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Series / Powerhouse

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Powerhouse was a shortlived PBS TV series in 1982 about the adventures of the staff and young clients of Powerhouse, a Washington, D.C. inner city community center. Think of it as essentially "The Bloodhound Gang" segments of 3-2-1 Contact expanded into its own separate series.

Although the organization was founded by Brenda Gaines, the daughter of a late boxer, to be a refuge for local kids, the innermost circle find themselves in a myriad of adventures. With their amateur skills in science, health and fitness, the Powerhouse gang is more than a match for any criminal.

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In addition, the main story is interspersed with "Uncommmercials," PSA's that promote health, fitness and cultural diversity.


Tropes:

  • Adventure: A surprisingly big budgeted one for a PBS show.
  • The Alcoholic: In "Cheers", police lieutenant Al Gambrino's son Peter is revealed to be one, as well as a petty thief, and gets Pepper involved in one of his drinking binges, then tries to frame her for his theft of the Powerhouse gang's money and possessions.
  • Ancient Artifact: One is delivered to the local museum in "Master of the Art", but when the gang and the recently-fired museum security director suspect the building's alarm system isn't 100% effective, they try to prove it by staging a fake "heist".
  • Dawson Casting: Though averted with Jessica Prentice (Pepper) and Jason Kravits (Lolo), most of the "kids" in the main cast were considerably older than the characters they played, the most blatant example being Michael Wikes (Tony), who was 27 at the time.
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  • Diet Episode: "What Have You Got to Lose?" Kevin is so self-conscious about his increased weight working at an ice cream parlor that he and the owner get talked into signing up with a fly-by-night weight loss clinic setting up next door. Brenda is concerned that what Kevin is doing is futile and unhealthy, but he is being stubborn about it. However, it's all a scam to pull off a bank robbery next door to the parlor and the crooks attempt to kill Kevin and the owner the moment they have outlived their usefulness.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In the series pilot, "Something Ventured" (filmed in 1980, two years before the series premiered, and actually the eleventh of the sixteen episodes aired!), Kevin is Brenda's son, and the gang includes two kids named Bobby and Bizzy, who never appeared in any other episode (the characters were subsequently recast and retooled as Tony and Pepper, respectively).
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  • Edutainment
  • Everyone Knows Morse: The only reason Kevin escapes the Sauna of Death is that he is able to manipulate an air vent to signal SOS in a desperate hope someone will see it and understand. As it turns out, the Powerhouse gang do see it and charge to rescue him.
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen: In "With a Little Help From My Friends", the local numbers gang is run by an unseen figure known only as Castor, who is so elusive that even phone calls from the gang members are taken using a filter that disguises his voice.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the two-part series premiere "With a Little Help From My Friends", Tony is introduced as a member of the numbers gang trying to keep Powerhouse from opening, sent in to infiltrate. However, the more time he spends at Powerhouse, the more he bonds with Brenda and the kids, ultimately leading him to switch sides.
  • Hostage Situation: In "Life or Breath", an ambassador's young son (Daoud) is kidnapped by terrorists and held for ransom. The situation is doubly dangerous, as Daoud requires medication for a stress-related illness, but even before the gang successfully saves him, he's able to keep his condition under control by performing relaxation exercises that he learned at Powerhouse.
  • Jewish and Nerdy: Lolo.
  • Keep Circulating the Tapes: Although reruns of the series later aired on Nickelodeon from 1984 to 1986, it hasn't been seen on TV since, nor was it ever issued on home video; fortunately, the complete series can be found on YouTube.
  • Kid Detective
  • Patient Zero: The subject of a manhunt the kids undertake for a Typhoid Mary in "You Make Me Sick"
  • Retroactive Recognition:
    • Jason Kravits (Lolo) would go on to co-star in The Practice years later.
    • Jessica Prentice (Pepper) later became a chef, author and activist for local eating.
  • Sauna of Death: The Death Trap climax of "What Have You Got to Lose?"
  • White Gangbangers: A racist gang known as the White Cobras make trouble for everyone in "Celebration" and "The Short Life of Lolo Knopke".
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