Available on Blu-Ray from 1 July
Comprising a series of vignettes involving the DJs at Q-SKY, a successful Los Angeles FM radio station on the verge of selling out, John A Alonzo’s FM could easily have been a series and sometimes is mistaken as a precursor for WKRP in Cincinnati.
Martin Mull is Eric Swan, a David Soul look-a-like who hides random women in the booth and lies to his wife’s face when caught out. Michael Brandon is the good guy boss who just wants everyone to stay cool and enjoy the music, man. Eileen Brennan plays Mother, a jaded performer from an era when a veteran female DJ could captivate an audience with a breathy delivery and thinly veiled taboo patter.
Cleavon Little is given little to do as a poorly-drawn and unconvincing caricature named the Prince of Darkness, whose playlist can be barely distinguished from his buddies. Smuggling in some groupies and doing the night show is the extent of his “darkness”.
Each of the DJs are framed within their recording booths, which supposedly allow an insight into their distinct personalities, but it is this sketch-show approach which neuters any grander ambition from first-time writer Ezra Sacks. Denying the DJs any substantial interaction as they go through their routines reduces them to their simplest and basest characteristics. The plot involving corporate interference is more Airheads than Private Parts and suffers because of the light touch the script takes with the potential for conflict.
After a lukewarm and predictable first act, FM surprises with some incredible backstage sections, most notably some Linda Ronstadt concert footage which serves to remind the viewer of the influence that certain DJs had and their proximity to the big names. A record signing in Tower Records with REO Speedwagon emphasises the sense of authenticity that the film is endeavouring to create, although some of these moments are more akin to This Is Spinal Tap as opposed to The Last Waltz.
The soundtrack is awash with household names and boasts Queen, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, REO Speedwagon, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Steely Dan , Foreigner, Fleetwood Mac, Neil Young and Jimmy Buffet. Such a wealth of musical riches (in terms of popularity and star power) is wasted on the after-school special plot to thwart the Army advertising on the station. This aspect of the film is a reminder of a time when bands would allow the use of their music without extortionate tariffs and piracy made the live experience the major source of their revenue.