A boring, middle-class family man gets addicted to the fast-paced world of the music industry in this generic NBC made-for-TV movie by director Boris Sagal (THE FAILING OF RAYMOND, A CASE OF RAPE). Since the script was written by someone with first-hand knowledge of the record biz -- Bill Svanoe, from the folk trio The Rooftop Singers, who had a Number One hit in 1963 with "Walk Right In" -- you might've thought he'd come up with something more insightful than this heavyhanded rise-and-fall hogwash... Sammy Stone (LONGSTREET-star James Franciscus) is your stereotypical, clean-cut '70s college prof. He holds classes outdoors, raps with his students, bicycles to work, and has a loving wife (Diane Baker) and white-picket-fenced suburban home. That is, until Sammy runs into fast-talking Projection Records president Manny Wheeler (John Astin, sporting an even-cheaper-than-usual rug) while hosting a music industry symposium and is inexplicably offered a lucrative job (gosh, 40 grand a year!) in Los Angeles. Six months later, Stone is living in a posh pad, ditching his tenure and rubbing elbows with Projection's hottest artists, like ditzy superstar Sally Wilson (Jamie Donnelly, who played Magenta in the Broadway premiere of THE ROCKY HORROR SHOW). But when Sammy is sacked for allegations involving drugs and kickbacks, his out-of-control ego is determined to find a way back on top, possibly with the help of a hungry new band dubbed Cat Weazel (Kenny Rogers and The First Edition, just before they broke up and Rogers went solo). Sammy is persona non grata though, with every shot at a fresh start quickly quashed and the leaden script explicitly informing us that Sammy is "hooked on power like a junkie," until this delusional dude hits rock bottom -- living in a downtown shithole SRO and preying on gullible groupies... Every single aspect of this shallow cautionary tale feels artificial, from Sammy's nearly-overnight success to the non-stop string of clichés he slams into on the way down. Then again, how much depth can you expect in a 90-minute time slot (including commercials)? It's difficult to feel any sympathy for this slick but self-centered prick's plight, and bland Franciscus brings zero depth to the superficial role. Hey, at least Sagal rounded up a terrific supporting cast for this horseshit. Michael Lerner and Ron Rifkin are Projection Records underlings; Steven Keats (DEATH WISH) is an indie record head and Ji-Tu Cumbuka (BLACULA) plays Speedout, his latest star; young exec Ron Thompson (AMERICAN POP) considers forty-something Sammy too square and over-the-hill; plus 20-year-old Katey Sagal (the director's daughter) appears as an unemployment office clerk berated by broke-ass Stone. As for Kenny and The First Edition, they perform "Love Woman" and a bit of "What'cha Gonna Do," plus "Lena Lookie" can be heard on the radio, while drummer Mickey Jones makes his acting debut and gets the satisfaction of decking obnoxious Sammy.
© 2015 by Steven Puchalski.