HEAD OF THE CLASS, I believe, was one of the most underrated sitcoms of the 1980’s. Yet today, it isn’t on DVD and reruns aren’t in syndication.
Charlie Moore (Howard Hesseman a few years after WKRP) is a history teacher in New York City, teaching the IHP, the Honors Program.
The class is made of of all the typical “types” of 80’s sticoms.
There was Arvid, the geek (Dan Frischman), the Indian student Jawaharal (Jory Husain), the Republican Alan (Tony O’Dell, the ABC version of Alex P. Keaton), Maria (Leslie Bega), Darlene (Robin Givens, who married Mike Tyson during the run of the show), Simone (Khrystyne Haje), tough guy Eric (Brian Robbins) and Dennis (Dan Schneider). William Schilling played the principal, Dr. Samuels.
The series premiered in 1986. While a sitcom, the show treated them as real people and not as geeks. It was also very funny too.
There were special episodes too. In one, the gang performed the play HAIR. I think they did GREASE in another. Each had many musical numbers.
In season three of the series, there was a trip to Moscow, filmed on location, becoming the first sitcom to film there.
In 1990, Hesseman left the series, along with some of the cast members. He was replaced by Scottish comedian Billy Connelly. While normally this could have sunk a series, Connelly made it his own. I still remember his “Morning geniuses” every time he entered the classroom.
Unfortunately, while the quality of the series remained, it was canceled at the end of the season. After five seasons, the final of the 114 episodes aired June 25, 1991.
Since the end of the series, two of the members have gone on to big fame behind the camera.
Dan Schneider, who had also starred in MAKING THE GRADE and BETTER OFF DEAD before HEAD OF THE CLASS, went on to write and produce pretty much everything that has been on Nickelodeon. From ZOEY 101, WHAT I LIKE ABOUT YOU, DRAKE AND JOSH, THE AMANDA SHOW, KENAN AND KEL, and iCARLY, he is doing quite well for himself.
Brian Robbins works with Schneider, directing episodes of his shows, and has moved into directing feature films such as VARSITY BLUES, HARDBALL, and the Eddie Murphy comedies NORBIT and MEET DAVE.
Maybe it is because I was in high school from 1986 to 1990, the years the show ran, but I always found it one of the most realistic of high school sitcoms. I would love to see Warner Brothers release it on DVD.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Sunday, January 18, 2009
While many people seem to shudder at the thought of remakes, they have been a common thing in film history. Even in the early days of cinema, when there were fewer films than there are today, films were often remade.
Heck, even two of the greatest filmmakers, Howard Hawks and Frank Capra, remade their own films. Hawks directed A BALL OF FIRE and, only seven years later, remade the film as A SONG IS BORN. Frank Capra not only remade his own LADY FOR A DAY as A POCKETFUL OF MIRACLES, but also remade BROADWAY BILL as RIDING HIGH. RIDING HIGH even included footage of the original film. It kind of makes you wish that George Lucas would just make new films instead of tinkering with the old.
There are two remakes that have always bothered me.
The first is THE VANISHING.
In 1993, director George Sluizer took his brilliant 1988 Dutch film and remade it for a US audience. He had a good cast for the remake, Jeff Bridges, Kiefer Sutherland, and Sandra Bullock. I thought it would turn out ok. In fact, I was there first show on opening day.
I was wrong.
The original film was known for its ending. In the remake, Sluizer completely changed it. He dumbed it down for Hollywood. What was a powerful and shocking finale is predictable and depressing in it’s lack of originality.
We haven’t heard much from Sluizer in recent years. This film is probably the reason. Fans of the original saw him as a sell out, and the resulting film wasn't that big of a hit to make the changes seem worth it.
The other remake is a bit more recent.
In 2003, LOVE DON’T COST A THING was released. This was a remake of The Moviezzz Blog favorite CAN’T BUY ME LOVE from 1987. I didn’t see the remake theatrically, but since Roger Ebert loved it (and seemed to hate the original) I was curious to see it.
According to the screenwriter of LDCAT, he just downloaded the original CBML screenplay (giving the original screenwriter a co-writing credit) and made a few changes.
The changes he made completely ruined the film.
There is one scene early in CBML where Cindy Mancini is watching TV with her friends. She is watching her now at college boyfriend discuss what he misses most at home. All of her friends begin to think that he will mention Cindy.
He doesn’t, and instead mentions missing the hydro massage machine in the high school locker room.
Cindy’s friends are devastated. Yet Cindy, showing that she really is their leader, tells them that it is nothing. Her boyfriend is busy, she doesn’t expect him to mention her, and she is fine with it. That works for her friends and they leave.
Cindy goes to follow them. She picks up the coat she always wears, her boyfriend’s varsity jacket, looks at it, and puts it back down. She WAS hurt by what happened, but didn’t want to show it.
What happens in the remake?
The boyfriend doesn’t mention Cindy, so Cindy and all her friends start yelling together at the screen. There is no subtlety. There is no deeper meaning to the scene. It is just played for laughs.
As for the rest of the film, it is just as bad. Just the titles can tell you the difference. The original is named after a Beatles song, and the remake is named for a J. Lo song.
Roger Ebert has never been more wrong.
This post is part of the Large Association of Movie Blog's Remake Blogathon.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
Consider this a sort of reverse “What Ever Happened To” story.
One of my favorite country songs of the 90’s was “Lucky in Love” by Sherrie Austin. It may not have been the biggest hit of the decade (it reached #34 on the country charts in 1997) but I loved the song.
Fun video too. I have the song on my iPod and listen to it quite often.
I had never heard of the singer, Sherrie Austin, before or since. Not that she was a one hit wonder, but I heard it while going through a brief country phase, bought the CD, then went back to listening to other types of music.
Seeing the CD recently, I was curious as to what was up with her. Did she have any other songs out there?
In looking around, I learned a couple very interesting things.
First off, she isn’t just a country singer. She is Australian. I didn’t really hear an accent on this.
And second, even more interesting, she wasn’t always a singer.
In the late 80’s she was someone who could have even been a possibility for a "What Ever Happened to" story.
She was Pippa McKenna on FACTS OF LIFE!!! Remember? The Australian girl they brought in in the final season? You can tell they were thinking of using her for a spin off, but they didn’t.
She went by Sherri Krenn back then, but it is her.
Sherrie has since gone on to record a couple more albums. Her last was released in 2003.
Here is an interview with her from around 1999. She talks about her career and THE FACTS OF LIFE.
So Pippa went on to become a country singer, of one of my favorite songs, and I didn’t even realize it.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
In 1985, NBC aired a four episode series called OCEANQUEST. It was a reality TV series, long before reality TV had taken over the airwaves.
1980 Miss Universe Shawn Weatherly was the star. The show followed her as she trained to become an underwater diver. It began with her training, and then took her around the world to interesting places to dive.
While in Cuba, she visited with Fidel Castro. Imagine him appearing on a summer reality show today (“Fidel, you have been voted out of the Big Brother House.”).
In Antarctica was the only time Shawn wasn’t able to complete her assignment. If I remember correctly, she chickened out of diving due to the temperature. I couldn’t blame her.
The man behind the series, and featured on camera, was Al Giddings. He was a notable underwater cameraman, who shot sequences for THE DEEP, FOR YOUR EYES ONLY and THE ABYSS among others.
The show ran for four episodes, from August 18, to September 15, 1985. It was nominated for an Emmy.
I don’t know how popular the show was. I don’t believe it ever aired other than that one summer. It never made it to VHS or DVD.
There was a popular poster of Shawn inspired by the show that I remember seeing in record stores for years after.
Shawn would go on to star in the first season of BAYWATCH. She has pretty much left the business and one site claims she is working in real estate.
Monday, January 12, 2009
In THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD, Michael Sarrazin plays the title character. He begins having dreams of strange people and places he has never seen before. He dreams of a bridge, a statue, and other landmarks, but has no idea what or where they are.
While watching TV, he sees the bridge from his dreams. When he learns it is in Massachusetts, he heads there to try to find out what is going on.
After discovering the location of the bridge, he begins to do more research about his dreams. Along the way, he begins to believe he may be reincarnated. In a creepy subplot, he falls in love with his former self’s daughter (Jennifer O’Neill) and meets his former self’s wife (Margot Kidder).
The film is extremely effective. Especially the music score by Jerry Goldsmith. It was directed by J. Lee Thompson, from a novel by Max Ehrlich. Sarrazin, a 70’s star of THEY SHOOT HORSES DON’T THEY, never really had the career he should have. He was quite good in this. And there is even a small role by Debralee Scott.
I have to be honest in reviewing this film. I may be very biased as the entire film was shot in and around the town I grew up in. It is essentially a travelogue of Springfield Massachusetts in the mid 70’s. (One of these days I plan on doing a then and now comparison of how the locations in the film look today. I have yet to find out where one of the houses he visits is located.)
Being a movie fan, living in an area that isn’t known for many films being shot here, I can’t watch the film without noticing all the different locations. Whenever I drive over the bridge depicted in the film, I always think of the film and the way they shot it with all sorts of weird angles. I used to drive by the country club shown in the film all the time, and think of it. No matter how many times I see the film, I never get beyond the “Hey! I’ve been there!” factor.
Here is a 7 minute segment someone posted on YouTube, with many of his dream sequences and driving around the area. (NOTE: The scene where he stops his car at the 2:37 mark on the bridge always drives me nuts. I drive over that bridge every morning and if someone really stopped their car in that place, they would not only get smashed into, but tie up traffic completely.)
THE REINCARNATION OF PETER PROUD was released on VHS and Laserdisc by Vestron Video, that has been out of business for over fifteen years. I believe Video Treasures also released a version in LP mode. You can find used copies on Amazon. But, other than bootlegs, there hasn’t been a DVD release.
Released by Bing Crosby Productions and American International Pictures, the rights are now owned by Rysher. I know of someone who tried to contact them about getting it released on DVD. He heard back that it was possible, but then Rysher was bought out by another company (Mark Cuban’s 2929 Entertainment) and the film catalogue changed hands once again.
David Fincher, after making ZODIAC, spoke about wanting to remake it. If he does, that might make a DVD release possible. And I also hope that, since Springfield was the town in the book that it was based, he might think of filming there.
Tuesday, January 06, 2009
One Sunday afternoon in 1983, watching one of my local UHF channels, they had a pilot for a TV show. The show had a group of kids, my age, singing and dancing to pop hits of the day. From Michael Jackson, to the Police, I think even the Beatles. They were all there.
I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. Since ZOOM was off the air, it was the same sort of show, only without all the lessons, and crafts, and PBS stuff. Just music, all the time.
The music was the most important thing about it. In the pilot, they had characters named Mickey and Gloria, just because those were two of the most popular songs of the day, and you knew they were going to have to work those songs in to the program.
The early seasons of the show starred Martika (who would go on to have a hit song in the 90’s with “Toy Soldier”) as Gloria. Renee Sands played Renee.
And then there was someone else.
Can you recognize who that is singing “Gloria” from the pilot?
Hint, her character's name was Stacy.
That is none other than Stacy Ferguson, aka Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas.
The show went on to become a series in 1984. It aired on and off for the years that followed. I didn't watch it all that often after that pilot.
It moved over to the Disney Channel for a while. I once tuned into an episode and saw it had a new cast, featuring one actress with the name of “Love”.
Turns out, it was Jennifer Love Hewitt. She started here, as well as others like Mario Lopez.
As I mentioned, the show’s history is a bit of a mess. Dates the show aired are different wherever you look. It aired on and off, took years off between seasons, and finally ended its run in 1993.
There was once a rumor, started by Fergie herself, that the show was going to be released on DVD. That was only a rumor. The music rights would make it almost impossible.
The pilot movie was released on VHS, and is a common bootleg on Ebay and other sites.
Thursday, January 01, 2009
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Posted by TALKING MOVIEzzz at 3:47 PM