Written by Adrienne Ambush
Before there was American Idol, before there was So, You Think You Can Dance and definitely before there was Dancing with the Stars, there was Fame.
Based on the 1980’s movie with the same title, Fame is a comedy/musical series about a group of gifted students and their faculty members, all of whose dream is to sing, dance, act, and play music.
Season one of the show begins when new girl at school Julie Miller (Lori Singer), having moved to New York City from the Grand Rapids after her parents get divorced, begins her first year at the New York School for the Performing Arts. Although fast at making friends with street-smart Montgomery MacNeil (P.R. Paul) and loudmouth Doris Schwartz (Valerie Landsburg), she soon gains an enemy in Coco Hernandez (Erica Gimpel), whose dreams of becoming a famous singer keep her from wanting to interact with anyone and anything that doesn’t help her in her pursuit of fame.
Although Coco’s tough attitude towards Julie doesn’t last long, Singer’s role as main character of the show suddenly disappears after the first episode, and instead the series starts to focus on other characters in the show. One character in particular is hard-headed Leroy Johnson (Gene Anthony Ray), who wants to keep up his rebellious image so much that he rather get yelled at during every class by dance instructor Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen) than buy the tights that she requires her students to wear during every class that she teaches. Viewers of the show get to take a closer look into the life he leads in episode three of Season One, entitled “Tomorrow’s Farewell,” when after being released from prison, Leroy’s older brother Willard comes back into town with no place to live, and Leroy has to risk his own life to save his brother from a life of crime.
This is just one attempt at introducing real life situations to the students on the show. Throughout seasons one and two of Fame, fans of the show get to watch as their favorite characters deal with other real life issues such as premarital sex, prejudice, racism, prostitution, and death, just to name a few.
Although not released on DVD until 2009, Fame began as a 1980’s movie, which was remade into a TV series in the early 80’s and unfortunately canceled in the middle of the decade. But fortunately for younger generations who didn’t get the chance to watch the show growing up and older generations who want to relive all the fast dance numbers and crazy hairstyles of the 80’s, Fox came out with the release of the first and second season of the show on the same day that Warner Home Videos finally released the movie with the same name onto DVD, September 15, 2009.
Listed below is the episode title list. Season One includes 16 episodes, broken up into four discs and Season Two includes 22 episodes broken up into 5 discs.
Season 1: Disc 1
Episode 1: Metamorphosis – Julie tries to fit into the New York School for Performing Arts with a little bit of help from Montgomery and Doris.
Episode 2: Passing Grade – Coco and Lydia compete for a lead part in a show, which Lydia has a bigger chance at because her ex is the director.
Episode 3: Tomorrow’s Farewell – The school board orders the school of the arts to have a mandatory gym class. Leroy’s brother comes to visit.
Episode 4: Alone in a Crowd – Bruno is afraid of performing in public until a special occasion helps him beat his fear.
Episode 5: To Soar and Never Falter – Bruno falls for a dance major, who is hiding a very big secret from everyone.
Episode 6: The Sell Out – Bruno gets a job, while Coco gets a new attitude
Episode 7: The Strike – When the teachers go on a strike, it’s up to the kids to save the day—er, the play.
Episode 8: Street Kid – While pretending to be a hooker for an acting assignment, Doris meets a real life hooker who she plans to help out.
Episode 9: But Seriously Folks – While juggling both school and work, Danny becomes addicted to caffeine pills.
Episode 10: Come One, Come All (This episode has been musically edited): When a big star comes into town, everyone goes ga-ga over her, until she begins to make everyone miserable while helping them put together their school’s production
Episode 11: The Crazies – Honesty is not always the best policy when Doris and Montgomery decide to tell only the truth for 24 hours.
Episode 12: Expose – After being replaced by a mannequin during a production number, Julie feels unimportant until she meets a new student teacher who is equally smitten with her.
Episode 13: A Musical Bridge – When Bruno admits to wanting to write music, Montgomery convinces him to do it for money.
Episode 14: A Big Finish – When two guys are discovered living in the school’s basement, the gang decides to put on a benefit for them to raise money for their new place.
Episode 15: Reunions – Leroy wants his mother to visit for parent’s day, but neither one of them has the money for it, so the gang pitches in to surprise him.
Episode 16: A Special Place – Budget cuts cause the school board to fire one of the dance teachers. Bruno finds out that a famous composer stole his music material.
Season 2: Disc 1:
Episode 1: And the Winner Is – Bruno’s script is chosen to be produced by the school, but when he decides to play the main role, things become a disaster.
Episode 2: Your Own Song – Coco tries to get along with a student with a learning disability, but things get in the way.
Episode 3: Feelings – Julie’s dad is getting remarried and she’s not happy about it.
Episode 4: Class Act – When a new teacher starts to develop feelings for Lydia, it’s the students who pay the price.
Episode 5: Teachers – At the insistence of his father, Bruno decides to audition for Julliard.
Episode 6: Beginnings – When a racist teacher comes to the school, it’s up to Stephanie to show the teacher that blacks are just as good dancers as whites.
Episode 7: Solo Song – While Lydia teaches a blind teacher to dance, Doris falls for the new substitute teacher.
Episode 8: Winners – Coco does her best to impress a producer while Doris tries to lose weight for a role.
Episode 9: Words – Coco’s boyfriend is leaving town soon, but first he wants them to have sex.
Episode 10: Childhood’s End – Julie’s cello has been stolen and everyone’s looking for it. Coco has to deal with the death of her grandmother.
Episode 11: Homecoming – With her brother in town, Doris makes it her mission to get him and their father to talk again.
Episode 12: A Tough Act to Follow – After the sudden death of one of their favorite teachers, the school finds it hard to adjust.
Episode 13: Relationships – The gang goes to a dance club to practice for a scene leading to an interesting twist to happen afterwards.
Episode 14: Star Quality – Coco confronts a commercial actor on his skills; she criticizes him on his acting ability and tells him he’ll never make it far.
Episode 15: Sunshine Again – Doris fears her grandmother will move in with her parents.
Episode 16: Love is the Question – When Julie falls asleep studying with Troy Phillips, Troy decides to tell everyone they slept together.
Episode 17: Blood, Sweat and Circuits – Leroy decides to steal a computer that is going to replace one of his favorite teachers, but when the computer is stolen before he can get to it, everyone blames him.
Episode 18: Friendship Day – Julie’s mother and Bruno’s father think that Bruno and Julie are planning to have sex. Doris is in charge of Friendship Day and becomes obsessed with it.
Episode 19: Not in Kansas Anymore – While preparing for an audition, Doris falls and bumps her head and then wakes up to find out that she’s not in Kansas anymore.
Episode 20: Help From My Friends – After a series of lockers are found vandalized, Dwight finds a suicide note, and Doris asks for help trying to find the author of it.
Episode 21: Ending on a high note – In order to appear in a show with a famous actor, Danny and Leroy become involved in coaching a boy’s choir in basketball.
Episode 22: U.N. Week – Students from a prestigious school visit the School of Arts and act snobbish towards everyone.
An updated version of Fame was released on September 29th, 2009 letting fans of the show/musical compare the old version to the television show and the remake to see which one they think is better — my money is on the TV show.
This disc uses the Dolby Digital 5.1 track which is pretty standard. Even though a lot of music is shown in the disc, the dialog is clearly heard even during the music routines. The transfer of the audio onto the disc is pretty clean cut.
Shown in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Fame Season 1 and 2 makes you feel like you’re watching the show just as it aired back in 1982. During the 1829 minutes, there are no jittery movements, no noticeable scratches or too dark moments during the show. But because it is such an old show and the series aired before newer technology, a lot of the scenes are blurry— some more than others—and dull in lighting.
Season 2 offers a then and now featurette where you can see scenes from the remake of Fame and scenes from the old version of the TV show.
At first glance, you’d think this was a good buy, but judging by the fact that Season One had already been released years ago and a lot of fans had picked that one up, an average viewer might be a little upset that they wasted their money on Season One when they could’ve just waited a few more years to get both Seasons One and Two together on DVD. But with that aside, I think it’s a good buy for those into musical theater or those who just want to relive the 80’s.