Wednesday, March 5, 2008

"It's The Night We've Waited For" (Our Senior Prom)...

The fall of 1988 threw a bunch of up-and-coming sitcom stars into the great mixing pot equalizer of a made-for-TV movie. It didn’t matter who was already on top with their own shows (like Tracey Gold in Growing Pains); it didn’t matter who was virtually unknown (As The World Turns’ Brian Bloom); and it didn’t even matter who was completely green (Chris Young): suddenly, they were thrust back into high school (quite literally, actually), where any trace of awkwardness was exploited and popularity was simply a state of mind.

That movie was Dance Til Dawn.

Set in Southern California, the story followed a few kids from very different social groups as they got ready for the prom. It was your typical eighties teen party flick, complete with misunderstood “Ugly Duckling” type makeovers, the jock who just wants to get laid, giant poofy off-the-shoulder dresses, and watered-down references to sex and relationships. Now, nearing what would have been their twentieth reunion, there is no better time to look back at Hoover High Class of ’88 and see just how far they’ve come.

In stereotypical reunion films (see Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion for an example), it is often the geeks and wallflowers who take flight towards something great once they have shed the protective cocoon that is high school while the kids who seemingly had it all flounder and fail. That being said, let’s start our yearbook-flipping with Patrice (Christina Applegate), the spoiled, materialistic head of the prom committee who thought of nothing more than winning the title of queen, going onto the most popular sorority on the row at State, and getting into the best country club. Applegate luckily hasn’t experienced the downfall that is usually bestowed upon the stereotypically “bitchy” girls in situations like this. Though she married and then divorced fellow actor Johnathon Schaech, she won’t have to show up to the reunion “stag” (to use a term you probably haven’t heard since the eighties!), as the tabs have been reporting she and Zachary Levi (Chuck) are now dating (though they're probably not "going steady," to use another out-dated ism). And since Christina can currently be seen as the recovering amnesiac title character in Samantha Who? every week, her professional life seems to be doing just fine as well, so let’s move on…

Patrice’s submissive boyfriend Roger (Matthew Perry) barely said more than “Huh” save for one explosive speech around the ninety-minute mark, but thankfully, Perry has not been content to continue with more minimal, supporting-at-best characters. His comedic talents were of course most acclaimed on the cultural phenomenon that was Friends, and he has kept busy since working on more dramatic roles, as well. He just wrapped 17 Again, a reverse-Big with Zac Efron. A notorious bachelor, Perry would probably turn up at the reception hall with his also-upcoming Birds In America co-star, Lauren Graham, creating yet another tabloid frenzy about whether they are in fact more than just f*r*i*e*n*d*s.

Kevin McCrea (Brian Bloom), the aforementioned guy with only one thing on his mind, rocked the AC Slater mullet in the late-eighties but today would just look back and laugh at his adolescent fashion sense and shallowness. Never wanting to be labeled as one specific type of actor, Bloom bounced from genre to genre in both television and film: recently he made the rounds in the CBS procedurals, took single-scene parts in Smokin' Aces and Zodiac, played a recurring role in Fox’ short-lived (and rightfully so) Drive, and turned up on Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. He also voices countless videogames, including “Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer” and “Halo Wars.”

Shelley Sheridan (Alyssa Milano), the surprisingly self-conscious “most popular girl in school” never made it to the prom, so she’s a wildcard to show up at the reunion, too, despite having a body of work behind her worth bragging about to anyone who might have underestimated her way back when. After completing runs on Melrose Place and Charmed, Milano began to choose her projects more carefully, selecting only meatier roles of substance beyond the “hot girl.” She went back to her comedic roots with My Name Is Earl and back to her Brooklyn Italian side with Wisegal, another made-for-TV movie about a single mother who turns to organized crime to support her family. She also keeps a baseball blog over at

Angela “Dull” Strull (Tracey Gold), the geek-turned-chic art lover with insanely rigid parents peaked on prom night, turning up (and turning heads) as Kevin’s date, and Gold herself seemed to peak at the same time with her similarly geeky turn as Carol Seaver on Growing Pains. Later she seemed to get pigeonholed as the Lifetime queen before making headlines first for her personal battle with anorexia and then her very public DUI. Ironically, reunions are a time of reinvention, and Gold has come back strong in two Growing Pains movies. Now she has one film in post (Solar Flare), a new reality show just beginning to air (The Secret Lives of Soccer Moms, TLC), and she and her husband are preparing for their fourth child, due next month.

Without a ticket into the prom, Margaret aka "The Bag Lady" (Tempestt Bledsoe), spent the night hiding in a closet (literally), waiting for Angela to wander by so she could tell her the truth about her date, but Bledsoe herself can storm the reunion out and proud that her career is taking off again. Though she took a few years off from acting in the mid-nineties, she now appears back on the small screen in South of Nowhere and Oxygen’s Husband for Hire alongside Mark Consuelos and fellow teen star Mario Lopez.

Dan Lefcourt (Chris Young), the timid astronomy nerd, didn’t know what he wanted to do with the rest of his life in 1988, but he had a great hobby, and such seems to be the case for his real counterpart, as well-- the only cast member who hasn’t made acting his long-term career. Since the late-nineties, Young has focused on working behind-the-scenes, producing and directing (like The Proud Family Movie as well as about a dozen music videos for Kelly Clarkson’s world tour), and creating content for mobile devices. And since history makes the habit of repeating itself, he would most likely saunter into the reunion fashionably late and with the most sought-after girl on his arm, far-surpassing everyone's expectations.

To go back and screen Dance Til Dawn today is to invoke the charming nostalgia of a time that seems almost archaic when compared with today's high schoolers. Underneath any eye-rolling or giddy giggling, though, you’d be remiss not to notice what made Dance Til Dawn unique in the first place: the kids’ story mirrored that of their parents, all of whom appeared to be in the same class at Hoover High eighteen years earlier. It was like they were being given a glimpse into their own possible futures if they didn’t step up and make some changes. Now, two decades later, it’s refreshing to see every single one of them has gone onto much bigger and better success.

A few years ago, when I was interning at Good Day LA, I had the opportunity to meet Matthew Perry in the green room before the show. He and his father were on to promote a small film project they were jointly working on, and Frances, the director I worked for, let me pop my head in and say hello because she knew what a big fan of Friends I was. Anyway, I didn’t want to grin like an idiot and blabber on about how much I loved his work; I wanted him to see me like a peer (after all, we weren’t meeting at a taping of his show, but a taping of mine)… so I stuck out my hand, shook his firmly and with confidence, and said: “I just have to tell you, I loved you in Dance Til Dawn.” Matt immediately thanked me and seemed about to start on a somewhat generic reply about how he’s glad I’m so invested in the show (assuming I had just said something about Friends). He paused for a minute, processing what I had really said, and squinted at me before laughing and replying: “I can’t believe you actually saw that!” I didn’t tell him I hadn’t just seen it, but I taped it and subsequently wore that tape out after so many repeated viewings throughout the nineties that I had to scour eBay and Amazon until I found a copy on DVD. I also didn’t tell him I had said DVD in my car downstairs in the parking lot and was dying to get him to sign it. Somehow I just didn’t think that would be professional.

Now, a Dance Til Dawn reunion movie has not yet officially been greenlit (believe me, I check IMDb religiously), so when I couldn’t find any trace of a script online, I began writing it myself. The draft is thin (not unlike the original, I might add), but it’s a solid start. The paychecks for these actors would surely be more than the overall budget of the original, but each one of them would plant so many butts in seats, I think Dance Til Dusk (as I titled it) might even have a shot at a theatrical release. If not… well, I’ve always wanted to win an Emmy, and even one for a Made-For-TV movie would count! So producers, directors, financiers, or just random dudes with too much cash on your hands and a desire to see your name in the credits of a film, please contact me; do I have a joint venture for you guys!

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