Original air date: February 26, 1992
Written by: Deborah Pratt
Directed by: Michael Watkins
Leap date: April 7, 1963
This time: Sam leaps into a doo-wop group. They have finished a number to Sam’s relief. Unfortunately, they practically drag him back onstage for an encore. That proves to be a horrible idea as the crowd goes from being enthusiastic to nearly clearing the room.
Sam is Cheree Watkins and the three leave to go home but are accosted by a couple of creepy guys. One of them takes an interest in Paula and later Sam. Fortunately, Sam is able to spin kick them off. Paula and Lynelle are impressed, but Sam shoes them off back home.
Lynelle’s father, Reverend Walters, is right furious at the three being out so late. He admonishes Lynelle for not sticking with the church choir. He walks Paula home and, since Cheree’s parents are out, ‘she’ will spend the night. Al fills in some blanks. Lynell’s mother passed away some years ago leaving Lynelle feeling smothered by her father. Unable to take it, Lynelle runs away in a couple days and gets into an exploitive contract. She never speaks to her father again and gets caught up in drugs. The reverend’s church burns down, and he passes away.
At church service the next day, Lynelle’s voice brings the spirit of the Lord to the congregation. Reverend Walters has a sermon about yielding to temptation which does not go well with Lynelle. Al has some ideas for music and choreography. One montage later, they have an act to perform at a big local club.
Local agent (and creep) Bobby Lee hears the girls singing and uses that as an excuse to walk into the presumably unlocked house and talk to three teenagers alone in one of their bedrooms (!). He offers them a sweet exclusive deal though omits being a pimp. Reverend Walters comes in and it is all Sam can do to stop him from pummeling Bobby Lee. Lynelle is ready to follow Bobby Lee but gives Sam time to figure something out. Sam has Al look up all local clubs to get an opportunity.
Sam’s plan is to perform at a local club but have Reverend Walters listen in. That way she gets the contract but with Reverend Walters’ love. Bobby Lee has other plans. He has a flunky go over the music with Sam while he shows Lynelle a pretty dress. By the time Sam figures out the situation, Bobby Lee is all over Lynelle. Sam intervenes but Bobby Lee demands an apology or else the three do not perform. Sam is resolute but Lynelle is ready to go on solo.
Sam walks in on Reverend Walters in the pews talking to his deceased wife. Sam tries to convince him to support his daughter, but he wants her to finish school before going into music full force.
Paula tries to talk some sense into Lynelle, and Sam comes in later to smooth things over. Reverend Walters tries to talk Bobby Lee into not encouraging Lynelle, at least not now. Bobby Lee lets them come back on the condition that after they win, they sign a seven-year contract. Reverend Walters offers his support. He is a proud papa as the three perform though not at the prospect of them signing a contract into their twenties. The three are a hit though Reverend Walters walks off.
At the church, Reverend Walters wonders when he lost his daughter right before Lynelle walks in. The two embrace. Sam leaps …
… into a cockpit. A cigarette falls into his lap which upon reaching down to grab, puts the plane on a downward trajectory.
Fact check: A lot of the songs in this episode were released in 1963. Unfortunately, they were released after the April of that year.
Stop talking to yourself: Sam’s first meeting with Reverend Walters is a talking down to about the dangers of going out. The reverend is gruff and harsh with his language. Sam loves every minute of it and agrees.
Only Sam can see and hear: Al has an instant dislike to Bobby Lee, though it is not too hard to see. Some things really do not require Ziggy’s confirmation.
Mirror images that were not his own: Offstage, Sam sees a young girl staring back at him. In the Walters residence, we see Cheree in several mirrors.
Brush with history: Not as much a person, but the Chicago version of the Apollo, The Regal, gets a name check.
Something or someone: Sam sticks around long enough for Lynelle to do an A Capella piece.
It’s a science project: Sam is not confident at his ability to sign and dance. Al tries to get the right songs to offset Sam’s inabilities.
Let’s up the rating: Some guys can pull off a sexy girl group dress. Scott Bakula is not one of those guys.
One more time: “God gave me a voice to do what I want.” “Not as long as you are under my roof.”
Lynelle and Reverend Walters having an age-old argument
Put right what once went wrong: “Maybe the three of you should come in and do some serious explaining as to why my daughter is out at two o’clock in the morning.” The late eighties and early nineties were a treasure trove for suburban African American comedies. This episode takes that and makes it more of an hourlong drama. The Peacock network is doing something similar in developing a more somber reboot of The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.
The characters are spot on and absolutely perfect. Harrison Page is the beleaguered father just looking out for his daughter and wanting the best for her. He has a stern talking down at the top of the episode endearing him to Sam and we are right there with him. He realizes that he has to find some way to support Lynelle and that means going to creepy man-of-ill-repute Bobby Lee to do so. He takes his humble pie well. Eriq LaSalle does a masterful job of being a bad guy. He extrudes a creepy vibe and has done this several times since. After assaulting a minor, he makes her apologize before generously letting them come back and work for him in a very lopsided contract. This was early enough in LaSalle’s career that you could see the great actor he would become.
T'Keyah Crystal Keymáh is perfectly cast as sassy Paula. As much as Sam is the focus of this series it says a lot that Paula talks some sense into Lynelle as well. She also has some great lines in there with attitude both to her peers and to the guys trying to pick them up. Speaking of Lynelle, Tammy Townsend is absolutely amazing. You can see her wounds as she tries to get along with her father. There is a lot of sadness in the loss of her mother. She plays the emotional beats well and her voice is amazing. Doo-wop, rock or choral, she has it down. It is fantastic to hear her sing, and this would not have worked with an actress or singer of lesser caliber.
The script is not great. Deborah Pratt is one of the stronger writers on the series, but this could have used another draft or two. Bobby Lee just comes into the bedroom because of plot, and it seems as though Reverend Walters comes around more because time is running out than the efforts of Sam or Lynelle. This is a promising start but needs more refinement. Michael Watkins does a great job directing what are essentially music videos but captures a good church service and gives you the feel of being in an urban setting in the time-period.
There are some really great performances in this hour, please just tolerate the workable writing.