Adored this when I was 18, but now I only adore the soundtrack
I saw this as a teenager and thought it was fantastic. I recall it being a hilarious and involving story of a struggling girl group. I loved the songs and bought the album, and it's one of my favorite albums to this day.
43 years later I watch it again, and, well, it's awful.
At least the first episode is awful. I stuck with it for nostalgia's sake and it does pick up as it moves away from the Little Ladies pre-rock life to their time on the road. Most of the acting is weak, but Dee Covington is terrific as the edgiest member (she's also easily the best singer, later having a hit with Don't Cry for Me Argentina).
Their adventures are a mix of awful clubs, awful men, awful money men, awful choreography, way too many long speeches on this and that, and really terrific songs by Andy McKay (all the songs were apparently rerecorded for the album except Glenn Miller is Missing, and while the originals aren't as polished they're still generally quite good).
The great irony of Rock Follies is it's a series about the powerlessness of talented nobodies and the ways they are chewed up and spat out, and the idea for the series was actually stolen from a group called Rock Bottom, which came up with the idea as a vehicle for themselves and were quite upset to see it wind up as a vehicle for others (they eventually won a lawsuit). It's exactly the sort of thing that would happen in the series, and it's amazing to consider people creating a show critiquing the exact sort of exploitation they were involved in.
I saw the second season of Rock Follies years after the first, and I thought it was a terrible follow up, but now that I realize the original wasn't that good I suppose the sequel may have been about equivalent.
I don't know how much of my disappointment in this series is the difference between me at 18 and 60, and how much is that the quality of TV was so much worse in the 70s that there was a pretty low bar. Ultimately, the 17-year-old me recommends this, the 60-year-old me says don't bother, and both of us encourage you to get the soundtrack.
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