Powerhouse (TV series)
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Title card of the "Powerhouse" television series.
|Created by||Ira H. Klugerman|
|Developed by||Educational Film Center|
|Written by||Ruth Pollak|
|Directed by||John Gray|
|Creative director(s)||Johnson B. Gordon|
|Presented by||Elizabeth Johnson|
|Voices of||Mark Gordon|
|Theme music composer||Richard Paul Brier (theme)|
|Opening theme||"The Powerhouse Is You!"|
|Ending theme||"The Powerhouse Is You!"|
|Composer(s)||Fred Karns (score)|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||16|
|Executive producer(s)||Simon Spenscer|
|Producer(s)||Ira H. Klugerman|
|Production location(s)||Washington, D.C.|
|Camera setup||16-millimeter film|
|Running time||28 minutes|
|Original release||December 12, 1982 –|
January 3, 1983
Powerhouse is a United States television series produced by the Educational Film Center at Northern Virginia ETV and aired on PBS for 16 episodes in 1982. It billed itself as "a 16-part series for young people and their families," with the target audience being primarily kids, preteens, teenagers, and young adults, and it was widely praised by educational groups. The series was later rerun by Nickelodeon from 1984 to 1986.
Set in Washington, D.C., Powerhouse is focused on the adventures of a racially and ethnically diverse group of five teenagers and one adult from the inner city, based at a former boxing and sports gym headquarters turned community center for kids and teens. The center was founded by Brenda Gaines, a woman who inherited the place from her late father, a former boxing champion. The basic theme of the series is that every person is a source of creativity and power. “We all have a Powerhouse deep down inside,” it says in the theme song of the show.
Each Powerhouse episode dealt with significant personal issues that affected both kids and teenagers such as alcoholism, peer pressure, physical fitness, and more, but they were combined with fast-paced action-adventure stories in which the group often had to solve a mystery or prevent a crime. For instance, in one episode they had to uncover the head of a racketeering operation that threatened to put Brenda and Powerhouse out of business. In another episode, they tried to track down the source of a potentially lethal food-poisoning epidemic, a task that took on even greater urgency when one of the group became infected.
One of Powerhouse's innovations was the use of what the show called Uncommercials. Since the show ran on PBS, which is commercial-free, the producers created 30- to 90-second commercial-like breaks that would air during the broadcast. Instead of selling products, uncommercials would sell a theme, often in entertaining or humorous ways.
One uncommercial, for example, featured a 12-year-old boy who asked, “How do I get a girl to like me?” Several boys and girls of around the same age then offered suggestions. Another one asked, “What is a friend?” and several teenagers answered, one of which was future Saturday Night Live star Ana Gasteyer (her answer: “Someone you can be weird with.”) in her first-ever TV appearance.
Another popular uncommercial theme was "Don't Just Sit There—Do Something!" which encouraged viewers to do something active or constructive.
Another Powerhouse feature was a salute to a particular youth organization, such as the Boy Scouts of America; these salutes preceded at least one of the uncommercials.
The Powerhouse gang
- Brenda Gaines (Sandra Bowie)—Brenda is the founder of Powerhouse, which was originally her father's gymnasium. She turns it into an after-school youth center, which the rest of the five teenagers eventually join. Brenda is the leader as well the mother of the Powerhouse gang and the de facto authority figure of the gang, although she treats the rest of the five teens as equals rather than subordinates.
- Jennifer LaBianca (Domenica Galati)—A friendly brunette teenager and owner of the Powerhouse van, Jennifer has a strong aptitude for mechanics.
- Kevin Jackson (Michael Mack)—18-year-old Kevin is the eldest of the five teenagers. He is the rock of the Powerhouse gang, a big brother to whom the younger ones can go for advice and support.
- Lolo Knopke (Jason Kravits)—13-year-old (after the episode "Celebration") Lolo is insecure about his appearance because he is very short and has to wear glasses (thus giving him the appearance of a stereotypical nerd), but he is also one of the smartest kids in the group. He is Jewish.
- Pepper McKenzie (Jessica Prentice)—12-year-old Pepper is one of the most outgoing members of the group, despite being the youngest. She is impulsive and adventurous, and is sometimes prone to becoming a “damsel-in-distress” that often causes Jennifer, Kevin, Lolo and Tony to say her first name out loud.
- Tony Dominguez (Michael Wikes)—Tony is a streetwise 17-year-old. He is a good person at heart but sometimes feels like he has to play the tough guy to mask his insecurities.
- "With a Little Help From My Friends (Part 1)": Brenda Gaines inherits her late father's gym, Powerhouse, intending to convert it into a youth center. She quickly gets help from Jennifer LaBianca, Kevin Jackson, Tony Dominguez, Lolo Knopke, and Pepper McKenzie. But their efforts are threatened by a numbers gang led by the mysterious Castor.
- "With a Little Help From My Friends (Part 2)": Having been framed for a crime she didn't commit, Brenda tries to learn Castor's identity and successfully open Powerhouse.
- "Life or Breath": The son of a foreign ambassador is kidnapped, and the Powerhouse gang races against time to find and rescue him, as he needs medicine for a stress-related illness.
- "Master of the Art": When an artifact is delivered to the local museum, the Powerhouse gang and the curator try to prove that a flawless alarm system isn't as flawless as people think.
- "You Make Me Sick": When people all over town, and even a cat contract a fatal virus, the kids set out to find the cause. It's imperative, for Brenda herself has caught the virus after taking just one bite of a tainted tuna fish sandwich.
- "Celebration": Lolo decides to call off his Bar Mitzvah after he and his grandfather become victims of a hate crime.
- "Something for Nothing": Brenda temporarily closes Powerhouse following an accident that hurts Lolo. While she goes to New York to get money for repairs, the kids decide to film a commercial about Powerhouse, unaware that they're being scammed by a crooked landowner and his accomplice.
- "Cheers": Pepper and Lt. Al Gambrino's son Peter hit the bottle and learn the hard way about the dangers of drinking excessively.
- "Name of the Game": Both Tony's foot injury and the antagonistic behavior of new team player El Gato may ruin Powerhouse's chances of winning the championship soccer game.
- "One of the Gang": Kevin refuses help from Mike, a boy with a prosthetic arm. Meanwhile, at a nursing home, elderly resident Diamonds O'Toole is at the mercy of a thief posing as an orderly, who tries torturing him into revealing the location of diamonds he hid somewhere in Powerhouse.
- "Something Ventured" (the pilot episode): The Powerhouse gang and Brenda attempt to determine who's behind a series of burglaries. Note: In this episode, Kevin is Brenda's son, and Bobby and Bizzy are later renamed Tony and Pepper. Also, both the gang and Powerhouse are already established.
- "Help Wanted": Tammy DeWitt arrives with her baby son David in tow, but the Powerhouse gang find out she kidnapped him....or did she?
- "What Have You Got to Lose?": Kevin and his boss Mr. Baxter agree to try a doctor's weight loss program, but will they lose more than just a few pounds?
- "Big Devil": Angie tries to prove herself as a female jockey by riding Big Devil. But can she convince those who doubt her abilities?
- "Fit to be Tied": When a visitor's brother is kidnapped by people who want a microfilm, the Powerhouse gang take action to rescue him.
- "The Short Life of Lolo Knopke": Tragedy strikes when a bomb goes off at Powerhouse, killing Lolo. Brenda, Jennifer, and Kevin recount all the times he helped solve crimes and problems. But nothing is what it appears to be.