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It's a new term at New York's High School for the Performing Arts and the kids are learning that they have to work twice as hard as the other school kids in the city. They not only have all the normal academic lessons but as they are also dreaming of being famous they are all working hard at becoming actors, singers, dancers etc..
Coco wants Bruno to set up a band with her so that they can get out there and perform but Bruno isn't really interested in performing he just wants to create his music his way, much to the frustration of Mr Shorofsky.   
Julie Miller is auditioning at the school as she is new to New York having moved there with her mother after her parents split up. She finds it hard adjusting to a new way of life and a new school and particularly clashes with Coco, but Montgomery takes her under his wing and teaches her how to fit in and by the end of the episode she is a changed person. 

My Review
It’s over 26 years since Fame first aired in the U.K. on the BBC and re-watching the episodes now on DVD the first thing I notice is the preview clips at the start of the episode. These were never broadcast over here we just went straight into the episode opening titles. I have to say that’s how I prefer it as I find it annoying seeing random scenes which give away what may be happening

The next thing I noticed and I'd never noticed this before was that the first show had a different Executive Producer for the pilot than any other episode in the shape of Gerald I. Isenberg.

I've read in the past that most pilot shows are usually filmed on location and in real places because it's too expensive to build permanent sets for a series that doesn't get the go ahead. So it is quite interesting to note that most of the sets/locations are different to the ones used for the main series. I assume that most of the pilot was actually filmed in a real school if not the real School of the Arts. Many of the sets like the cafeteria were then recreated on a smaller scale for the series. It's interesting that before Coco sings "Take Me" we see Bruno coming out of the Boys locker room which exits directly into the canteen but in the series they didn't have the toilets in the same room. Also the sliding blackboards used in Sherwood's English class are not seen again.

The auditorium is different and that actual set wasn't added until series 2. What appear to be real buildings can also be clearly seen through the windows of a number of rooms. In the series we usually can’t see what’s outside unless a specific scene calls for it.

There are 3 scenes that appear to be on the normal Fame set which I assume may have been filmed later and inserted into the pilot for when it was broadcast; Sherwood & Coco in the office "sorry you didn't get to be a star". Sherwood's hair is much lighter in this scene than in the classroom scenes in the rest of the episodes. The other 2 scenes are in the main corridor, one where Julie accepts Montgomery's offer to teach her how to survive in New York and one at the lockers where Coco over hears Bruno talking to Montgomery about how Garcy treated Julie in English class. I wonder if these scenes were inserted because the episode was running under, time wise or whether they felt they were needed to expand the characters more.

The pilot is very much a mini version of the first part of the film, although when I originally watched it I'd not seen the film so didn't know how closely it follows the film. There are more songs or parts of songs used in this episode and so much of the music was taken from the film; "Red Light", "Miles from Here", "Fame" and the piano theme for Ralph and Monty in the dressing room. The only song not from the film is "Take Me". I've never been a fan of this song as it doesn't really feel that strong, particularly compared to the other songs. It's interesting that neither of Erica's songs in this episode ever actually made it on to any of the Kids from Fame albums, I assume for some kind of copyright problems.

We don't learn too much about the characters apart from Julie being new to New York and her parents getting a divorce and her feeling like a fish out of water. We see Doris' obsession with getting a guy right from the start and I love her comment to Julie that people in New York don't get crushes. Both the Characters of Coco and Leroy seem to be closer to the film versions and both seem more aggressive than the later versions of themselves. However it is nice that Coco's interest in star signs and planets is mentioned from the very start.

We don't really find out why Doris and Montgomery are at the school and what their major is. We see Montgomery playing the piano in one of the music classes so could have assumed that he was a music major. I don't remember ever seeing him play any keyboards in any other episodes. We see Doris in the dance class and I love the face Lydia pulls as Doris dances by. It makes no sense that Doris and Julie would be in the same dance class as Leroy and the other dance majors. I know they have dance as a form of exercise but it seems weird that they would be on the same level as the full time dancers.

As most of the students seem to be returning after the summer it seems strange that all the teachers would have to lecture the students, i.e. Sherwood telling them they have to work hard on their academics and it is all a song and dance. Lydia telling everyone off for wearing jewellery and not wearing tights. Leroy has obviously avoided wearing tights for a whole year and somehow manages to never actually wear them for dance class for the next 4 years. Still the scene about the tights is funny.

At the start it's Lydia and Shorofsky auditioning students. There are a couple of other people in the auditorium but no Mr Crandall representing the drama department, presumably Michael Thoma wasn't cast until the series went into production.

I was particularly interested to note that Debbie Allen in the BBC reunion talks about Erica not really being a dancer. At the time I never realised this was the case as they hide it very well but when you re-watch the early episodes you see that she isn't doing the same kind of moves as some of the proper dancers. Usually she's doing the singing so it looks natural that she wouldn't dance as much. Debbie and Gene dancing together at the end during "Fame" is still very exciting to watch as their natural talent is so obvious to see. I also feel that Gene and Carol are really strong together in their scene when Leroy talks about racial discrimination.

Also it’s interesting that the character of Danny was not included in the pilot. It's not clear whether Garcy was just supposed to be a back up character or if originally he was supposed to be in the rest of the series but they changed their minds and replaced him with Danny.

In the dance class Eartha is referred to as Phenicia but this is changed to Eartha in the series.

Valerie has commented in the past that Jennifer Grey and Fran Drescher were also up for the role of Doris. So it was interesting that Fran was cast as a guest star in this episode although in the U.K. I had no idea who she is.

During the Fame song Garcy is wearing the same shirt that Jesse wears in season 6 for the song "Your Wife's been cheatin on us again" from the episode "All I Want For Christmas".  Also Doris wears this shirt in the Season 3 episode "Consequences". It was obviously very popular with the wardrobe department! 

Overall I like this episode particularly it's feel good ending. There is a lot of humour and there is a strong sense that the characters, stories and relationships will be interesting. It is a good start to whet our appetites for what will come.
Having now read Michael Hoey's " Inside Fame On Television" behind the scenes book it has been confirmed that. Additional scenes were filmed for this episode and the original pilot had to be re-edited as the network didn't feel that the characters were strong enough. So a storyline featuring Fran Drescher was deleted and the new scenes were filmed and added to give us this version of the pilot. 

Episode Pictures

Production Number 2790/2797
Filming took place in New York in december 1980.
Written by Christopher Gore
Directed by Robert Kelljan
Executive Producer Gerald I Isenberg
Original U.S. air date 07th January 1982
Original U.K. air date 17th June 1982
Guest Stars
Judy Farrell as Charlotte Miller
Tommy Aguilar as Garcy
Fran Drescher as Rhonda
Dallas alinder as Clerk
Paul Joynt as Michael
Rachel Orr as Debbie
Eartha D Robinson as Phenicia
Lycia Naff as Moira
Ella English as Sheila
"Take Me" performed by Erica Gimpel
 Written by Michael Gore and Dean Pritchford
"Fame" performed by Erica Gimpel
  Written by Michael Gore and Dean Pritchford
"Red Light" performed by Linda Clifford
 Written by Michael Gore and Dean Pritchford
"Miles From Here" performed by Kenny Rankin
 Written by Michael Gore and Dean Pritchford
"Dressing Room Piano"
Written by Michael Gore and Dean Pritchford

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