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Passing Grade

Lydia's ex boyfriend, Robert, is now the director of a new play and he wants Lydia to audition for the lead role. Doris sees an ad in a trade magazine for the same part and thinks Coco would be perfect for the role. Coco persuades Bruno to accompany her to the audition, where they bump in to Lydia.
Sparks start to fly when Coco finds out that Lydia's boyfriend is the director as she thinks Lydia has an unfair advantage and the two argue.
Danny becomes a waiter at a restaurant in the hope of meeting Johnny Carson, which he does eventually do in the men's room. Danny is so happy that Carson actually speaks to him even if it is only to tell him to "Buzz off Kid"!
At the final auditions for the play Lydia realises that the part has already been cast and it's gone to someone who didn't even need to audition as it's was a friend of the producer. She and Coco return to school and patch up their friendship. 

My Review
I really like this episode and it’s a strong start to the series proper. We're on the proper set, Bill Blinn is executive producer, all of the cast are featured and there are some strong foundations for some of the characters.

Coco is much more her normal self. Yes she gets angry and excited but she doesn't come across as nasty or judgemental. She is more enthusiastic and assertive than the aggressive person we saw in "Metamorphosis".

Debbie Allen is fantastic and Lydia's character is virtually fully formed from the outset, we see her tough, assertive attitude along with her more vulnerable confused caring nature. She is also very funny and Debbie has a wonderful sense of timing. I love the way she yells "tie" at Sherwood when they are discussing the age of the character that she and Coco were up for. What with singing, dancing, acting and doing the choreography it has to be noted just how hard Debbie worked on the show.

Doris doesn't get too much air time this episode but still we get to clearly see her character; how she's a gossip and cares about other people and also that she is very funny.

Julie, Shorofsky and Montgomery don't really get too much to do but that's okay because the story as it is holds my attention. The one scene I don't like in the episode is between Julie and Bruno in the music booth and they play together. I have to say I didn't remember this scene from watching before and I don't know what it is but I find Julie annoying as she describes how she's feeling. Maybe it's Lori's acting, it doesn't seem to be as good as the likes of Debbie, Erica and Valerie.

It's Danny's first appearance and he gets the subplot. My doesn't he look and sound really young? Interestingly no one actually mentions Danny's name throughout the episode. Normally at the start of new TV shows characters tend to use peoples names a lot so the audience can get used to them. The owner of the restaurant called him Amatullo twice but no one referred to him as Danny. I know it gives all the characters names in the opening titles but it seems strange that no one mentioned his first name. I kept expecting it near the beginning when he was arguing with Doris about reading the trade paper but it doesn't come.

As well as the individual characters we see the relationships forming between, Lydia & Sherwood, Bruno & Coco, Bruno & his Dad (who appears for the first time) and Doris & Bruno.

I liked the story and pitting a student and teacher against each other to create tension and moral dilemmas. The only draw back is the ending was a little predictable in the sense that neither of them could get the part as they have to leave the school.

The episode gives us a nice idea of some of the school rules although I don't quite understand why students can't audition professionally.

Another thing I found a little confusing was the layout of the school. The dance room is on the same level as Sherwood's English room but when Doris runs off to find Coco to tell her about the audition she runs upstairs. She then obviously gets confused as to how many flights she's come down and says "this is the 2nd floor, Miss Sherwood's class is on the 1st floor". That means the dance class must be at least on the 3rd floor. It's a funny scene and works well, particularly at the start of the series because the audience isn't familiar with the school layout. It's just knowing the series well and where the rooms are it makes no sense.

Also we see the school entrance which is totally different to the entrance used in the pilot.

The end scenes were quite sweet with Lydia and Coco dancing together singing one of the best songs from the series "I Still Believe in me". I believe it was co-written by Gary Portnoy who also wrote the "Cheers" theme tune. I also believe the song was nominated for an emmy award. I've always liked it and for me it was Coco's theme tune. It was nice to hear Debbie sing for the first time. It's interesting also to note the difference between Debbie and Erica dancing. Debbie is doing all the hard work with Erica just moving to the music.

"The show must Go On" is okay too but not one of my favourites. It's interesting how much singing that Erica did in those early episodes.

One nit pick which isn't really anything to do with the episode but as to what will happen later. Coco's bag which we clearly see in this episode will belong to Doris in season 3. Maybe Coco left it her as a going away present!
Michael Hoey's book reveals that this episode was not actually the 1st episode after the Pilot to be filmed but was in fact the 3rd episode after the pilot but had been moved up the running order as the sub plot involved Danny who of course hadn't been in the pilot. 
Debbie Allen reveals in her Interview for Oprah magazine 2009 (check the interviews section) that "I Still Believe In Me" was one of her favourite dance rountines in the first 2 seasons and she loved the storyline of this episode.
Michael Hoey edited this episode for which he was nominated for an Emmy but lost out to Hill Street Blues. However he beat the same Hill Street Blues editor for an Eddie Award from the American Cinema Editors for the editing on this episode. In his book he reveals how he slowed down some of the footage to make the dance routine work better. He also states that he was worried what Debbie would think of his work when he showed it to her but she loved it.   

Episode Pictures  


Production Number 2707
Teleplay by Lee H. Grant and William Blinn. Story by Lee H. Grant.
Directed by Nicholas Sgarro.
Original U.S. air date 14th January 1982
Original U.K. air date 24th June 1982
Guest Stars:
Carmine Caridi as Angelo Martelli
William Allen Young as Robert Summers
Frank Dent as Stage Manager 
John Bernabei as Maitre d'
Jacqueline Houston as Miss Douglas
Holly Rutherford as Singer
William Ward as the Producer
Rose Lewis as Protege
"The Show Must Go On" performed by Erica Gimpel
  Written By Barry Fasman and Steve Sperry.
"I still Believe In Me" performed by Erica Gimpel and Debbie Allen
  Written by Gary Portnoy and Sue Sherriden 

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