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||IMDB Rating: 6.2/10 from PG votes
||Release: 20 Apr 1978 /
||Genre: Comedy, Drama, Music
||Director: John A. Alonzo,
||Stars: Comedy, Drama, Music
||Synopsis: Q-SKY is the #1 radio station in Los Angeles mainly because of the music they play, and running the station the way they want to. It has led them to a ratings success. The interesting radio...
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It may not be a cinematic masterpiece, but the 1978 movie FM has
something going for it as, admittedly in its dated late 1970s way, it
somehow foresaw the corporate turn that the radio media would take in
years to come. And it does so with a wall-to-wall soundtrack of late
70s Top 40 memories that now fall under the rubric of Classic Rock. In
essence, this is the classic rock response to the disco onslaught of
Saturday NIGHT FEVER.
Michael Brandon is Jeff Dugan, the program director at QSKY radio in
Los Angeles who oversees an on-air staff of wild and crazy disc jockeys
(Alex Karras; Cleavon Little; Eileen Brennan; Cassie Yates; Martin
Mull) that, through playing what the L.A. populace wants to hear and
with limited commercial interruptions, has made the radio station
Number One in the second largest media market in the nation. Things
seem to be looking up, until "the boys upstairs" decide how much better
things could be if more commercials were aired between blasts of Steely
Dan, Queen, and Boston. Naturally, this doesn't sit well with Dugan and
his merry band, but the top brass envision QSKY just becoming one big
infomercial. This, however, leads to an insane backlash from the QSKY
staff and, eventually, a takeover of the station that nearly results in
rioting on the streets.
This is definitely pretty thin stuff for a film that was allegedly the
inspiration for CBS-TV's fine sitcom "WKRP In Cincinnati" (though the
pilot of that series was being filmed at the same time FM was being
filmed, so the resemblance is only coincidental). But while this film
is no NETWORK, in terms of films that attack the decay of the media, FM
still works in getting its situations across. Maybe the idea that a
radio station's staff would rail against corporate interference sounds
a bit daft, but the notion that a big conglomerate (Clear Channel, for
example) would turn a radio station into one big box in which the music
is only the filler between attempts to part listeners from their
hard-earned money isn't so easy to laugh at anymore.
FM has a lot going for it. For one, it was the only feature film
directed by John A. Alonzo, one of Hollywood's premiere
cinematographers; his credits include CHINATOWN, BLACK Sunday,
SCARFACE, and parts of Steven Spielberg's CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD
KIND. And for another, that wall-to-wall soundtrack of what we now call
classic rock is enhanced by actual concert footage of Jimmy Buffett and
Linda Ronstadt. Buffett's performance of "Livingston Saturday Night"
reminds one of what he was decades before his Margaritaville was
hijacked by Nashville pretenders like Kenny Chesney and Toby Keith. And
Linda, normally a very stage-shy performer, asserts herself boldly on
searing renditions of "Tumbling Dice" and "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me",
then pays a heartfelt tribute to Elvis by doing the King's 1956 classic
"Love Me Tender."
I can't help but give FM a rating of "7" because it reminds one of what
the radio was like before corporate interference and MTV began to
slowly corrupt and destroy it, and because it is an interesting time
capsule of life in Los Angeles at the end of the 1970s.
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