Monday, November 14, 2005

Underappreciated Film Genres Revealed

So, you know my friend Heather right?

Well, she works from home, which is awesome for her but something I could never do because I would do things like say "Oh, I think I'll just watch Office Space before I finish that spreadsheet" and then I wouldn't get anything done because I have virtually no self discipline. Anyway, I chat with her on Messenger during the day from time to time, and she happened to mention that she was watching the classic 80's film Troop Beverley Hills, the delightful film starring national treasure Shelley Long.

That got us on to a conversation about movies that we loved that are crap. Unsurprisingly, I have many of these.

I was inspired to look up two TV movies I'd recorded as a kid and watched millions of times. To my surprise and delight, both were available on DVD. I wasn't going to pay the crazy Amazon prices of upwards of £10. What am I, made of money? Fortunately, I have had much experience in tracking down the cheap and not very good movie so I headed right over to eBay.

And did I find them? Oh, did I ever!

And that's how the the two greatest TV movies of the late 80's and early 90's came to join my film collection.

Now those of you who didn't grow up in North America perhaps aren't familiar with the phenomenon of the network extravaganza made-for-TV movie. I don't think they exist anymore, but there were certainly tons of them when I was a kid. Basically, a network would pull stars from all its sitcoms and put them in a fantastic film. How could this possibly go wrong?

The first is 1990's Camp Cucamonga.

It's the touching tale of Marvin Schector (John Ratzenberger - Cheers) and his summer camp, Camp Cucamonga.

Marvin, or Colonel Marv as he's known to the campers, has just given up life as an accountant to fulfill his dream of running a camp. Supported by wife Millie (Dorothy Lyman - Mama's Family) and daughter Ava (a pre-Friends Jennifer Aniston - Ferris Bueller), he has to deal with an amusing mix-up between the handyman (Sherman Hemsley - Amen) and the camp inspector (G. Gordon Liddy - no TV shows, but you may remember him from the Watergate scandal. Seriously. No, seriously.). The mix-up results in the camp losing its accreditation. Oh no! How can the camp survive?

Why, it's resourceful campers to the rescue! Rebellious Lindsey (Danica McKellar - The Wonder Years) is finding it tough to fit in at camp. She's made friends with fellow outcast Max (Josh Saviano - also The Wonder Years), but isn't fitting in with fellow campers Amber (Candace Cameron - Full House), Dennis (Jaleel White - Family Matters) and Frankie (Chad Allen - My Two Dads). Will her suggestion of a rap video to send to the head of the camping association save the camp, win the friendship of the other campers (and Frankie's heart) and aid the blossoming relationship between Ava and fellow counsellor Roger (Brian Robbins - Head of the Class)?

Well, I don't want to spoil it for you, so I won't tell you. But I will tell you that the Camp Cucamonga rap is the single best thing ever. (Camp Cucamonga, oh yeah, oh yeah).

The second film is my favourite. I recorded it from TV in 1988, and probably watched it about seven thousand times before the tape was lost.

It's classic film Dance 'Til Dawn. I seriously cannot tell you how much I love this movie. Love, love, love.

It's the moving story of the graduates of the '88 class of Hoover High. It focuses on several different groups of teenagers and their parents, and I don't know how you can fail to be delighted.

Class popular girl Shelley Sheridan (Alyssa Milano - Who's The Boss) hasn't been asked to the prom by her boyfriend of four years Kevin McCrea (Brian Bloom - As The World Turns) because he doesn't think she'll put out. Encouraged by his friends, Kevin asks out school weirdo Angela Strull (Tracey Gold - Growing Pains) who he thinks is a slut. Angela forgoes her longstanding plans with best friend Margaret (Tempestt Bledsoe - The Cosby Show) and agrees to go with Kevin.

While avoiding the prom, while still pretending to her parents that she's going with Kevin, Shelley runs into class geek Dan Lefcourt (Chris Young - Max Headroom). Dan is hiding out from his father, Jack Lefcourt (Alan Thicke - also Growing Pains), who thinks that he's actually cool.

Angela surprises her friends and Kevin by turning into a hot chick when she puts on her mom's old black sequined prom dress. Her dad (Kelsey Grammer - Cheers) is scandalised when he meets Kevin, whom he sold condoms to earlier. Certain that Kevin is up to no good, he and Angela's mom (Edie McClurg - The Hogan Family) follow them for the night and get up to all kinds of wacky hijinks.

Class snob Patrice Johnson (Christina Applegate - Married with Children), along with her lazy boyfriend Roger (a pre-friends Matthew Perry - Second Chance), is determined to be prom queen and have a fabulous apres prom party. Her parents, prom chaperones Nancy (Mary Frann - Newhart) and Larry (Cliff De Young - the only cast member without a TV show), are going through a rough patch and are planning to divorce.

Will Margaret find out that Kevin is using Angela for sex? Will Shelley and Dan realize that popular kids and geeks can both be lonely? Will Angela be named prom queen? Will Kevin realize that he likes Angela for herself, not just her imaginary sluttiness? Will Patrice and Roger be stranded and unable to attend the apres prom party? Will Nancy and Larry remember why they fell in love in the first place? Will Angela reject Kevin and achieve a new self confidence? Will Shelley and Dan fall in love? Will Roger dump Patrice and announce that he wants to be a fireman?

If you answered no to any of those questions, then you have clearly never watched TV or seen a movie before, and I obviously have nothing in common with you.

I can't even tell you how happy it makes me to have these two movies in my collection.

Now, I just have to track down this one that Aaron told me about - 1988's Crash Course. I haven't seen it, but I know I'll love it.


Kobrinsky said...

When I was little I loved Brian Bloom! I had pictures of him from my teen mags on my walls. That big bushy unibrow, the thick black mane, those deep blue eyes that pierced through my pre-pubescent soul! I love you Brian Bloom!

Alice said...

I always prefered his younger brother - the one who played Alyssa Milano's boyfriend on Who's The Boss. Dreamy!