Saturday, 8 February 2014

Before "Glee" there was "Rags to Riches"

The cast of the TV series
"Rags to Riches" which ran in 1987-1988.
“Rags to Riches” was a musical like “Glee” long before Finn Hudson and Rachel Berry came along. The show followed the life of Nick Foley (Joseph Bologna), a billionaire who adopts a group of teenage girls in the 1960s. They have a sense of style, constantly breaking out in song, all music from the 1960s. Often the lyrics were changed to suit the situation going on in the episode.

It may not be very well known, but it was a unique show with an interesting style. People may not remember it, but I will always remember the show “Rags to Riches” for one episode that touched my heart.

"Rags to Riches" aired on Channel 7 on the peasant vision dial at the tail end of my Grade 12 year in 1987.

Nick wanted to portray a sense of family to close a business deal, and dispel his image as a playboy. When he reads about this group of orphaned girls who refuse to be separated from each other, he takes them. It was never meant to be permanent, but he truly becomes attached to them and adopts them, and the show goes on from there.

In one episode, Nick’s brother Frankie, played by Joe Cortese comes to visit. They never got along, and the show goes to its first commercial with the brothers grudgingly posing for a photo. Although they have their arms around each other and they are smiling, it is forced and grudging. Things get worse as Frankie offers advice to one of the girls which makes matters worse. Eventually, Nick and Frankie have it out and a deadly secret is revealed: Frankie is dying.

The brothers patch things up, due in part to efforts by the girls, and the episode ends with Nick and Frankie posing for another photo. It is exactly the same picture – except this time the smiles are genuine and loving.

Parting thoughts
"Rags to Riches" only lasted 20 episodes, but it did leave a lasting impression on me with this episode, which Internet Movie Database reveals is titled, "Bad Blood". I even taped it on VHS and have that kicking around somewhere.

"Rags to Riches" also was a pioneer in its own right with the musical interludes. Have a look at the embedded video, although the voice-over narration gets in the way a bit, and see for yourself: it really was "Glee" in the 1980s.

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