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Friday, January 20, 2012

How The Cast Of "Blossom" Blossomed

I'm constantly in awe of people who can work on two or more projects at once.

Just going by personal experiences, I've never been able to multitask. Any efforts that I have made to try doing two projects at the same time have never gone well at all. Usually when I try to do two projects at once, one of two things happen. I either get so bored with one project that I leave it unfinished while I work on the second, or I churn out two below-average works that I don't have any pride in.

So, needless to say, I have total admiration for people who can work on two different projects at once. Even more admiration for those who manage to take both of those projects and use them to entertain a wider audience than they are accustomed to.

This is NOT an invitation for you all to start texting on a mobile phone while you are driving a car. Not only is it illegal in much of North America, but it is incredibly foolish to do. So don't even think about it.

I'm actually referring to people who may be a star on a television show or a drama who balance their commitment to the show with other projects that they have wanted to do. We see it all the time in the world of Broadway. Many people who have acted in soap operas, sitcoms, and films have made appearances on Broadway while filming their shows at the same time. One example I can think of right off the bat is Neil Patrick Harris, who has made several Broadway appearances while filming his sitcom “How I Met Your Mother”.

He's not the first or the only one to wear two hats at the same time in the world of entertainment. I'm positive that during the filming of the sitcom “Friends”, all six main cast members had at least one movie project on the go during filming, or when the show went on summer hiatus. I'm doubly sure that this could apply to hundreds of actors and actresses today.

Some people have been known to take a step 'backwards' in their career, going from high-profile roles to low-profile ones. Take movie actor James Franco, who filmed a couple of stints recently on the soap opera, “General Hospital”, citing his work on the show as 'performance art'. Somehow he managed to balance filming “General Hospital” with his other film projects on the go, all while taking college courses. James Franco must have been one busy beaver during that time. I often wonder how he did it.

In some cases, celebrities may take on roles that they have never thought of as a challenge, or even as a way to expand their audience. During 2008, Brooke Shields was starring on the drama “Lipstick Jungle”, which was a show clearly marketed towards a specific audience. At the same time, Brooke was also filming guest appearances on the Disney show “Hannah Montana”, playing the role of the deceased mother of the title character. By doing this, she managed to attract another audience...small children. In hindsight, it was probably a great career move for Brooke, as well as a personal one. With Brooke having young children herself, they may not have been old enough for “Lipstick Jungle”, but at least with “Hannah Montana”, they could watch their mother on a show that was more age-appropriate.

Then there are those people who wear both an acting hat and a singing hat. Usually both at the same time. And there's lots of examples where this has been shown.

David Cassidy is a prime example of this. While he was filming “The Partridge Family”, he had a #1 hit in 1970 with the song “I Think I Love You”.

Same deal with television actor, Jack Wagner, who had a #2 hit with “All I Need” while he acted in the soap opera “General Hospital”, or Rick Springfield, who himself had a #1 song with “Jessie's Girl” while acting on the same soap. Even Ricky Martin was dabbling in musical offerings while he starred on “General Hospital”.

(Geez...what is it with “General Hospital” and actors who masquerade as singers?)

And then there's this guy...who released this song in 1993.

All right. You can say it. The song is forgettable, the video is outdated, and people really did have terrible fashion sense in 1993. I should know. I think I wore some of it.

But Joey Lawrence released this song on MTV and MuchMusic, and it certainly made an impact on the audience that it was supposed to attract.

You see, long before Justin Bieber was even born, Joey Lawrence was considered to be one of those “Tiger Beat” cover boys. Um...not that I ever READ “Tiger Beat” or anything like that. Just that some of the girls in my grade school classes used to have subscriptions to the magazine and would often bring them into class. If anything, the only reason I glanced at the magazine was to correct all of the spelling mistakes that the magazine made.

But, I'm going wildly off track here, so let's get back on before we really go off course.

This entry is about a sitcom that Joey Lawrence acted in while he filmed the video for “Nothin' My Love Can't Fix”.

I'm talking about “Blossom”, the NBC sitcom that aired from 1991 to 1995. The sitcom, in addition to Lawrence, also starred Jenna von Oy, Ted Wass, Michael Stoyanov, and Mayim Bialik as the title character of Blossom Russo.

Now, here's a confession to make here. I've maybe only seen two episodes of “Blossom” in my entire life. Therefore, it's a bit hard for me to actually give an opinion on whether or not I liked or disliked it. I managed to watch a few episodes of it online though, so I have a bit of an idea as to how the characters acted, and how they interacted. I don't really understand the plots of certain episodes. So, I'm going to give the Cliff's Notes version of the show summary.

But I'm all right with that, because I really want to focus on a topic that stems from “Blossom” instead.

“Blossom” was a sitcom that on the surface looked like a typical coming-of-age sitcom. The main character, Blossom, was once in a family that resembled a typical nuclear family of a mom, a dad, and three children.

Somewhere along the way, Blossom's mother decided that she wanted more out of life than to be a wife and mother. So she packs up her belongings, moves away to pursue a career and life for herself while the rest of the family is left to deal with the aftermath. To many people, they might feel justified to call her a bad mother, and spew venom at Blossom's mother for making such a selfish choice, and I'm almost inclined to agree with that. I probably would have had I not read that during the series, they brought Blossom's mother back to the show in the form of singer Melissa Manchester. So, I'm guessing that at some point, that relationship was mended, though I'm sure that there was a lot of drama associated with it.

Anyway, Blossom having to deal with the absence of her mother during some of the most impressionable years of her life was bad enough. Imagine being the only girl in a house full of guys. There was Blossom's father, Nick, who was a musician who floated from gig to gig in order to support his family. In addition, there was Blossom's two older brothers. We had Tony (Stoyanov), the oldest of the brothers, who was a recovering drug and alcohol addict who ended up getting married in Las Vegas after falling off the wagon. Despite this, he ended up becoming a paramedic as well as a father of a son named Nash. The younger of the brothers was Joey (Lawrence), a jock who lived to play baseball, but didn't exactly live up to his potential when it came to brains. Oh, and he was also known for his one-word catchphrase.

Yep...there it is.

Oh, but lest you think that Blossom was completely without female influence, you'd be mistaken, as Blossom had a best friend whom Nick often saw as a second daughter. Her name was Six LeMeure (von Oy). Oh, and the fact that she was named after a number? Turns out that she was named after the number of beers that both her parents drank on the night that she was conceived.


Given the unusual story behind her unusual name, is it any wonder why Six decided to hang around the Russo residence instead of her own home? Just by looking at some of the summaries of the show on the Internet Movie Database, it's clear that Six had a really rough childhood, and during the time that she was on the show, she became dependent on alcohol, suffered a pregnancy scare, and dated a much older man. Considering that “Blossom” was meant to be a sitcom, it dealt with some rather heavy topics of discussion, wouldn't you say? I guess you could call it a '90s version of “The Facts Of Life”...albeit loosely.

So, now that you know a little bit about what the show was about, let's steer this blog entry right around and link it to the original idea that I was talking about at the beginning.

And looking at “Blossom”, it's amazing to see just how many people on that show ended up working on other projects either while they were doing the show, or after they did the show. Much of the cast stayed in the profession of acting, but others made a career switch or two.

Let's take a look at Joey Lawrence, since we saw an example of this earlier in this piece. He ended up releasing an entire album in early 1993 while he was filming Blossom, and the song I posted up above managed to become a Top 20 hit! Not a bad effort there. And during the show's filming, he guest starred in other NBC sitcoms, and made an appearance in a Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen video. Granted, not all these projects were ones that were memorable, but when you consider that Joey Lawrence had always wanted to record music, starring in these projects were one way to help satisfy those desires. He's released some music post-Blossom, but these days, he's gone back to acting with the ABC Family program “Melissa & Joey”, and performing on “Dancing With The Stars”.

As it turns out, Lawrence wasn't the only cast member to dabble in music. Although her music career was largely post-Blossom as well, Jenna von Oy released an album in 2007 called “Breathing Room”. But when the show was going on, Jenna was in a bit of a pickle. Although she had won the role of Six in “Blossom”, another show that she shot a pilot for was also picked up for a season. The show was a short-lived sitcom “Lenny”, which aired from 1990 to 1991, right around the same time that “Blossom” was being filmed. As a result, during the first season of “Blossom”, Jenna had to be put on recurring status while she honoured her commitment to “Lenny”. When Lenny went off the air in 1991, Jenna became a full cast member. But knowing that she was doing two sitcoms at the same time...that had to be a lot of pressure for her. Still, I think that she handled the stress of it very well. She even filmed a few television movies along the way both during and after “Blossom”. I wonder what she's doing now, come to think of it. I haven't heard from her in some time.

There's not a whole lot of information floating around for Ted Wass or Michael Stoyanov. Ted stepped away from acting shortly after “Blossom” wrapped up in 1995, and is now seen behind the scenes as a director. 

And Stoyanov left “Blossom” to go work in the world of comedy writing, taking on jobs for “Late Night With Conan O'Brien” and “Mad TV”.

And, then there's the star of the show, Mayim Bialik, whose own list of accomplishments deserve some accolades on their own. Much like Jenna von Oy, Bialik was committed to two shows at once when she won the part of Blossom. She was also tied to a FOX network show called “Malloy” when filming for “Blossom” began in late 1990. But “Malloy” crashed and burned after just half a dozen episodes, freeing Bialik to do “Blossom” full-time. During “Blossom's” last season, Bialik also held a recurring guest role on “The John Larroquette Show”, playing a girl named Rachel.

It wasn't until “Blossom” ended that we got to see Mayim really exhibit her coat of many colours, so to speak. In the decade since “Blossom” ended, she was a voice artist for many animated programs, appeared in a couple of feature films, and even earned herself a Ph.D in neuroscience!

How's that for impressive?

Of course, these days, Mayim has decided to go back to show business, and found that success did strike twice, as she won the role of Amy Farrah Fowler in “The Big Bang Theory” towards the end of the show's third season.

So, as you can see, the cast of “Blossom” managed to find a way to juggle several projects at once, and still managed to do quite well for themselves. I could be mistaken, but I don't think I've heard any scandalous stories at all regarding the “Blossom” cast at all. Of course, part of it could have been that they were simply too busy with all their side projects to actually get into much trouble, but that's merely speculation.

The point is that I admire all of these people for managing to put in their all in everything that they did. If anything, I'm almost sorry that I did miss the original run of “Blossom”, because based on everything that I read during the research I did for this blog, it did seem like a really decent show.

Who knows? Maybe I'll go online after this and watch the show's old episodes, so I can really find a way to appreciate the hard work that cast must have done to put the show together in addition to the other projects that they worked on during filming.

Well...while I still CAN anyway...

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