A young group of musicians toiling on a series of educational songs for television get into that ’70s groove, in this tepid rock ’n’ roll melodrama from Halpin (How Ya Like Me Now, 2007, etc.).
The summer of 1972 finds aging folkie Pamela Sanchez contracted to write songs for Pop Goes the Classroom, an animated project dreamed up by network exec Clark Payson to run between cartoons on Saturday mornings. Pamela hires her drummer Dingo Donovan to produce four fresh-faced musicians hired to write songs like “Funky Solar System” and “Polly Preposition.” The two guys are Peter Terpin, a musician so far down on his luck he takes to living in the studio, and Levon Hayes, a black engineering student who fled college to tour with the Supersonic Funketeers. Their female counterparts are only slightly more complex. Sarah Stein is the most timid and insecure member of the quartet, while Julie Waterston, a former ad exec hired to be the studio’s “undercover professional,” is much more ambitious. Frankly, this bunch could use some adult supervision. Between the multitudes of wine and weed Pamela provides for “inspiration,” the bed-hopping between bandmates and the machinations and manipulations of their wily leader Pamela, the group starts to make Fleetwood Mac look like a picture of domestic bliss. The straight-laced Julie is startled by the drama involved. “I don’t want to go back to advertising, but if this is what it’s like to work outside of advertising, I don’t think I can do it. I mean, is this what it’s like?” she asks Dingo. “You mean the backstabbing and the jealousy and all that stuff?” he replies, a quote which pretty much covers the resolution of the project.
What could have been an interesting period piece about the creative process turns out more like an episode of Behind The Music: Schoolhouse Rock!