In the height of the 1980’s animation boom, the people who brought you G.I. Joe and Transformers debuted Jem. A very different show, it proclaimed to be about “glamor and glitter, fashion and fame” – yet despite that it garnered surprising popularity and a decent run.
This one sentence synopsis will test even the Fortresses’ skills:
Her father dead Jerrica learns of his secret supercomputer Synergy capable of remotely projecting holograms though her jemstar earrings thus allowing her to take on the guise of Jem and lead a rock group with her sister and friends called the Holograms and a double life which in turn leads to rivalries with other bands and a strange love triangle between Jerrica, her goodhearted boyfriend/manager Rio, –and Jem!
All three seasons had distinct tones. Christie Marx, the show runner wrote many of the episodes and in season one concentrated on the fight to the top of the music world. While Jerrica’s decision to not share her double life secret with Rio made for more interesting plots, it also led to frustration. Rio was always portrayed as upstanding, and you sympathized for him as he was attracted to Jem — his own girlfriend unknowingly glitzed up with holograms!
The second season spiced things up with a new member for both the Holograms and the rival Misfits. This season also contained some of the strangest, kookiest, and fantastically implausible episodes. It was as if Christie looked away for a moment and somebody put into production all the rightly rejected ideas from season one.
Third season saw the quality controls back in place – more-or-less. It introduced a new rival band, the Stingers, and a love interest for nearly every female on the show, Riot.
Yes, even Jem felt an attraction for him and they kissed in one episode causing some controversy. Many viewers could not help but feel Rio had been betrayed (ignore the fact that Rio thought he liked two girls – but we knew it was only one with a minor duplicitous streak).
Jerrica/Jem eventually got over her infatuation with Riot (despite a later continuity error or two) and reaffirmed her feelings for Rio, but that kiss always bothered us.
We once communicated with Christie Marx on this subject and she informed us that Riot actually had a “power” over minds of women. Supernatural? Psychic? Mutant? We do not know. Christie stated that she never had a chance to clarify and follow up on Riot’s ability as the show ended prematurely.
Looking at the third series again after that revelation, the power really is noticeable, and the relevant events make more sense. With that in mind we can go a little easier on Jerrica now.
The Sunbow family of shows had large casts and recurring characters. Jem stood out even amongst these though with more in-depth characterizations of the stars and even recurring secondaries. Unlike the others it was more arc driven as well, something that we all take for granted in today’s anime inspired world.
The format was not perfect though. We felt that many episodes were too dominated with nasty things constantly happening to the good guys. It got frustrating. There was all the bad build up and not enough release or comeuppance. 98% abuse and 2% resolution is not a good ratio.
Jem holds up compared to many shows of that era due to its arc and characterizations. The fashions and tunes are hit or miss depending on your tastes, but they are interesting none-the-less. We recommend Jem for all those who want to experience a unique, quality show from that famed animation boom era.
Special thanks to Zhanneel for the additional caps.