Family Ties “Band on the Run” (part 2 of 2)
Then Skippy enters, wearing a satin jacket that says “1987 World Tour – $winging Corporate Raiders”, and I believe the joke is now complete.
Alex then hands out sheet music, telling the girls that he’s got new songs to go with their new image. Jennifer complains that it’s “all show tunes”, and she refuses to sing “Why Can’t a Woman Be More Like a Man?” I honestly never pegged Alex as the type to be into musicals. I guess the joke here is that Alex is so conservative that he wants the girls to sing safe, old fashioned numbers, but a young guy into show tunes these days doesn’t exactly say “Young Republican” to most people.
So Alex tells them to do the other song they practiced. He says, “In the key of C,” and blows into a harmonica, which accomplishes nothing. A moment later, the members of the band are bobbing up and down and bum-bum-bumming their way through an a capella rendition of “Mr. Sandman”. It’s the very same song made famous by the Chordettes, complete with references to the wavy hair of Liberace. And I’m pretty sure Liberace was not a Young Republican, either.
Those poor, poor, deluded Chordettes. They were like the Claymates of their day.
And just in case this isn’t painful enough, they even get Skippy to do the deep baritone Yeeesss? at the start of the song. Please kill me.
As the girls sing in unison, Alex excitedly says that Christina has got the act down pat, and he joins in with her, and it’s here we learn her character’s name is “Kitten”. I’d ask what kind of name is “Kitten”, but then again, what kind of name is “Rainbow”? Perhaps Christina is really playing the forgotten Phoenix sibling, Kitten Phoenix.
Back from break, Steven is still wandering around the house in his boxers looking for his clothes. Elyse says, “Check the front porch, honey,” and sure enough, there’s a whole rack of clothes out on the front porch. I don’t know which city in Ohio this show takes place in, exactly, but apparently it’s full of very trustworthy people.
Just then, Jennifer and the rest of the girls come downstairs. They stop when they see Steven getting dressed out on the front porch. He immediately shuts the front door.
Enter Alex, who hands out their train tickets, and it turns out he’s riding first class while they’re all in coach. He puts on a huge pair of sunglasses and explains that when people see a band’s manager riding in first class, “they figure it’s a first class band!”
Then he calls a huddle, saying it’s their first gig, and the $winging Corporate Raiders, which “began as a glimmer in my eye [hah!] is now a reality!” He says, “Tonight, Toledo! Tomorrow… Toledo. Monday… back to school.” And with that, the huddle breaks and they all head out.
Then, with no warning whatsoever, the camera suddenly journeys directly into the writers’ demented imaginations. In a bizarre artistic flourish, everything’s suddenly in black and white, and we’re seeing stock footage of trains, and the girls are singing “Mr. Sandman” in black and white footage.
Different shots are floating around all four corners of the screen, in front of old stock footage of cheering crowds. The names of cities float past: Toledo! Cleveland! Toledo! Cleveland Again! By which I mean, the floating sign actually says “Cleveland Again”. The passage of time is marked by a floating calendar flipping through the days. Black and White Alex beams proudly, then yells at Black and White Skippy for being clumsy.
Eventually, the ‘shrooms wear off, and the monochrome sequence ends, and it appears we won’t need Orson Welles to film an intro for this episode, after all.
Holy crap. To be frank, I’m a little hazy on what just happened. Is this what it feels like to travel through time? Also, the band was only meant to play the homecoming dance at Leland College, right? So where did this multi-city tour… okay, bi-city tour thing suddenly come from? Of course, I’m assuming all of this is actually in the episode, and I didn’t just hallucinate the last three minutes.
We’re back in full color on NBC, and it’s homecoming weekend at last. Alex is at home waiting on the girls. Steven still has a rack of clothes out on the front porch, but Mallory comes home to reveal she got an A on her fashion project. This means that Steven can finally get his closets back, and this stupid B plot can finally end.
Jennifer and the girls show up in their chiffon dresses. But it seems they’re getting fed up with the 1950s look, and they want to play their own music. Jennifer is tired of looking like they’re “trying to raise money for war bonds!” Rainbow even uses up her one and only line to complain about the band’s new image.
In response, Alex just pouts. He says he works himself to the bone for the band, “and what do I get in return?” The obligatory punch line from Jennifer is, “80%.” I see. Alex is not their manager. He’s their pimp.
Alex says the guys at the “Cleveland State Penitentiary” really loved them, but one would hope that allowing high school girls to perform at a men’s prison is generally frowned upon. Jennifer says those guys have been locked up so long, “They thought we were the Andrews Sisters!” And then after the concert, Alex actually had to toss all their salads. But the less said about that, the better.
Somehow, Alex guilt trips the girls into keeping up the act, and then it’s over to the homecoming dance. We see the Polka Boys are playing at the dance anyway, so I guess they’re the opening act, or something. Steven and Elyse are the only ones dancing, while everyone stands around bored, and the best part is how Steven and Elyse are doing a whole pre-choreographed routine like this is just one of many weekends where they dance the polka.
Eventually, for some obligatory cuteness, Andy cuts in and asks to dance with his mom. I don’t really know what a four year old boy is doing at a college homecoming dance, and I don’t particularly care.
Backstage, the girls are still airing their discontent, but Alex assures them this is the “gimmick” they need to be a success. Then the Polka Boys wrap up and Alex runs on stage to do his best Lawrence Welk impersonation into the microphone, complete with a “tank you tank you tank you!” He’s a man of many talents.
He then introduces the $winging Corporate Raiders, who run out and start their bum-bum-bumming again, and this time, Skippy pops up behind them to do the “Yeeesss?”, and it’s even more horrible than before, because he’s got an actual nightcap on, and he even gestures like he’s sprinkling sand on the girls. Have you no shame, Skippy, at long last?
But the part I can’t figure out is why the whole crowd at the homecoming dance is just standing there and enduring all this non-entertainment. If this were a real college, I’m pretty sure someone would have set fire to the stage by now.
Jennifer suddenly loses the will to go on, most likely because we’re nearing the end of the episode, and she runs off stage. The rest of the band follows, and Alex tries to sing the song himself, with mixed results.
Alex goes backstage, and all the girls storm out. Well, except for Jennifer, because the sitcom format of the day dictates that she now have a heart to heart with her brother. She says that whenever Alex gets involved in her life, she hears a voice in her head telling her to run away as fast as possible. But then she also hears a voice saying she should listen to Alex, because he’s a “great guy”. The joke is that the latter voice actually belongs to Alex, because he “left a tape recorder under my bed”. I assume it’s the same tape recorder used whenever her band “performs”.
Alex explains his deranged behavior by saying he couldn’t help himself when he saw how “talented” she is. He says he just got over excited, and wanted to be a part of it all. And yes, this is the moment in the episode where Alex apologizes and picks up his Certificate of Narrowly Avoiding Being an Asshat, right on schedule. Exactly three minutes after this scene originally aired, a young Jordon Davis got a snack, and then watched Lilith get so upset at finding out Frasier was previously engaged to Diane that she spent the entire episode locked in the bathroom. Good times.
Jennifer says she can make her own decisions now, and the band wants to manage themselves. She promises that if they hit the big time, Alex can be their “accountant”. Alex zings back, saying if he hits the big time, “You can play at the inauguration!” They hug, and geez, maybe they could put this clip into the opening credits, maybe?
Jennifer says, “No more ‘Mr. Sandman’.” And Alex agrees. No more “Mr. Sandman”. From now on, it’s all about “Enter Sandman”! Well, one can only hope.
Right on cue, the whole band suddenly returns, and they take the stage to show the crowd what they can really do. They’re still in their chiffon dresses, but now they’re wearing jean jackets over them, which somehow makes this whole thing so much more “contemporary”. The drummer taps off a beat, which leads into a song in the same vein as Madonna’s “Cherish”. We then get to watch Tina Yothers mouth the words to yet another track devoid of any actual instruments.
This painful performance goes on and on, and at some point, there’s shaky handheld close-ups of the band performing. Whoa, whoa, be careful there, guys. Don’t hurt yourselves with all those newfangled MTV aesthetics.
The whole crowd dances to this awful sugary teeny bopper pop, because that’s what the college kids were really into back then. The band finally finishes the song, and everyone cheers, and Alex and Jennifer smile at each other, and Jennifer gives him a big thumbs up. And just like that, it’s over.
As mentioned above, there are no song credits at the end of the episode. A little searching around reveals that the “Cherish”-like song Tina Yothers performs is really a cover of “Baby, I’m Back in Love Again” by the Raes, a husband-and-wife musical act who are famous for absolutely nothing you’ve ever heard. I still have no clue what the first song is called, or who originally wrote it. I mean, even the people who supplied the chiffon dresses get a special credit at the end of the show.
Also, after watching the closing credits repeatedly, I still can’t for the life of me figure out who played the drummer.
So, to sum up: supplying chiffon dresses for Tina Yothers gets you fame and recognition, but writing a song for her and/or sitting behind her pretending to play the drums does not.
Well, that about wraps this… oh, hey, look, someone actually uploaded Tina Yothers singing “Baby, I’m Back in Love Again” to YouTube! Isn’t this your lucky day?
Next Up: The Emmy-winning two-parter “A, My Name is Alex”. Yes, I’m finally ready. I survived Tina Yothers singing, which means I’m ready for anything.