Main > Series > Articles/Interviews > Metamorphosis
The first episode of Fame that was shown on BBC TV on June 17th 1982 by Lorna Read.
(February 1983 Magazine)
Although a lot of people must have tuned in to the first show out of interest, having heard that this brand-new series was about a bunch of high school kids who danced and sang and played good music, there must have been a lot of people who missed Episode One and didn't start following the adventures of the pupils at the Performing Arts High School until they'd heard from their friends about how brilliant the show was!
That first episode was called "Metamorphosis", an apt title as the story concerned new pupils trying to settle into a way of life which was completely different from anything they'd experienced before. The episode dealt with Julie Miller, in particular, as she was undergoing a double crisis. Not only had she moved from a country area, Grand Rapids , to the big city, but her mother and father had just split up, and her mother's loneliness echoed the way Julie felt in her new school.
The episode opens with Lydia Grant and Professor Shorofsky auditioning teenagers who would like to get into the Performing Arts High School . After seeing a talentless girl who wants to be a cheerleader at football games, it's Julie Miller's turn. As she starts playing her cello, everyone is entranced, even Bruno and Montgomery who come bursting in with some equipment to be set up.
Prof. Shorofsky asks Julie what brings her all the way from Grand Rapids to New York and she replies, sadly: "My Mum and Dad got divorced." This is the first thing we hear about Julie's background. Over the next few episodes, the private lives of all the leading characters are gradually revealed to us.
Coco is the next person we learn something about, as the next short scene takes place in the school corridor as Coco and Lydia chat about what they did in the school holidays. Coco got a job with a theatre group and the nearest she got to performing on stage was understudying an actress who didn't fall sick once!
"Sorry you didn't get to be a star", says Lydia sympathetically.
"I'm already a star", replies Coco . "The thing is, not enough people know it yet!"
This is the first glimpse we get of Coco 's seemingly indestructible self-confidence and ambition, which she tries to instill in Julie later on in this episode.
Julie is accepted by the school and we see her having a chat to her mother before turning up for her first day. Mrs. Miller is insisting that Julie takes a taxi to school, because she's terrified of her daughter becoming a victim of New York street violence. Julie refuses, but when her mother offers to walk her to school, she flies out and hails a cab, rather than submit herself to the shame of turning up with her mother as if she were an infant!
As Julie gets out of the taxi outside the school building, she accidentally bumps into Coco who has been strolling along reading a paper. This incident sparks off an instant enmity between Coco and Julie.
The class have their first English lesson with Miss Sherwood, who asks them to make up a sentence illustrating the meaning of the word `pretentious'. Coco fixes Julie with a black look and says "Coming to school in a cab is pretentious".
Bruno says that her remark isn't fair because he comes in one every day, but Coco points out: "That's different - your father drives it", and all the class, except poor Julie, start laughing.
One important thing we learn about the Performing Arts High School in this scene is that it's not enough for the pupils just to be talented at singing, dancing, playing instruments or acting; they have to study all the usual subjects like Algebra, French, Biology and Physics and be good at those, too, or else they risk being made to leave.
A pupil called Garcy (played by guest star Tommy Aguilar) is shown as the kind of pupil no school wants. He annoys all the other students and cracks jokes all through the lessons.
After the class, Julie goes to her locker to try to put her books in it and finds she can't open it. Montgomery comes to her rescue and shows her the first bit of friendship she's encountered in the school so far. He offers to give her some advice about living in New York City and his first lesson is: "You don't stare, you don't smile at strangers, you don't invade someone's private space unless you're invited.' Julie is grateful to him, but still feels very confused.
During the series Bruno emerges as a real individual with strong musical ideas of his own and, in the next scene, we are given our first hint of the true Bruno. He and eleven other pianists are all playing the same piece of music in unison when Bruno decides to jazz up the rhythm, and instantly falls foul of Prof. Shorofsky. Shorofsky is an ardent supporter of the old style of music, with lots of stringed instruments and orchestral effects, while Bruno is all for the latest electronic equipment.
Next, we see the dance students being put through their paces by Lydia . "I don't have time for primadonnas", she warns them. "If you're going to become a dancer, you're going to have to work ..... You've got big dreams, you want fame. Well, fame costs. Right here is where you start paying, in sweat!"
While she is talking, Leroy mutters to Doris that nobody's going to get him wearing tights, dance class or no dance class! This is the start of a humorous theme that carries on throughout this episode.
Julie, Doris and Montgomery all catch the same bus home that night. While they're waiting for it, Doris upsets Julie with some gruesome descriptions of horrible accidents she's seen in New York . Julie gets put off New York even more when a man behind her starts pinching her bottom! She gets the message across to Doris, who pours hot coffee all over him.
Next morning, the coffee incident is echoed when Julie bumps into Coco again and spills coffee all down her. Coco is not amused, and takes the opportunity to make another nasty remark about Julie in the English class. The word they are asked to use is `deleterious' and Coco announces that: "Coffee can be deleterious to some people's health and to other people's clothing." Naturally, this makes Julie even more upset and depressed. During the dance class, she tries to apologise to Coco but Lydia asks her to be quiet.
At break time, Montgomery again takes Julie under his wing, this time to advise her on the right clothes to wear for school, as she is far too smart and untrendy. He says she has to have "the right shoes, the right jeans and no jewellery", and tells her not to wear the gold chain she's got round her neck because it makes her look too flashy.
Julie replies passionately, "You can take away the rest of my identity, but the gold chain is special." We find out why later on in the episode.
While this friendship has been springing up between Julie and Montgomery, Coco and Bruno have been building up something quite different, which is obviously left over from the previous term. Early in the episode we hear her trying to convince Bruno that he and she ought to get together musically and form some kind of partnership ... and it soon becomes obvious that music isn't all she has in mind!
We are also shown Doris 's efforts to try and ensnare Michael Harrison, the best looking boy in the school. He winks in her direction in the cafeteria and Doris gets all excited thinking he fancies her...then he comes over to the table and asks Julie out instead! However, Julie doesn't want to go, so Doris invites herself in Julie's place.
Julie takes Montgomery 's fashion advice to heart, but her mother doesn't approve at all of the tatty way she's started dressing and they have a row about it. Then Julie admits how lonely and mixed-up she is at school, and that nobody likes her, and her mother confesses how lonely she is without Julie's father, and the two of them console each other.
This first episode sets out to try and capture the personalities of some of the main characters in the series. Julie is shown as sensitive and shy, very well brought up and close to her mother. Coco is sharp, ambitious and street-wise. Doris is warm, friendly and very self-conscious about her looks and weight. Bruno is a talented loner with revolutionary ideas about music. Montgomery is a nice, friendly, brotherly sort of guy. Leroy is anti-authority, refusing to do his homework and wearing headphones under his hat in class. Lydia and Miss Sherwood are conscientious, dedicated teachers, and Professor Shorofsky is slightly eccentric, with very old-fashioned views. The only person we don't get to know in this episode is Danny.
The relationship between Prof. Shorofsky and Bruno is excellently portrayed in a scene which takes place in the music room on the second day of the new term. Bruno is telling the Professor that strings are unnecessary these days because synthesisers can do everything instead. He refers to the kind of thing Shorofsky is doing as "dinosaur tracks" and asks, "Is this a school or a museum?
In future episodes we see Bruno and the Professor clashing time and time again, until Shorofsky develops a grudging admiration for Bruno's songwriting talent.
But back to Episode One! On the third day of term, we see Julie writing a letter to her boyfriend, Lester, in which she mentions the gold chain he gave her, which she promised him never to remove. It's a very romantic, sloppy letter and it's unfortunate that, realising she's late for her English lesson, she tucks it inside a book which she then has to lend to Garcy in order that he may read a passage aloud to the class. Being the nasty person he is, he finds Julie's love letter and reads it to everyone, instead of reading the book. Julie is horribly embarrassed and terribly miserable, and after the class is over she goes to the music room and sits there alone, playing heartrending music on her cello
As a contrast to that sad scene, the next bit of the story is most amusing. Leroy goes into a shop which sells dance gear and asks to see a pair of the hated tights which Lydia is insisting he wear for class. But he's too self conscious to buy them and practically runs out of the shop! Then he has to go to his dance class. When Lydia asks him where his tights are, he tells a lie and says they've shrunk, so she tells him to bring them in and she'll swap them for a new pair, which really puts him in a spot!
That dance class becomes the very last straw for Julie. Lydia tells another girl to take off her earrings, then tells Julie she's got to remove her gold chain, and some of the other kids make fun of her. She rushes out and hides in the cloakroom, where Coco finds her. As far as Julie is concerned, Coco is her sworn enemy, but Coco does her best to explain to Julie that she must try to overcome her terrible sensitivity if she's ever going to be a star. Anyone trying to make it in show business is bound to receive so many knocks and disappointments that, if you're not tough enough, you'll just give up. This advice of Coco 's is straight from the heart. Although Coco herself appears super-confident, at heart she's as sensitive as Julie, but she knows she daren't give in to it, or let it show.
But her words get through to Julie, who sees the sense in them, and we see her smiling to herself in the mirror and trying to fix onto her face the kind of bright, sparkly smile Coco always wears. Julie's learned her lesson and from now on she's determined to be more professional.
The last big scene in "Metamorphosis" shows everyone at the school dance. Leroy asks Lydia to dance and they put on a spectacular show; Coco sings her heart out to the series' signature tune, "Fame", and Bruno smiles encouragingly at her, which really pleases her because it's the first time he's shown any appreciation of the kind of music she's trying to perform.
After the dance, Julie goes leaping off home, feeling that she's got over the worst and at last she fits in at her new school. But it's the dreadful Garcy who has the last word and sums up the whole episode with one of his ghastly jokes: "I've never met a morphosis that I didn't like!" It's not just a play on words; he's saying that most changes are for the best, and indeed, by the end of the episode, Leroy is trying to work harder, Julie has got over her depression. and learned how to toughen up, Bruno has started to be more tolerant of other people's music and Coco has extended the hand of friendship to Julie. This certainly was a great introduction to a fantastic and fascinating series!
This interview was provided to me by Elaine.
The article above is from the Official Fame Magazines from 1983. The OFFICIAL FAME MAGAZINE was published by Beat Publications Ltd. and the interviews are copyright MGM/UA Entertainment Co.