The New Edition Story (2017)

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Genre: Biographical/Drama – Director: Chris Robinson – Writer: Abdul Williams – Starring: Algee Smith, Woody McClain, Bryshere Gray, Elijah Kelly, Keith T. Powers, Luke James – Runtime: 360 mins.

 

(Editor’s note: “The New Edition Story” is a three-part miniseries that originally aired on BET from January 24-26, 2017. The story follows the pop group’s rise from the projects of Massachusetts to worldwide fame.)

Contributor: Luke Anderson

Part I

The story begins in the Orchard Park Projects of Boston in 1978 when Bobby Brown convinces friends Ricky Bell and Michael Bivins to form a singing group.  They find Ralph Tresvant, and New Edition is born.

On the suggestion of Ricky’s sister Peanut, they seek out local manager Brooke Payne.  Payne is impressed by group’s raw talent and agrees to manage them.

The next scene shows a montage of them rehearsing and winning talent shows in the Boston area.  Payne informs the group of a big talent show being hosted by Maurice Starr. They perform the Jackson 5’s hit “Love You Save” and it brings the house down. They didn’t win… but hearing the response from the crowd, Starr decides to offer the group a deal.

At the behest of Starr, they add Brooke Payne’s nephew Ronnie DeVoe. They record “Candy Girl” and Starr offers a solo deal to Ralph, which he declines.  “Candy Girl” is a hit, and they go on tour all over the world.  However, when they get back they only receive a $1.87 total.  That’s right, TOTAL!

The mothers fire Brooke Payne for this failure and they hire Gary Evans. Evans promises superstardom and a record deal.  They sign (more on that later) to MCA, and start recording their second album.

The first part ends with viewers seeing the friction grow between the members,  as Ralph is heavily featured on every song.

Highlights

Brooke Payne tells the boys, “You are a group; you operate as one. If you think you’re going to get your little a** up on this stage and outshine everyone, leave.”  The whole time the camera focused on Bobby Brown.

It was very fitting that the group transitioned from the adolescent characters to the adult characters during “Is This The End.” Great transition!

The kids who played Young New Edition are talented; I was impressed. I found out that my brother Jerrell was the teacher of the actor who played “Young Bobby Brown” in Atlanta.  It’s a small world, huh?

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Part II

Part II begins with Ralph telling Gary that the other guys are not his backup dancers, that they are a group.  Gary seems to oblige the request.  The guys are seen recording “Mr. Telephone Man” when the producer Ray Parker Jr. (“Ghostbusters”) tells Mike he is coming in flat.  Bobby clowns Mike for always being flat.

Outside, Mike flips out and says he’ll catch a cab because doesn’t want to ride in the middle.  Thinking that he is in the car, the driver runs over Mike’s foot.  Bobby, being Bobby, clowns Mike.  Mike spits in Bobby’s face and tries to kill him.

Later, Gary informs the group that Mike will be removed; Bobby stands up for Mike and says, “I know he tried to kill me, but did he?”

Gary decides to bring back Brooke Payne as a choreographer.  Brooke had choice words for him.

“You found five kids who could sing from the projects and now you don’t know what do with them.”

The group is preparing for a show when the viewers are introduced to Johnny Gill.  It is discovered that Bobby got a girl pregnant. It also revealed that Ralph’s girlfriend Zenia is also pregnant but they decide to keep it a secret.

On the tour bus, Gary is talking to Jeff Dyson about kicking Bobby out of the group.  Ralph talks to Bobby about his onstage antics as he becoming more and more unpredictable.  The group comes home from tour and once again they are not rewarded for the fruits of their labor.

The group comes home from tour and once again they are not rewarded for the fruits of their labor.

Bobby antics come to a head when he ad-libs during a performance.  They switch songs to “Cool it Now.”  Bobby interrupts and cuts in on a rap part causing him and Mike to fight on stage.  Bobby is kicked out of New Edition.  It’s revealed that New Edition is not signed to MCA but to a production company called “Jump and Shoot” that is signed to MCA.  This is called a production deal.  Once again, New Edition is cheated.

Bobby is approached about doing a solo album due to a “surviving member” clause in his contract.

Ralph decides he wants to go solo and plays his material for the rest of the group.  An argument ensues and Ralph kicks everyone out of his house.

Jheryl Busby “convinces” Ralph to record the next New Edition album.  When Ralph arrives for the first recording session for Heartbreak, he is surprised to see Johnny Gill sitting there; Johnny is surprised to see Ralph as well.  Later it is revealed that Johnny was brought in by Mike to replace Ralph Tresvant.

The group has their cover shoot for “Heartbreak” and finally, everything feels right.  As they prepare for the tour, they find out Bobby is joining them.

Bobby is being “Bobby” when he is caught doing drugs with two less-than-reputable women.  On the tour bus, Gary is talking to Jeff Dyson about kicking Bobby out of the group.  Ralph talks to Bobby about his onstage antics as he becoming more and more unpredictable.

The group comes home from tour and once again they are not rewarded for the fruits of their labor.

Highlights

They are very open about Bobby’s drug use as a teenager. Bobby in those days was a different type of dude.

These guys really didn’t read their contracts.

Mike to Gary, “I wanted to fire you in person because it’s more professional that way. Now my homie Joel will hip to what’s going on. I got sh*t to do.”

The Performance of “Can You Stand the Rain” was…WOW. That’s all I have to say.  AMAZING!

There is a performance that Ricky, Mike, and Ronnie did in 1986-87 when Ralph refused to show. I wished they would’ve shown it

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Part III

Part III opens with the group singing “If It Isn’t Love.”

Bobby is shown getting his famous Gumby haircut when the barber messes up when he distracted by women.  The next scene shows Bobby coming off stage after his set.  Al B. Sure is nervous because he believes he doesn’t have the talent the New Edition or Bobby Brown has.  Bobby offers to switch the order to hopefully sing a few songs with his friends but his rebuffed by New Edition.  Bobby is clearly angry and walks away singing “Jealous Girl.”

After a show in Philadelphia, Mike is approached by five teenagers who sing for him.  Impressed by their sound, he tells them to call him to set up a deal.  The group who sang for him was Boyz II Men.

MCA holds an after-tour party for New Edition and Bobby.

Bel lBiv DeVoe is created.

The next scene shows the infamous tense interview with all six members appearing on “Video Soul.”

Fast forward six years later, New Edition is finally getting together to record an album: “Home Again.”  It is revealed that everyone is broke with the exception of Bobby and Mike and that’s the reason why the album was recorded in the first place.

Bobby is still missing shows and coming late.  It is later revealed that he wanted to prove a point.

Ricky’s drug use is shown and his wife doesn’t look pleased and she knows what’s going on.

Everything finally comes to head during a show in New Mexico when Bobby gets into a fight with Ronnie on stage.

Brooke Payne has a heart attack.

The group completely falls apart and quits the tour.  We see them go through some hard times individually. Notably, Ricky hits bottom and goes to rehab.  He says he started using drugs heavily when he realized that he may not be performing anymore.

Ronnie is getting married and he decides to invite his groupmates.  Everyone comes to together for this special occasion.

The group performs at the BET 25th Anniversary special.

Highlights

“You’re Not My Kinda Girl” performance early in Part II—WOW!! The actors hit the steps better than the real New Edition.

Likewise, the Boyz II Men actors were really great. I found out that they are a singing group out of Philadelphia.

Bobby Brown ruins both his and New Edition’s cake at the end of tour party. In a sign of disrespect, hands the plate of cake mess to Johnny Gill.

Ricky Bell really hit hard times.

YouTube New Edition interview. The movie doesn’t give the real interview justice.  You can feel the tension between the members.  I’m surprised it didn’t get ugly.

Overall Thoughts

Awesome movie!  The actors nailed the interpretations of each of their counterparts. I mean nailed it.  The only thing I noticed is that the voice of Algee Smith (who plays Ralph Tresvant) isn’t as pure as Ralph’s.  I wish the movie was longer.  There were so many things they left out.  This special would’ve benefitted being on Netflix or AmazonTV.

Sometimes, New Edition is left out of the conversation about best male vocal groups of all-time.  It could be that New Edition doesn’t have the resume of a Jackson 5, New Kids on the Block or others.  However, if it weren’t for New Edition there wouldn’t be New Kids on the Block, Boyz II Men, Troop, The Boys, Backstreet Boys, etc…

This movie proves that New Edition, top-to-bottom is immensely talented.  Does the Jackson 5 have a better-looking resume?  Yes.  Does Boyz II Men sound better vocally?  Yes.  However, New Edition is more talented than those two groups.  Hopefully, this movie begins the process of giving the respect and credit New Edition deserves.

(Luke can be found on Facebook HERE.)

-Luke Anderson

 

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