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Series / Rags to Riches

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Rags to Riches is an American musical comedy-drama that was broadcast on NBC for two seasons from 1987 to 1988. Set in the pre-British Invasion 1960s, the series tells the story of Nick Foley, a self-made millionaire who adopts five orphan girls. Each episode included musical scenes of hit songs from the era performed by the girls integrated into the plot (with the lyrics modified to provide commentary on the storyline).

Nick Foley (Joseph Bologna), the millionaire owner of Foley's Frozen Foods, is a street-wise New Jersey-born businessman with a playboy lifestyle. In the TV movie pilot which launched the series, a group of six girls, living together in an orphanage, have formed a tight-knit group, but face being separated when the orphanage closes down. Foley desperately needs to cultivate a family man image to seal a business and when he reads an article about them, invites them all to live in his Bel-Air mansion. His motives are entirely selfish, and he doesn't plan to keep them after the deal is complete, but his plans change as he grows attached to the girls, and he ends up adopting them permanently.


The adjustment is huge on both sides, as Foley initially has no idea how to be a parent. Having spent much of their lives in a run-down orphanage, the girls suddenly find themselves in a life of luxury (hence the series' title). The series follows the trials and tribulations of the girls and a man who has previously never loved anyone but himself and often struggles to cope with his new family.

In the pilot for the series, Foley takes in a group of six girls; however, Foley only adopted five of them for the remainder of the series' run: Rose, 17; Diane, 16; Marva, 15; Patty, 14; and Mickey, 8. The sixth girl, Nina, appears only in the pilot (after the pilot was produced, it was decided that six children was too many for the series cast, so Nina was written out of the series as having been reunited with her birth mother).


The series differed from regular comedy-dramas in that the girls would frequently burst into song to help explain their feelings or move along the plot. Each episode therefore contained at least two musical scenes with covers of popular songs from the early 1960s with the lyrics changed to provide commentary on the storyline of the episode. Some consider Rags To Riches a precursor to Glee, where every episode is a Musical Episode.

"This show's a trope-maker, and we can make these tropes come true":

  • Ambition Is Evil: Played with. Nick's excessive devotion to the success of his company is presented as a problem, but when he starts to care about others, he doesn't abandon his ambition, just learns to balance it against other priorities. Similarly, Marva is captivated by the idea of wealth, and Nick seeks to nurture her ambitions, but also has to teach her that there are more important things in life.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • While the show did a passable job of recreating the 1960’s, the girls’ clothing just smacked of 1980’s fashion.
    • In the series finale "Sweet Sixteen", the song Love Is The Answer is a cover of Drift Away by Dobie Gray which was released in 1973.
  • Attempted Rape: In three of the show's 20 episodes, where each of the three oldest girls in the series are targeted (Rose, Marva, and Diane).
    • In the first regular episode, "High Society", Rose enters a debutante ball and in the process, meets a guy named Matthew Taylor. He takes Rose by his place prior to a date, and brags to his parents about his intentions. As if that isn’t bad enough, his parents are fine with it.
    • In the Camping Episode mentioned below, Marva sneaks away to what she thinks is a party that her boyfriend Jeff is having. There was no party and it was just a ruse for Jeff to get Marva alone.
    • In "Beauty And The Babe", Diane enters a beauty contest. Brady, one of the contest judges, has Diane come up to his hotel room where he attempts to take advantage of her.
  • Beach Episode: The second episode of the second season, "Once Upon A Lifeguard", where Rose wants to become a lifeguard.
  • Camping Episode: The second season episode "Wilderness Blues." Nick takes all the girls (and Clapper) on a camping weekend after a fellow rich businessman — the owner of a sporting-goods company — unknowingly shames Nick into thinking that he is an absentee father. (Yeah, they took their butler camping.)
  • Clip Show: "A Very Foley Christmas", the show’s Christmas Episode where the girls find out a new social worker has been assigned to their case. Nick's scheduled meeting with the worker gets delayed because he has car trouble. The girls entertain the social worker while waiting for Nick. They find out she wants to remove them from Nick's care, so they try to change her mind by telling her their adventures (shown in flashbacks) and how Nick has helped them.
  • Dropped After the Pilot: Nina, as mentioned above. Her disappearance is explained in the episode, "Patty's Mom", where it’s revealed she was living with her birth mother. (Given how close-knit the six girls were in the pilot movie, it’s odd that she never wrote or called.)
  • Ensemble Cast: Rags To Riches had seven main characters.
  • Epic Fail: Patty is caught planting a stink bomb in a bully's locker after getting her scarf caught in the locker, which raises two questions. (1) Why didn't she just slip out of the scarf? and (2) Who wears a scarf indoors... in California?
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Nick becomes this as the pilot movie goes on.
  • Just in Time: Marva buys a food truck and quickly learns she’s not cut out to be an entrepreneur. She attempts to collect the insurance money by torching the truck. After dousing the truck with gasoline, Nick shows up and stops her from committing arson (and Insurance Fraud.)
  • Non-Idle Rich: Nick is a wealthy playboy, but it's made clear that he's a built his own company from the ground up. Having grown up on the Wrong Side of the Tracks, he's no stranger to hard work, and not easy to intimidate. This is made clear in the pilot, when he personally retrieves Nina from a biker bar and starts a fistfight with the gang she's been running with.
  • No Periods, Period: Played straight. Four of the five girls were old enough for a “monthly visitor.” Given the show’s premise of the girls bursting out into song, this trope is probably a good thing.
  • Orphanage of Fear: The girls lived in one before being rescued by Nick. It was a run-down institution overseen by the dour Mrs. Provo.
  • Pilot Movie: The two-hour special that set the stage for the series.
  • Rags to Riches: Duh.
  • Replaced the Theme Tune: The second season had a new opening theme. The closing theme remained the same as the first season.
  • Series Continuity Error: In the pilot movie, the orphanage is about to be closed. Despite this...
    • Marva tried to run her own business with the food truck because she was afraid Nick would send her back to the orphanage.
    • Mickey's friend Ernie runs away from the orphanage and hides out at the Foley's to avoid being adopted.
  • The Song Remains the Same: There are videos on YouTube showing clips from foreign airings of the show. The dialogue was dubbed over, but the songs remained in English.
  • Viva Las Vegas!: The two-hour second season premiere, "Vegas Rock." Nick is away on business, and the girls trick Clapper into taking them to Las Vegas so they can retrieve one of Elvis Presley's guitars for a school-library fundraising auction to show up Amy Hillerman, the girls' nemesis.
  • Wild Teen Party: The penultimate episode, "Guess Who's Coming To Slumber?" Marva hosts a slumber party while Nick is away in an attempt to win votes for a student government election.


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