A Tale Of Three Jems
.....There's no denying that Jem
is a strange and unique animal among Sunbow's collaborations with Hasbro.
Besides the songs and being targeted at girls (the only standalone
Marvel/Sunbow show to have such a focus), Jem was reformatted
more times than just about any cartoon not related to The Bugs
Bunny/Road Runner Hour. However, these changes are a bit more
complicated than has been typically believed, to the point of muddying up
the Video Variations page for the
series (which, after a final update, will be happily relegated to
archival status with Shout! Factory's DVD set).
.....First and foremost, the episode re-formatting is limited to the initial Truly Outrageous! and Starbright multipart episodes. While there are many different variants involving the openings (original theme vs. "Jem Girls" theme) and end credits for the following 57 half hours of television (in addition to a number of episodes that were time-compressed on rebroadcast in order to promote new episodes and theme weeks), these have absolutely nothing to do (as far as I can tell) with re-takes, as there is no evidence that any episodes beyond those first eight aired before re-takes were ordered.
Outrageous!/The Super Sunday Episodes
Version 1 - Super Sunday
.....Not shockingly, the first version of the Truly Outrageous! five-parter aired as part of Sunbow's Super Sunday anthology show (which, depending on where you lived, was called Super Saturday), not as five parts, but as 15 seven-minute segments. Jem received a rather lavish amount of attention, as re-takes were performed before airing, with the tell-tale guillotine tape splices marking their presence. As with all of the stories that comprised Super Sunday, the segments were edited together into a movie for airing and eventual home video release, with minimal changes (if any) beyond the removal of recaps.
Version 2 - Saturday Airing
.....Surprisingly, the decision to integrate Jem's Super Sunday installments into the series proper was delayed, as the half-hour episodes have production numbers ranging from 5205-08 to 5205-12. This means that all three episodes of Starbright, "The World Hunger Shindig", "Adventure In China", "Last Resorts", and "In Stitches" were all assigned production numbers before Truly Outrageous! was slated to be adapted to the half-hour format. While at first glance a simple re-packaging of the Super Sunday segments, this first half-hour incarnation is different. Most noticeably, re-takes from the original airing have been inserted using traditional methods (i.e., film glue), eliminating the notorious guillotine splice marks. Also, additional retakes are present. Without fail, all footage from this version of the miniseries is present on the Rhino DVD set as 35mm footage. Other, less obvious changes include show-specific commercial bumpers, but very basic ones, with a still promotional image with is slowly zoomed in on, and the end credits from the Truly Outrageous! have been reused. Episode previews have been added at the end of the first four episodes, and the recaps have been reworked. Oddly, the preview for "Disaster"/"Setbacks" at the end of "The Beginning" is unusually long (akin to the episode recap in the classic G.I. Joe episode, "There's No Place Like Springfield" Part 2), with minimal narration and scenes through the entire episode. One final note: "The Beginning", the only episode on The Hub's reruns (and, consequently, the Shout! Factory DVDs) of the Truly Outrageous! miniseries that's from this revision, does not feature a title card, much like the current masters of most 1985-86 season G.I. Joe and Transformers episodes.
Version 3 - Weekday Airing(s)
.....When Jem was promoted to a full weekday series in the fall of 1987, the Truly Outrageous! miniseries was again revisited for re-broadcast (which, based on information posted at the great Jem website, Totally Jem!, likely happened on the second week of November). This time, the extensive recaps and previews were scaled back, and new scenes were added, with other scenes having brief extensions. "Kimber's Rebellion" also received an extremely brief encore of "Gettin' Down To Business" for some reason. Additionally, even more re-takes were ordered once the animation for the extended scenes came back, none of which appear to exist on film in the Sunbow archives. As a final change, the original commercial bumpers were replaced with the regular series bumpers. Based on the Rhino DVD set and its non-inclusion on the Shout! Factory set, I'm inclined to believe that the copy of this version of "The Beginning" in the Sunbow archives has the much-hated "Jem Girls" intro from its later re-broadcasts, which led to it being rejected in favor of the earlier version.
Version 1 - Saturday Airing
.....Continuing from the Truly Outrageous! miniseries, Starbright effectively relaunches the show while continuing from the open ending of the prior episodes. This version features the same bumpers as Version 2 of the Truly Outrageous! miniseries, albeit with some variations in the music. End credits now feature a mix of footage from the intro and song footage from the first two miniseries.
Version 2 - Weekday Airing
.....Oddly, Starbright was also revised for the weekday airings, but far less drastically than Truly Outrageous! The end credits were switched to the regular series version, as were the commercial bumpers. The significant changes, however, were to the recaps, which were re-edited, and saw some alternate, erroneous footage dropped. The episodes themselves had a minor amount of new footage made, mainly for the start of Act 3 of the second episode. Lastly, there are some editing changes, mostly around the beginning and ends of the Acts. Like with "The Beginning", Parts 1 and 2 of this version of Starbright probably have the "Jem Girls" intro (and is not shocking given the patchwork nature of the credits and intros of the episodes as presented on Shout! Factory's DVDs).
Final Thoughts And Apocrypha
.....Deepest thanks must be extended to Jonas of Rock Jem, who provided me with information, and best of all, multiple copies of Truly Outrageous! and Starbright in the hopes of unraveling this mystery. One topic we hashed out was the possibility of a four-part version of Truly Outrageous! due to the lack of a formal production number in the series bible and in copyright filings for what became the fifth episode, "Battle of the Bands". While such a beast may exist internationally, the likelihood of such a beast being created by Sunbow seems highly unlikely, due to US commercial restrictions (i.e., the 22:45 minute running time for syndicated programs of the era).
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