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Featured TV on DVD Review: Jem and the Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series

October 9th, 2011

Jem and the Holograms: The Truly Outrageous Complete Series - Buy from Amazon

Jem and the Holograms started in the mid 1980s and ran for your standard 65 episodes during its three-year run. (Once a kids show hits 65 episodes, it's makes more financial sense to syndicate than to make additional episodes.) This is not the first time the show has been released on DVD. In 2004, the first 45 episodes were released between two DVDs on the Rhino label, but there was a shake-up in that company around the same time and the series never completed its run on DVD. This week, not only is the first season being re-released on a new DVD, but the The Truly Outrageous Complete Series is coming out for the first time. It's been a long time coming, but was it worth the wait?

The Show

Jem and the Holograms is the name of the show and the name of the band that is the focus of the show. The series begins with an origin story of the band. The lead singer, Jem, is the alter-ego of Jerrica Benton, the daughter of Emmett Benton. After Emmett Benton dies, he leaves his music studio, Starlight Music, and his foster home for girls, Starlight House, to his daughter. Jessica's biggest goal is to keep Starlight House going. She has help from her sister, Kimber; her boyfriend, Rio Pacheco; and her two best friends, Aja Leith and Shana Elmsford, both of whom went to Starlight House as kids. But the place needs a lot of repairs, more than they can handle on their own. So Jerrica goes to Starlight Music to get some cash. After all, she does own half of the company. However, Emmett Benton's business partner, Eric Raymond, controls the other half of Starlight Music and he wants to use it to promote a new band, The Misfits. He's even set up a battle of the bands, which he's rigged. (The Misfits are the only professional band that will be there.) Jerrica hates The Misfits right away, as they are not the kind of band her father would promote.

That night while trying to figure out what to do, Jerrica receives a package containing two earrings. When she puts them on, she's visited by a ghostly figure, but it's not a ghost, it's a hologram. Her father had created an artificial intelligence named Synergy as a mentor for Jerrica and her younger sister Kimber. It can be used to create photo-realistic holograms and put on an amazing laser light show. He also left his two daughters all the equipment needed to form a band: instruments, outfits, and of course an awesome looking car. They have an idea how to get the money they need. They will form a band and defeat The Misfits. However, Jerrica uses synergies holographic capabilities to create her alter-ego. The only people who know Jerrica and Jem are the same person are her bandmates. Not even her boyfriend knows that, which causes a lot of problems.

That's the basic setup of the show. Individual episodes are rather difficult to discuss, especially early on, as the show actually cares about continuity. I'm not talking about the occasional two or three part storyarc; the first eighteen episodes are effectively one mini-series. That's rare for a cartoon. The writing is definitely a highlight of the series and while the show was made to sell toys, the main characters have more depth to them than most cartoons do. The central love triangle between Jem, Jerrica, and Rio is the driving force for a lot of the plot. It is a little on the strange side, since Jem and Jerrica are the same person, but Rio doesn't know that. The show touches on a number of important subject, like teenage runaways, homelessness, illiteracy, etc.

There are some flaws in the show, many of which are shared by other cartoons made in the 1980s. The animation is stiff, especially compared to TV shows made today. There are some glitches with colors suddenly changing, etc. The music and the style is a little too 1980s and if you don't have nostalgia on your side, it might be hard to get into. On the other hand, if you grew up in the 1980s, the style and music is a huge selling point. Also, The Misfits are too over-the-top when it comes to their antics. By the time the initial mini-series is over, they would have been arrested numerous times. Although that was necessary for the action elements of the show.

The Extras

The only extras on the episode discs are music video jukeboxes, for those that just want to listen to the music. The songs can be catchy, but they are also usually quite short. There is also a bonus disc with a number of extras, starting with a three-part retrospective featurette. The first is on the genesis of the show (the toyline came first, naturally), writing the music, the action, etc. The second part is a retrospective with the cast and crew talking about their memories of the show, the casting, recording sessions, etc. The final part talks to the fans, Jem conventions, the cast meeting the super fans, etc. The combined running time for the three featurettes is just over 100 minutes, so it's a healthy amount of extras. There are six minutes of archival commercials for the original toys. There are five minutes of animated storyboards for the opening, the close, and a trio of songs. There is also the original Writers Bible as a DVD-Rom feature.

The Verdict

Jem and the Holograms is one of the better cartoons from the 1980s and one of the few that cared about continuity and as such, rose above its toy line origins. It is dated in a few ways, including the music and fashion as well as the animation quality, but if you were a fan before, it is worth rediscovering. The The Truly Outrageous Complete Series has a bonus disc with nearly two hours of extras and it is worth buying over getting the three seasons separately.

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