Picture it: 1987 in Phoenix, Arizona. A 12 year old girl (me) is on the hunt to find something on TV that resembles her teen life. She wants to see people on prime-time television that look like her outside of The Cosby Show or A Different World. Something fresh, something different, and something that was created for the MTV generation BET Video Soul inspired palette that currently had her attention.
Enter Rags to Riches.
What first began as 2-hour pilot movie featuring a rich bachelor who needed to clean up his image and six orphans whom he “rents” to make him more PR-friendly, turned into an one series hour-long weekly series on NBC. It gave me my first glimpse at a sangin’ sister by the name of Tisha Campbell, who played Marva, and it was what I had been looking for.
Rags to Riches was a smooth, well-appointed series that featured musical numbers centering around Nick Foley (Joseph Bologna), the Frozen Food King, his butler, and his new kids, five girls (one of the girls didn’t make it from the pilot to the series) whom he decides to adopt. Each week, a different problem ensued and was sprinkled with songs that were made over from some of the 50’s and 60’s favorite tunes. I used to love this show!
So much so that I recorded every episode on the family room Betamax and often memorized all of the songs and choreography. I had slumber parties during this era, and we always watched several Rags to Riches episodes.
With its musical approach to every storyline, and the bright early 60’s colorful costumes and hairstyles, it was a fashionable look at what it could’ve looked like to grow up during the soda shop era.
Rags to Riches did well at the beginning, but NBC changed their slot from Sunday nights to Friday nights in 1988, and it was canceled after two short seasons. The series standout, Tisha Campbell, went on to star in the House Party franchise, which kicked off two years after Rags to Riches was yanked off the air.
For my pre-teen entertainment needs, this short-lived program gave me something that I was longing for at the time. Its tagline: “If you liked Annie, you’ll like Rags to Riches” aimed at the Hard Knock Life of us all.
Do you remember Rags to Riches? And more importantly, did you watch?