers that everything does ultimately have a point. It's a garden-variety anti-discrimination message, but fabulously conveyed.
The DVD uses the later-in-the-'70s version of The Point, with Ringo Starr narration instead of the Dustin Hoffman voiceover that appeared in the original ABC TV broadcast. What hasn't changed is Nilsson's music, written and recorded when he was at the top of his game, in the midst of creating three timeless pop albums (Harry, Nilsson Sings Newman, and Nilsson Schmilsson). The enduring classic from The Point's soundtrack may be "Me And My Arrow," but the masterpiece is "Think About Your Troubles," in which Nilsson urges his listeners to pour their sorrows into the river, where they'll flow into the ocean and be eaten by fishes, which will be eaten by a whale, which will die and decompose and send those sorrows right back into the water supply. So nothing, it seems, is disposable.