like you might need an essay to explain the magic that is Fame.
If you follow this site with any regularity (or at least more than I give you a reason to), you recall that I have turned over my TV watching to a re-view of the touchstones of my early years, just to see what “if I knew then what I know now” feels like.
Yes, I know they (they) remade Fame and I am not hostile to that, I just don’t need it. I know that Glee is a national phenomenon, and I do intend to give it a try – in arrears. This is what we meant by living forever.
Sadly, Gene Anthony Ray (demonstrating above what we tuned in for) did not live forever. I imagine he would today be a judge on SYTYCD, a frequent contributor to Oscar ceremonies with his mentor Ms Allen, and signing a deal for the cover of AARP, June Pride edition.
The biggest rivalry in my freshman dorm occurred every Thursday night at 8 when the Fame vs Magnum squatters’ rights to the social room TV got underway (suck it, Joanie and Chachi). We were usually out numbered, but we persevered. We learned how to fly (high!).
At the time, what I liked about it was first the dancing, 2nd the bad-boy-with-heart-of-gold Leroy’s effect on put-upon spinster Elizabeth Sherwood, and indulging the fantasy that my transition from child novelist to Voice of a Generation was teed up to take place at the finest writing school of the South.
The dance does indeed hold up, especially in the early episodes, where a 5-7 minute number is shot full-body, Fred Astair style, showing off Allen’s athletic choreography on some very athletic bodies. (in sweat!)
What they should not have done was encourage those charming young people to sing. Or some of them to act.
Over-directed? Oh… yes. Teenage whisper-shouts, excessive use of each other’s names, aging slang (not “jive-turkey” aging, but certainly “chump” aging), and corny dialogue was par for the course in 1982. Still, Fame was considered urban and gritty enough to lead-in for Cheers, Taxi, and Hill Street Blues. Middle America was for ABC, thank you very much. Even then, Must-See Thursday belonged to NBC.
Watch the adult actors on this show bring their Broadway chops to too small a screen, and often look a little silly doing it, but hats off for sincerity points. Albert Hague was such a keeper he made the crossover from the movie itself. Every time he waves his pencil and thrusts those Germanic diphthongs at you, you hope someday he’ll shrug and say (as he often does to Martelli) “not bad.” Debbie Allen – well forget it, she’s Tony material, and the girl who dared shoot-up during Prime time.
(what, you don’t remember she was JJ’s junkie fiancee? dy-no-mite indeed)
I find Carol Mayo Jenkins fascinating as Sherwood, and so much more sympathetic than Anne Meara was in the film version (though admittedly the film is FIRMLY 70s bleak while the TV show takes that 80s step forward into the light). Anyway, where I was going before the parenthetical was to Miss Sherwood of the furrowed brow, the Elizabeth Montgomery coiff, the serious teacher clothes. Count on her in every episode to cock her head and skeptically repeat what you just said, to enforce the byzantine rules of the NYC public school system, and to declare her love for “these kids.”
I channeled her for a few years during my own Fame experience. Without benefit of Shorofsky.
I dragged Season 1 out for most of this past year, but I have finally watched them all and queued up Season 2. It will have to wait a bit, though, I’m onto White Shadow right now.
in case you forgot why we watched that.