Throwback Thursday: Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol (1999)

Though it may seem that the concept of the teen idol is an old one, it is actually rather new in terms of cultural history.

The 1999 TV movie, Ricky Nelson: Original Teen Idol, tells the story of the late actor/singer Ricky Nelson (Gregory Calpakis). The younger son of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson (Jamey Sheridan and Sara Botsford), Ricky was a performer from a young age. Starring with his family first on radio and then on television on The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, he was sold to the then young audience as a heartthrob. Then as he aged (as many young performers experience), his name fades from the headlines and he has to deal with no longer being in the spotlight.

Though the narrative is by the book, the story is familiar to anyone who has seen the trajectory of many young actors and singers. After being in the limelight and dealing with everything that comes with that while growing up, they become an afterthought or a piece of nostalgia when the newer model comes along.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Flashback Friday: Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back (2000)

No one gets through life without a few bumps in the road. The only question is if it holds up back or makes us stronger.

The TV movie biopic, Meat Loaf: To Hell and Back (2000), tells the story of the late singer and actor. Marvin Lee “Meat Loaf” Aday (W. Earl Brown) was born in Texas to a loving mother dying of cancer and a father who was far from parent of the year. As a young man, tormented by his father and peers due to his size and decided to strike out on his own.

Fate would lead him to an audition for a musical where he met future music partner Jim Steinman (Zachary Throne). Together, they would create Bat Out of Hell, which has become one of the best-selling and most respected albums of all time. But while Meat Loaf had incredible career success and a happy family life, his demons were not too far behind him.

As I recall, I enjoyed watching it. It reveals both the highs and the lows in a way that is entertaining without being too heavy, kitschy, or predictable. In telling Meat Loaf’s story, I would hope that members of the audience find the courage to overcome their own demons.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: The Facts of Life Reunion (2001)

When we face a dilemma, the first people we often turn to are our friends.

The Facts of Life Reunion (2001) aired 13 years after the original series ended. Natalie (Mindy Cohn) has spent the last decade living and working abroad as a reporter. After working and living abroad as a reporter, she comes back to the States with a dilemma. Blair (Lisa Whelchel) is a wealthy businesswoman who believes that her husband is cheating on her. Tootie (who now goes by her given name, Dorothy) (Kim Fields) is turning to a career as a talk show host after failing to make it as an actress. Jo (Nancy McKeon) is balancing her job as a cop and her home life as a wife and mother.

Reuniting with her friends (sans Jo, represented by her husband and daughter) and Mrs. Garrett (the late Charlotte Rae), Natalie has to make a decision. She has received two marriage proposals and has not made a decision about which one to say yes to.

What I like about this TV movie is that it is a nice piece of nostalgia. There is enough of a narrative to keep the story moving along while building on what made the television series special. Each individual storyline feels appropriate, giving the viewers a nice follow-up to where we left them in 1988.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: In Search of the Brontës (2003)

A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.

In Search of the Brontës (2003) is a one-hour TV movie that told the story of the Bronte sisters, their work, and their family. Starring as the sisters are Victoria Hamilton (Charlotte Bronte), Elizabeth Hurran (Emily Bronte), and Alexandra Milman (Anne Bronte). Behind them is Patrick Malahide as their widower father Patrick and Jonathan McGuiness as their only brother, Branwell.

I thoroughly enjoyed this hour of television. It is a fascinating and deeply moving tale of three of the most beloved writers in literary history. The acting is fantastic and the actors are perfectly cast, giving the viewer the opportunity to get to know the characters outside of the dry historical facts that we know all too well.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Flashback Friday: The Parent Trap II (1986)

Divorce is a hard thing on a kid. You want your parents to be happy, but their happiness is no longer dependent on one another.

The 1986 TV movie, The Parent Trap II, is the sequel to the 1961 movie, The Parent Trap. Nikki Ferris (Carrie Kei Heim) and Mary Grand (Bridgette Andersen) both have divorced parents. Being best friends, they plan on bringing Nikki’s mother Sharon Ferris (Hayley Mills) and Mary’s father Bill Grand (Tom Skerritt) together. Their goal is to prevent Sharon and Nikki from uprooting and moving to New York City. But the girls are not doing it alone. Sharon’s twin sister, Susan Carey (also Haley Mills) is more than eager to provide help in whatever ways she can.

I haven’t seen this movie in thirty plus years. I remember watching it countless times when I was young. Its a cute movie and overall, a nice extension to the narrative of the original film. With films like these, important thing is the balance between nostalgia and moving the story forward. Granted, I have only seen it it through a child’s eyes, but as sequels go, I have seen much worse.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Throwback Thursday: To Die in Jerusalem (2007)

When we go to war, it is not the old we sent into battle. It is the young ones who put their lives on the line.

The 2007 short film, To Die in Jerusalem, is the story of two young lives cut short by hate, war, and unending conflict. In 2002, Rachel Levy was was a 17 year old Jewish girl living in Jerusalem. She died at the hands of Palestinian suicide bomber. The person who killed her was a 17 year old Palestinian Muslim girl, Ayat al-Akhras.

When we talk about this conflict, we don’t discuss it on a human level. By making the story about two families, two young girls taken at the prime of their lives and two mothers looking for answers, it becomes personal and down to earth. The audience does not see an argument that is complicated and misunderstood. They see the ordinariness of the subjects and hopefully understand they are no different than anyone else.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Thoughts On the 100th Anniversary of the Tulsa Massacre

Hate is powerful. It turns us away from the humanity of our fellow mortals and only shows us the negative stereotypes we want to see.

This past weekend was the 100th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. It is one of the worst episodes of racial violence in American history. The Greenwood District of Tulsa, in Oklahoma was known locally as Black Wall Street. Outside of the Greenwood District, the residents knew that they would be treated as second class citizens. But inside of the district was another story. It was a vibrant and thriving community that disproved the racist ideas about African-Americans. Unfortunately, some Caucasian members of the community had their minds blown by this success and used the accusation (which has not been verified) that a black man attacked a white teenage girl.

By the time the dust settled, hundreds were dead and the neighborhood looked like a war zone. To make matters worse, it was not spoken of until recently. In light of the fact that this disgusting event has been buried, both WNYC and CNN told the story of the destruction. The new six part podcast, Blindspot: Tulsa Burning, and TV movie, Dreamland: The Burning of Black Wall Street, told the compelling and heartbreaking story of those horrific days. I highly recommend both.

This was a pogrom. The actors and the location have changed, but the reason (if you want to call it that) and the results were the same. I wish that it had not taken a century for this country to remember and honor the memories of those who were killed. But it has. The only thing we can do is talk about it and educate our children so this never happens again.

Flashback Friday: Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style (1992)

Sometimes, getting out of the house and away from our everyday surroundings is the thing that we need at that particular moment.

In 1992, the gang from Saved by the Bell left California for a vacation in Hawaii. The TV movie was entitled Saved by the Bell: Hawaiian Style. Kelly Kapowski’s (Tiffani Thiessen) grandfather owns a hotel in Honolulu. Harry Bannister (Dean Jones) has invited his granddaughter and her friends (chaperoned by Mr. Belding (Dennis Haskins)) to enjoy their time off at the Hawaiian Hideaway. But as usual with SBTB, it is more than a week to chill and enjoy each other’s company. Unless Harry can save the Hideaway, he will be forced to close his hotel. It is, therefore, up to the kids to save the day.

Is it Shakespeare? Obviously not. But it is on brand for the series, taking fans out of Bayside High and into a larger world.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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