The official word: Timed to their golden anniversary, this perennial fan favorite biopic of the famed vocal group THE TEMPTATIONS, arrives on DVD January 11 from RHI Entertainment and Vivendi Entertainment. Featuring a cameo appearance by legendary musical icon Smokey Robinson, the critically acclaimed miniseries event follows the band from their humble beginnings to their sensational climb to the top of the charts. Told from the perspective of Otis Williams, the last surviving member of the group, THE TEMPTATIONS traces the band's journey through five decades of successes and heartbreaks, triumphs and tragedies, to become the inspirational pioneers of music that continue to influence artists today.
Nominated for a Golden Globe® for Best Miniseries Or Motion Picture Made For TV and six Emmy® Awards, including a win for Outstanding Directing For A Miniseries Or A Movie (1999), THE TEMPTATIONS stars Charles Malik Whitfield (Notorious), D.B. Woodside ("24"), Leon (Waiting to Exhale) Obba Babatundé (Black Dynamite), Jenifer Lewis ("Meet The Browns"), Vanessa Bell Calloway ("Hawthorne") and is directed by Allan Arkush ("Hellcats," Rock 'n' Roll High School). THE TEMPTATIONS DVD also includes five free music downloads from a catalog of Temptations hits and other Motown favorites, andwill be available for the suggested retail price of $14.93.
Continues after the jump, where I have also posted my 1998 Beacon Journal column about the production.
This true story of the 1960s soul vocal group, The Temptations, as seen from the viewpoint of Otis Williams, the last surviving member, begins from their humble origins in the late 50s and continues through the 1990s and the deaths of the other four members.
Street Date: January 11, 2010
Pre-Book:December 7, 2010
Catalog Number: RH3057
Run Time: 150 Minutes
Here's my column, from Oct. 30, 1998:
If you don't know the actors playing the members of the legendary vocal group the Temptations in a new TV movie, the movie's executive producer doesn't mind.
"The songs are the stars," says Suzanne de Passe, executive producer of the two-part movie premiering on NBC Sunday night. "The songs are more well known than 99 percent of people we might have been able to put in this piece."
And the songs are used to showcase The Temptations, based in large part on the 1988 memoir by Otis Williams, the last surviving original member of the group.
On record, the songs ranged from the sweet blush of My Girl to the gloom and doom of Papa Was a Rollin' Stone, the original recordings of which are used in the TV movie. In the studio and on the road, the singers battled, endured tragedy and somehow kept the Temptations name going.
The movie is also the story of a friendship between Williams (played by Charles Malik Whitfield) and the deep-voiced Melvin Franklin (DB Woodside), who was with the Temptations from the beginning until his death from the effects of rheumatoid arthritis in 1995.
With a repeated declaration that no individual was bigger than the group, they kept the Temptations going despite the departure of charismatic lead singers like David Ruffin (Leon), Eddie Kendricks (Terron Brooks) and Dennis Edwards (Charles Ley).
Indeed, the songs, some dating back 35 years, outlasted many of the singers. Original member Paul Williams committed suicide in 1973, Ruffin died of a drug overdose in 1991, lung cancer claimed Kendricks in 1992. Still, as the songs recur on oldies stations, in TV commercials and on movie soundtracks, the Temptations live on, There are more than 50 Temptations albums, counting a lot of greatest-hits collections. And the current lineup -- Otis Williams, Ron Tyson, Barrington Henderson, Terry Weeks and Harry McGillberry -- recently released a new one, Phoenix Rising.
Not that it's likely anything from that album -- or, really, from any Temptations recording since 1982's Reunion -- will stand up against the music that came from the Motown studios when the old Temptations sang tunes written by the likes of Smokey Robinson and Norman Whitfield.
For all its talk about survival, The Temptations -- airing at 9 p.m. Sunday and Monday on NBC -- is very much about loss: the loss of friendships, the squandering of talent, the devastation of ego.
"As success started to become quite prevalent in our lives, you started to be able to buy and do a lot of things that you couldn't do before," Otis Williams said in Pasadena, Calif., in July.
That led to self-destruction on a grand scale, not only in Ruffin's well-publicized problems but in Paul Williams' degeneration, as Otis Williams put it, "from drinking milk to drinking sometimes two to three fifths of Courvoisier a day."
The movie is at times very good. The cast is uniformly able, the juxtaposition of song and story -- as when Paul Williams' end is tied to Papa Was a Rollin' Stone -- effective. Although dramatic license is taken, it does convey the Temptations' story much the way Otis Williams told it in his book.
But there is a structural problem in the movie in its using Otis Williams as the centerpiece. As important as he may have been to the Temptations' saga, his story is far less interesting than that of Ruffin or Kendricks or Edwards. Indeed, Leon's swaggering Ruffin takes over the movie, leaving the viewer wishing for more about Ruffin.
Life, even with a little help from a screenwriter, does not always make for great drama. The Temptations ultimately lacks the passion of Robert Townsend's 1991 movie about a fictional, Temptations-like group, The Five Heartbeats. (Leon, by the way, is also in that movie.) The new movie is, in a sense, like the current lineup of Temptations: entertaining enough, but hardly classic.