Fake television band alert! I’m a sucker for a good fake television band, whether we’re talking about The Monkees, or Jem and the Holograms, or today’s raison d’etre, Kidd Video.
A half-hour blend of live action and animation, Kidd Video aired for two seasons on Saturday mornings on NBC from 1984 to 1985. It was produced by Haim Saban for Saban Entertainment, who would later go on to create the Power Rangers mega-franchise. While Kidd Video never reached anything approaching Power Rangers-esque levels of enduring pop-culture impact—for starters, it’s never had a proper home entertainment release, most likely because securing the music rights would be prohibitively complex and expensive—it’s nonetheless remembered fondly by MTV-crazed kids from that era.
The plot of Kidd Video centers around a garage band comprised of four teens—Kidd (Bryan Scott), Carla (Gabriele Bennett-Rozzi), Ash (Steve Alterman), and Whiz (Robbie Rist)—who get sucked into an alternate world known as the Flipside by the Master Blaster (no relation, alas, to the Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome character of the same name), a powerful and villainous mogul. As the band members struggle to find their way back to their own reality, madcap adventures ensue.
Despite being both attractive and talented, the actors/musicians were and are fairly obscure. At the time of the show’s airing, the most famous cast member was former child star Robbie Rist, who was best known as Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch; thirty years later, the most famous cast member is still Rist, and he’s still best known as Cousin Oliver on The Brady Bunch. Nevertheless, the show minted a bona fide heartthrob in Bryan Scott, whose doe eyes and killer cheekbones briefly made him a teen-magazine staple.
Kidd Video is MTV with training wheels. The cartoon itself is frenetic, incomprehensible, surreal nonsense, but here’s the thing: It had music, and it had videos. The episodes were peppered with snippets from Top 40 songs and clips from popular videos (hence the aforementioned nightmarish music rights issues). More importantly, each episode was capped by an original music video by the band. Unlike, say, Jem and the Holograms, whose original songs tended to be ear-shreddingly terrible, Kidd Video’s videos and songs, many of which were penned by seasoned industry professionals, were really pretty good.
Over twenty-six episodes, Kidd Video came out with eleven original music videos; I’ve ranked them all from worst to best. Apologies for the blurry quality of the screengrabs (it’s impossible to find clean copies of the episodes), and a big tip of the hat to Kidd Video Flipside, which is a treasure trove of all Kidd Video-related information.
Bryan Scott wrote this one, and he’s very sensitive and cute, so I want to like it, but… it’s just dreary. Ditto for the video, in which the band plays at a party while Kidd moodily serenades a cute blonde lady on the dance floor.
10. “Easy Love”
I’ve heard this song many times over the years, but the tune always vanishes from my brain immediately after listening to it; the only way I can remember the title is by recalling that it’s similar to the title of a Phil Collins hit from that era, and even then, it’s a struggle (“‘Against Some Odds’? ‘In the Air Last Night’?”). The video features the band staggering around a barren desert and collapsing from the heat. Think of it as a bargain-basement version of Duran Duran’s “Union of the Snake” video, minus the snake man and the underground temple and all the mysterious brunettes. It’s a dud, but at least the ersatz French Foreign Legion uniforms are a nifty touch.
A serviceable cover of the Supremes classic. Kidd Video is not the Supremes (nor is it Soft Cell, which scored an enduring club hit in 1981 with their “Tainted Love”/“Where Did Our Love Go?” combination), but the song is a good match for Bryan Scott’s soft, poppy vocals. There’s not much to say about the performance video, apart from mentioning that the eighties fashions are outstanding.
Kidd, Ash, and Whiz dress up as singularly unconvincing medical professionals and bop their way around a hospital before nursing an ailing Carla back to health with a whopping dose of, yep, TLC. Silly stuff, sure, but I’m inclined to think well of any hospital where the doctors don New Wave novelty sunglasses and the patient gowns are made of shiny blue mylar.
After Carla quits the band following a squabble with Kidd, she takes off on a road trip of self-discovery, only to have Kidd, Whiz and Ash stalk her relentlessly across the country until she agrees to return.
Cool disguise, Kidd. Carla will never know it’s you.
Carla’s having a slumber party! During the party, one of her friends glumly waits for a phone call from Kidd, her boyfriend/improbable auto mechanic. Unbeknownst to her, Kidd’s calls are repeatedly intercepted by her jerkface friends, who keep hanging up on him. Meanwhile, Carla prances around in a lace teddy while singing this lively number about how Kidd probably doesn’t love her anymore. Teen girls are the worst. This song has an impeccable pedigree: It’s co-written by longtime Elton John collaborator Bernie Taupin and prolific songwriter Holly Knight, who brought us “Love is a Battlefield” and “One of the Living” among many other hits.
5. “Turn Me Up”
Carla cavorts around a dusty playroom filled with creepy toys. Said toys include life-sized mannequins of Kidd, Whiz and Ash, which she brings to life for her own nefarious purposes (i.e. singing and dancing). I can dig it, Carla.
This is a great song. It’d rank even higher on this list, but the video—basic performance footage—is uninspired. Still, it’s nice to see the kids having an obvious blast with this one. Kidd and Whiz trade off on lead vocals, and while Bryan Scott brings his usual soft, pleasant sound to the occasion, Robbie Rist absolutely slays it. He’s putting everyone on notice: Cousin Oliver can rock.
Fashion photographer Kidd makes meaningful eye contact with a cute blonde model. While she seems to be unattached, and indeed is clearly hot for him, for some damn reason he refuses to ask her out, opting instead to slice her image out of photos with an X-Acto knife and glue her into photos with him (life was tough for obsessed stalkers in the days before Photoshop). Because Kidd is beautiful and sensitive and looks perpetually alarmed by the outside world, this comes across as more sweet than deeply disturbing.
The rousing, fist-pumping theme song, which plays at the start of every episode. The video, which shows the band members heading off to rehearsal (Kidd and Carla zip around on a moped; Ash chucks his keytar in the back of Whiz’s pickup), is so great that it’s always a crushing disappointment when the damn animated footage kicks in halfway through.
Yep, it’s a video where Ash and Whiz stare at images of Kidd on monitors and sing about how he’s totally hot. Fair enough. A reflection on the possible dangers of electronic idols, it’s the only Kidd Video song where the lyrics have some bite (Beamed into the homes and the hearts of a hungry nation/A dream come true for every lonely girl/It may not be love, but what a sensation/Switch the dial and step into his world). It’s also just a damn good song, and a damn good video.