Retro T.V. Review: Fame (1982)
Updated: Mar 25
Show Name: Fame
Created By: Christopher Gore and David De Silva
Starring: Debbie Allen, Olivia Barash, Jesse Borrego, Loretta Chandler, Lee Curreri, Cynthia Gibb, Erica Gimpel, Albert Hague, Billy Hufsey, Carlo Imperato, Carol Mayo Jenkins, Valerie Landsburg, Ann Nelson, Nia Peeples, Gene Anthony Ray, Lori Singer and Ken Swofford
Number of Seasons: 6
Number of Episodes: 136
Original Air Dates: January 7, 1982 to May 18, 1987
Recently on one of the free over the air movie channels that I get, they were playing the original movie Fame that was released in 1980. As I was watching the movie, I kept telling myself that I liked the TV show more than the movie. It could be cause I was too young for the movie but I grew up watching the TV show.
So I figured, now would be a good time to review the TV show as I used to be a big fan back in the day. Compared to the shows today, how does it compare? Well, let us find out.
Brief History and Background
As I mentioned before, the TV show was based on the movie of the same name. Some of the actors from the original movie did make it to the TV version. Debbie Allen who had a small role in the movie, was a pillar in the TV series. There was also Albert Hague (Benjamin Shorofsky), Lee Curreri (Bruno Martelli), and Gene Anthony Ray (Leroy) who played in both movie and TV series.
There are some characters that made it to the TV show with different actors. In the movie Irene Cara played the character of Coco Hernandez. In the TV show Coco was played by Erica Gimpel.
Fame initially aired on NBC and critics loved it. However, the ratings were not always great. So after season 3, the show went into syndication and here in Montreal it played on Fox. At the time, not everyone had access to this channel as this was a specialty channel. As a consequence I did not see these shows until years later in the late 90's when they would play at midnight on CTV.
There were 2 different shows that were syndicated. There was the shorter 30 minute version which focused mostly on the plot. Then there was the hour long show which included the musical numbers and so on. We were lucky the version that aired here had the full one hour showing.
Throughout its run Fame won numerous awards. It won 2 Golden Globes as the Best Television Series, Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Directing for a Drama Series (Harry Harris) and Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Choreography (Debbie Allen) just to name a few.
Throughout the years there has been a demand for Fame to be released on DVD or streaming services. However, only the first 2 seasons (which were not syndicated) were ever released. In the late 2000, there was a short release on Netflix, however, this was only the first 2 seasons as well. As far as I know there are no plans to release any subsequent seasons, which is a shame.
Here is a great interview that I found with Debbie Allen and how it was being on Fame.
Fame has one of those theme songs where everyone knows what it is from the first few notes. Everyone also yells "FAME!!" when they hear it.
Fame Theme - Season 1
The theme was initially recorded by Irene Cara (Coco from the movie). It was then re-recorded by Erica Gimpel for the TV show.
Fun fact the song was co-written by Gary Portnoy. Who is he you might ask? Well he also wrote another iconic TV theme in the 1980's, Cheers.
Although Gimpel left during season three, her vocals were still heard in the theme until the last few seasons.
Fame Theme - Season 6
I believe that this version of the theme was used for the last 2 seasons. They utilized the vocals of Loretta Chandler who played Dusty on the show.
Although the structure of the song is the same, there are slight differences. There are more hints of guitar and you can clearly hear the difference in the vocals. It is sung in a less straight forward fashion.
No matter which version of the theme that you like, there is no denying, this is one of the best TV themes to ever grace the small screen.
In case that you do not know, Fame follows the experiences of High School kids that attend the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts.
Each week, there are one to two musical numbers and there is always a main plot and a subplot.
Fame was not afraid to tackle various issues of the day like illiteracy, death, love and any other topic that would effect a teenager's life.
Also in the midst of all of that, as mentioned above, there were awesome choreographed sequences and musical numbers which won the show some awards.
The age old question, does this still hold up to this day. I can say with confidence that yes, yes it does.
I always loved this show. I would watch it with my brother back in the day and we would look forward to this every week. Unfortunately, once it was syndicated we could not watch it. But we did watch it together again years later.
The best years in my eyes are still the first 3 seasons. I feel that the cast at that time had the best chemistry. From Bruno (played by Lee Curreri) who was a young piano prodigy to Doris (played by Valerie Landsburg), everyone really gelled together.
As for the faculty, we had Benjamin Shorofsky (played by Albert Hague) to Lydia (played by Debbie Allen). It was a great compliment of teachers which did not change too much during the show.
What I would love the most about Fame was the confrontations between Bruno Martelli and Mr. Shorofsky. Bruno was a gifted piano player but his love was more with synthesizers and making new cool sounds. Unfortunately, Mr, Shorofsky was not a fan of these new sounds. He was old school and found that Bruno was wasting his talents and should be learning the classics. However, you knew that both of them loved each other in their own way. This is probably the relationshi that I remember the most.
One of my favourite episodes was when Bruno had made a demo tape about Mr. Shorofsky and he creates the song in freestyle creating it on the fly while Shorofsky is behind him. Here is a clip from the scene in question.
Sho Sho Sho Shorofky Song
Fame got me from the first episode. In fact one of the best songs of the series (in my opinion) was played during the initial episode called Metamorphosis.
Miles from Here by Paul McCrane
I always loved this particular version of the song. There is a more polished version on one of the Fame soundtracks but this one is my favourite. I think I like it as it is not overly produced. For most of the song all you here is the piano.
I found season 3 to be the best. Probably cause the topic hits home for me. Bruno loses his father in this season. I can relate as I lost a parent in high school as well.
Once Bruno learns about the death of his father, he needs to make decisions. He decides to quit school as he cannot afford his education. Surprising the topic of school being too expensive is still relevant today. The last episode that we ever see Bruno is in episode 23 of season 3. The main reason for Lee Curreri leaving the show, was apparently due to money. Due to contributions on the show, they would have had to pay him a lot and I guess the producers decided to not keep him. Bruno would make one last appearance on the series finale.
I think this is where, the show started to go downhill. It lasted another 3 years and there were good moments, but after one of the main characters left, it just was not the same. Others had left the show by this time but Bruno was one of the core actors in Fame. I am not saying that it was not good, but for me it was just not as good.
I think that the show still holds up. It tackles issues that are still relevant to this day. That is insane considering the show first aired in 1982, 38 years ago. I also loved the music and the chemistry between the actors. Yes I loved Bruno, but there was Debbie Allen and Albert Hague who brought their charisma to the screen as well.
I think that this show could still rival any teen show today. I am surprised that they have not made a TV revival or remade the movie yet. I think that there would be a market for that.
Let me know what you think. Do you think that the show is still good or is it outdated? Let us know.