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Bring Back Fame 2008 with Justin Lee Collins

Bring Back Fame Was Broadcast by Channel 4 TV in the U.K. on 29/12/2008 
My Review
I’ve always enjoyed these Bring Back shows as I’m a sucker for trivia and finding out the behind the scenes stuff. I also quite like Justin Lee Collins and he has a very British sense of humour although I do get a little frustrated with his constant sexual references and innuendo. It’s usually said with a mischievous sense of fun but it can become a little boring and irritating. Anyway I was really exited to hear this show was being made and it was an ideal Christmas present.

I’ve often wondered if these type of shows are as spontaneous as they seem. Everyone Justin has ever stalked has always granted him an interview regardless of the lengths he’s gone to in order to speak to them. He often talks about being in touch with members of the celebrities’ entourage so there is definitely some knowledge of the show before hand. During the Dallas show Justin mentioned that Victoria Principal had refused to be part of it so he didn’t even bother going after her. I believe the stars are contacted and asked if they want to be involved but not told the exact details of when and where Justin will meet them. Here Irene asks for his credentials but just showing someone your passport doesn’t tell them anything apart from your name so I’m assuming she was expecting to meet up with someone named Justin and she wanted to confirm he was the right guy before going any further. I guess we’ll never know definitely as to what prior knowledge people have about the meetings.

I was interested in the wall of photos that Justin had of the cast and why Lori’s photo was so prominent. Normally you only really see the photos of the people he goes after. This made me wonder if Lori was approached and refused to take part. If that’s true then I’m very intrigued to know why. She’s done a Footloose reunion but I’ve never seen her involved in any Fame reunion. If you look closely Janet’s picture is on the wall too, next to Carlo’s. I had to freeze frame the picture a number of times to spot who that end picture wearing green actually was. I wonder if they contacted Janet too. I’m not surprised that she didn’t want to take part. Also interestingly I spotted that they spelt Val’s surname Landsberg instead of Landsburg on her photo.

Some of the clips of how Britain was supposed to be before Fame arrived on screen and the time spent on people like the guy in the gym showing off his muscles were a little frustrating as I thought it irrelevant and a waste of air time. Although it was nice to relive just how big Fame was over here in 1982 and early 83 and to remember being part of that. However I was never aware that there was Fame cologne otherwise I’d have definitely been wearing it at the time!

I wonder exactly how long some of the interview were and is there material lying on the cutting room floor that we didn’t get to see. Some of the interviews did feel a little short and I wanted to hear more.

Justin definitely comes across of a fan of the subjects of all his Bring Back shows and that always adds to the programme. His revelations that “Starmaker” was the 2nd ever single he bought and that Bruno was his favourite character and inspired him to perm his own hair were great. I wonder if he’ll now go for the bald look.

All of the interviews were great and revealed things that I hadn’t heard before. I’m not sure how well the Irene interview fitted into the show and although I like her and was particularly interested in her story about the record company trying to rip her off and then stop her putting out other music, I think this show should have concentrated on just the TV cast. I have to question did they just include her so they could show her topless scenes from the movie or am I just being totally cynical?

I was surprised by Lee’s reaction and that’s one that definitely made wonder if it wasn’t a little set up, although the interview itself was interesting and Lee looked good bald. I’d never actually heard Lee admit to taking drugs before so I was rather surprised by his honesty. I’d heard him talk about the problems with the producers not wanting to pay him for playing his music and have to say that I find the whole situation distasteful, particularly when Lee believed they labelled him a trouble maker. Was this why they didn’t bother to give him a proper exit from the show?

I liked how Lee talked about Albert and although I already knew they were close it’s always nice to hear it again.

One thing I didn’t like here was how they showed clips that I felt misled the audience and it made me question some of the other information we learn here and wonder if some of the statements weren’t fully true and just a product of clever editing. For instance they mentioned Lee wrote or co-wrote a lot of the music, which is true but then they played Starmaker making it look as though Lee co-wrote that which he didn’t. Then they showed a clip of the first episode of season 3 where Bruno has to leave the school and implied that these were Lee’s final scenes, which of course they weren’t. Was it deliberately misleading of poor research?

It was interesting to see the outside of Val’s home and to see her son but I felt totally sorry for him being put on the spot when asked about his Mum and not wanting to do the wrong thing. Goodness knows how Justin found Val from the map he was given.

Although I also felt sorry for the other people trying to enjoy the film at the cinema, Val’s reaction was funny and I love to hear her laugh. She seemed so flattered that he’d gone all that way to talk to her. Val always comes over as a lovely person. I’ve heard her talk about being an alcoholic before but here again she surprised me with her honesty of exactly how much she was drinking and on her drug taking. I’m so glad I didn’t know all of this as a teenager watching the show as the cast were my heroes and I’d have been devastated. Now I’m older I realise that they are just people too and people have their flaws and make mistakes.

I was totally intrigued by Erica being in a recording studio and can’t wait to hear her music. Her reaction to meeting Justin was hilarious and Erica just comes across as such a lovely bubbly person. I was surprised to hear that Erica walked out of the U.K. tour and am sure that I read at the time she was unable to perform due to illness and certainly had no idea that she had fallen out with Debbie.

It was great to see Carol involved in this reunion and she too came across as lovely. I was most interested to hear of her concerns for Gene and I’d never heard some of the stuff about his background before.

A lot of the cast have previously talked about their characters on the show being like their real life selves. I’d never heard Gene say it and always thought Leroy was more of a character than actually being based on Gene. However listening to the cast talk here it seems that there are quite a few similarities. I was shocked to hear his mother had been imprisoned for drug dealing and also surprised to see her being interviewed here and talking honestly about her being to blame for Gene’s downfall. I now see Gene in a different light and it’s obvious that he wasn’t really very happy and I’m saddened by that. Lee was totally put on the spot when asked would Gene still be alive if it wasn’t for Fame but he answered the question well.

The search for Carlo was quite funny but why on earth didn’t they use his real name surely it would have been easier to find him. He agreed to the chat and reunion almost instantly and made me wonder if he hadn’t already spoken to some of the other cast members warning him what was happening and telling him when the reunion was so he was ready for it.

I have heard before that Carlo wanted to quit the show but the producers wouldn’t let him and it really intrigues me as they let so many of the other cast leave but why not Carlo? It all left me wanting more. It was nice to hear that Gene and Carlo were so close and it was touching how Carlo talked about him.

It was great fun that Val helped out with getting Debbie although the hidden microphone didn’t actually look very hidden when Val put it on. I could have certainly done without the toilet noises though and it did leave me wondering if those sounds were put on for a joke and it wasn’t really her.

Debbie’s interview made me laugh and then as she talked about Gene she made me cry watching her get upset thinking about him and her comment that Gene was like her son. I have always thought that Debbie unfairly got bad press for being tough. It sounds like she really had her work cut out trying to keep everyone in line and keep everything together.

The final reunion although short was great to see. Despite everything people genuinely seemed pleased to see each other. Erica looked stunning in that green dress and the whole thing looked like great fun. However it wasn’t too much of a surprise that everyone turned up because we’d already seen the photos. Still it was a great trip down memory lane and even after all these years there’s still so much about the show that we don’t know.

To Watch the Bring Back Fame Reunion go to:
To download the 9 parts of Bring Back Fame go to: