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maryann johanson | watching movies at home

Fame: The Complete First Season (review)

It’s kinda the TV version of those cheerfully cornball old-fashioned movies in which someone chirps, “Hey, kids, let’s build a stage in the barn and put on a show!” Here the kids are students at New York’s High School for the Performing Arts, so they’ve already got the stage, but they’re constantly organizing themselves to save a beloved teacher from getting laid off during budget cuts, or to rescue two retired Broadway stars living in squalor and obscurity, or to help one another overcome insecurity and stage fright, or in the ongoing battle with the school board for their school’s legitimacy. This is the first year of the long-running 80s ensemble TV drama based on the beloved movie, and it’s positively charming: the earnest enthusiasm of the kids, their yearning to find themselves and their talents, their propensity for bursting into song at the slightest provocation. This may have been the last hurrah of the musical TV drama, but with star and choreographer Debbie Allen, playing the school’s dance teacher, the series’ creative driving force, you never realize that this was the beginning of the end. The set is bare of extras, but the 20-plus-year-old image and sound has been nicely remastered.

MPAA: not rated

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