Rock station disc jockeys have suddenly emerged as the latest sacred cows in pop movies aimed more or less shamelessly at what their producers must perceive as a bast public of teen-age suckers. If Tom Laughlin hopes to stage a comeback, he might consider the possibility of Billy Jack as a socially conscious swinging disc jockey.
"American Hot Wax' was the frist manifestation of this peculaar new tendency to deify the deejay. The tendency has grown more revolting in "FM," a shallow attempt at rabble rousing comedy in whcih the staff of a Los Angeles rock station, QSKY, prides itself on cool patter and musical integrity and supposedly tops the market in rating.
In "American Hot Wax" the payola scandal that tainted the career of the real - life rock 'n' roll disc jockey Alan Freed was glossed over in order to leave the impression that Feeed had been victimized by a stiff - necked. Establishment unable to tolerate the idea of kids having a good time. Although Freed had in fact pleaded guilty to two counts of bribery, the possibility that he could have been viotimized by his own vanity or greed was never openly acknowledged.
The underlying presumption seemed to be that kids couldn't take the truth, especially coming so soon after the news about Santa Claus.
"FM" without a funny subtxet beneath the icky hero - worshipping surface, flounders in smarmy virtue. It is relieved occasionally by an anusing bit, like the moment when Martin Mull, as one of the QSKY deejays, covers several seconds of dead air with the fib that he's been playing a new Marcel Marceau ablum. The hero figure, Jeff Dugan, a deejay and program director played by the resoundingly uncharismatic Michael Brandon, is a sanctimonius drag.
Screenwriter Ezra Sacks evindently worked as a disc jockey at one time, but the incidents in "FM" seem to owe much more to cliche, desperationn and rather outmoded sentimentality than a humorous reordering of experience. Dugan's vaunted integrity is skin - deep at best. It depends on the fact that his bosses make utterly incredible demands on him by insisting on a series of Army recruiting ads that would never get by, either with the Army or the goofiest money - grubbing rock station that ever existed.
The notion of the "enemy" in this material had me wondering how old the script was. The snide jokes about military personnel and cops suggest the vintage of "Steelyard Blues" or "The Strawberry Statement." No one connected with the movie seems to have considered the possibility that significant numbers of rock fans might be found among the military or the police. I don't know who they thought they were kidding, but in the last analysis the filmmakers are kidding themselves, to their own commercial disadvantage.
"FM" tries to be hip in all the worst old ways.
Of course, it seems fundamentally absurd to fix on the disc jockey as a paragon of integrity. Some deejays were always nore entertaining than others, but as a class, they always seemed to belong to the most callow and blatantly commercial levels of popular entertainment. After all, QSKY is not a jazz station or a classical music station or even an avant - garde rock station. It relies on contemporary middle - of - the - road rock product, which strikes aging defectors like me as infinitely tedious and humorless. What's the basis for Dugan's air of superiority?
"American Grattiti" managed to lyricize the role of the disc jockey, embodied by the legendary Wolfman Jack, without getting sticky about it. playing himself in the nifty new comedy "I Wanna Hold Your Hand,' Murray the K seems equally authentic. Although a pied piper to teen fans, he's also the hustler - entrepreneur distributing the free ducats they crave to an Ed Sullivan Show headlined by the Beatles.
"I Wanna Hold Your Hand" and "Graffiti," which is scheduled to be reissued this summer, resist patronizing the young audiences they were made for. In fact, the kids are the leaders, and they act in ways that are not entirely safe, sane and tasteful. But how preferable this is to their role in a movie like "FM," where they function as an undifferentiated mon hanging on every word of deejay Dugan.