The kick in the nuts that was Fame the television series is now the kick in the nuts that is Fame – The Complete First Season on DVD. And let me tell you, it hasn’t become any better over the course of time. Based off a film of the same name, this mess of a TV show follows the lives of students at New York’s High School for the Arts. Most of the dialogue and situations are beyond predictable, and the cheesy early eighties soundtrack is as green and moldy as a block of Colby left out in the sun too long. As far as the students themselves are concerned, there’s Danny the comedian; Julie the cellist; Bruno the composer; Coco the singer; and Leroy the dancer… and all lack the talent these shoddy scripts want you to believe they have.
The teachers fare no better. Led by Debbie Allen, who also handles choreography for the series, these educational gurus mostly seem like they’re doing their best Mr. Chips impersonation after watching that far superior film a couple of times in preparation for the roles. In all fairness, neither students nor teachers have much to work with. The scripts are as inspired as a high school kid sacking groceries at the local supermarket. Given the time period in which it was created and the poor results of a limited budget, I kept hoping Fame would turn into a slasher movie somewhere along the way. It certainly has the characterization of one. But instead of seeing these obnoxious actors knocked off one-by-one in gory and satisfying fashion, their runaway personalities just go on and on and on for nearly sixteen hours, making for one of the worst shows in the history of television.
The 1.33:1 full screen presentation suffers from frequent bouts of grain. Several portions per episode also appear washed-out, especially in darker scenes. In fact, the blacks and shadows are horrible, not even VHS quality much of the time. However, in the brighter scenes, of which there are many, the color reproduction is rich and vibrant. The transfer doesn’t appear to have gone through any restoration. Instead, the DVD captures a twenty-year old picture before age has taken too severe a toll.
The stereo presentation is utilitarian. It simply gets the job done, with a little too much oomph allotted to the laughable eighties tunes comprising the soundtrack. The dialogue levels are satisfactory, but bass leaves much room for improvement. All together, this seems like another case of the studio simply throwing the episodes onto a disc with no tweaking of the technical specifications for an improved sound or picture. Still, what time has left Fame with is far from horrible… unless you consider the actual content of what’s coming through your speaker.
Beyond some trailers for other TV on DVD, all you get are the episodes, and that’s truly a disappointment. As bad as the show is, it’s always fun to see “Where are they now?”-type special features for shows and films (good or bad) which carry a healthy lather of nostalgia. In many cases, nostalgia is all that remains to recommend such entertainment. This is certainly the case with Fame. It would have been neat to see an hour-long documentary featuring interviews with Erica Gimpel, Lori Singer, Debbie Allen, and the rest, but as things go, the bonus material turns out equally as uninspired as the technical reproduction… and the show itself.
If you’re a fan of the show, my apologies for the lack of respect. Of course, before you judge my arguments too harshly, make sure you revisit Fame to verify that you still like it. It’s certainly possible the warmth and sense of nostalgia you feel for Fame will become clouded in the knowledge that you’ve grown up, your tastes have improved, and that the sixteen episodes in this collection truly are crap. If you still somehow manage to enjoy it, then try to forget this scathing review, and rush out for the purchase. While the price is far from reasonable, there’s a good chance that, without your support, the rest of this show will never see the light of day.