Last week I wrote about the 80s dance movies. There is one more, but it deserves special treatment because of the mini-empire it spawned. Fame is the forerunner to the High School Musical craze of today.
Fame started out as a film in 1980. It followed the high school careers of a group of students at the New York City High School for the Performing Arts from their auditions through to graduation. The students all had to sing, dance, act, play an instrument and get their hands on all the different disciplines while still getting the basic education. And since it was an R-rated it could be gritty too: one student has an abortion, one goes on an audition only to discover she’s auditioning for a porn film, one comes out of the closet, one battles depression and alcoholism.
Along with the drama is a great dose of music, including the Oscar winning song “Fame,” plus “Hot Lunch Jam” (I always wanted a cafeteria like that), “Dogs in the Yard” and “Out Here on My Own”
In 1982, Fame jumped to the small screen to become an NBC TV series. A few of the film cast returned and now we had a series that had two, three, sometimes four musical numbers a week. Sometimes they were in the context of a show being done, or sometimes they just needed to bust out and dance. NBC ran the series for two seasons, but it survived another four in syndication…mostly because of it’s popularity on the international TV market. During the run of the series, the cast also went out an did concert tours in Europe. A London concert was filmed and aired on NBC as The Kids from Fame Live!. The show was never quite as good in syndication as it was on NBC, but the movie and the NBC seasons qualify this for true Geek Out status.
Below are a couple of clips. The one on the left is “Hot Lunch Jam” from the film and on the right is “Starmaker” from the first season of the TV series.
For the sake of completeness I should also mention there is a Fame stage show, but it doesn’t get Geek Out status. I’ve never seen it, but I’ve heard the cast recording and hearing that was enough to know that I didn’t need to.