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FAME With Debbie Allen, Lee Curreri, Erica Gimpel, Albert Hague, Carlo
Imperato, Carol Mayo I Jenkins, Valerie Landsburg, P.R. Paul, Gene Anthony
Ray, Lori Singer, Fran Drescher, Judy Farrell, Tommy Aguilar
Supplier: Jozak Prods. & MGM-TV
Exec Producer: Gerald Isenberg
Producer: Stan Rogow
Director: Bob KeWan
Writer: Christopher Gore
60 Mins, Thurs., 8 p.m. NBC-TV
"Fame," NBC-TV's hour-long series based on the theatrical film of the same name, presents some reviewing obstacles. The pilot, which aired Jan. 7 as the first series episode, was made six months before the regular series stanzas were shot - and in the interim, the production was switched from Gerald I. Isenberg's Jozak Productions to William Blinn's Elianna Productions. Thus, the style of the pilot has been adjusted in subsequent episodes to something more suggestive of what course the series will follow - and common sense dictates that both the pilot and first Blinn episode be reviewed together. Making this all easier is the fact that the pilot's basic regular cast has been retained almost intact. Isenberg's pilot had as its strong point the energy and vitality in musical and dance numbers that characterized the theatrical film, but the story line (by Christopher Gore, who wrote the film) was somewhat less successful, concentrating as it did on the arrival of a newcomer from Grand Rapids at New York's High School for Performing Arts. In the adaptation that new arrival (Lori Singer) made to the new environment, the problems of the cast looked too much like the typical stuff of high school plots on TV - her dilemma more universal than specific to the "Fame" locale. Singer (a fine cellist) did what was required of her quite well, but the impact of the regular cast's individual personalities was hazy under such treatment - except in the musical and dance numbers, where Erica Gimpel, Gene Anthony Ray and Debbie Allen were standouts. With the first Blinn episode (which aired Jan.- 14), the emphasis switched away from juvenile, exuberance to a more mature storyline in which student Gimpel and teacher Allen both auditioned for an off-Broadway show, with each knowing she would have to quit the school if she got the part - and both suffering the jolt of rejection when they discovered that the part was already filled and they had merely been summoned to go through the motions of the audition. This was mature stuff about what it takes to make it in show biz, brought to dazzling finale by a well-danced duet by the two femmes back at the school that said as much about the need for an outlet of creativity as all the words in the world. Between the two episodes, the impression given is that "Fame" could make its niche in primetime, despite the tough time period the skein has inherited. Of the youngsters in the cast, Gimpel is a find - reedlike, mercurial, a budding beauty who sings pop music with definite style and exuberance and dances competently, while displaying a natural acting style with a wide range. Musician Lee Curreri, budding actress Valerie Landsberg, dancer Ray and comic Carlo Imperato, and student J.R. Paul (plus Singer) provide sufficient variety to insure a wide tangent of storyline possibilities. The adult contingent is headed by Allen (who also serves as the series' choreographer) and her dancing and dances have been the highlight of the skein to date. Exec producer Blinn is one of the better writers in TV. (Mel Swope is the line producer) and his knowing way with a script may prove to be the element that gives "Fame" the substance and. characterization which, along with its musical content, could make the series something special among primetime series aimed at youthful viewers as; the prime target. The mixture "Fame" is trying to supply is a tough combination of elements to nurse into palatable results, but the two episodes seen strongly suggest that the project has been entrusted, to the proper hands to pull it off.
This interview/article provided by Timothy Newton.