Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The 20th Anniversary of the BET Television Movie Fire & Ice (2001)

Vanessa Marquez &
Lark Voorhies
Last night marked twenty years since the TV movie Fire & Ice (2001) made its television debut. on BET (Black Entertainment Television). The made-for-TV movie centred on senator's daughter and co-owner of a high-tech home security firm (Lark Voorhies). Following a scandal involving her ex-boyfriend, she falls in love with a late night television show host (Kadeem Hardison). If you are wondering why I am writing about a made-for-TV romance movie, it's because Fire and Ice marked the last appearance on screen of my dearest Vanessa Marquez save for an exploitative reality show (which I won't name here) and a cameo in the Star Wars fan film Return of Pink Five (2007).

Fire & Ice was based on the romance novel Fire and Ice by Carla Fredd. The novel was published in 1995 by Arabesque, an imprint of BET Books dedicated to romance novels. Arabesque was launched by BET Books (the publishing arm of cable channel BET) in July 1994 and was dedicated to publishing African American-themed novels. It was in 1999 that BET began adapting Arabesque romance novels as television movies, making ten of them in 1999 alone. After airing on BET, these made-for-TV movies would be released on VHS and DVD.

Here it should be pointed out that while Fire & Ice (2001) made its television debut on BET on April 6 2001, its premiere occurred a little over a week earlier. On March 27 2001 a private screening was held at the club Brave New World in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. After its television debut on BET, Fire & Ice had encore showings on BET on April 14 2001 and June 25 2001.

Going by online reviews of Fire & Ice (2001), fans of romance movies appear to have positive opiniond of the film. As someone who does not count made-for-TV romance movies among his favourites, I find Fire & Ice largely conforms to the formulae of the genre: woman meets man, woman and man don't get along, woman and man go on a date, woman and man fall in love, and so on. That having been said, Lark Voorhies (best known for Saved by the Bell) and Kadeem Hardison (who may be best known from the sitcom A Different World) give sincere performances that make Fire & Ice enjoyable. Fire & Ice also benefits from good performances from its other performers. Tempest Bledsoe (best known for The Cosby Show) does well as Lark Voorhies' partner at the security firm, even lending some humour to the proceedings. Here I have to point out that Fire & Ice was rare for the early Naughts in portraying African Americans in important positions. Lark Voorhies and Tempest Bledsoe's characters Holly Aimes and Pam Moore head a home security firm. Kaddem Hardison's character Michael Williams is a late night TV show host.  

As to Vanessa Marquez, she plays one of the security firm's technicians, Wanda Hernandez. As Wanda, Vanessa acts as comedy relief, adding a bit of humour to Fire & Ice. While the role isn't too different from Wendy Goldman on ER or Janice Ramos on Malcolm & Eddie, she still gives one of the movie's best performances in the film, if not the best. And while I realize I am probably biased on this point, I think Vanessa looks her loveliest on screen in Fire & Ice. While Vanessa Marquez is not listed very high on the credits of Fire  & Ice, she actually appears more in the film than some of the actors listed higher in the credits than her. Here I have to point out that the character of  Wanda was changed from the novel. In the novel the character of head technician is named "Wanda Johnson" and we really don't know her ethnicity. In the made-for-TV movie she is named "Wanda Hernandez" and she is clearly a Latina.

Over all Fire & Ice (2001) is a well done, made-for-TV movie. Even people who are not fans of the romance genre might find the movie enjoyable. Certainly, after twenty years Fire & Ice remains popular and still appears on various streaming services and cable channels from time to time. It also remains available on DVD. Of course, for me the movie occupies a special place as the last made-for-TV movie in which my dearest Vanessa Marquez appeared.

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