Jersey Boys Raises Mathematical Question

Emily and I saw Jersey Boys this weekend. While I agree with the critics who have panned it for various reasons, I myself am generally not that critical at movies. I don’t go to stretch my mind; I go to empty it. Don’t make me think too hard; I’ve had a hard day. Take me to a good science fiction movie or any movie where special effects overwhelm the plot and I’d be asleep in fifteen minutes if Emily didn’t keep nudging me. But comedies I love. And historical movies, especially ones that relate to me, keep me riveted.

I had a historical connection to Jersey Boys. The Four Seasons were one of my favorite groups in high school. But it goes deeper. I was a track man. I ran the two-mile event. It was introduced to Ohio high school track meets in my junior year and no one else wanted to run it so I took it because I wanted to earn a varsity letter. Naturally I set the school record the first time I ran it and I kept the record until someone else ran it. In my two years of running the two-mile, I won four races, two each year. Interestingly both years I had back-to-back victories. To pace myself I chose a favorite song and sung it to myself the entire race, picking up the speed or lowering the speed as my legs and endurance dictated. One year my song was the Beach Boys’ “Sloop John B”; the other year (and for the life of me I can’t remember which year was which song) was the Four Seasons’ “Opus 17.”

So I wanted to enjoy Jersey Boys. I had every intention of loving it. If I found any entertainment at all in my two hours at the movie I was going to be satisfied. And I was:

  • Learning about the dissension within the group and Frankie’s Jersey loyalty (though the Joe Pesci character was dreadfully undeveloped);
  • Discovering that Bob Crewe was bisexual (though his relationship to the group members and his influence on their success was left unexplored; imagine Crewe revealing that his “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” was written to his gay lover);
  • Witnessing the anger and jealousy of Frankie’s wife as she threw him out of the house in front of their three daughters (though I didn’t understand how it could follow so closely a scene where the other three group members are partying and Frankie is at home with his wife and family);
  • Being shocked at the death of Frankie’s daughter (though that segment was thrown in out of nowhere and her talent was merely told to the audience in the words of a proud father but never shown to us [as the writers’ cliché says, “Show; don’t tell]).

But the movie left me with a bigger question, and it had nothing to do with the movie. We know that Buddy Holly was not in the Crickets, nor was Freddy in the Dreamers. The Pacemakers may just now be growing into their name as members enter their seventh and eighth decades but Gerry was not one of them. Herman (Peter Noone) may have been the leader of Herman’s Hermits or Herman and the Hermits but in either case he was not one of them. Dave Clark, however, was one of the Dave Clark 5; if not, they’d have been Dave Clark and the Dave Clark 4.

From early on in their history the Jersey Boys were known as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. If that name was mathematically correct, shouldn’t the band have been a quintet instead of a quartet? Or, if they wanted to stick with four members, shouldn’t it have been Frankie Valli and the Other Three Seasons? And if that was the case, which seasons were they and which one was Frankie?

Someone isn’t telling us the whole story. Will we find out in the sequel?

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